Father Tony Sketch: East Anglian parish priest for 50 years played key role in central Norfolk

A parish priest in East Anglia, Father Anthony Sketch, who has died aged 75 at Lowestoft, completed more than 50 years in the priesthood.

The rural dean of six parishes in the Yarmouth and Waveney area retired from active ministry after 16 years at the Catholic Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Lowestoft.

When he became a priest at the Church of St Edmund, King and Martyr, Bury St Edmunds, in June 1962, he became the first Roman Catholic priest to be ordained in the town for more than 450 years.

He worked in Luton for several years before taking charge of the joint parish of Swaffham and Dereham.

At Swaffham, where he was also a keen member of the town's Rotary Club, he guided the rebuilding of the sanctuary and installation of a new altar at the Station Street Church.

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In October 1974, he took over a newly-created parish of Swaffham and Downham Market after the removal of the former incumbent, who had continued to hold the Tridentine Mass in defiance of papal policy.

The situation attracted publicity worldwide when Father Oswald Baker was sacked for refusing to say the new mass.

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However, the two made an informal 'concordat', or arrangement, which enabled Father Sketch to start holding services at the Catholic church from the new year and the Latin form of Mass to be held elsewhere.

In April 1977, after three-and-a-half years, Father Sketch moved to Ipswich to the Church of St Mary Magdalen, and then came to Lowestoft in 1982.

He was instrumental in setting up the Christians Together group in Lowestoft as well as doing ground-breaking work at Blundeston Prison.

Father Sketch also had a mischievous sense of humour, which endeared him to all whom he met in church and socially, and in his time as a parish priest he became a popular and well-loved figure in the Lowestoft area.

He was appointed rural dean in February 1992 by Bishop Alan Clark, Roman Catholic bishop of East Anglia.

Although he retired in 2008, as a result of ill health, he moved to a care home in Beccles about two years ago.

A Requiem Mass was held at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Gordon Road, Lowestoft, on Wednesday at noon.

Michael Pollitt

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