Catholic priest for Gorleston-on-Sea bids east coast flock farewell

Father Henry MacCarthy, Catholic priest for Gorleston has retired (October 2013)

Father Henry MacCarthy, Catholic priest for Gorleston has retired (October 2013) - Credit: Archant

After 10 years leading a Catholic flock on the east coast, Father Henry MacCarthy has grown used to the unforgiving wind.

But while he will not miss the bitterly cold North Sea breeze, the retiring 74-year-old will miss the generosity and kindness of people in Gorleston-on-Sea.

Father Henry, born in County Wicklow, near Dublin, became parish priest for St Peter's in Gorleston in September 2003.

'I don't know what I did to upset the bishop but he sent me as far east as he could without putting me in the North Sea,' said the former engineer who joined the priesthood 37 years ago.

'I'd never heard of Gorleston until I came here. But gradually I got to know the people. They are a marvellous group; so generous and kind and always up for a challenge.

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'They will always help other people.'

Looking back at his life with the church, Father MacCarthy - who has worked in nine parishes including that of St John's Cathedral in Norwich, said: 'Our numbers are dwindling, like many parishes.

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'And we're losing young people which is my biggest sadness. I hope the new pope will put new life into us all; he's certainly got the right ideas.'

And while he may have gained the light-hearted nickname £the late Father MacCarthy', thanks to a habit of running behind schedule, the well-loved priest is known and respected for being available 24 hours a day.

Parishioner Joan Donohoe, said: 'The packed parish hall was a testament to the affection in which this 24 hour a day, seven day a week priest is held.'

A retirement presentation at St Peter's saw Father MacCarthy given personal gifts, including a book of photographs and a homemade cake, and a cheque for £4,044. Earlier in the month, he was guest of honour at a formal dinner where Councillor Michael Jeal was presented him with a lead crystal paperweight featuring the Gorleston coat of arms and Dusty Miller paid tribute.

While on the coast, he has been Catholic chaplain for the James Paget University Hospital and has worked closely with neighbouring churches.

'I'd like to thank not only the parishioners for their support, which was more than I could ever have expected, I'd like to thank the ministers and parishioners from other churches I have come to know.'

Father MacCarthy added the south west Indian community, who make up about half of St Peter's congregation, had brought a fresh injection of faith into the parish.

His final mass was on September 28, but he will stay at his home behind St Peter's until he moves to Dersingham, near Kings Lyn.

He is followed by Father David Jennings, priest for St Peter's and St Mary's.

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