How to live the Mercy Year

Archbishop Samuel Aquila is making sure the Year of Mercy reaches the four corners of the archdiocese by designating five Holy Doors and leading four penance services throughout northern Colorado.

“Pope Francis called for this Year of Mercy, and we are responding by making the graces of the year as available as possible to the faithful of the archdiocese,” the archbishop told Denver Catholic. “It is my hope that the Catholics of this archdiocese, and those visiting, are able to have an authentic experience of the abundant mercy of Our Lord.”

Return to grace

Pope Francis wrote in his letter on the Year of Mercy that he desired it to be “an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal.” He also placed a particular emphasis on the sacrament of confession, urging all to “place the sacrament of reconciliation at the center once more,” and thus rediscover “a path back to the Lord.”

To that end, Archbishop Aquila will offer four Receive Mercy Penance Services throughout the year. The first is set for Dec. 9 at Christ the King Parish in Denver, from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. (See schedule for other times and locations).

The Jubilee Indulgence

An essential part of every Jubilee Year is the Jubilee Indulgence.

The indulgence, writes Pope Francis, frees the pardoned sinner “from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love rather to fall back into sin.”

To gain an indulgence you have to complete a “work” and fulfill several conditions.

There are four “works” one can perform to gain the Jubilee Indulgence: pass through a Holy Door; complete a spiritual or corporal work of mercy; for the homebound, live with “faith and joyful hope” in your moments of trial; and for the incarcerated, an indulgence can be gained by “directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell.”

The conditions to gain the indulgence include being in the state of grace, having the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin, receive the sacraments of confession and the Holy Eucharist, make a profession of faith, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

Except for being in the state of grace and the interior disposition of detachment from sin, all of the conditions may be fulfilled within 20 days of doing the “work”. One indulgence can be gained each day, and indulgences can be obtained for the deceased.

Five Holy Doors

The Holy Door has been a key component of Jubilee Years since the 15th century. Pope Francis described the act of passing through the Holy Door as “a sign of the deep desire for true conversion.”

Normally, one would have to travel to Rome to pass through a Holy Door, but Pope Francis has given local bishops the ability to designate several Holy Doors in their dioceses.

Year of Mercy postcard full

A special postcard will be available at all Holy Door locations to collect uniquely-designed stamps. Collect them all and submit your postcard for a chance to win a Year of Mercy icon.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila has designated a total of five Holy Doors throughout northern Colorado: the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St. Stephen Protomartyr in Glenwood Springs, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Denver, St. Anthony’s in Sterling and the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden.

All of the Holy Doors will be opened Dec. 13. “On that day,” Pope Francis wrote, “the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.”

As a special feature of the Holy Year, the archdiocese is making special postcards available at each location, along with uniquely-designed stamps. Anyone who visits all five Holy Doors can submit a copy of the completed postcard for a chance to win a Jubilee Year of Mercy icon.

 Mercy Chose Me 

An archdiocesan-wide conference titled Mercy Chose Me, on how to live the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, will be held Jan. 23 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn.

The event will feature a talk by popular author and speaker Ted Sri, a panel on Julia Greeley–Denver’s “Angel of Charity”–and tips for living a spirituality of mercy.

For more information on how to live the Year of Mercy, visit

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.”