Parish Organisation


Parish Bank Accounts with Lloyd’s Bank. 

To make a payment or donation to the Parish use:- ‘St Benet’s Parish (Beccles) Accounts’;  Sort Code 30-98-97 ;  Account 7907 4762.

28 January 2023;  Priest’s Notes


Fr Mike asks us all to accept that the commitment from Bishop Alan to “try to find us a Parish priest in the New Year” could not be guaranteed success – especially if it involved a priest from a foreign country or from another diocese. 

Bishop Peter now has our need clearly in his in-tray – so we must be patient and support him with our prayers.

Sadly, we must accept that there is no likely candidate “waiting in the wings!”

Meanwhile, Fr Mike feels the parish is working well and he paid tribute to all the unsung heroes (and heroines) who help the parish to function – often working  un-noticed in the background. “Thank you all!”


17 December

Christmas (& Easter!) Offertory Collections – An Update

collection-basketThe change to being a Diocesan parish affects the way our priests are remunerated, and many of the Diocesan clergy need these collections if they are to be able to take an annual holiday.  Indeed, many would much prefer to receive a cash donation, rather than – perhaps – some “liquid” or confectionery item as a Christmas gift!  It also makes it easier to arrange sharing, when a number of clergy are involved – and to ensure the taxman gets his share!

Can we ask everyone to be as generous as possible when showing our personal appreciation for the work of our clergy (though no-one is expected to forego any of the necessities of life to do so). Thank you all!

19 November

Mass Intentions

A matter that has come to light is the very sensitive issue of “Mass Intentions”, especially when the actual date for which a Mass is requested, is important . 

Obviously, we now have only three opportunities to record individual Mass Intentions, i.e. on the days when we have a mass said in our parish.  Under Canon Law, each parish is required to say one Mass each week for “the people of the parish” – so that means we have only two masses “at our disposal” for individual requests.

Our three priests have agreed that they can offer any  mass for two individual intentions.  However it was pointed out that the priests  – or their parish – can only accept one stipend, so in any such case, there has to be mutual agreement on how to handle this.  

With the very patient help of Karen, our Parish Secretary, we have agreed two instances of shared Masses, over the coming fortnight, and we are very grateful to the parties involved for their understanding.  However, we do feel there is a need to make the “rules of the procedure” clear to all – and it is proposed to publish the notes below in the next available Newsletter

Mass Intentions – Revised Procedure

Our present situation means that we have limited opportunities to have a Mass said, at one of our parish Masses, for any personal or family intentions. 

In fairness to our three priests, they are not in possession of the reservations already made and cannot commit to any such request, for either of our churches.

Every request for a Mass for personal intentions MUST be made on the relevant proforma, available at the back of both churches; it must be submitted, in the first instance, to the Parish Secretary, Karen Gallie, at The Presbytery, 2 Grange Road, Beccles NR34 9NR  Tel. 07874 658 653.

If the date requested is already taken, the alternatives are: –

    • Ask if it is possible to have a Mass said by Fr Mike at Bungay;
    • Approach an alternative parish in our Deanery, e.g. Lowestoft, Southwold, Poringland, Gorleston or Great Yarmouth, phone numbers available on request;
    • Ask Karen to investigate the option of “sharing” the Mass with the person for whom the date has already been reserved.
      1. If there is a request to “share” a Mass, Karen will seek  the agreement of both parties; the initial principle being “first come first served” and there can be no question of compulsion to “share” a Mass already booked.
      2. No more than two “Intentions” will be accepted for any Mass.

