Longmont food bank delivers more than food

The food bank at St. John the Baptist Parish in Longmont provides between 11,000 to 14,000 pounds of food each week to anywhere from 200 to 350 families. It’s not only the numbers that make it a special operation, but the relationships behind those numbers.

St. John’s Food Bank employs a unique model of delivering food to 90 percent of their clients, versus having them pick it up. In the process they get to know the individuals and families they serve while spending time together during their scheduled weekly visits.

“Our food bank is a tribute to all the people who work to make it happen,” said pastor Father Ron Weissbeck. “The model we have in place emphasizes the connection … workers and drivers have a relationship with the individual or family. They have a knowledge of them and challenge them to take responsibility … to get involved in the process.”

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, beginning mid-morning, members from a team of 65 drivers—retired men and women, young mothers, deacons of the parish, former clients of the food bank and others—start arriving at the warehouse at 804 S. Lincoln St. to load their personal vehicles with food boxes to be delivered throughout Longmont.

The work day begins at 7 a.m. when volunteers arrive at the warehouse to take inventory, accept the delivery of the truck from Community Food Share in Louisville, purchase additional food needed, and load food boxes. They pack five different size boxes, from single to extra large, depending on the needs of the household.

Overall food insecurity for Boulder County stands at 13.7 percent, according to Feeding America, meaning in the county of 297,218 residents, 40,700 experience hunger or do not know where their next meal is coming from. Statewide, nearly one in six, or 840,000 people, experienced hunger in 2012; and 22 percent of households with children reported food hardship, according to Hunger Free Colorado

“The need is always extensive,” Father Weissbeck said. “You always have hungry people.”

The need can be the result of job loss, underemployment, illness or disability. Parish-based food banks such as St. John’s are critical in responding to the need.

“Hunger cannot be eradicated without community support,” said Michelle Ray, director of communications for Hunger Free Colorado. “Collaboration is key to breaking down barriers to access and fueling change for stronger, healthier communities. Churches across the state serve as emergency food providers, helping families and individuals who are struggling to get by and possibly unsure of when or where they will get their next meal.”

She urged action specifically during September dubbed Hunger Awareness Month

“We know it’s cruel and wrong to let children, seniors, veterans, our neighbors go hungry,” Ray said. “We all can take action in our communities by volunteering and donating during Hunger Awareness Month and throughout the year.”

Week after week volunteers perform “selfless acts of love” that allow St. John’s Food Bank to respond to those who turn to them, explained John Williams, parish outreach coordinator and director of the food bank.

“They help give our clients dignity and respect,” he said. In addition they provide information to help them find employment and other resources to gain independence.

Originally established in a space the size of a closet in 2002, the food operation has continued to expand over the years, moving to its current location in 2009: a warehouse purchased by parishioners Andrea and Dr. Brian Mathwich to help the ministry grow. This summer, the parish had the opportunity to buy the building from the Mathwichs for the same price they purchased it for: $485,000. To fund the purchase, the parish contributed $100,000 from savings, a parishioner appeal garnered $200,000 in donations, and the balance was financed through the archdiocese.

“It was an enormous gift (from Dr. Mathwich),” Williams said of the couple’s years of support and now in selling the building to the parish. “Purchase of the facility was a practical and sound decision.”

Father Weissbeck sees it as a testament to the faith and generosity of the community.

“Owning the property makes a clear statement that it’s an investment in outreach,” he said. “The outreach is then an expression of the Gospel message, an opportunity to live the faith.”

For more information on St. John’s Food Bank, visit www.johnthebaptist.org.

St. John the Baptist Food Bank | By the Numbers

Pounds of food distributed every week: 11,000-14,000
Average pounds of food per box: 55-70
Amount of fresh fruit and produce in boxes: 20%
Clients receiving food via home delivery: 90%
Volunteer drivers: 65 regular, 15 substitutes
Volunteers overall: 200
Paid employees: 2

Hunger in Colorado

1 in 6 Coloradans, more than 840,000, experienced hunger at some point in 2012.
1 in 5 Colorado households with children, 22%, reported food hardship between 2008 and 2012.
1 in 4 working families in Colorado do not have enough food to meet their basic needs.
1 in 7 Colorado seniors have been unsure of when or where they would get their next meal.

Source: Hunger Free Colorado

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.”