‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that’: Coloradans march to celebrate life

After a cold, snowy morning, thousands of Catholics from the Archdiocese of Denver gathered Jan. 12 to participate in the Celebrate Life March at the foot of the Colorado State Capitol — the place that first allowed for the legalization of abortion in the United States over 50 years ago — seeking a renewed respect of the most fundamental right: the right to life.

Calling to mind that Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion, David Bereit, the event’s emcee, and co-founder and former C.E.O. of 40 Days for Life, motivated the faithful to continue fighting to undo the evil that had begun in the same building that oversaw their gathering.

“Even though lives continue to be lost to this very day, we have seen, through the prayers and efforts of faithful people here in Denver, throughout Colorado and around the nation, the tide is turning for life,” he said, assuring that from the 2,200 abortion clinics that were present in the country at the pinnacle of the abortion industry in 1992, fewer than 600 remain. 79 percent of abortion centers closed their doors and went out of business, in great part due to the action and prayers of pro-life advocates.

“The abortion rate continues to drop… Americans self-identify as pro-life by the largest majority since Roe v. Wade. More pro-life laws have been passed in the States over these last three years than the previous 30 years before that… We realize that the days of Roe v. Wade are numbered. Abortion is going to end! Our work is not yet done, and that’s why we gather here,” Bereit continued. “What began here in this place, must end here in this place.”

This year’s Celebrate Life March also comes at an important time in the political realm of the State of Colorado, as the November midterm elections saw the defeat of legislators who were in support of key areas of Catholic teaching regarding the dignity of life.

The Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila impelled the participants to stay faithful to the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person. (Photo by Brandon Young)

The Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila urged the participants to be a light in the darkness in the public sphere to defend the dignity of life from conception until death.

“In this past midterm election, some of those lawmakers who were in support of the Church’s teaching in these key areas, failed to win their seats, which makes our task today of remaining vigilant and engaged all the more important. And it is you, the laity, who need to make your voices heard,” he said.

The prelate also called for the repeal of the death penalty in Colorado, which he assured was unnecessary; and, quoting Pope Francis, spoke against the idea that the Catholic Church must accept the many of these laws under the banner of progressivism.

“‘The internal consistency of our message, the message of the Church and of Christ, about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position in this question. It is not progressive to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.’ Our legislators need to hear those words. The Catholics in our pews need to hear those words. The media today would never report on those words of Pope Francis,” Archbishop Aquila assured.

The rally also counted with the presence of Elizabeth Felix, a college student and leader of Students for Life, who insisted that being pro-life meant being pro-woman, pro-man and pro-child; the McGarity family, who spoke for the dignity of children with Down Syndrome; and Elías Moo, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Many Catholics from the state of Colorado gathered to celebrate the gift of life by the Colorado State Capitol in downtown Denver, Sat., Jan 12. (Photo by Brandon Young)

In a bilingual speech in English and Spanish, Moo highlighted the importance of fighting for the right to life, especially for Christians.

“Our duty to our neighbors, even those who disagree with us, is to serve the common good of our society by defending the most vulnerable and fighting against the culture of death. For we’re fighting for the most fundamental right of all, the base of all other rights: the right to life,” he stated. “We love life because we love Christ.”

Marching with joy

For the second year in a row, women from ENDOW (Education on the Nature and Dignity of Women), a Catholic apostolate that helps women come together and learn about their faith and dignity, set the pace of the March. But this year, the representatives were five young Hispanic ladies wearing their colorful quinceañera dresses.

Members of the Catholic group ENDOW led the march wearing their quinceañera dresses to testify that the support for life and women go hand-in-hand. (Photo by Brandon Young)

“They are the champions of life. They are right in that age group where they can say, ‘This is what it means to be a woman, and this is how I can protect life starting now,’” said Marcela García López, Program Growth Coordinator for ENDOW. “Planned Parenthood and other organizations say that minorities need abortion because there is a lot of poverty or because of [the many] troubles that they go through. But actually, look at these girls. They can say yes, and they can challenge that.”

“A life is a life. It doesn’t matter if it was an unplanned pregnancy or not,” said Litzy Morán, one of the participating quinceañeras, who believes that many young women would choose life if they had someone they could talk to about their fears of an unplanned pregnancy.

Among the many participants waving flags and banners, a group of medical students and doctors wearing white lab coats also sought to bring the message of life to the public.

“We have been trying to bring the concept of life to the medical campus for the past six or seven years, which is basically taken over by the culture of death with abortion teaching… through lectures and seminars to students on life issues, including Natural Family Planning” said Dr. Francisco La Rosa, Associate Professor in Pathology and Faculty Sponsor for the student group Catholic Medical Association at Anschutz Medical Campus.

The march was accompanied by the performance of folkloric dancers and a mariachi band. (Photo by Brandon Young)

As the crowd joyfully marched on the downtown streets of Denver, and was met with varied reactions from those observing, Martin Luther Jing Jr.’s words, quoted by Archbishop Aquila in his speech, seemed to resound with greater clarity: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misspelled Dr. Francisco La Rosa’s name. We apologize for the error.

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.”