Deacon Alex D’Silva will soon be ordained to the priesthood and will minister in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Photo courtesy St. Augustine’s Seminary

Alex D’Silva embraces call to priesthood in late 50s

By 
  • March 18, 2022

Deacon Alex D’Silva has made an impression on those surrounding him since beginning his path to the priesthood at St. Augustine’s Seminary in 2015.

In particular, notes Fr. Kevin Belgrave, D’Silva’s professor and spiritual director at the seminary atop Toronto’s Scarborough Bluffs, is the calmness that is one of D’Silva’s core character traits.

“I really appreciate his tranquility of personality,” said Belgrave, the director of the institute of theology for the seminary and an associate professor of moral theology. “He is even-keeled and brings a calming presence to every situation, and I think that will serve him well as he enters what can often be a very turbulent profession.”

Besides being noted for his calm demeanour, D’Silva stands out among his brethren for another reason. His colleagues — who along with D’Silva were feted at the annual ordinandi Dinner organized by Serra Canada earlier this month — are all in their late 20s to mid-30s.

D’Silva is 56, a widower and a father.

D’Silva will be ordained to the priesthood this year and from there will go on to minister in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

It’s been a long path to the priesthood for D’Silva. His call did not emerge out of nowhere when D’Silva was in his late 40s. It was something he felt at a young age growing up in a single-child household with his parents in Mumbai, India, after priests visited his Grade 4 class to lecture about the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“They made a great impression on me,” said D’Silva. “They lived graciously and talked graciously. They did not put up any airs. They were grounded.”

This experience moved him to start attending Mass daily, elevating his prayer life and becoming involved in lay ministry. In high school, he informed his parents of his wish to become a priest, but there were factors preventing them getting on board with the idea. His father sought retirement and his mother worked domestically. D’Silva knew he had a responsibility to provide for his family.   

D’Silva worked in the financial sector for decades. Through the years he earned a Master of Commerce at the University of Mumbai, a Master of Business Administration at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, and he was certified as a public accountant in Colorado.

While his immediate years upon graduation were devoted solely to supporting his parents, he fell in love, and at 24 married his wife Neela, who had been raised in a non-Christian family. Both D’Silva’s parents and Neela’s mother and brother — her father was already deceased — had initial reservations about the match, but ultimately came around.

A year after they married, their daughter was born in 1990.

His wife ultimately did grow into the faith of Jesus Christ, “gradually, and over time,” said D’Silva.

“She became involved with my daughter growing up as Catholic. She was not involved in any congregation or religious gathering, but she was sort of an underground Catholic praying the rosary and other devotionals.”

This growth blossomed to such an extent that Neela enrolled in the RCIA program at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Mississauga when the family came to Canada in 2004. She was baptized in 2006.

“I was very proud of her,” said D’Silva. “I never told her to (become Catholic), but God answered my prayer.”

This was a beautiful moment during multiple years of adversity for the family as Neela was already dying from breast cancer. She passed away in December 2006.

D’Silva and his daughter kept devoting time to prayer and Mass to help him in the days and weeks following his wife’s death. He felt God was calling him to a vocation once again, but he would wait until his daughter completed high school and postsecondary studies.

He consulted with several priests and received the blessing from his daughter to answer this call. He spent a couple years studying at Regis College before applying to enter the seminary seven years ago.

It took time to adjust to a very different lifestyle.

“It was a challenge. I was pretty old compared to the other guys. I was so used to being independent, while here they had very specific rules and ways of doing things,” he said.

Ultimately, being surrounded by seminarians young enough to be his son energized D’Silva.

“They made me feel young again. I did not feel old. I liked to hear their views and they liked to hear mine.  They are wonderful men.”

D’Silva does not possess some grand vision about how he will imprint the parish he is assigned to upon ordination. Tapping into his inherent tranquility, he will seek to listen and take time to learn about that parish’s specific congregational makeup.

In any event, one could say he is a testament to God taking His disciples on a journey to help them discern their vocation.

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