PHOTO ALBUM: Archbishop ordains four new deacons

Julie Filby

During last week’s deacon ordination, Archbishop Samuel Aquila told ordinands their new ministry must be “rooted in humility” and they should strive to serve with “the heart of Christ the Servant.”

“You will be configured to Christ the Servant,” he said during his homily Feb. 14 at the Mass of holy orders at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. “Pray for the grace of humility to receive that gift.”  > Story continues below photo album

Photos by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic

The four men ordained—Brother James Claver, S.C.J.; Mason Fraley, Salvador Sánchez Gasca and Matthew Magee—are studying for the priesthood at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. Ordination to the diaconate is a step in their formation to ultimately being ordained to the priesthood.

Drawing on the liturgy’s Gospel (Mt 20: 25-28), Archbishop Aquila reminded the men that they have been called by the Lord to serve, not to be served

“You are saying, ‘I am not choosing what I want, but what God wants because it will bring me the greatest joy and happiness,’” the archbishop said. “Pray for the heart of Christ, you must desire it and cooperate with it. Pray to be like Jesus and make yourself a total self-gift.”

Below are profiles of the men that were ordained.

Deacon James Claver, S.C.J.
Age: 30
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Most inspirational saint: St. Ignatius Loyola
Deacon James Claver once doubted his faith as a child. He was sent to a Protestant middle school where he had a difficult time. But after a freshman-year retreat at a Catholic high school, Claver said, “I met the Lord in a really profound way, and as a result, I started to get really active in my parish and my youth group.” Immediately, a vocation to the priesthood was suggested to Claver, but he was opposed to the idea. Over time, he opened himself to God’s will. “I said, ‘OK, Lord, even my calculus teacher in high school can recognize that I have a vocation, and I don’t quite see this, but I will be open to your will.” He discerned his vocation while studying at Franciscan University of Steubenville and while doing missionary work in Honduras. Deacon Claver is a professed member of the Servants of Christ Jesus community.

Deacon Mason Donald Fraley
Age: 25
Home parish: St. Francis de Sales, Denver
Most inspirational saint: Sts. Josemaria Escriva and Luigi Giussani
Growing up in Denver, Deacon Mason Fraley didn’t really have any interest in the priesthood. “I was really resistant to it, because it struck me as such a radical lifestyle that was scary,” he said. But as his relationship with Christ grew, in part due to his experience attending Bishop Machebeuf High School, he began to appreciate the unique role priests have in sharing Christ with others. “(Because of) the happiness I had in relationship with Christ,” he said, “I wanted an opportunity to spend my whole life sharing him with others. Then I applied to seminary my senior year.” Prior to his ordination, the word foremost of his mind, he said, was “joyful.”

Deacon Salvador Sánchez Gasca
Age: 31
Hometown: León, Guanajuato, Mexico
Most inspirational saint: St. John Bosco
Deacon Salvador Sanchez said he had always thought about being a priest. One of his pastors encouraged him as a child, but he forgot until years later when he was prompted by God. “One day, I received the call again and then I said, ‘Yes.’” He was further inspired when he arrived in the United States. “I saw the necessity of the people, the Spanish-speaking people—they didn’t have a lot of priests who speak Spanish,” he shared. He applied to the seminary and was accepted 10 years ago. In anticipation of his ordination, Deacon Gasca said he was feeling “hopeful.”

Deacon Matthew David Magee
Age: 25
Home parish: Our Lady of Loreto, Foxfield
Most inspirational saint: St. John Paul II
The diaconate will be family affair for the Magees, as Deacon Matt Magee’s father, Michael Magee, is also an ordained deacon, serving at Our Lady of Loreto. “[My dad] started formation when I was in my sophomore year of high school,” he said. “He was ordained my first year of seminary.” Priesthood was always in the back of Deacon Matt Magee’s mind, but he didn’t take it seriously until high school. “My pastor growing up was always really influential, but I always put priesthood in the back,” he said. After discerning the last two years of high school and his first year in college, he felt God call him to enter seminary and “just had this great peace come over me,” he said.

Interviews by St. John Vianney seminarian Zachary Boazman contributed to this report.

View an additional photo album by Boazman here.

COMING UP: Father Jan Mucha remembered for his ‘joy and simplicity’

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When Father Marek Ciesla was 11 years old, he encountered a priest in his hometown in northern Poland who was visiting his parish on mission.

“I was impressed,” said Father Ciesla. “A couple of my friends and I were talking about how energetic, how wonderful this priest was. I think in this way he inspired us a little bit to follow the call to the priesthood.”

The priest was Father Jan Mucha, and little did Father Ciesla know that decades later and an ocean away, he would reunite with the man that inspired him and his friend to pursue the priesthood.

In 2010 when Father Mucha was retiring from his role as pastor of St. Joseph Polish Catholic Church in Denver, Father Ciesla was sent from Poland to the Archdiocese of Denver to take his place.

The priests spent two days together, and Father Ciesla was struck by the familiarity of Father Mucha.

“For some reason, the way he was talking and the words he was using, something rang a bell,” he said. “I asked him if he remembers visiting my parish. And he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I had it on my list. I remember.’”

Father Ciesla was amazed that the man he was there to replace was the same one who had impacted his life all those years ago.

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Father Ciesla. “I never thought I would meet him again.”

Father Mucha passed away March 21 after serving the archdiocese for 40 years. He was 88 years old.

Father Mucha was born March 16, 1930 in Gron, Poland to parents Kazimierz and Aniela Mucha. He was one of five children. Father Mucha attended high school in Kraków and went on to study philosophy and theology at a seminary in Tarnów.

Father Mucha was ordained December 19, 1954 in Tarnów by Auxiliary Bishop Karol Pękala. He served at St. Theresa Parish in Lublin, Sacred Heart Parish in Florynka and as a Latin teacher at Sacred Heart Novice House in Mszana Dolna.

He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Denver on April 20, 1978. Before he was granted retirement status in August of 2010, he served at St. Joseph Polish for nearly 40 years.

“Father Mucha was dedicated to his people and there was a joy about him,” said Msgr. Bernard Schmitz, who had known Father Mucha since his own ordination in 1974 and more recently within his former role as Vicar for Clergy.

“I admired his joy and simplicity,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He seemed to have no guile and what you saw is what you got. He was very proud of his Polish heritage and was unafraid to be Polish.”

Father Mucha’s move to the United States came about after he visited St. Joseph Polish while on vacation. The pastor at the time was sick, and parishioners asked Father Mucha to stay.

After receiving approval from his superiors in Poland and the archbishop in Denver, Father Mucha did stay, and ended up serving the parish for nearly four decades.

“He was happy to serve here,” said Father Ciesla. “All the time, he was a man of faith. He kept his eye on Jesus.”

Msgr. Schmitz believes Father Mucha’s faithfulness and tenacity as a priest will leave a lasting impression on those he served.

“He was dedicated to the priesthood and didn’t want to retire until he was sure his people would be well taken care of,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He could come across as tough, but really he was a compassionate person [with] a heart open to the Lord’s work.”