For the Harveys and Blessed Sacrament school, it’s all in the family

Ask anyone at Blessed Sacrament Parish or school who the Harveys are, and they’ll know. Jim Harvey’s parents joined the parish in 1950 and were very involved there. He and his siblings all attended Blessed Sacrament School. Jim married his sweetheart, Deborah, at the church in 1981. When their children were old enough to go to school, there was no question where the six Harvey kids would go.  

Although she had two college degrees that could have taken her on a different career path, Deborah saw how truly happy her children were at the school, so when their youngest was in fourth grade, Deborah decided to join the joyful environment at the school and accepted a position teaching preschool.  

“As a mother of six, I truly valued what the Catholic education has meant to my family, and I wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to my family,” Deborah said. “I wanted to teach in a place that emphasized the faith formation, along with rigorous academics, and a wonderful student body.” 

Over the years, both Deborah and Jim were extremely involved in many areas of the school over the years. Jim took on the role of volunteer athletic director and coach for many years, plus served on countless other committees at the school and parish. Because of his unparalleled dedication to the school, the gym was named in his memory in 2013, the same gym in which their son Joe now serves as P.E. teacher.  

“Jim was just so incredibly immersed in everything Blessed Sacrament, so the fact that I get to come to work every day and see his name on the side of the gymnasium building means a great deal,” Deborah shared. 

The Harvey family has become a staple at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School. The gymnasium has been named for Jim Harvey, whose jersey proudly hangs at the school and three members of the Harvey Family – Deborah, Kelly and Joe – currently teach at the school. (Photos by Carol Nesbitt)

Five of the six Harvey children have worked at the school over the years. Kaitlin served as Administrative Assistant to former principal Greg Kruthaupt. James taught pre-kindergarten for several years before moving across the street to teach 5th grade. Joe has been the Athletic Director, basketball coach, and the P.E. teacher for the last 10 years. Kelly started at the school eight years ago in the preschool, but has transitioned to teaching 2nd grade, co-teaching with her own 2nd grade teacher.

“My favorite teacher at BSCS was my 2nd-grade teacher, Mrs. Merten. I now get to work WITH HER – my favorite grade with my favorite teacher – who gets to experience this?!” said Kelly. “I feel so fortunate to learn from her and experience many of the same things I loved about being a 2nd grader, now as a teacher!”  

Kaitlin, James, Joe, and Kasey Harvey were all instructors at the summer camps that were held at the school, with the boys running a popular ‘Harvey Brothers’ basketball camp for several years in a row as well. That three of the Harveys are still on that same campus working together is not lost on any of them.  

“It is incredibly special and a blessing to be working with my family at Blessed Sacrament,” Joe said. “Not many people get to pop across the street to say hi to their mom whenever they want or go have lunch with their sister every day. My mom is the absolute best preschool teacher! The kids love her.”  

Kelly talks about how her students react when she tells them about her brother. “When I tell my 2nd-grade students that Mr. Joe is my big brother, I know I am earning serious points in their books. He is adored and loved by all for his easy, fun, and hard-working attitude,” she said.  

And what mother wouldn’t want to be close to her adult children and seeing them succeeding in their careers and in life? “I feel so blessed and fortunate to work in a community setting where I get to see my children perfect their craft… they are both beloved members of the staff,” Deborah said. 

Beyond the fact that the Harveys get to work together, they count being able to work in a Catholic school as one of their biggest blessings.  

“I can say, without reservation, that the caliber of teachers is so high at a Catholic School because those teachers CHOOSE to be there,” said Deborah. “Teaching in a Catholic School is not a job for me, but more of a calling. I have so much respect for the hard work and dedication of my colleagues who have devoted their lives to mentoring and modeling our future generation.”

Joe agrees. “Teaching in a Catholic school is important to me because of the incredible community,” he said. “The small tight knit community of students, teachers, parents and parishioners is what makes working at a Catholic school like Blessed Sacrament special. Everyone looks out for one another and genuinely cares about the well-being of everyone in the community.”  

“Catholic schools offer a love for your child like no other, because the idea is to educate the whole child, not just their academic experience but to help shape who they are as good people in the community that loves and cares for others is the most beautiful lesson of all!” Kelly added.  

Teaching in a Catholic school, especially Blessed Sacrament, has truly been a vocation for the Harveys.  

“It is incredibly special and a blessing to be working with my family at Blessed Sacrament. Not many people get to pop across the street to say hi to their mom whenever they want or go have lunch with their sister every day. My mom is the absolute best preschool teacher! The kids love her.”  

Joe Harvey

“There is always the option to teach somewhere else and make more money, but leaving this community, my co-workers and students would break my heart,” Kelly explained. “My day-to-day experience means more to me than making more money.”  

Principal Brooke Urban says the Harveys’ presence at the school has been a true blessing to the school. “The love, passion, time and dedication of the Harvey family has had a tremendously positive impact on our school’s culture and in carrying out our Catholic mission,” Urban said. 

“We are so grateful and indebted to this wonderful Catholic community,” said Joe, “and hope that dedicating our vocation and our passion for teaching, coaching, volunteering etc. here at BSCS illustrates how much we truly love and appreciate this place.”  

Kelly agrees wholeheartedly. “We have a deep love for this school, parish, and community that goes way back,” she said. “I feel extremely lucky to work and learn from amazing teachers, which include members of my very close family. I love learning SO MUCH from my mom, my very first and best teacher, and of course my brother, ‘Mr. Joe’ the P.E. teacher and all-time favorite teacher at the school.”  

The reality is the Harveys wouldn’t be the same without being part of the Blessed Sacrament community, nor would the community be the same without the Harvey family’s love and dedication.  

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.”