Fruits of adoration: chapel, vocations

Though round-the-clock prayer hasn’t even started in the new perpetual adoration chapel at St. John the Evangelist Church in Loveland, the parish began seeing fruits of 24/7 eucharistic devotion once they committed to the planning and construction process about three years ago.

“Since we committed to building this new home for Lord, great things have been happening here,” Father Francisco (Frank) Garcia, pastor, said of the parish’s decision to build a permanent home to hold vigil with the exposed Blessed Sacrament. In the past, weekday eucharistic adoration has taken place in a temporary chapel in the church’s cry room, for about 12 hours each day.

Vocations
“We’ve seen the graces our Lord sends through perpetual adoration,” said parishioner Doris Armijo, wife of Deacon Ed Armijo, specifically as revealed through a marked increase in vocations.

Vocational calls answered by parishioners the last couple of years include: four men now studying for the permanent diaconate program at St. Francis School of Theology for Deacons in Denver, two more are in formation for the priesthood: one at Denver’s St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and one at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass., one parishioner entered the novitiate with the Sisters of St. Rita of Racine, Wis., and another young woman is serving as a missionary in Ecuador with Family Missions Company.

“(Adoration) has transformed the parish,” she said.

Chapel planning and construction
The Armijos are just one of the parish’s some 2,000 families that have envisioned adding a chapel to the 44-year old church at 1730 W. 12th St. for many years. Inception and development started more than a decade ago when Father Joseph Hartmann was pastor.

“We’re indebted to Father Hartmann for planting the seeds for a chapel,” said Father García. However plans had to be postponed several times for financial reasons. About three years ago active planning and fundraising commenced.

“The parishioners and benefactors of St. John’s have selflessly sacrificed and given of time, talent and treasure in making the chapel a reality,” he said. Nine months after construction began last April, Our Lady of Guadalupe Perpetual Adoration Chapel was dedicated by Archbishop Samuel Aquila Dec. 22. Ongoing adoration is expected to start there in the next week or so following final detail work.

The general contractor was Himmelman Construction of Lakewood and architectural services were provided by BAS1S Architecture of Estes Park. The theology-based neoclassical design was provided by former parochial vicar, Father José María Quera, an architect in his hometown of Barcelona, Spain, for more than 20 years before entering formation for the priesthood.

“He was a gift sent to us from heaven!” Father García said of Father Quera, ordained in 2010 and now pastor of St. Mary in Rifle and mission church, Sacred Heart in Silt. “Father José María, an architect by trade, a learned student of sacred art and its theology and iconography, brought his gifts to the parish in designing the entire chapel.”

Father Quera was also involved in the design of Holy Family of Nazareth Chapel at Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary dedicated in 2009 on the campus of the John Paul II Center in south Denver.

“We have been very blessed by his expertise regarding design, development and construction,” Father García said, adding that Father Quera made the four-hour drive from Rifle several times to help with intricacies of the project. “We’re indebted to him.”

Overcoming challenges
As happens at times with major projects, the community faced some unexpected challenges during construction: they had to replace a boiler, deal with a bat infestation, repair an attic destroyed by raccoons, and replace a broken sewer line.

“Despite obstacles and delays, the faithful and tenacious flock of St. John’s met the challenge and the chapel is totally paid for,” Father García happily noted. The labor of love ultimately cost about $700,000—up $290,000 from the original budget of $410,000.

The secured chapel accommodates 16 adorers seated or kneeling, plus space for two wheelchairs, and is filled with profound theological symbolism with “everything pointing to the life of Christ from his conception to his glorification.” (See the sidebar for details.)

To fill each spot for nonstop eucharistic adoration 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the parish is seeking 12 more adorers. To sign up, call Rhonda Matousek, chapel coordinator, at 970-635-5822, or the parish office at 970-635-5800.

