Meet Denver’s newest priests: Mason Fraley

For the longest time, Mason Fraley thought priests were closer to aliens than actual people.

“It took me a long time to get over the idea that priests are somehow from another planet, and more or less totally removed from ‘real life,’” he said. “Seminary and living with priests did much to disabuse me of that notion.”

Fraley is referring to the past 9 years of his life in St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, the culmination of which came last Saturday, when he was at last ordained a priest.

Raised in a nominally Catholic home, Fraley’s family attended St. Francis de Sales parish growing up, and he went to Catholic school largely for the private school aspect, he said. However, a theology course during his junior year of high school with Marc Lenzini had a greater impact on him than he could have anticipated, and thus set his path to the priesthood before him.

“[Lenzini] was very influential on me by illustrating how Christianity is reasonable for anybody desirous of the deepest sort of happiness, and how the invitation of Christ really corresponds to the essential questions of the human heart,” Fraley said. “The priesthood scared me because it was a radical way of life, but my experience of joy in Christ made me want only to share that experience with others, particularly in the uniquely privileged way as a priest. I relented and applied to seminary during my senior year of high school.”

Though high school marked Fraley’s true conversion that would ultimately lead him to the priesthood, the seeds for what it meant to be a priest were planted years earlier, when he served as an altar boy at St. Frances de Sales.

“My pastor at the time, Monsignor Frank Morfeld, was a very holy man. I was too intimidated to get too close to him, but his love for God in quiet fidelity to his priestly life was evident to me, even at that young age,” Fraley said. “I want to be holy like him, though I couldn’t have formulated the sentiment at the time.”

Fraley said that Monsignor Morfeld never explicitly invited him to become a priest, but he did invite him to consider it in his own subtle way.

“He would always give me part of the celebrant’s Host when I was altar serving, and I never saw him do that with any of the other servers,” Fraley recalled. “It was a beautiful gesture that I’ve never forgotten.”

Two saints in particular also helped to form Fraley’s vision of what it means to be priest.

“Servant of God Luigi Giussani taught me how to see the world with wide eyes, and Saint Josemaria Escriva has significantly formed my vision of the priestly heart,” Fraley said. “He was fond of saying things like, ‘we must have the doctrine of theologians, but the faith of little children.’ Not incidentally, both were very holy and zealous priests.”

Farley hopes to carry these qualities over into his own vocation to the priesthood. His first assignment will be as Parochial Vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Northglenn. As for what he most looks forward to about his priestly ministry, it is sharing the sacrament of reconciliation.

“Encountering the love of God in the sacrament through the kindness of his priests has been hugely significant in my own life, and I can’t wait to give that to others,” he said.

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

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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.

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.