Tom Middleton meets Father David D’Silva
Tom Middleton, Director of Forward Faith, recently visited Fr David D’Silva SSC in his parish to ask him a few questions about himself so that readers of New Directions can get to know him a little better. Fr David has just begun his work as the first National Missioner to The Society and is undertaking that role part-time alongside being the Priest-in-Charge of St. Leonard’s, Scawsby with St. Luke’s, Scawthorpe.
Tom: Fr David, can you please tell me a little about your background, particularly where you grew up, a little bit about your family and what your interests are?
Fr David: I grew up in Swinton, in the Diocese of Sheffield, with my Mum, Dad and brother John. I met my wife Laura at university, and we got married five years ago. My chief interests are sport, namely cricket, American football and rugby. I also enjoy science, fiction and cooking. I have also made a couple of attempts at home brewing!
Tom: You mentioned that your younger brother was ordained recently. Where will he serve his title and what does it mean to you?
Fr David: It was a great joy for the whole family to be at Durham Cathedral and witness John’s ordination to the Sacred Priesthood by +Paul. He will continue to serve his title at Houghton-le-Spring. It means a great deal to me that John and I get to share the bond which binds priests together, and to be able to truly have him as my brother priest.
Tom: What first got you into church life and what are your reflections on that now looking back?
Fr David: I grew up in a church going family, my Dad is a Roman Catholic, and my Mum is an Anglican. We as a family split our time between the parishes they attended. Looking back on family life I am immensely grateful to my parents for the Christian environment they brought us up in. Christianity was not merely a “Sunday thing” but an ever present part of our lives. Prayers together at night, grace at meals, and an overarching Christian ethic pervaded throughout the whole household, never overwhelmingly so but simply running not too far beneath the surface.
Tom: And how did that lead on to you being called to serve Christ as a priest?
Fr David: I felt called to be a priest aged 17, kneeling at the watch on Maundy Thursday, wondering what on earth I was going to do with my life, did I want to be a P.E. teacher? (They never carried a pen, which seemed like a good thing to me!) And then I knew, I understood what God was calling me to be. It wasn’t a straightforward road from that point but that’s always the moment I look back on as the catalyst.
Tom: What would you say have been the highs of your ministry so far?
Fr David: I loved my time as curate in Edington and Hexthorpe, I was lucky to take those first fledgling steps in such a loving and safe environment. However, becoming a Parish Priest in my own right, having a patch, a parish, and a family to lead, grow and love is an immense privilege. It’s not always easy and there are certainly lows to go with the highs. But it’s varied, fun and humbling.
Tom: And the lows?
Fr David: I think for all of us COVID and the restrictions placed upon public acts of worship have been a real low point. It felt like all the momentum we were building was taken away. But we’ll get it back!
Tom: How do you see the Missioner role developing over time?
Fr David: Hopefully in the end we won’t need one! I believe the Missioner role is one of support and help, someone to listen to – the fears we all have about mission and evangelism, and the pressure we feel to be successful. I don’t for a second think I’ve got all the answers, but I look forward to working with the parishes and people of the Society as we seek to call our nation and our world to live a better life with Christ.
Tom: What’s your initial instinct as to how Society parishes can be successful in mission and how will you be able to help in that?
Fr David: All mission starts with prayer, by asking God what He wants us to do. Asking ourselves the question: “What does our Church family have to offer in the field of mission?” It’s not a case of one size fits all; not of “this worked down the road, so it’ll work here.” We must ask ourselves what talents do we have and build on that.
Tom: More generally speaking, what should the Church’s priorities be in terms of mission?
Fr David: We as Christians know one thing above all else, being a follower of Jesus Christ is better than not being one. Knowing that God loved the world so much that He gave us His Son to live as one of us, to suffer for us, to die and rise again for us, transforms every facet of our lives: mourning to weepy, tears to joy, despair to hope. Our priority should always be, through whatever way we can, to make that love known to the whole world. We need to find new ways to seek the lost and lonely, the forgotten and those who don’t even think they need Jesus and bring them to height of our experience on this earth, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Tom: Finally, where do you go to get inspiration in spiritual matters? I’m thinking about writings or devotions or any other source which you have found useful.
Fr David: The first book I was bought having told family and friends I felt called to be a priest was ‘The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality’. It spoke of joy, hope and laughter, of priests who lived to praise God, to bless His people, and to preach the good news to all. Wherever I go looking for spiritual wisdom, it can always be linked back to the themes of that book.
Tom: Thank you for your time, Fr David, and please be assured of all of our prayers and good wishes as you begin this important new role.
Fr David: It’s been my pleasure and I greatly appreciate the support being offered to me from across our movement.