Eleven men ordained deacons

Eleven men were ordained to the diaconate on June 20 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila served as the ordaining prelate.

Before the homily, a deacon called for each of the candidates by name. The archbishop accepted all 11 men for ordination.

Archbishop Aquila gave his homily on the day’s readings: Jer 1:4-9 (“before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…” Acts 8:26-40 (Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch) and Jn 15:9-17 (part of the Last Supper discourses). The archbishop emphasized that the new deacons must rest in Christ’s love to be able to fulfill their ministry.

“The Lord assures Jeremiah, and assures us today, that when he formed us in the womb he knew us,” he said. “You must know in your own heart that each of you is a beloved son of Jesus.”

He told them not to be afraid if persecutions come, because Christ will send his spirit, just as he did to Philip when he encountered the Ethiopian eunuch.

“You will be called to proclaim Jesus. Not what you think about Jesus, not your own thoughts and opinions, but Jesus,” Archbishop Aquila said.

He also reminded the men that there would be no room for pride in their ministry.

“You will be configured to Christ the servant through Jesus. Remember that Jesus came to serve. He had no spirit of entitlement,” Aquila said.

The archbishop also explained the deacons’ specific roles, which include proclaiming the Gospel and preparing the altar.

“In serving the word, you will be called to proclaim the Gospel. You will need to encounter Jesus in that word, so that you may preach him,” the archbishop said. “Deacons are entrusted especially with the precious blood. It is a reminder that you are called to give your lives.”

Along with this, he reminded them that they had to serve their primary vocation first.

“Your first vocation, your first state in life, is your marriage. It will be important for you to seek a balance between your ministry and our family,” he said.

“Your family must never come second. You must love your wives and children.”

After the homily, each of the elect stood before the archbishop and declared their intention to be ordained. They promised to be consecrated, to discharge their office with humility so as to assist the priestly order, to preserve and proclaim the mystery of faith, to deepen their spirit of prayer, and to be conformed to the Lord’s body and blood.

Each individual deacon then knelt before the archbishop and placed their hands between his.

“Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?” the archbishop asked.

“I do,” each of the elect said.

“May God who has begun a good work in you bring it to fulfillment,” the archbishop said.

The men lay prostrate before the altar while the choir and congregation sang a litany of the saints and of supplication.

The archbishop then laid hands on each of the elect and silently said the prayers of ordination.

After their ordination, the deacons were invested with the stole and dalmatic, which serve as an outward manifestation of their ordination. Each was then presented with the book of the Gospels and exhorted to believe, teach and practice what he reads. Then the archbishop and all the deacons present gave the newly ordained the kiss of peace to welcome them into the ministry.

The Mass then proceeded, with the newly ordained deacons moving into the sanctuary to assist at the Mass.

Meet Denver’s new deacons

Deacon August Cordova
Age: 45
Hometown: Pueblo
Parish: St. John the Evangelist Parish, Loveland
Family: Wife, Regina, and three children
Deacon August Cordova considers himself a product of St. Pope John Paul II. “He’s been very inspirational in my life,” he said. He attended World Youth Day Denver 1993, Manila 1995, Paris 1997, Rome 2000 and Toronto 2002. He was first asked about considering the diaconate in Toronto. The suggestion came again when working as director of religious education at St. John the Evangelist in Loveland. A deacon said, “August, you have a big ‘D’ on your forehead. You should consider signing up for the diaconate.” With the support of his family, he entered the diaconate. “I really feel that’s what God is calling me to do is participating in the diakonia, which means servant in Greek,” he said. He continues to work at St. John the Evangelist and spends his free time with his family. “The formation has been wonderful not only for me but my wife,” Deacon Cordova said. “Because of the diaconate and the formation, we have grown spiritually like you wouldn’t believe. It’s been a beautiful journey.”

 

Deacon Michael Daly
Age: 39
Hometown: Albuquerque, N.M.
Parish: Our Lady of Fatima, Lakewood
Family: Wife, Megan, and six children
When Deacon Michael Daly was asked if he thought about being a deacon, he laughed and said, “No, I’m the wrong guy.” The call to the diaconate became stronger in 2002, and he said he prayed for a long time about it, telling God he thought he was the wrong guy for the job. He has a busy schedule with a wife and six children and working in law enforcement for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. “But God knows better than me. The call just never stopped,” he said. As deacon, he said he would most like to help people realize their dignity and to see the face of Jesus. “I would really like to help everyone come to know the reality that Jesus is a person and that he exists right here and now,” Deacon Daly said. He credits the Holy Spirit with making the diaconate possible. “I’m excited and I’m just humbled that God has brought me all of this way.”

 

Deacon Timothy Hathaway
Age: 60
Hometown: Centennial
Assigned Parish: Mother of God Parish, Denver, and Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Family: Wife, Jessie, two children and six grandchildren
Deacon Timothy Hathaway has spent his life in service. First, he served his country for more than 30 years in the Marine Corps. Now he wants to serve the Church. “When I grew in my faith, I felt the need to serve my Church more,” he said. He was asked if he wanted to become a deacon while stationed in Oceanside, Calif., and then again, after retiring from the Marine Corps., at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. He accepted the call and began diaconal formation. “I’m increasingly aware of my unworthiness but at the same time eager to begin working again to build our Church in whatever small way that I’m called to do through my various ministries as assigned by the archbishop or as assigned by the Holy Spirit,” he said. He’s looking forward to bringing more people into the Church and leading them to the sacraments.

