Father “Bill” Carmody known for being tireless life warrior

Colorado Springs diocese to hold funeral Mass March 5

Father Lawrence W. “Bill” Carmody, the second priest to be ordained for the Diocese of Colorado Springs and one of its most beloved pastors, died Feb. 23 at age 58.

A funeral Mass will take place March 5 at 10 a.m. at St. Dominic Parish, followed by burial in the priests’ lot at Evergreen Cemetery. A reception will be held at St. Dominic after the burial.

Father Carmody was well-known around Colorado because of his tireless efforts as long-time director of the diocesan Respect Life Office, and as news of his death spread, tributes began pouring in from around the state and even other parts of the country.

“For more than 25 years, he was a warrior for the unborn,” said Bishop Michael Sheridan. “He is known nationally for his work. That is his legacy.”

“He’s really been the clarion call and the moral voice on this issue for so many years,” said Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs. “He will be greatly missed. He was a great man.”

Father Carmody was born Sept. 26, 1957 to Lawrence W. and Delia Carmody of Denver. He was the second-oldest of seven children, growing up with two sisters and three brothers (one sister died in childhood).

As a boy, he loved basketball, football and baseball but lacked the athletic ability to be a starting player, said his younger brother Patrick.

“Bill’s athletic career can be summed up in three words: short, slow and asthmatic,” Patrick Carmody told the Herald. “That did not stop him from loving sport and putting his whole heart into whatever game we were playing. In junior high, he was cut from the basketball team every year. He was also cut from the basketball team for three consecutive years at Bear Creek High School. However, he was the manager of the 1974 high-school team that won the state championship. He went on to be the basketball manager at Indiana State University, including three years that Larry Bird was on the team.”

“He learned to love the underdog,” Patrick Carmody said. “He brought that attitude to the fight for the right to life. The right to life is all about the underdog – who will stand up for the one without a voice; who will fight for the one that can’t fight?”

After graduating from Indiana State University in 1981 with a master’s degree in athletic training, Father Carmody worked for three years as a high-school athletic trainer in Mission, Texas. During that time he became engaged to a music teacher at the high school, but he broke off the engagement when he realized he was being called to the priesthood.

He studied at Holy Trinity Seminary at the University of Dallas for two years, then finished his seminary education at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver. He was ordained a priest on June 2, 1990 by Bishop Emeritus Richard Hanifen at Ave Maria Church in Parker, where he had served as a transitional deacon.
It was during his first assignment at Ave Maria Parish that he became aware of the need for a ministry to women and men suffering from the effects of abortion, he told The Colorado Catholic Herald in an interview on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as a priest.

“During a political campaign, one of the candidates ran a television ad that showed pictures of aborted babies,” he said. “Because of that, a woman came forward who struggled with a past abortion, and I didn’t know how to help her. Mimi Eckstein had started Project Rachel in Denver. I said, ‘Boy, we need to near something for down here.’”

After he was assigned to Corpus Christi Parish in 1994, Father Carmody introduced the Project Rachel program in the diocese.

“That’s the most profound experience I have as a priest – watching people heal from they believe is an unforgivable sin and find God’s forgiveness,” he said.

“If you truly want to know the healing power of Father Bill’s heart, ask a man or woman who has completed Project Rachel,” said Rhonda Miller. “Fifteen years ago, Father Bill heard my confession of abortion and led me through Project Rachel to the healing arms of Jesus. My life was changed in the most positive way possible.”

“He was gifted in the way he worked with post-abortive men and women, leading them to healing,” said Sarah Bidon, a counselor with Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. “He leaned on the Holy Spirit as he did this work and the glory always went to God. He was a mentor to me and I leaned on him as he taught me to grow in this ministry.”

“Father Bill was a kind and quiet presence to all those that he ministered to, but above all he exuded an accepting and forgiving love. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, it is fitting to recognized Father Bill as one who loved both baby and mother and wanted healing for every post-abortive woman and man,” said Kathy Thayer, vice president of Catholic Charities’ Life Connections agency.

In 1995, he was named pastor of Corpus Christi after the retirement of Father Jerry Bruggeman. He was a favorite of school children at the parish due to his playfulness and love of sports.

