Lack of priests signals the end of Suffolk church

A SHORTAGE of priests has forced church leaders to close a century-old place of Catholic worship in Suffolk.

The Sacred Heart Church in Nayland will hold a “poignant” last mass next month to mark the end of an era for the church, which held its first service in December 1903.

With no priest in residency at the church, which is one of the smallest in Suffolk, the parish will merge with Sudbury leaving the Sacred Heart redundant.

Parish priest, Father Michael Vulliamy, said: “This will be a very sad time for many in this community as it will break up people who have been worshipping together for a long time and they will no longer be able to do so.

“Of course there will be other places for them to worship and maybe this closure will lead to new friendships and communities elsewhere.”

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Father Vulliamy said there was a concerning lack of priests across Suffolk and the UK which would have serious ramifications for the church.

“We had an ordination in this diocese last month but before that you have to go back nine years before the last one,” he said. “This is of great concern to me. In 10 years the predicted number of priests is low and the 20-year figure is extremely low.”

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He said there was a need for the Catholic Church to actively pursue a recruitment drive for priests, but it would still take a long time to make up the numbers.

He added: “It could be that people have so much these days, so many possessions in their lives, that the idea of making sacrifices is not appealing to them or something they are prepared to do.”

The Sacred Heart was built by the Cuddon family from Nayland at a cost of �400, including a high altar made from polished Sicilian marble.

Samuel Cuddon was a well-known businessman and property owner in the area who ran numerous pubs and the Cuddon brewery which helped to finance construction of the church.

In 2003, descendants of the Cuddon family flew in from New Zealand to celebrate the church’s centenary.

The final mass will take place on September 5 at 9.15am. Father Vulliamy said: “It will be a very poignant day for all of us and I hope many people will come on the day to mark the end of an era.”

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