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Norwich catholic cathedral dean leaving after 13 years, to take up post in North Walsham

PUBLISHED: 14:14 30 July 2014 | UPDATED: 07:38 31 July 2014

The new Narthex building at St John's Cathedral in Norwich. 
Father James Walsh. 
Picture by Adrian Judd

The new Narthex building at St John's Cathedral in Norwich. Father James Walsh. Picture by Adrian Judd

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The dean of Norwich’s catholic cathedral is leaving at the end of August to take up a position in North Walsham.

Father James Walsh has been at St John’s for 13 years and his last Sunday will be August 17, when he will hold a farewell mass, and there will be a barbecue and party in the cathedral grounds. He will become parish priest at three churches - Sacred Heart, North Walsham, St Helen, Hoveton, and St John of the Cross, Aylsham.

He said: “Life will be less busy. Thirteen years is quite a long time in a responsible position like this; it’s quite demanding. Now that I’m over 70, when most sensible men are retired, Bishop Alan Hopes, the catholic bishop of East Anglia, and I decided I should take on a less demanding position.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s a very good parish. But I will be sad to leave here and I have made some good friends. “I’ve pretty well finished all the things I set out to do when I arrived. Back in 2001, the cathedral was cold, dark and not particularly welcoming. It did not have many visitors. It needed a makeover. It needed light, colour, and a more welcoming attitude, so when people came they would find warmth and humanity. We now have 1200 people in the congregation on weekends and visitors from all over the world.”

He said the biggest visual change to the cathedral in his time was the Narthex, a £2m extension to the Grade I listed building providing community and learning facilities.

He added: “The Narthex took some years and more than £2m was needed to be raised. We raised the money and it took a year to build. It was finished on the first centenary of St John’s in 2010. It has made an enormous difference, with the cafe, shop, the big hall and the bar. It has provided the cathedral with resources it never had, so that new kinds of activities can take place. And we now have proper loos- before there was just one loo in the whole church.”

Father James is taking his bees with him to North Walsham, where he will live. “I have just had my first crop of honey,” he said.

He will be replaced as dean by Father David Paul, a parish priest in Peterborough, who will start in September. Father James will replace Father David Bagstaff in North Walsham, who is moving to a new catholic church in Diss, St Henry Morse.

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