“His child-like presence among the young students at Corpus Christi School and parish as he ate with them, played at recess with them, and taught them allowed students to see the priesthood as a fulfilling life,” said Patty O’Connell, whose three sons graduated from the school. “He had conviction, yet was lighthearted and fun. Young men considered a vocation to the priesthood because of him.”

On Feb. 25, Corpus Christi pastor Father Mark Zacker announced that the school’s Angel Fund tuition assistance program would be renamed in memory of Father Carmody.

It was also in 1994 that Father Carmody also began celebrating weekly Masses in front of the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs, first at the previous location on Colorado Boulevard, and then at the current location on Centennial Boulevard. In 2008, he helped to start the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil to end abortion in Colorado Springs. Those involved in the pro-life movement locally said that Father Carmody helped them to keep going even when it seemed like their efforts were futile.

“When 40 Days for Life began, as the leader I ‘knew’ there would be hundreds of people out there for the kick-off,” said Michele Mason, local coordinator of 40 Days for Life. “Of course when the kick-off arrived, there were about 20 people. After the event, when he saw I was disappointed in the low turn-out, he lifted my spirit back up and we continued on. He always said the fight to end abortion is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

Father Carmody became parochial administrator of Holy Family Parish in Security in 2000, and was named pastor of that parish as well as St. Joseph Parish in Fountain in 2002. He remained heavily involved with children and teens at both parishes by attending sporting events at the local public schools.

In August 2015, Father Carmody was presented with a “Community Legend” award by Widefield School District 3 for his longtime support of district athletic programs.

“For the past 15 years, Father Bill has attended around 1,600 extra-curricular school events in Widefield School District 3 and Fountain-Fort Carson District 8,” reported a local newspaper.

“It means a lot to the kids to have someone there watching them play and supporting them; even if the team loses, I can compliment them on at least one thing they did well in the game,” Father Bill was quoted as saying. “I want kids and their families to know that I am around and they have somewhere to turn if they need me.”

When Holy Family and St. Joseph Parishes were merged to form St. Dominic Parish in 2008, Father Carmody oversaw the construction of the new church building, which was dedicated in March 2010.

Throughout that time, he remained active in the pro-life movement and was instrumental in helping Project Rachel expand in the diocese. He also remained active in ministering to teens, including organizing a yearly chastity rally and leading trips to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and World Youth Days. One of his iconic strategies for handling large groups of teens was to hold a yellow ball—nicknamed “Wilson”—above his head so that anyone who got separated from the group could find him.

“When I go to the March for Life, I get inspired by all the young people who are so pro-life; I get energized by it,” he told the Herald in 2015. “We just have the love of God in us. The other side has no joy. They’re just dead inside—you can see it.”

“As a rule, he was quiet and unassuming,” said Lynn Grandon, program director of Respect Life Resources of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. “But bring up the subject of protecting early human life in the womb and watch the warrior emerge! I can’t help but picture him now in heaven, with clusters of little children around him, hugging his legs and thanking him for praying for them, and caring for them when no one else did.”

Father Carmody frequently traveled to Denver to attend hearings for legislation related to the sanctity of life and developed friendships with leaders from other faiths. In early February, he was present for the hearing in the Colorado Senate regarding a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

“We sat together all day and we talked a lot,” said Rabbi Oswald Garagorry of the Aliyah Congregation in Monument. “I got to know him more and we had become friends.”

Even as he battled lung cancer in recent years, Father Carmody continued to say Mass in front of Planned Parenthood each week and kept up his pro-life work.

“After he was diagnosed with cancer, I accompanied him to doctor appointments and chemotherapy infusions,” Miller said. “Through it all, when the nurses and doctors asked him how he was doing, he would reply, ‘Living the dream!’ Father Bill wanted to live, but he also gracefully accepted this part of his journey. Now he is safely with Jesus and is truly ‘living the dream.’”

Others who knew Father Carmody well echoed Miller’s sentiments.

“I know the focus is on his pro-Life work, but my fondest thoughts are of the legacy he left at Corpus [Christi Parish],” said Ryan O’Connell. “He truly was a great man, and he probably wants us to be celebrating his journey to heaven!”

Or, as Father Carmody himself put it, “I’ve never stopped being a kid.”

Anna Maria Basquez contributed to this story.

This article was published with permission of the Colorado Catholic Herald

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.”