Parish priest for Yarmouth, Caister and Acle says a sad farewell

A POPULAR parish priest who brought a community together as it became gradually more ethnically diverse is leaving for pastures new after 13 years in the job.

Father Gordon Williams has been caring for the congregations of St Mary’s Church in Regent Road, Great Yarmouth, St Edmunds in Acle and St Ignatius in Caister since 1999, when he left the Roman Catholic group of friars belonging to the Franciscan Order.

Now the 62-year-old priest is taking on a slightly less busy role in Swaffham, but not before being honoured for the service he has provided on the east coast.

Last Friday, a farewell evening was held for Father Williams in St Mary’s Hall, where parishioners expressed their gratitude by giving gifts and a cash donation towards his new home, and bidding him a fond and sad farewell.

During his tenure, Father Williams has overseen a period in which the number of Catholic clergymen covering the area fell from five to just one, church buildings began to fall into decline and money became sparse, and he has worked tirelessly to bring a community together during a period that saw the arrival of catholic families from Poland, Portugal and as afar afield as East Timor in South East Asia.

Brian Iles, the chairman of the finance committee of St Mary’s Church - which is going through a restoration process - said: “Gordon has been exceptionally good in what is a difficult parish.

“He would receive an awful lot of calls from people asking for help, and he coped with it very well.

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Mr Iles added: “He is very highly thought of.

“There are not many people around these days who would be prepared to work alone with such a heavy work load.

“He is a very spiritual man, because of that I think people respect his knowledge, and he has a very sympathetic personality.”

Mr Iles continued: “Sustainability and continuity in a very, very difficult parish are his major achievements; he kept it together and kept it going all these years.

“We are sad he is leaving.”

Father Williams was ordained in 1984, and spent a brief spell at St George’s Church in Norwich.

His time at St Mary’s has been unusually long, with anything over 10 years being considered over time.

He will now take over Our Lady of Pity Church in Swaffham with Father David Jennings, from Wymondham, replacing him in Great Yarmouth.

Father Williams said: “I have enjoyed the diverse parishioners, we have people from all over the world here.

“In my time it has grown into a multi-cultural church, this has given it a real buzz.

“It is really vibrant and has made it very busy, no doubt about that. Being the only Catholic church in this town is quite an assignment.

“Swaffham will be a little bit quieter, I think I am ready for that now.”

When asked what he was most proud of during his time in Yarmouth, he said: “Bringing together the parish as a community and keeping it together.

“Serving a large parish on my own has been a challenge, it wore me out sometimes, but I will have lots of happy memories. They are lovely people and it will be a hard one to follow.”

He added: “I have had good relationships with other churches of different denominations, long may that continue.”