After 15 years, Monsignor da Silva returns to parish full-time

After 15 years, Monsignor da Silva returns to parish full-time

 

By Gene Fadness
Editor

BOISE - In the late 1970s, Bishop Sylvester Treinen of the Diocese of Boise sought permission from the Diocese of Brooklyn to have a priest visit Idaho to train priests and lay people in liturgy and to help prepare the Diocese for a revitalization of the diaconate formation program.

One of the priests sent here was a friend to Father Joseph daSilva. Father da Silva was a social-worker priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn, coordinator of parish outreach for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Brooklyn. That priest friend invited Father da Silva to come to Idaho for a short visit. 

Father da Silva was immediately impressed with the smaller parishes here, the increased involvement from the laity, the interaction among members and the beauty of the state.

 

After returning to Brooklyn, he wrote a letter to Bishop Sylvester Treinen thanking him for the visit, adding that Idaho “would be a delightful place to work for a short period of time.” He was surprised at Bishop Treinen’s prompt response inviting him back to show him around the state. 

Father da Silva took the Bishop up on his offer. “I was absolutely stunned when Bishop Treinen was the one who met me at the airport,” he said. “He’s the one who picked up my bags, and he’s the one who took me on the tour,” which included, he recalls, a crab feed in Emmett. 

Father da Silva returned to Brooklyn, reminding his Bishop that the Diocese of Boise was a “missionary diocese in need of priests.” The Brooklyn bishop told Father da Silva he would be ministering to cows, but gave him his blessing.  

That "delightful place to work for a short period of time," continues to be so for Monsignor da Silva four decades later, though one phase of his service is ending.

For the last 15 years, Monsignor da Silva (designated a Monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008) has been a vicar general to Bishop Mike Driscoll and now Bishop Peter Christensen while also serving as pastor at Risen Christ Parish in southwest Boise. 

Bishop Peter recently named Father Caleb Vogel as the new Vicar General for Clergy and Parishes. Monsignor da Silva returns to full-time service at Risen Christ Parish.

Though he will miss the interaction with his fellow clergy members, Monsignor da Silva looks forward to the greater attention he can give to his parish, a parish that has had to share its pastor with the Chancery for 15 years. 

A vicar general serves as kind of an “alter ego” to the bishop, according to Mark Raper, chancellor for the Diocese of Boise. “He is called a local Ordinary. The bishop is the Ordinary, but a local Ordinary may deal with a specific area of emphasis, Raper said. For Monisgnor da Silva, that has been as Vicar General for Clergy and Parishes, which entails helping the priests in the Diocese with their professional, psychological and spiritual development as well as helping parishes sort out challenges such as personnel or organizational changes.  

Much of the work entails hearing complaints, whether it be from parishioners about their priest or priests in dealing with each other. That has helped Monsignor da Silva see and better appreciate the human dimension of both priesthood and laity. 

A vicar general also has many of the same duties and powers of a bishop when the bishop designates them, Raper said. For example, a vicar general can do Confirmations if the bishop asks him or preside at rites of progression for seminarians. He also is the head of the diocese when the bishop is out of the country, Raper said. When the bishop either dies or is assigned elsewhere, the vicar general’s position is also vacated until a new bishop is installed, Raper said. 


“The vicar general is given the bishop’s executive authority, but not his liturgical authority,” said Father Vogel, who also serves as pastor at St. Paul’s Parish in Nampa. “Thus, a vicar general cannot ordain priests or deacons, as an example. The main role is to help the bishop administrate the diocese by taking on some of the executive tasks, which will give the bishop more time and freedom to pastor the diocese,” Father Vogel said. 

Whether Father Vogel’s chief role will be precisely the same as Monsignor da Silva’s remains to be seen, he said.

“Ultimately, this is up to Bishop Peter. My role is to serve as he sees best,” Father Vogel said. “Once I begin this work, it will be much clearer what he wants me to do in specifics. I can imagine helping with organizational structures that allow our priests to be in better communication with the Bishop and with one another. I can envision helping to plan and then communicate protocols and changes that come up in regards to the pandemic,” he said. “My great desire is to help Bishop Peter shepherd the Diocese of Boise in the best way possible.”

Father Vogel, a native of Jerome was ordained in 2004 and first served as a parochial vicar in Idaho Falls from 2004-06. Then he was called 
as Administrator and later pastor for the parishes headquartered at Mary Immaculate Parish in St. Anthony. He departed southeastern Idaho for north Idaho in 2009 as pastor at the St. Augustine Student Center on the campus of the University of Idaho in Moscow for six years. He was appointed pastor at St. Paul’s in Nampa in July 2015.

