Introducing the Permanent Diaconate: Deacon Lee DaviesMonday 18th December 2023
We continue our series exploring the work of the permanent diaconate this week by catching up with Deacon Lee Davies to find out more about day-to-day life as a deacon, his remarkable calling, and admirable take on ministry.
“The calling – the best way I can describe it is it’s finding the most important thing in your life that you never knew you lost.”
Beginning his story, Deacon Lee recalls the moment the idea of ministry first came to his mind, after years of following his faith as a parishioner at Lancashire Martyrs and former pupil at St Edmund’s in Little Hulton.
He explained: “My youngest son was an altar server – as I had been, as well as my father and my grandfather – and I was watching him set the altar up one Saturday and I just got this glow – a warm feeling.
“I couldn’t understand it. I was just thinking, ‘what’s going on?’. At the end of Mass, Mgr John announced that Salford was going to be looking at permanent deacons, and I just thought: ‘that’s it.’”
Spurred on by this undeniable sense of calling, Lee spoke to parish priest Mgr John Dale after Mass, and by Monday, he had rung up the director of the permanent diaconate programme in Salford at that time to take his enquiry to the next stage.
He said: “Until then, I never had any view about doing anything – besides coming to church and helping out at school. But I’ve never had a feeling like that before and I knew it was a calling. I just knew I had to do it.”
A Legacy of Outreach
With the full support of his wife and family, Lee began his diaconate formation training at Oscott, as well as additional training at the parish to help develop his pastoral ministry.
He said: “Oscott teaches you the basics of serving but if you get a call from someone who’s lost a young child, how do you deal with that? How do you speak to someone who’s just lost a baby?
“I mentioned this to Mgr John, and he spoke to Sr Joan – a sister of the Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph who plays a very active role in our parish life – and I underwent 12 months intense training with her to break down what we do, what should be done in different situations. I think, from a pastoral side, deacons are sent to help the parish priest go out into the community, which is a major, major part of our vocation.”
The permanent diaconate found its origins in the earliest days of the Church when the apostles appointed seven deacons to support them in carrying out the charitable aspect of ministry.
This legacy remains at the very heart of the permanent diaconate, a legacy that is very much alive and active through Deacon Lee’s work at Holy Trinity Parish.
Deacon Lee said: “I enjoy talking to people and seeing them smile. There are no airs or graces – just going out and listening to people.
“I go into our care homes to talk with people, pray with them, and every week I take them a newsletter so they can read what’s going on and feel part of the community.”
Parish priest Mgr John Dale is delighted by the impact Deacon Lee is already making within the community, a particular characteristic of the parish that is thriving thanks to the added luxury of having a permanent deacon.
He explained: “Our vision for the diaconate in the parish is that it’s pastoral, rather than an extra liturgical diaconate, and Lee is very much part of that.
“Different deacons come with different skill sets and parish needs are different too. The liturgical expression of the diaconate isn’t quite as important here as it would be elsewhere, even though we’ve got three churches – I can manage that side of it. But the one thing I’m really looking forward to with Lee is looking after the pastoral care of those who would be otherwise isolated. I’m concerned that no one should get left behind, and that’s part of the diaconate work as I see it: to make sure no one gets left behind.
“While it is a work in progress, I think in the long term, this will prove to be of tremendous benefit to our parish.”
In addition to going out and about in the community and reaching those people who have been isolated, distanced, or unable to attend church regularly, Deacon Lee is also working closely with our diocesan charity Caritas Diocese of Salford to improve accessibility in the parish to ensure everyone feels able and welcome to engage in parish life and worship.
Deacon Lee said: “It’s about breaking down the barriers. It’s about approaching somebody and thinking, ‘how do I talk to them? How do I get them to open up?’”
Reflecting on the ups and downs of his road to ministry, Deacon Lee is above all thankful for the increase in faith this journey has given him.
He said: “There were times I should have hit real low points, but I never did. I was just buzzing because it deepened my faith so much. That was what kept me going: that sense that God wanted me to do something, and that others had faith in me.
“Did I ever doubt it? No. I knew God wanted me to do something; to give back to charity, give back to society. I just always kept that faith – it’s all you can do.
“At Oscott, one of our lecturers asked us to pick a character to be from the Bible and explain why. He came to me, and I said: ‘Fisherman. Because they just downed nets and followed.’ I wasn’t educated, I just knew what I had to do.”
Describing our diocesan cohort of permanent deacons as a “brotherhood”, Deacon Lee is eager to encourage more men to consider if the permanent diaconate is something God might be calling them to.
Advising them to speak first to their parish priest, Deacon Lee said: “Try it. You never know. After a while, you might think that it’s not for you, but it might help you consider another avenue or path. God guides you on that path – it’s just about having that faith to say yes.”