 

Deacon Robert Hoffman
Age: 63
Parish: Christ the King Church, Evergreen
Family: Wife, Bonnie, and two children and four grandchildren
After he left for college, Deacon Robert Hoffman left the Catholic faith he was raised in. For 22 years he led a pagan lifestyle questioning God’s existence. “I was a normal person sinning on a regular basis with no conscience,” he said. During that time, unbeknownst to him, his mother and sister prayed for him to return to the Church. He returned to his faith in the 90s and began to attend St. Thomas More Church in Centennial in 1994. Then came the questions about the diaconate. “No, I would never make a good deacon,” was his response. Over time he felt God was calling him to give back those 22 years he spent away from the faith. “I wasn’t going to say ‘no’ anymore,” Deacon Hoffman said. Although he doesn’t believe he has the gifts his brother deacons do, he said he’s confident this is what God wants him to do. “I just have to trust in God and his graces to help me be the deacon he wants me to be. I don’t consider myself anything special at all. What will be special is what God uses me for.”

 

Deacon Mladen Martinovic
Age: 47
Hometown: Mostar, Bosnia
Parish: St. Louis Parish, Englewood
Family: Wife, Vesna, and five children
When his country was occupied by communists, the secret police tried to squash the faith of its citizens. As a young boy, Deacon Mladen Martinovic said he had a strong faith and felt the call to serve God. “I had to talk to everybody about God,” he said. But the government demanded citizens deny God in public, but he wouldn’t. From 1984-1991 he was taken from school and into police headquarters where he was subjected to long periods of persecution in a dark room. He eventually fled to Germany with his uncle, nearly escaping death. “I left my country that was calling was still there. It never stopped,” he said. He married his wife in Germany and they came to Denver in 1997. He began to learn English and the call to the diaconate returned. “I think God is always the one who planted it,” he said. With his wife’s witness and support, he was able to go through formation. He looks forward to serving the Croatian community at St. Louis Parish in Englewood.  “I can’t wait to start.”

 

Deacon Marc Nestorick
Family: Wife, Pattie, and three children.
Deacon Nestorick never imagined he would become a deacon. However, he says God used his prayer life to bring him to this service.
“Looking back on it now, I can say that it is through this journey in formation to become a deacon that God is working through me to help me better be the son he wants me to be. He is also using this as a way to help my family further their relationship with him,” Deacon Nestorick said.
Deacon Nestorick says he is looking forward to meeting new people and learning more about God while serving them.

 

Deacon Efrain Pruneda
Family: Wife, Lili, and three children
Deacon Pruneda was inspired to become a deacon by the preaching he heard at Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora. Then he learned that one of his sons was being challenged for his faith in school and had chosen to defend it.
“Then all of a sudden the Holy Spirit struck me to the core, and I thought, ‘What am I doing for the Lord??’ How am I getting out of my comfort zone for the one who gave his life for me??’ I realized that my gifts and skills as a person were not for my own benefit, they were for the Lord, they are for his glory,” Deacon Pruneda said.
Pruneda has already begun to pray for his future parishioners. “I pray for you wherever you are, I pray that the Lord will allow me to love you and care for you as much as I have dreamed,” he said.

 

Deacon Gregory Reynolds
Family: Wife, Melissa, and 24 nieces and nephews
Deacon Reynolds became an altar server in the fourth grade. He later discerned the priesthood, but realized he was called to married life. He prayed about the permanent diaconate for many years, until an exasperated friend asked him why he wasn’t a deacon yet. Deacon Reynolds said he is excited to see where the Holy Spirit guides the archbishop to place him. He also looks forward to serving at the Mass.
“I know it will be humbling to do what I am called to do in helping the Mass flow smoothly and bring Christ to the people through the proclamation of the Gospel and distribution of the Eucharist,” he said.

Deacon Stanley Rymes
Family: Wife, Ana, and three sons
Deacon John McKeown has been prodding Deacon Rymes toward the diaconate for years.
“When I finally announced to my wife, Ana, that I’m applying for the deacon formation program she replied, ‘It’s what I’ve been praying for!’” Rymes said.
Rymes said he is humbled by his call.
“At this time I’m feeling a sense of awe and wonder. I’m excited to discover how I can best serve my assigned parish and my archbishop,” Deacon Rymes said.

 

Deacon David Thompson
Family: Wife, Vicki, and three children
Deacon David Thompson says there isn’t one particular event that prodded him toward the diaconate. However, ever since he was initiated into the church, many ministers have suggested it to him.
Deacon Thompson and his wife got involved in Marriage Encounter about seven years ago.
“That was the start of me falling in love with faith and all it has to offer,” Deacon Thompson said.
Thompson said he thinks that the ministry will match his interests.
“I’m most looking forward to sharing the excitement of my faith with others,” he said. “I like to serve, so it just seems like the next step forward for me.”

 

Deacon Dennis Wallisch
Family: Wife, Beth, and three kids
Deacon Dennis Wallisch grew up in a strong Catholic home, which he believes helped foster his vocation.
“My parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and brothers and sister are or were good-practicing Catholics who give me or gave me great examples,” Wallisch said.
Wallisch’s youngest brother is now a priest. In addition, his wrestling coach went on to become a permanent deacon, as did the father of the best man in his wedding.
“All these people showed me what it means to serve others. The priests and deacons that I have known in my life have shown me how to lead a life oriented to God.”

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.”