Julie Filby: 303-715-3123; julie.filby@archden.org; www.twitter.com/DCRegisterJulie

Theology & Symbolism: Our Lady of Guadalupe Perpetual Adoration Chapel
Provided by Father Francisco “Frank” Garcia, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Loveland

Exterior

– The chapel highlights a neoclassical design, with seven recessed pillars between eight Spanish alabaster windows that filter natural light. The number seven traditionally refers to spiritual perfection in the Bible, for example: God rested from the work of Creation on the seventh day, and other Biblical passages related the number seven include: Abraham’s seven-fold blessing, God’s seven part covenant with Israel, a seven-fold sprinkling in the temple of Jerusalem on the Mercy Seat, in the Book of Psalms seven names in titles as authors of psalms are mentioned, seven signs or miracles in the Gospel of John, seven promises made to the Churches, seven seals and trumpets in Revelation, seven parables in the 13th chapter of Matthew, seven gifts in Romans 12:6-8, seven titles of Christ in Hebrews, seven first fruits, seven miracles performed by Jesus on the Sabbath and seven sacraments. The number eight signifies super-abundance, hence it has been associated with the Resurrection, the beginning of a new order, eight were saved after the devastating flood and Noah was the eighth person who stepped out on the new earth, circumcision was to be performed on the eighth day, the first born was to be given to God on the eighth day [cf. Ex 22:29-30], the great Feast of the Tabernacles lasted eight days, the Transfiguration of Christ took place on the eighth day after the announcement of Christ’s sufferings which would take place, the resurrection of the dead is signified by the number eight and eight miracles were performed by Elijah (16, a double portion given to Elisha).

– Above the columns running along the frieze on both sides is etched sacred Scripture: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory…” [John 1:14].

– At the southern point of the chapel where the two sides of the chapel converge, is a triangular tower under which stands on a pedestal a statue of St. John the Evangelist, the parish patron.

Interior

– The chapel has been named in honor of the title of the Blessed Mother: Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. Entering the door, one immediately encounters four beautiful panes of glass with etched Castilian roses, with an effect of flowing from the tilma of St. Juan Diego, recalling the miracle of the roses. These were the kind of roses Juan Diego found on the top of the hill of Tepeyac in the dead of winter.

– To the immediate left is the door and entrance to the chapel. The chapel door was designed by Bovard Studios is the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe etched into glass—she is gorgeous! Surrounding Mary’s image are seven Castilian roses representing the seven sacraments. The handle on the Guadalupe door is in the shape of a tree branch (“I am the vine, you are the branches”) signifying life. The door itself is symbolic of the Mary, Mother of God. She is the door to salvation and eternal life through her son Jesus Christ.

– Above Mary is an ocular window of a descending dove, the Holy Spirit: the moment of the Annunciation, Incarnation, the Word Made Flesh. Once the chapel door swings open, one is led into another Ark of the Covenant [cf. Ex 37:1-9]. This is also a title given to Mary: the New Ark of the Covenant.

– Looking up from the inside of the chapel from the ocular window down the entire nave of the chapel, a narrow row in gold leaf runs to the front of the chapel where the altar stands. The gold symbolizes the rays of God flowing from his spirit; from the time of the Annunciation, down the chapel aisle (the life, passion, death and resurrection of Christ) then arriving at the altar where one shall gaze and adore his glorified flesh in the Blessed Sacrament.

– The altar stand is molded in the image of bark from a tree (tree of life) and rests upon three white marble triangular slabs representing the Holy Trinity. Looking from the front of the chapel, one also sees this white marble juxtaposed with the Brazilian mahogany. One truly finds him/herself inside the tabernacle of the Lord in his presence.

– From the base of the altar looking upward, a triangular tower rises whose apex reaches the heavens, also formed by alabaster windows. The entire panel gilded in gold-coloring from the base of the altar to the top of the tower symbolizes the burning bush wall.

– The monstrance rests on a tabor—as in Mount. Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration of the Lord—for Jesus in his glorified flesh is placed at the top of the mountain (altar) in the monstrance. The tabor has four medallions with the symbols of the four evangelists. It has the Lamb of God underneath it and the rays of the Holy Spirit descending upon the lamb.

– The monstrance made in Poland has six medallions: on top, Jesus crowned with thorns; on the bottom, the Sorrowful Mother; to each side, two of the four evangelists.

– To each side of the altar, there are carved seraphim holding the host in their hands, with Greek letters for the name Jesus incised in the hosts, bowing down in adoration.

– Each of eight Prie Dieu double kneelers contains an image of a Jerusalem cross symbolizing bringing the Gospel to the four corners of the world.

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.”