David Card and his goals for Regis Jesuit High School

For David Card, sending his children to a Catholic school was an easy decision.

“I think there’s something fundamental and holistic about bringing your faith and your spirituality into your full development process,” he said. “I’ve never considered anything else for my kids.”

In August, Card began to serve as the first lay president of Regis Jesuit High School, and second alumnus in the role (Class of 1987). In his new role, Card says he hopes he can make the possibility of an education at Regis a “real option” for qualified students with little financial resources.

Card replaces Rick Sullivan, who served as interim president of Regis Jesuit since Father Paul Sheridan resigned from the post due to health issues at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

Card worked as Director of Development at the school from 1999 to 2003, and has served on Regis’ board of trustees for the past year.

Most recently, he served as president of Escuela de Guadalupe, a dual-language Catholic elementary school in Denver. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Colorado Denver and a bachelor’s degree from Regis University in Denver.

Denver Catholic sat down with Card, to speak with him about his new role, the school, and his philosophy on Catholic education.

Denver Catholic: What are the emotions that come to mind in coming back to your alma-mater to serve as its President?

David Card:  I’m excited for sure. Through Ignatian spirituality, the spirituality given to us by our founder, St. Ignatius, one of the things that’s really been internalized by me is this idea of indifference. That it’s not really what I want, but “Where is it that I am to be?” I’ve had that feeling about Regis for a long time. So there’s a contentedness with that. Certainly, in reality I know it’s a big job, so I’m excited, and there’s also some anxiousness, but the support I’ve received from the community has been enormous.

Denver Catholic: Would you mind elaborating on the foundational pillars that a student at Regis Jesuit will be formed in upon graduation?

David Card: I think (the pillars) really reflect the kind of inquiry that we want our students to engage in. This is all in the foundational spirituality of our Catholic Church and our Ignatian tradition. One of the things Regis really excels at, and Jesuit education excels at, is it provides wonderful pathways, especially for adolescents, to develop an authentic relationship with God.

Also, through the process of discernment what we’re trying to develop is a listening skill in our students. . . This way, they can listen for the signs and ways in which God is calling them to be and to serve. They have many opportunities to explore their gifts and talents, to be really cognoscente of the larger community and the world they live in. Also, they have the opportunity to have real practice in service so they can animate their lives with that service.

Denver Catholic: What are your future goals for Regis Jesuit?

David Card: We adopted a strategic plan on the board a little over a year ago. Excellence, which pertains to our students, to our faculty, and our facilities is one of the pillars. We really want to focus on the inclusiveness of Regis in terms of its diversity. . .We constantly have work to do in maintaining and developing infrastructure for the school, strengthening our financial resources, and get better at marketing who we are and what we do.

I think in general I want to imagine a school that any family who desires especially a faith-formative, rigorous education and thinks “I want my kid to go there” also feels like that’s a real possibility. I’m not sure that’s true right now. So, I really want to work on that. . . I think the most important thing is to continue what we’re doing here and ensuring that our people are exposed to our Jesuit Catholic tradition and that they’re preparing to bring that forth into the world.”

Denver Catholic: Speaking through your experience, what is necessary to propel Catholic education as we continue into the 21st century?

David Card: I think we have to be intentional about our mission. I think we have to be ever more creative in the way that we convey that. I think our culture can be challenging for that. At the same time, we have to continue to recognize that God is present in our culture.

I think on a practical level, the biggest challenge facing Catholic education is financial accessibility. We wrestle with that here (at Regis) and we’ve got a lot of work to do to ensure that really any student who’s academically qualified, along with the parents of that student, feel like this is a real option for them. We do a lot to support that but certainly, we have to do more. There’s always a constant tension between having a quality faculty and putting the resources in place for that to occur, and then having a tuition rate and a financial aid program that can really be accessible to every family.

Denver Catholic: With so many options that parents have in educating their children, why Catholic education?

David Card: I think there’s something fundamental and holistic about bringing your faith and your spirituality into your full development process. To me it is, I’ve never considered anything else for my kids. So I do think that more and more families are hungering for that. Even if they don’t have a faith tradition, they’re concerned about the lack of boundaries for the development for their child.

We’ve always been strong academically. Kids get an excellent college prep education at Regis but if it were just that, we wouldn’t be all that distinctive. I think it really is engaging kids in service, having them really look at themselves and try to figure out “How is it that I am and is there really an opportunity for me to hear where I’m called to be?”

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.”