The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

A Happy Retirement to our Diocesan COO!

Ian Burrell, Chief Operating Officer of the Diocese of Leeds, is to take a well-earned retirement – for the SECOND time!

In 2015, Ian had only just retired as Group Financial Director of a PLC and was about to go on a rare break with the family to Spain when his wife Julie saw the advert Bishop Marcus had placed in the bulletin of their parish, St Mary’s, Knaresborough. ‘You could do that!’ said Julie, encouraging him to apply whilst on holiday – and so after a 40-year career in business and finance leadership, Ian embarked on his final professional role: in the service of the Catholic Church.

The COO role was a brand-new position and the main challenge was to address the Diocese’s enormous debt of £14million. Chartered Accountant Ian calculated that this could be done in just THREE years – but he was WRONG…! Through careful stewardship, good Governance, and with the help of the strong Curia team he brought together, Ian cleared that debt in just TWO years, saving parishes on the edge of sustainability and rescuing our good name with the Charity Commission, whilst making the difficult decisions and cheerfully accepting the brickbats that inevitably come as part and parcel of such a huge undertaking!

Of course, removing a deficit does not create a credit, so since that time Ian’s efforts have been to build up and steward resources whilst line-managing Curia employees and supporting parish priests in their duty of ensuring their parishes are not only solvent, but thriving and compliant with the Law. His intention – and that of the team of professionals he has employed in the Curia – has been to facilitate priests and parishioners alike to get on with spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and doing the Lord’s work in our communities without having to worry about the legal and reputational risks that in our ever more secular and legalistic society are ever present: the many Governance issues – Safeguarding, Health and Safety and Financial, GDPR and Charity Law compliance – which increasingly threaten our shared Mission as Catholics of evangelisation through our Faith and Works.

With his own ‘mission accomplished’, Ian was about to announce his intention to retire in the summer of 2020 when the Covid pandemic struck and once again his plans had to be put ‘on hold’. However, having assisted the Bishop in leading the Curia’s support of parishes, employees and clergy through the last eighteen difficult months, Ian’s THIRD attempt at retirement was formally conveyed to Bishop Marcus in July and announced to Curia colleagues this month.

All who understand leadership, integrity and clarity of thought and purpose will have recognised and appreciated these qualities in Ian. Colleagues will miss his cheerfulness, energy, faith and fair-mindedness: all attributes and ‘transferable skills’ he will still be using in his new ‘full-time role’ as Grandad to Anna and Emma; as he continues his parish service in the music group at St Mary’s; and, as one of our fastest long-distance walkers on any ‘Camino’ at home or abroad, he won’t be hanging his boots up just yet!

We thank Ian and wish him ‘Buen Camino!’ as he continues on Life’s Pilgrimage!


If you are a practising and committed Catholic who would like to serve YOUR Diocese and have the requisite financial skills and qualifications and personal attributes, please follow this link to our Vacancies page and consider applying for the role of Chief Operating Officer for the Diocese of Leeds.