Meet Denver’s newest priests: James Claver and Matthew Magee

The priestly ordination took place May 14 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The ordination was recorded and can be viewed here. Over the next few days, the Denver Catholic will be posting profiles of all of Denver’s newest priests.

James Claver

James Claver didn’t know many priests growing up. Everyone he did know, though, was convinced he would become one.

“I had respect for priests growing up, but I didn’t know any priests very well,” he said. “[Encouragement to enter seminary] first started with my youth group—originally core members said so, then my youth minister, then my youth group friends, then friends at school, then teachers at school. The best was when my high school Calculus teacher (not Catholic) at my Catholic high school pulled me aside one day and said, ‘Son, I’ve been teaching for 30 years, and I’ve always wanted to teach a priest. Can I retire now?'”

These suggestions began when Claver was 15. He said he first felt called to the priesthood at 18. Now, at 31, he has finally been ordained.

“I’ve never looked forward to something more than this in my whole life,” he said.

Claver, who will serve as the chaplain at Bishop Machebeuf High School, grew up in Austin, Texas. He is a member of the Servants of Christ Jesus, and celebrated his first Mass at Risen Christ parish.

While he says that he is nervous about assuming the authority of the priesthood, he is excited to emulate the qualities he most appreciates in the priests he knows.

“I think that’s what is more admirable and amazing about a good priest —they are able to be a father to you without being related to you,” he said. “I want to be a father to individuals in a similar way as the priests who have been fathers to me. They’re compassionate, supportive, merciful, patient, and loving in a way that is Christ-like and amazing.”

Matthew Magee

After eight years of seminary, Matthew Magee was ready to become a priest.

Magee said he was strongly influenced by his pastor at Our Lady of Loreto parish, and by his teachers at Regis Jesuit High School. He said it was the experience of going away to St. Louis that made him fully realize his call to seminary.

“That whole first year of college, I was not at peace until I turned in my application to the seminary. Once I turned it in, I had this great peace come over me,” he said.

He said that eight years of seminary have only strengthened his resolve to be a priest.

“Despite the length of seminary formation—and all the ups and downs that it entails—my desire for priesthood has grown more and more. I am humbled by the fact that the Lord has called me and Holy Mother Church has affirmed this call,” he said.

He said that based on his experience of being ordained to the diaconate last year, he imagines his priesthood ordination will humble him. Luckily, he also said that humility is the quality he most appreciates in other priests.

“Even with the diaconate ordination, receiving the grace and mark of ordination was a big adjustment and a humbling gift to accept,” he said. “The reality of priesthood is certainly daunting, but I am getting more and more excited to serve the Lord in the path He has chosen for me.”

Father Magee’s first assignment is at St. Michael, Craig; St. Ignatius, Rangely; and Holy Family, Meeker.

COMING UP: Meet our new bonus priests: Vincent Bui and Thomas Nguyen

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The priestly ordination took place May 14 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The ordination was recorded and can be viewed here. Over the next few days, the Denver Catholic will be posting profiles of all of Denver’s newest priests.

Vincent Bui

Vincent Bui felt the call to enter the priesthood as early as the age of five. He would record himself celebrating pretend Masses day after day in his home district of Hải Hậu in the Nam Dinh province in Vietnam.

Of course, the priesthood also ran in his family. His uncle, also named Vincent Bui, was a priest, and at the age of 12, Bui went to stay with his uncle. This had a profound impact on him that would solidify his call to become a priest.

“Since I had lived with [my uncle], I had read the whole Bible, Catechism and many books of the saints,” Bui said. “I was inspired by those and my uncle’s priestly life and I felt the call to priesthood.”

After high school, Bui applied to the vocation office in the Diocese of Bui Chu and discerned entering the priesthood during his first year of college. After graduating from college, he got a job in Hanoi, Vietnam. He took a vacation and decide to go serve and teach Catechism to the poor in Central Vietnam.

“After two weeks of staying with them, in my prayers I truly heard God’s voice in my heart,” Bui said. “I left my job and came back to my diocese to serve in a parish for one year and the bishop’s house for one year before I can to St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in May of 2008.”

Now, after eight years of seminary, Bui has been ordained a priest for his home diocese of Bui Chu. Though he falls under the jurisdiction of the bishop of that diocese, Bishop Thomas Vu, Bui has been assigned to serve at All Saints Parish in Denver for the next three years, which has a large number of Vietnamese parishioners.

Thomas Nguyen

Thomas Nguyen’s family has known he would be a priest since he was a small child. Now, at the age of 32, he has made their dreams a reality.

“My grandparents always prayed that God would choose some of their offspring to be his priests,” Nguyen said. “My parents always thought I would become a priest, but they never said it out loud.”

Nguyen grew up in Vietnam, where many of his family’s friends were priests. He realized his vocation for himself on the feast of the Transfiguration, when he was about 10 years old and the Gospel reading moved something inside him.

“I felt with certainty the words ‘You are my beloved son, upon you my favor rests’ were addressed directly to me,” Nguyen said. “That voice filled me with peace and joy. I did not know what to do except to pull out my rosary from my pocket and begin to pray. I simply thought that praying the rosary would make me a good child and that I would be able to hear that voice addressed to me again.”

After high school, Nguyen joined a four-year vocational discernment group in the diocese of Bui Chu, Vietnam. After finishing Law school, he spent a year living with the pastor of his home parish to further discern. Finally, he worked in the office of the Bui Chu bishop, who eventually sent him to St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.

Nguyen said he has enjoyed his time in seminary, but looks forward to parish life back in Vietnam.

“In seminary, you have professors to teach you; in the parish, people will look to you to teach them,” he said. “Therefore, the biggest adjustment moving from the seminary to the parish is concerning his the way you relate to God in the midst of change.”