A ‘much-loved’ priest is set to retire from the role after more than 15 years’ service in the Sleaford parish and more than half-a-century overall.
Father Michael Bell, of Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, is planning to enter retirement in September, 16 years to the month after he came to the parish.
He said: “I think the parish needs new leadership and I think I have done my bit and it’s time for someone else to have a go.”
The retirement will come after 54 years’ service as a priest in one part of the country or another. His first church was St Mary’s, in Derby, one designed by the renowned architect Augustus Pugin.
Father Michael, 78, who grew up in Chesterfield, started training to be a priest after leaving school, becoming ordained in June 1963.
On what attracted him to the role, he said: “It was something I really wanted to do all my life.”
Asked for examples of highlights from his time in the parish, he pointed to renovations of the parish hall and the church itself. The latter involved a £92,000 spend and included a new altar, new heating, and new pews.
Father Michael will be moving to Grantham following his retirement. However, he will not be giving up entirely on the work of a priest, as he will cover at weekends for priests in the area who are unavailable.
Away from this he plans to pursue his interest in walking and reading, spend more time with family in Italy, get involved with voluntary work, and tend to his stamp collection which has been on the go since 1952.
He said he would ‘very much’ miss Sleaford, adding: “I have never been in a parish where the people are so friendly and generous and kind and the people of Sleaford are like that too. I have made a lot of friends. It is difficult to leave.”
Deacon at the church Tony Weldon described Father Michael as a ‘wonderful parish priest’ and said his impact extended beyond overseeing the recent renovations.
He said: “It’s not just bricks and mortar, he has had an impact on the people as well. He has been a very caring parish priest. He’s well-liked and he’s well-loved.”