Time will tell how this new calling will affect his ministry at St. Paul’s, Father Vogel said. 

“The reality is that the impact will be felt during the week, not on the weekend,” he said. “By working out of an office at the Diocesan Pastoral Center several days each week, I will less available to take appointments, meet with people, do pastoral visits, and be present during the weekdays. There will simply be less of me to go around,” he said. 

“The good news is that I am not the only priest at St. Paul’s,” he said. Father Carlos Rosero and Father Emmanual Chinedu, SMMM, are parochial vicars at the parish and Father William Taylor, though retired, serves as a priest-in-residence. “They are happy to step up and provide pastoral support to our parishioners,” Father Vogel said of his fellow priests. 

Father Vogel, 43, said the appointment surprised him. “This was not something I was expecting or even thinking about. Not that it is a bad thing, it is simply not something that was on my radar,” he said. However, he is honored by the appointment, he said. “The honor wore off quickly as I was beginning to grasp what this new role would entail. In the end, I feel confident and ready to serve.”  

Monsignor da Silva, was born Dec. 29, 1947, in Georgetown, British Guyana. When he was a boy, he moved with his mother and his siblings to live in New York with an aunt. He attended the Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception in Brooklyn. He entered the seminary for the Diocese of Brooklyn and studied philosophy and theology at Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, N.Y. He was ordained a priest there on May 27, 1972, by Bishop Francis J. Mugavero.

He came to Idaho in 1980, serving first as an associate pastor at St. Anthony’s in Pocatello before being named Administrator at the St. John’s Campus Ministry Center on the Idaho State University campus in Pocatello. In June 1987, he was appointed pastor at St. Paul Catholic Center at Boise State. He left in June 1992 for work outside the diocese, before returning in July 1994 as administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lewiston. After a year there, he was assigned as the Administrator at Risen Christ Parish in Boise. Two years later, he was appointed pastor there and has been there since. He spearheaded the effort to get the new church on Lake Hazel Road built.  

In 2005, he was tapped to be vicar general by Bishop Michael P. Driscoll. Bishop Driscoll and Father da Silva had an automatic kinship because of their mutual involvement with Catholic Charities. 

In 2008, Father da Silva was named a "Prelate of Honor to His Holiness" with the title "monsignor" by Pope Benedict XVI.

Monsignor da Silva says he will miss most the “people connection, the interaction with priests and also with parishioners around the state. In terms of the priests, I enjoyed the opportunity to appreciate their humanity. It made me aware of my humanity as well as the other priests,” he said. 

While both priests and parishioners are afflicted by all the imperfections of humanity, working closely with them has also helped Monsignor da Silva to see the “grace that fills our nature. Grace can strengthen who we are, but we can also be obstacles to grace. That is true for everyone, and priests are not immune from that.” 

Helping priests become healthy in body, mind and spirit was a primary objective for Monsignor da Silva. He invited professionals from the St. John Vianney Center in Philadelphia and the Southdown Institute in Toronto to give workshops here. 

Working for two very different bishops, both of whom he admires, was also rewarding, Monsignor da Silva said. The late Bishop Driscoll had a heart for social ministry as does Monsignor da Silva and was very open to collaboration with fellow priests and parish leaders, he said, referring primarily to Bishop Driscoll’s “All At the Table,” initiative. 

Bishop Christensen’s strength is his “clear vision in making sure things happen,” Monsignor da Silva said. He mentioned specifically building projects such as the priest retirement center, the planned new Chancery, and the retreat center. He also praised Bishop Peter’s outreach to the Hispanic community and his recruitment of religious order and diocesan priests from Latin America and Africa to fulfill vital roles not only in parishes but also to provide spiritual direction for priests and deacons. 

“His people skills are A-plus,” Monsignor da Silva said of Bishop Peter. “He has a good sense of humor, great insights and communicates very clearly.” 

A personal disappointment that Monsignor da Silva has felt most deeply is when a priest decides to leave the priesthood, or is unhappy in his priesthood. Often, they have not given it enough time, he said. 

He would like to see a year devoted to personal development, similar to a novitiate that religious order priests such as the Jesuits experience. “They need a year that is not simply a pastoral year, but where they are able to truly know themselves and learn that self-awareness that is so critical; an intense look at the psychological, emotional and spiritual life.” 

It is better that such introspection happen before ordination, Monsignor da Silva said. “There are things unknown to every person, not just priests, that affect development. Those unknowns will come back to haunt if not addressed,” he said. “They can be addressed after ordination, but that is always more difficult.”

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