A journey to the diaconate
With his family at the helm, Deacon Marques Silva dives deeper into his faith
Often, during our interview, when Deacon Marques Silva spoke, he used the word “we” when referring to his life. The permanent deacon, ordained in January and serving at St. Mary of Sorrows Parish in Fairfax, didn’t mean “we” the Church or “we” the Office of Child Protection and Safety, of which he recently has become director. He meant “we” his family.
Silva is entrenched in a home life centered around his wife, Christine, and their four children: Nicolas, Hannah, Victoria and Noah. His parents, Thomas and Esther, and his sister, Iwalani, all live nearby. Photos of these loved ones lie flat on his desk, protected by a glass covering.
It’s his family that Silva credits for early formation in the Faith. It’s his family that he credits for his recent ordination as a permanent deacon. It’s his family that he credits for his recent job at the Chancery overseeing the office that creates a safe environment for children in the Arlington Diocese. It’s his family that loves to read together and make music together and pray together, creating a happy home built on faith.
Deacon Silva was born May 1, 1970, and his childhood toggled between Virginia and Hawaii, from where his father hails.
When in Hawaii, “we were at the beach every weekend,” he said. “I loved it.”
Silva grew up in a Catholic home with his parents always active in the Church, especially the Cursillo movement, which seeks to promote individual and organized apostolic action.
“Because of the household I grew up in … I have no memory of not working in service to the Church,” he said. “Even when I wasn’t in Catholic school, because of the Cursillo community at the time, I was still with the Church. It’s who we are.”
From the example of his parents, Silva learned leadership, “what it means to serve” and “deep faith.” He got a taste of diaconate life when he was trained as an altar server by Father Frank Ready, diocesan vicar general for pastoral services.
“When (Father Ready) got me back in the diaconate program, he found great humor in that,” Silva said.
In eighth grade, Silva struggled with epilepsy, causing him to repeat the grade. At Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, from where he graduated in 1989, Silva became involved with a charismatic prayer group and helped lead confirmation retreats. He attended three youth conferences at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, opting to attend that school instead of using the many swimming and diving scholarships offered from other universities.
“I thought my dad was going to kill me,” he said. “I wanted to pursue something else in college, so I went to Steubenville. You went to Steubenville not for the looks and location, you went there for a different reason.”
He began dating Christine at the end of his sophomore year and the two became engaged the summer before their senior year, a week after Thomas told his son not to let her get away. Silva already had the ring.
With a new degree (mental health and human services with a minor in theology), a new wife (the couple married in 1994, a year after graduation), and an interest in personality and group dynamics, Silva embarked on his adult life.
He worked as the youth director and assistant director of religious education at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Great Falls and in development for the Salesians of Don Bosco in Arlington that helps poor and suffering children around the world. Silva served as development director for Aid to the Church in Russia, located in Arlington, and spent time as the executive director of Exodus Youth Services, riding around in an expanding motor home in the poorest areas of Washington, D.C.
“It was great, a fantastic experience,” he said. “I’ve always had a love for working with the youth. What you see is what you get. They’ll be up front with you.”
When Exodus shut down, Silva went to work with disadvantaged youth at Job Corps, a program of the Department of Labor that helps young people achieve vocational and academic training.
“I think we sell our youth too short,” he said. “They’re much brighter and are able to make far more decisions if we give them a chance and provide the right foundation and context for them.”
The last in the long line of jobs was as senior account executive of Pulsar Advertising in Alexandria, which he left recently in order to run the child protection and safety office.
Silva said that all the many jobs he held up to that point served as stepping stones for where he is now. Working in the diocesan office combines his love for youth, his experience with administration and management, and his undergraduate interest in health and human services.
“I feel like I’m pulling from every position that I’ve had,” he said. “It kind of blends everything together (and) it blends my diaconate.”
The office, Silva said, is centered not only on protecting children, but on helping all Church employees and volunteers have a “long and fruitful relationship with the Church.”
“We’re just trying to make sure that everybody’s safe,” he said. “Not just the kids, but also the clergy, the employees, the volunteers. We want to keep everybody in a position that they can enjoy what they do.”
Becoming a permanent deacon was not Silva’s idea, he said. In fact, he resisted it. It was Christine and their children who saw that his love for service, liturgy and Scripture would be a good fit with that level of service to the Church. They literally got him the application.
“My wife and kids said, ‘You were made for this. This is who you are,’” he said. “Through that and a lot of reflection and prayer — many long hours before the Blessed Sacrament” — he made his decision.
Silva entered the program in 2006, still not completely convinced that the permanent diaconate was for him.
But then, “something changed in my heart,” he said. “There was like a thirsting. As I reflected on my own life, I got to this point where something would be missing if I didn’t pursue this.”
Since being ordained in January, Silva was assigned to St. Mary. He preaches once a month, serves parishioners and continues to grow in his own faith.
“Through the diaconate, we continue to form ourselves through Scripture, through reading and through (personal) interactions,” he said.
Silva still remembers the words his father told him as he was growing up: “Always work in your part of the kingdom that has been entrusted to you.”
At St. Mary — his part of the kingdom — Silva serves as a catechist, sacristan and extraordinary minister of holy Communion. He leads a men’s group; assists with a retreat for those facing serious illnesses; and leads a monthly festival of praise at St. Leo the Great Parish in Fairfax. With the help of Christine, he mentors married couples. Together, the couple tries to reflect the Faith in their actions, not just their words.
“I think faith, just like the Gospel, is more caught than taught,” Silva said. “My wife and I are trying to be good examples, recognizing that we make mistakes too. The Faith permeates everything we do.”
There’s that “we” again — the “we” of a solid family.
“Everything in my job and the diaconate really springs out of my family,” he said. “We work together.”