20 October

Review of Parish Pastoral Arrangements

On Thursday 20 October, the PPC discussed the operation of the temporary arrangements for our spiritual and social well-being while we are without a Parish Priest.  The main action points are: –

  • Encourage parishioners to make appointments if they wish to discuss non-emergency issues with Fr Mike.
  • Recognise that Fr Mike will not remain at St Benet’s on Friday afternoons if there are no interviews planned.
  • Support the work of our school and of Fr Chris Smith from Southwold, who will be taking on the role of Chaplain.
  • Encourage parishioners to participate in the “School Masses”, which are planned to be held in the Hall.
  • Continue to monitor parishioners’ views on the working of our Spiritual Arrangements.
  • Review the constitution of the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) and elect Office Holders as identified.
  • Form a “Social Sub-committee” to revitalise our social activities.
  • Produce information/guidance on sources of help/advice for parishioners experiencing financial difficulty.
  • Support the Waveney Foodbank Christmas Raffle (in lieu of our own).
  • F&FC to review the cover given by the CIS Insurance Policy and the requirements to ensure we meet their terms.
  • F&FC to develop a plan for the refurbishment of the presbytery that meets our long-term needs and has the support of the parishioners who will have to contribute at least part of the cost of the work.
  • F&FC also to investigate possible sources of Diocesan or other funding for the work envisaged.


08 October

Fr Mike Brookes writes in the Parish Newsletter:

I wanted to take this opportunity to say a few words to the people of Beccles and Gillingham and surrounding villages as I assume the role of providing pastoral oversight in the parish during the interregnum that has now begun. Obviously, it is less than ideal to have no full-time priest on site, and I know that Bishop Alan is working hard to find a successor to Fr Martin – let’s pray very hard that he is successful and soon!

downside_1But there is another change occurring at the same time, which is that the parish is moving from Benedictine to diocesan management, and there may be some anxiety about what this means. In the first instance, it should be acknowledged that the long association of Downside Abbey with the Beccles area has produced many wonderful results and a powerful witness throughout those years of ministry. It is impossible for a newly-arrived administrator to compete with this kind of history and the emotional and spiritual legacy that it has generated; and for the record, I am wise enough not to try. I want to honour that history and reassure you that my aim is to provide maintenance rather than wholesale change.

Cathedral SJB BrianLafferty750But we should not be blind to the fact that administrative and strategic planning from a diocese, and from diocesan staff, inevitably does lead to differences in financial and practical management. These differences will become apparent over time and relate more to infrastructure than to pastoral and liturgical initiatives. It is my hope that we can work together without undue fear or hesitancy and continue to provide a sacred space both in the church and throughout the parish as a whole.

My initial commitment is to be present in the parish on most Fridays, but so as to have the opportunity to meet more of you, I will endeavour to exchange duties with Fr Stephen Bould occasionally and so celebrate mass on Sunday at Gillingham and Beccles. Because I still have full-time responsibility for the churches at Bungay and Harleston, I respectfully request that all non-urgent matters are referred to me when I am in the presbytery on Fridays, although any genuine emergency can, of course, be brought to my attention at any time.

Christmas cribI am looking forward to the next few months as we approach Advent and Christmastide, and very much hope to get to know both the parish and her parishioners as the weeks pass. Please pray for me in this new role, and be assured of my own prayers for all of you, with all good wishes.

In Christ, Fr Mike.

29 September

Summary of PPC Meeting with Fr. Mike Brookes

16:00 on Monday 26 September

 Those Present:

Fr Mike; Fr Martin; Deacon Tony; Terry O’Brien (Sec’y); Ann Kemp; Jo Hamer; Pam Storey; Sue Workman. Chris Scott.

  1. Apologies for absence:

Linda Last (Chair); Brian Lewis; Bernard Segrave-Daly; Mike Ellwood; Sam Barlow.

  1. Introduction

Fr Mike asked those present to introduce themselves and indicate what role they had on the PPC.  He then gave an outline of his own conversion to Catholicism, and the growth of his adult vocation for the priesthood – leading to his ordination in 2019, aged 58.  After a spell as Assistant at Bury St Edmunds, he was appointed to Bungay in September 2021.  Initially appointed as Administrator, he was recently confirmed as Parish Priest and was tasked with taking on the additional role of Administrator for St Benet’s until a new Parish Priest could be found for us.  He stressed that there was a real commitment by Bishop Alan to achieve this but, while various avenues were being explored, there was no obvious source at the moment.

