New director for Christ House

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He's only been on the job for about 10 days, but Diego Marquez, program director of Christ House men's shelter in Alexandria, sees his new position as a continuation of a life dedicated to the poor.

"This is the Catholic Church," he said of Christ House, "serving the least of us."

Marquez, 44, was born in Chicago, where he attended public schools. He came from a Catholic family, but not a devout one.

"I found (my) faith as an adult," he said.

After graduating from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in English, he taught school in Chicago and attended Mass at St. Rita Church, becoming active in parish life and serving as a lector.

After 14 years of teaching, he enrolled at Loyola University Law School in Chicago earning a law degree in 2011. He left teaching because of a "long-deferred" interest in the law.

When he was in law school he worked as a guardian ad litem where he represented the interests of children separated from their parents because of abuse or neglect.

Marquez and his wife Erin attend St. Rita Church in Alexandria and have been married for four years. The couple recently moved to the area because of Erin's work with Partners for the Americas. She previously worked in Libya for Save the Children and served in the Peace Corps.

Marquez puts his law degree to good use at the St. Anthony legal clinic on Saturday mornings, where people get free consultations on a variety of legal issue including immigration and landlord/tenant disputes.

Before coming to Christ House, Marquez worked for nearly a year at Catholic Charities' Hogar Immigrant Services in Falls Church, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting immigrants. At Hogar, Marquez, who is bilingual, was the educational service manager, instrumental in developing an outreach program to the immigrant community.

Coming to Christ House is a natural progression in his life of service. He knows firsthand the biblical discourse on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger.

"And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me'" (Mt 25:40).

The evening meal at Christ House is a large, community affair where between 60 and 80 people, including families, are fed in three shifts by volunteers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of Christ House and Marquez will be working to grow the more than 100 volunteers who help at Christ House events.

He also will be working to reinvigorate the mentorship program, implement a Bible study class and develop a mental health assessment program for residents - all with a simple goal in mind.

"We want to honor their dignity, by helping them to become self-sufficient," said Marquez.

How to help

For volunteer opportunities at Christ House go to ccda.net/volunteer.php.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013