By Emily Drooby
Father Andrew De Silva lives between two worlds.
He serves God and his parishioners as the parochial vicar at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Clark, N.J. He also serves his country as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves.
“I do feel blessed that I’m able to help out a little bit,” said Father De Silva, “I benefit tremendously from my contact with soldiers, others who I can emulate.”
It’s a ministry that was made especially difficult this year. As the head chaplain for the 8th medical brigade on Staten Island, he was there as the Reserves navigated their role in fighting the pandemic.
“Usually medical brigade supports the forward components,” he explained. “Whereas all of a sudden, medical brigade is going to lead the way.”
Father De Silva got his first taste of army life while in college at Virginia Military Institute.
“I remember thinking at the time, I don’t want to be in the Army,” he said, “and look at me now.”
As the descendent of a long line of American heroes, the military was in his blood. His father and grandfather are both veterans.
Once he was out of college and working in the wine industry, Father De Silva says he was living for three purposes: marriage, money, and the freedom to travel. Then he came across the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
“These monks were way happier and more fulfilled than I was and they had the three opposite values,” he explained. That’s where his new path began.
He joined the Brothers of Saint John, he was sent to Seton Hall University where he worked with ROTC students, which led him to the Reserves.
After eight years as a religious brother, he felt the calling to become a priest and was ordained in 2019.
Now, he’s on his second year as a priest, and his seventh with the Chaplain Corps. He juggles both of his callings, ministering to his parishioners, while always keeping a packed to-go Army Chaplain bag nearby.
“I’ve kind of found this important niche where a lot of the soldiers, citizen soldiers are working two jobs,” Father De Silva said. “They don’t have the same structure. They’ve got a lot of stress a lot of difficulties, so there is a tremendous of need for people to be there for them, support them, to walk with them.”
This past year, as hospitals were overflowing and overwhelmed with COVID patients, being a chaplain meant supporting soldiers who were learning to set up field hospitals. Men and women fearlessly facing the coronavirus, a terrifying and deadly opponent, to protect their fellow Americans. Father De Silva’s help and guidance was greatly needed.
Now, he’s urging fellow clergy to follow on his path.
“I would recommend that all of us be ready to wear a hat that we didn’t expect to wear,” said Father De Silva. “I think that’s something that 2020 has taught us.”