Introducing the Permanent Diaconate: Deacon Davie NalikataSaturday 25th November 2023
This week, we’re delighted to introduce Deacon Davie Nalikata as we continue to learn more about the permanent diaconate in our diocese.
Deacon Davie was ordained in June 2022 as part of our very first cohort of Salford permanent deacons. Fifteen months later, we’re catching up with each of the four deacons ordained that day to find out more about their work and their unique call to ministry.
“Faith has always been part of my life, I think, and it’s something that’s been passed down – especially from my mum. My dad died when I was quite young – about 10 – and my mum never stopped practicing her faith. We used to joke that it was like she was married to Christ because she’d go to work first thing in the morning, finish at 5.30pm, and straight after she’d be at the parish and it was something that ran throughout the week, Monday to Sunday.
“I think when you’re growing up and you see that normalised as something people can do, especially from a single parent home, you grow up thinking that’s the norm and something to aspire to, so everything you do is inspired and influenced by that.”
From an early age, Davie had aspirations to be a doctor or a lawyer but enrolled at seminary a couple of years after the death of his father. There, under the guidance of his uncle – who was a rector at the seminary – Davie’s life became centred around prayer.
“On one hand, I’d always wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, but going into seminary, you have a different structure to the day, which consisted of waking up early in the morning, going to Mass, prayer, learning. In the afternoon, we would go to the farm to grow crops to share with everybody equally. And with my uncle being the rector, and very enthusiastic celebrating the Mass, you begin to see a different kind of role model. I think that was the first time I began to think I could be a priest.”
After a few years of life in seminary, Davie decided that the priesthood was not for him and finished his studies elsewhere with the view of reading law at university. However, with only one university in Malawi that had just 1,300 places for over 40,000 applicants, Davie sought opportunities to build a career overseas.
He said: “I came to Manchester and got my undergraduate in marketing and went on to study international business management. At that point, I was quite excited by the idea of going to work in the corporate world, even if it wasn’t exactly what I started off with.
“Around the same time, I got married and we had our first child. When he was born, he spent a lot of time in hospital, but that was quite a transformative moment because to see the support he was getting from the nurses and the staff was incredible. It was a changing point because the idea of working in the corporate world didn’t give me that spark anymore.”
Marketing for God
Davie’s search for something more led him to Manchester-based organisation, Citywise, and a volunteering opportunity as a mentor in local schools.
He said: “The first project I did was in this school – Loreto High School – where I now work as a chaplain. At that time, I mentored year 10 and 11 students coming from very difficult backgrounds. I enjoyed that so much that when a job came up at the Sixth Form College, I jumped at the opportunity. So, I began work in the college chaplaincy and, as you see, the rest is history!”
As Davie got to grips with his life as a chaplain, a new call presented itself through a conversation with his parish priest one day, asking if he’d ever thought of the permanent diaconate before. The priest explained more about the ministry, but that Salford Diocese did not – at that time – have a permanent diaconate programme.
Davie said: “A few days later, the priest emailed me with further details, and it looked interesting, but I thought that if God really wanted me to be a permanent deacon, we would have deacons in Salford. I thought that because Salford Diocese hadn’t had deacons for years and years, this was never going to happen, so I suppose it was my way of saying no.”
A few years later, Bishop John announced the beginnings of a permanent diaconate programme in the Diocese of Salford, a move that caught Davie by surprise:
“That actually scared me quite a lot because – it was vivid, I remember what I said – and I thought this was God saying, ‘I’ve done my part, now you need to come into your promise’”, Davie explained.
Not long after, a new priest arrived in the parish and within just two weeks, Davie received a second tap on the shoulder, followed by a third from a priest who worked alongside Davie in his role as chaplain.
Davie went home and spoke to his wife Nancy for the first time about his possible call to the permanent diaconate.
He said: “I was expecting Nancy to say something else, but she just laughed and said that before the first priest had spoken to me, he had spoken to her and she said, ‘I think you’re right, but you’ll have to ask him first!’
“I think in life you know God is calling you to something but it’s human nature to want proof. For me, I think it was the establishment of the permanent diaconate in the diocese and also the different people at different stages in my life making that same call.”
With the full support of his wife Nancy, Davie began the training process for the permanent diaconate, continuing the remarkable journey that began in the corporate world of marketing.
He said: “I often joke by saying that marketing gets you to understand a person and apply strategies to present a solution to the needs of that individual person. I look at faith the same way: every single person is missing something and what we’re missing is the core element of what our lives are ordered towards: God. And what we’re bringing to people is Christ, so in a way it’s like marketing – just marketing for God!”
A single mission of service
More than 12 months on from ordination and Deacon Davie is enjoying a flourishing ministry that balances family, work, and diaconate life.
He said: “As a permanent deacon, you have to always balance your life in the right way in terms of family, work, and ministry – and the balance has to be that way round, and once you do that, your ministry just flows.”
In his parish of Sacred Heart and St Francis of Assisi in Gorton, Deacon Davie has become a welcome figure in the parish community, ministering at the altar, preaching at Mass, helping with catechesis, baptising, and presiding at funerals.
He said: “Being a permanent deacon is quite a privilege. Every four weeks, I get to preach the homily, and I think it’s perhaps easier to connect the Gospel message with people because you’re right in the messiness of life.
“I’m beginning to see that there isn’t really a boundary between my ministry, my home, and my work life: it’s all service – it just becomes who you are.”
Our own call to service
This call to service is an invitation extended to each and every one of us through baptism.
Equipped with a unique set of gifts, talents, and charisms, each one of us is called to use our skills in the service of God and of others, Deacon Davie explains, helping to build a Church of one body made up of many parts – each with our own role to play.
He explained: “When you look at the permanent deacons in our diocese, we’re all so different and I think that’s the joy. When you bring the whole community of permanent deacons together, you’ll see it includes every kind of person from every walk of life: there are police officers, cleaners, headteachers, data analysts – when you see that, every person can recognise something in themselves and that the Lord is calling them to some kind of service too – and that call could be a job, a ministry – anything.
“In everything we do, we need to look at the gifts we have and try to live life by using these to serve others as best as we can. When you start with that, you realise how much God has given you as a gift, and that gift is never about you or for you – it’s about discerning what God is calling you to do with that gift.”
But discerning our call – whatever that might be – can be both challenging and daunting, especially when navigating the ups and downs of everyday life, but it is precisely these doubts and worries – Deacon Davie explains – that makes us able to carry out our ministry.
He said: “That in itself is a very good start because you realise your weaknesses, your frailties, your humanity, and therefore recognise our dependence and need for God. That sense of humility is already a great character to serve.
“The next stage is to remember that God has also entrusted you with something, a gift so special that it cannot be put under a bushel basket. It is this gift that God has called you with at your baptism, to go out as a missionary disciple – to build, to heal, to console and to show his love to others. When you look at it this way, then all you can do is say yes to the Lord, then ask him to make his calling clear to you – and he will – then allow him to perfect you to carry out what he is asking of you.”