  1. Spiritual Support for St Benet’s

4.1 Weekday Mass. Fr Mike aims to spend every Friday at St Benet’s.   He hopes to celebrate Mass with us at 11:00, after which he will be able to get to know some more parishioners.

4.2 Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confessions). This sacrament could be made available on Fridays, by prior appointment. (Bookings for after 11:00 a.m. Mass would obviously be most convenient)

4.3 Home Visits. As well as administrative support, Fr Mike will be available on Fridays to visit any of the house-bound or Care Home residents who are currently visited by lay people, and who would benefit from a visit by a priest, perhaps for Confession to be heard.  Given the limited time available, these must also be programmed, and the parish may wish to recruit more volunteers for Home Visiting – for whom some training and DBS clearance might be necessary.

4.4 Mass Intentions.  The facility of having Mass said for Personal Intentions will obviously be limited to two per week – as one Mass out of our three must always be said for “the people of the parish”.  A volunteer will be required to co-ordinate the requests, and notify the priest concerned.  A Mass could also be requested at any other parish, but the Mass stipend would then be payable to that parish.  Fr Martin indicated that he could always be contacted for help if need be.

4.5 Deanery Support. Fr Mike was planning to raise the need for support for St Benet’s at a future Deanery meeting; he was sure all concerned would help where-ever possible, and especially in any emergency.  Fr. Christopher Smith at Southwold had already indicated his willingness to assist.

To Contact Fr Mike Tel 01986 893 355 or email

  1. Celebration of Sunday Masses POST MEETING AMENDMENT

Fr Stephen Bould has agreed to celebrate Mass at OLPS Gillingham at 08:00 on Sundays, though this will change to 09:00 in the near future.   Fr Stephen will also celebrate the 10:30 Mass on Sundays at St Benet’s, as Canon David Paul is unable to assist us – at least until November. Fr Stephen has also been asked to consider celebrating a “Family Mass”. (See 7.4)

It is expected that Fr Stephen (and Canon David if available?) would be willing to celebrate two Masses for us on Holydays of Obligation – one daytime Mass (perhaps with the school) and one in the evening.  Arrangements for Easter and Christmas will need to be looked at closer to the time.  

In the future, it might be possible to arrange some exchange of the three priests between the three Masses in St Benet’s and OLPS, to allow Fr Mike to meet a wider range of parishioners.  In the event of absence for holidays or sickness, the three priests will work together to ensure our essential “Sunday Services” are covered.

      The costs of Fr Mike’s support are covered by his existing payment by the Diocese, (other than his travel costs between the two parishes).  St Benet’s parish will be liable for the standard “supply cost” and travel expenses for the two other (retired) priests.

  1. Emergency Assistance and Contacts

Fr Mike said he would be contactable via his email address or the Bungay presbytery phone – other than on Wednesday which was his scheduled “day off”.  He would not publish his mobile phone number as he would always answer the house phone if he was available.  If he was away, either of “our” two supply priest – or indeed any other priest in the Deanery – would respond for a real emergency.  But it was stressed that we need to identify if the matter is Important AND Urgent and only call for the priest if is both of these! i.e. a real EMERGENCY.

For routine matters, it is best to raise the matter just before the “Friday Visit” as relevant information may be easier to access in Beccles – or a meeting locally can be arranged. 

To Contact Fr Mike Tel 01986 893 355 or email

  1. PPC Members Priorities

Fr Mike then asked those present what they saw as priority issues for the parish.  Items raised were:  –

7.1 Finances. – We need to build up our funds as we are facing significant expenditure on maintenance.  This was agreed to be a difficult matter, given the real  pressure all parishioners are experiencing.

7.2 Second Collections. – Again, any increase in the number of these puts intolerable demands on the less well off – and causes real embarrassment when “pressure to donate” is felt.

7.3 Complaints not being raised properly. – People are willing to complain to each other – but are reluctant to speak to the priest. It was suggested that they be given the option of the matter being raised on their behalf at a PPC Meeting, to see if it is a common issue, that MAY be worth taking further.  The PPC is meant to be a consultative body that can take parishioner concerns forward.

