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Ipswich priest prepares to retire after witnessing 40 years of change in the community

PUBLISHED: 16:41 31 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:41 31 August 2019

Father Francis Leeder of St Pancras church in Ipswich, who is retiring aged 80 Picture: ST PANCRAS CHURCH

Father Francis Leeder of St Pancras church in Ipswich, who is retiring aged 80 Picture: ST PANCRAS CHURCH

ST PANCRAS CHURCH

A Suffolk priest is preparing to leave the role this weekend after almost 40 years of working in the community.

Father Francis Leeder of St Pancras Church, Ipswich celebrating 50 years as a priest in 2013 Picture: LUCY TAYLORFather Francis Leeder of St Pancras Church, Ipswich celebrating 50 years as a priest in 2013 Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

In his time as parish priest at St Pancras Church Father Francis Leeder, often known as Sam, has seen a lot of change both within the church community and beyond it.

"A whole lot has changed," said Fr Leeder.

"Quite a lot has changed in the church itself: when I was first ordained the Mass was in Latin.

"In the 60s it was translated into English. That was a big change."

Father Francis Leeder in 1963 Picture:ST PANCRAS CHURCHFather Francis Leeder in 1963 Picture:ST PANCRAS CHURCH

Fr Leeder, now 80, first came to Ipswich in 1963 where he was "thrown in at the deep end" when he became chaplain at Anglesea Road Hospital.

"The 60s was troubled, a lot of priests retired at that time because there was trouble but things started to stabilise towards the end of the 70s," he said.

Fr Leeder didn't stay at St Pancras Long and later moved on to St John's at Norwich before moving back to Suffolk where he was posted in Woodbridge for eight years.

In 1981 he was asked to move back to St Pancras, where he has remained ever since.

Father Francis Leeder in the 1980's Picture: ARCHIVEFather Francis Leeder in the 1980's Picture: ARCHIVE

In almost 40 years at the church Fr Leeder said he had seen the congregation transition.

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"The attendance of people has changed. We don't get such big attendances as we did because people have stopped going to church.

"I would say about half of the congregation are immigrants. They come from Eastern Europe, from Africa, from Italy, France and Spain and South America as well.

"It's quite a mix."

It's not just the congregation that has changed in Fr Leeder's view but also the Church itself.

"When I was first ordained in the 60s it was a bit black and white," said Fr Leeder.

He added that more thought was given to people's circumstances and what they face.

Despite all these changes Fr Leeder said that some things had stayed relatively similar like weddings; the number of which he has conducted he can no longer remember.

Fr Leeder said that he would relieved to be retiring but would miss the role greatly.

"Oh definitely I am going to miss the people and I am going to miss having to do things," he said.

"I have had a great life. People have been so kind to me.

"I shall leave St Pancras with many happy memories and warm feelings as a result of the welcome and support that I have enjoyed from the parishioners, My successor is coming to a lovely parish."

Fr Leeder will be retiring to Melton and will be succeeded by Fr Russell Frost, who succeeds him on Sunday.

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