Requiescat in pace
Bishop Michael Evans, Bishop of East Anglia, died peacefully last night, 11 July at the age of 59. Six years ago he was diagnosed with advanced and aggressive prostate cancer, and continued his ministry throughout his treatment. Although his engagements were limited from early 2011 as his condition deteriorated, he continued to work up until his admission to hospital. In his last months he was much in the thoughts and prayers of the people of his diocese, as well as those of family, friends and his fellow Bishops.
Archbishop Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, said, "Bishop Michael will be very much missed by so many people in the Archdiocese of Southwark and the Diocese of East Anglia - family, friends, laity, religious and clergy. As a priest of the Archdiocese, Michael was totally committed to his priestly ministry both as a pastoral priest and Professor of Theology for many years at St John's Seminary.
Having known him as a fellow student, a friend and brother priest involved in the formation of future priests, I was delighted when he was appointed as the third Bishop of East Anglia. There Bishop Michael continued that dedication, emphasising the Bishop's role as a teacher of the faith and spending himself in building up the
Diocesan family of East Anglia. He was unstinting in using his time and great talents in the service of the clergy, religious and people of the Diocese.
Even during his long period of ill health, although increasingly restricted in what he was able to do he refused to give up. I have no doubt that he will be greeted by the Lord he served so faithfully, with the words: 'Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the Kingdom prepared for you.'"
In January 2011 Bishop Michael Evans broke the news to his diocese that he had been told he did not have long to live. In the statement 'Waiting in Joyful Hope' he said, "Rather than resign, I would like to continue among you as your bishop and the father of our diocesan family until this stage of my life ends. I do not know how long that will be. I am most grateful for the ways you have cared for and so prayerfully supported me in recent years. You remain very much in my thoughts and care."
"As I live now under the shadow of death, my prayer is very much that of St Paul that I may know something of the power of Christ's resurrection and a share in his sufferings, trusting that the Lord is with me. I pray that even now I can joyfully witness something of the good news we are all called to proclaim."
Michael Evans was born on 10th August 1951 in South London, and moved to Whitstable in Kent when he was five. He attended St Mary's Catholic Primary School there, and went on to Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury where he gained A-level passes in French, History and Latin. He went straight from the Sixth Form to study for the priesthood at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, near Guildford in Surrey.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Southwark on 22nd June 1975, and spent two years as assistant priest at St Elizabeth's in Richmond, Surrey. From 1977-1979 he studied for a Master of Theology degree at Heythrop College, University of London, and then returned to St John's Seminary for eight years as lecturer in
Christian Doctrine. While there, he was also chaplain to St Teresa's Convent School in Effingham, Surrey.
From 1985-1987 he was Vice-Rector at the seminary, with the then Monsignor Peter Smith (now Archbishop of Southwark) as Rector. From 1987-1993, he was a university chaplain at the South London Universities Chaplaincy, returning to the seminary from 1993-1995, once again as lecturer and Vice-Rector. He was one of the two assisting priests at Mgr Peter Smith's ordination as Bishop of East Anglia in May 1995.
From 1995 until 2003, Canon Michael Evans was parish priest of St Augustine's in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, a thriving parish with a Sunday Mass attendance of 1300 and with many young people actively involved in its life and worship.
He was appointed Canon Theologian of the Archdiocese of Southwark by Archbishop Michael Bowen in 1996, and had many other responsibilities. He was a regular writer of articles and pamphlets on theological issues.
Ecumenical dialogue was always an important part of his ministry. From 1991 onwards, he was a member of the British Methodist/Roman Catholic Committee, and in 1997 was appointed by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity to be one of the eight Catholic members of the International Joint Commission for Dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church. Every year for over twenty seven years he spent a week's retreat at the ecumenical community at Taizé in France, and as a bishop invited young adults from the diocese to accompany him there each year.
From 1989-2003, he was a member of the Catholic Bishops' Conference Committee for Priestly Formation. From 1995-2003, he was chairman of the Archdiocese of Southwark Justice and Peace Coordinating Committee.
Of all these various roles, Canon Evans said of being a parish priest for seven and a half years: "This is the ministry I have loved most!" Much of his priestly ministry was spent working with young people, especially older teenagers and young adults.
On Friday 14 February 2003 Pope John Paul II appointed Canon Michael Evans as the Bishop of East Anglia. He succeeded the Most Reverend Peter Smith. In the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Pablo Puente, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain; His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster ordained Canon Michael Evans as the third bishop of East Anglia at the Cathedral Church of St John the Baptist, Norwich on Wednesday 19 March 2003. Most Reverend Peter Smith, the Most Reverend Michael Bowen, and many other bishops and friends were present along with Canon Evans' mother and sister.
The appointment of Canon Michael Evans kept up the connection between East Anglia and the Archdiocese of Southwark. The first two bishops, Bishop Alan Clark and Bishop Peter Smith, were both priests of that diocese.
Among his more 'secular' interests, Bishop Michael listed being a fervent life-long supporter of Leeds United Football Club, and having a great liking for the music of Shostakovich. He also had a great interest in Cambodia. His past parish was twinned with the Catholic community of Kompong Thom in Cambodia.
After becoming a bishop, he was appointed chairman of the Bishops' Conference Committee for Christian Unity, and was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the Bishops' Conference. He was also one of the four Christian co-Presidents of the Christian-Muslim Forum established by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a member of both the British Methodist/Catholic Committee and the International Joint Commission for Dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church.
Bishop Michael Evans died peacefully in hospital on the evening of 11 July supported by the prayers of many, after continuing to serve in his diocese as his illness worsened. Requiescat in pace.