7.4 Lack of Young People Involvement.  This is a perennial problem – and there have been good initiatives, especially with our school, in St Benet’s over recent years.  We just have to keep working at it and getting parents and/or other parishioners involved in the process.  Working with our school is essential.


Fr Mike thanked the PPC members for their commitment to helping the parish to function and for their honest contributions. In turn, the PPC felt it had been a very worthwhile exercise and that it was good to get feedback on the issues that were of concern to many parishioners.  They were most grateful to Fr Mike and to Fr Martin for giving up their time to listen.

The next meeting of the PPC will be 18:30 on Thursday 20 October

 Terry O’Brien

Secretary; PPC; 27 Sept 2022


 09 September

Parish Administration  

Beginning 26th September, Fr Michael Brookes will come over to St Benet’s from Bungay for one day each week – to celebrate Mass with us and to address ongoing issues around the transfer of our parish from Downside Abbey (now ‘St Gregory’s’) to full diocesan control.  

Search For Solution


Initially, Fr Mike will meet with the Parish Pastoral Council and then the Finance & Fabric Committee, to better understand the concerns of importance to our parishioners.

            The post of Administrator, now assumed by Fr Mike for Beccles and Bungay alike, acknowledges that the process of transfer is still under way for both parishes (e.g.  aspects of School Administration and buildings maintenance).  Bishop Alan hopes to install a priest in St Benet’s parish within the coming months and we join him with our own prayers for the future.  The Bishop’s announcement about the future of our parish can be seen below.

04 September 2022

Change of Parish Organisation

In 2021, it was announced that a decline in vocations for the Benedictine Order made it impossible for the Abbey at Downside to continue to serve their various “missions” in England.   The monks at Downside formed a new “Community of St Gregory” and  moved to new premises in the grounds of  Buckfast Abbey in Devon.. 

Of direct effect to our parish, was to be the loss of our Parish Priest, Fr Martin Gowman, at the end of September, and the transfer of our parish, its land and buildings, to the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia (RCDEA). 

At the time of writing, September 2022, the procedures for the transfer of the land and buildings are proceeding, but the existence of various trusts and other legal matters are taking longer than expected to resolve.

On 03 September, our Bishop, Rt. Rev. Alan Hopes, announced the following key decisions to enable our parish to commence working on the changes to the administrative and pastoral matters consequent on the imminent return of our Parish Priest to the monastic life.

Bishop Alan’s Visit; Saturday 03 September, 2022

Bishop Alan met with the FFC and the PPC and outlined his plans for our parish after Fr Martin’s  departure. His key points are as follows.

  • St Benet’s will remain an individual parish, but it is not yet possible for us to have our own Parish Priest.
  • Finding a Parish Priest within the next 12 months will be a priority;  this priest will probably come from overseas.
  • In the interim, Fr Michael Brookes, from St Edmunds, Bungay, will have overall responsibility for the administrative and pastoral care of the parish.
  • Fr Michael will spend one day per week in St Benet’s parish and, subject to discussions with his own PPC, this will probably be every Friday, when he plans to say Mass in St Benet’s at 11:00.
  • Sunday Masses will be celebrated for us at OLPS Gillingham, at either 08;00 or 09:00 (a regular celebrant and time to be confirmed) and at St Benet’s at 10:30 by Canon David Paul. (Canon David is the recently retired Dean of the Cathedral and lives in Norwich). There will be no Mass at 18:00.

Fr Michael said he was committed to meeting the members of the FFC and PPC. as well as the other office holders and volunteers who do so much to keep the parish functioning.  He hopes to do this over the last week in September and the first weeks in October.

It was agreed that the PPC will meet at 18:30 on Thursday 08 September to discuss the implications of these changes on our Parish Life. 

This has been a very brief summary of a very complicated situation;  if you can’t find the information you want, email the Website Editor;  or call Terry on mobile 07504 962 368.

Terry O’Brien;  Secretary PPC.


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