Children unexpected, lovingly selected

Three women who came to be mothers through adoption share the stories of their journeys to motherhood, and how adopting children has blessed their lives.

Dona Traynor | on raising a priest
Dona Traynor, 75, believes her journey to motherhood must have started at a very early age.

The Traynors, from left: Father Scott Traynor, with parents John and Dona, celebrate after the Dec. 12, 2013 Mass at Christ the King Chapel when Father Traynor was installed as rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

The Traynors, from left: Father Scott Traynor, with parents John and Dona, celebrate after the Dec. 12, 2013 Mass at Christ the King Chapel when Father Traynor was installed as rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

“I spent endless hours in middle school babysitting neighborhood children and loved that responsibility entrusted to me,” she told the Denver Catholic Register from her home in Lakeville, Minn. “I have always loved working with young children. And I am totally mesmerized and captivated with babies!”Before she and husband John were married 52 years ago, they talked about the “what-if’s” if they did not have any biological children.

“We both responded with a resounding ‘yes’ to adoption,” she said. “We didn’t have birth children, so it was an easy and natural choice for us.”

In the late 60s-early 70s, they adopted three children as babies: Kim, Michael and Scott.

“It was quite rare to have three adoptive children,” she said.

Compounding that blessing is that baby #3 is now a priest. Father Scott Traynor, 42, was ordained on his parents’ wedding anniversary, June 23, in 2000. He currently serves as the rector of the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in the Archdiocese of Denver.

“John and I have always been deeply appreciative of our very strong Catholic upbringings and certainly have endeavored to pass that same gift on to our children,” she said. “To see (our children) today as Catholic adults living mature, Christian lives is a tremendous blessing.”

For someone considering adoption, she suggested prayer.

“Pray to Our Lady for she knows our hearts and our deepest needs, as she is a mother herself,” Traynor said.

The Akers family on Easter Sunday April 20: Heather; Francesca, 3; Louisa, 1; and Ben.

The Akers family on Easter Sunday April 20: Heather; Francesca, 3; Louisa, 1; and Ben.

Heather Akers | on trusting God’s plan
Heather Akers, 38, with her husband Ben, eagerly anticipated having a baby right after they got married. But God had a different plan.“We hoped and prayed for a child for nine years before God brought us our eldest little girl,” she said of daughter Francesa, now 3 years old. “Realizing that after nine years we may not be able to have biological children, we started the adoption process.”

They found out about Francesca, who was nine months old at the time, through a friend. Within a month, she was in their home.

“It was such a miracle for us,” Akers said. “To go from no children and the hope of an adoption, to a 10-month-old baby within the space of a month, was a bit of a whirlwind.”

Though it was an adjustment and a challenge, she said, she felt her heart expand to incorporate the new life given to them “out of the blue.”

“I think one of the biggest surprises about motherhood,” she said, “is how quickly love for Francesca grew in my heart.”

Fifteen months later God delivered another gift, Louisa, who is now 1.

“Most adoptive parents wait for years to adopt each child,” she said. “God miraculously gave us our little girls quickly.”

Participating in open adoptions, where they keep in touch with the girls’ biological parents, has also proven to be an unexpected blessing.

“It is an honor to get to know the women who selflessly sacrificed for their child,” Akers said.

She suggested when trying to adopt, in addition to prayer, to let people know.

“Tell people that you’re trying to adopt,” she said. “So if they come across a woman who is looking for an adoptive couple, they can remember you.”

Anne Kochevar | on embracing the unexpected

The Kochevar family celebrate Alyssa’s adoption March 28, front row: Alyssa and Jackson; and back row: Ann, Harrison, Russ and Judge Laurie Clark.

The Kochevar family celebrate Alyssa’s adoption March 28, front row: Alyssa and Jackson; and back row: Ann, Harrison, Russ and Judge Laurie Clark.

In 2010, Anne Kochevar, 49, introduced the possibility of becoming a foster family to her husband Russ and their two teenage sons, Jackson and Harrison—who were adopted through Catholic Charities in the late 90s.By October that year, after meeting eligibility requirements and completing training, they welcomed newborn Alyssa into their home for foster care.

“She’s very sweet; very dear to our hearts,” Kochevar told the Denver Catholic Register when featured in May 11, 2011 article—though the long-term hope was that Alyssa would be reunified with her biological parents, a couple living in Denver.

“Alyssa stayed with us another year,” Anne said last week from their Centennial home. “She went home for about six months, but ‘Mom and Dad’ were really struggling.

“They fell back into old habits,” she said, not specifying what those habits were.

Alyssa returned to the Kochevars, who stayed in touch with the biological parents.

“We really got to know ‘Mom and Dad’ in the process,” she said. “We knew there were some pretty major issues… their pattern of not being able to maintain.”

But they contended foster care was a temporary situation and continued to hope for reunification.

“Alyssa was supposed to go home,” Kochevar said. “Everyone involved tried to do everything they could to get her home.”

However following another stint, a court made the decision that Alyssa would not be returning to her biological parents. For all but 10 months of her 3 ½ years, she had lived with the Kochevars—and on March 28, she was officially adopted.

“It’s not easy for them,” Kochevar said of Alyssa’s biological parents. “(But they said) if she’s going to be anywhere, we’re happy she’s with you.”

It was closure, she said, after a long journey.

“We went into this just planning for foster care,” she said with a laugh. “And now we’re starting over. It’s an unexpected surprise.”

To find out more about becoming a foster family with Catholic Charities, attend an informational meeting 7-8 p.m. May 21 at the St. John Paul II Center at 1300 S. Steele St.

Become a foster family with Catholic Charities

What: Informational meeting
When: 7-8 p.m. May 21
Where: St. John Paul II Center, 1300 S. Steele St., Denver
Contact: Cheryl Garcia
Phone: 303-742-0828 x2051
Website: visit

COMING UP: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”