Diocesan News

The Priestly Vocation He Dreamed of as a Boy is About to Come True

One of the great roles of a deacon is the opportunity to baptize babies, Deacon Luis Marquez said. “To welcome someone into the faith brings great joy,” he explained.

DYKER HEIGHTS — Luis Marquez was teaching at New Jersey City University several years ago when he came across a young woman in tears in the university library. It was a vulnerable time in her life, as she had just learned she was pregnant. At the moment Marquez encountered her, she was thinking about getting an abortion.

Marquez sat with her, listened to her, and suggested that she try to keep in mind that the child she was carrying would call her “Mom” and how wonderful that would be. 

The woman turned to him and asked him if he had ever considered becoming a priest. He would be a good one, she told him. Ten months later, he ran into the woman again. This time, she had her infant son with her. She had decided not to have the abortion after all.

The woman’s question turned out to be prescient. For indeed, Marquez, who is now 38, is on his way toward becoming a priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn. 

He is one of four men who will be ordained by Bishop Robert Brennan on Saturday, June 1, at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. He was ordained as a transitional deacon in 2023 and got a taste of parish life by serving at St. Ephrem Church in Dyker Heights over the summer of 2023 before returning to Pope St. Pope XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts to complete his studies.

While the encounter he had with the woman in the library was memorable for him, it wasn’t the first time he had thought about the priesthood. In fact, his desire to join the clergy started in childhood in his native Colombia.

Born and raised in Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia, he recalled how his father, also named Luis, had always nudged him toward the priesthood. 

Even as a little boy, Luis Marquez received encouragement from his father Luis to become a priest. Here is a Marquez family photo of Luis, his father Luis, his mother Luz, and his two sisters. (Photos: Courtesy of Deacon Luis Marquez)

The older Luis had harbored that dream for himself as a young man, even attending a seminary. However, his parents couldn’t afford the tuition and he had to drop out. Life took him in a different direction. He married, had three children (two daughters and Luis), and became a police inspector.

His love for the Church remained strong and he encouraged young Luis to have a strong faith. 

“My father left formation but he always told me about the Catholic faith, about Jesus and the Virgin Mary. And he introduced me to parish life. He encouraged me to be an altar server,” Deacon Marquez recalled.

His mother Luz was also a strong influence. “She used to go to church a lot. She was involved in different groups in the church,” Deacon Marquez recalled.

His parents’ loving guidance was an anchor for him at a time of uncertainty in Colombia. In the 1980s and 1990s, when Deacon Marquez was growing up, the country was rife with drug lords, most notably Pablo Escobar, founder of the infamous Medellin drug cartel.

“It was a dangerous time,” said Deacon Marquez, who added that even as a little boy, he worried about his police inspector father’s safety. 

Still there were many joyful moments for the Marquez family and they took pride in their father’s law enforcement career. “When my father was free for lunch, he used to come to the house in his police car. We really enjoyed seeing him in his role as a policeman in Colombia,” Deacon Marquez recalled.

Deacon Marquez wanted to follow his father’s footsteps — not into a police station but into a seminary.

When he revealed that he wanted to become a priest, his father was delighted. “I told him I was applying to the seminary and he was so excited for me,” he said. He enrolled in the Archdiocese of Medellin Minor Seminary, a school for teenage boys.

In addition to his parents, Deacon Marquez received help from others. For example, his church pastor paid his tuition.

But his journey to the priesthood didn’t follow a linear path. His family left Colombia and came to live in the U.S. in 2002, settling in New Jersey, and he started to drift away from his priestly studies. 

After much soul searching during his discernment, Deacon Luis Marquez (far left) found a home at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary in Massachusetts.

He eventually enrolled in St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Yonkers with the goal of becoming a priest in the Archdiocese of New York.

“Catholicism is very different in Colombia than here,” he recalled, adding that he had a change of heart. “I thought the priesthood was not for me. I decided to start a new journey in my life,” he explained.

Deacon Marquez earned a degree in foreign languages and taught at high schools and colleges.

He still kept in touch with seminarians he met at St. Joseph’s and at St. John’s University, where he had taken classes. They encouraged him to give his vocation another try.

Taking the advice to heart, he started spending his weekends at a house of discernment in the Diocese of Brooklyn. He finally came to the realization that the priesthood was the life he wanted and that he wanted to serve in the diocese. He enrolled in the Pope St. John XXIII Seminary, which is primarily known as a place for later-in-life vocations. 

Deacon Marquez was one of the youngest guys there; one of his fellow seminarians was 70.

Deacon Marquez recently completed his studies, packed up his belongings, cleaned out his room in the seminary, and left. It was an emotional time. “I cried. It was hard to leave. I have so many wonderful memories of the seminary,” he said. 

When he thinks about what lies ahead, he is excited. “I am very blessed to be in Brooklyn because you can find different kinds of communities, cultures, and languages,” he said.

In a way, Deacon Marquez feels he is fulfilling both his dreams and the dreams of his father in becoming a priest. 

“My father passed away in 2019, but I feel that he will be there with me at my ordination,” he said. “My mother is still with us and she and my whole family will be there.”

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