Monsignor Michael Glenn remained a ‘priest to the end’ in battle with cancer

Monsignor Michael Glenn, former rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and beloved pastor of three parishes on the western slope, died Friday, March 1, after being diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016. He was 56 years old.

Michael Glenn was born Nov. 15, 1962 in Denver to Patrick and Frances Glenn.  He is survived by two brothers, Sean and Timothy. He was a native of Broomfield and graduated from Broomfield High School in 1981.

He attended the University of Colorado Boulder and West Point U.S. Military Academy before earning a Bachelor of Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio in 1985. He then earned a baccalaureate in sacred theology from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1989.

His studies for the priesthood began at Conception Seminary College in Missouri in 1985 and continued at North American College in Rome, alongside his academic studies at Pontifical Gregorian University. On June 30, 1990, Glenn was ordained a priest by then-Archbishop J. Francis Stafford.

After serving as parochical vicar at Spirit of Christ Parish in Arvada, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Aspen, and various archdiocesan positions, including vice chancellor and director of vocations, Father Glenn was appointed rector of the newly-constituted St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in 2001, which replaced the former St. Thomas Seminary. Father Glenn succeeded then-Father Samuel Aquila, now archbishop of Denver, as rector and served there for 12 years alongside then-Father Jorge Rodriguez, now auxiliary bishop of Denver, who served as his vice rector for a time.

On July 7, 2009, Father Glenn was granted the title of Monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI.

Many priests of the Archdiocese of Denver have fond memories of attending seminary while Msgr. Glenn was rector, including current director of vocations Father Ryan O’Neill.

“When I was in seminary, Msgr. Glenn was my rector the whole time there, for all seven years,” Father O’Neill told the Denver Catholic. “He was very present, very available. … He knew who I was and what I needed to work on, he had this fatherly awareness of how to challenge me and help me be a better priest, a better seminarian.”

DENVER, CO – MARCH 7: From L-R, pallbearers Fr. Brian Larkin, Fr. James Thermos, Fr. Frankie Cicero, Fr. Eric Gilbaugh, Fr. Daniel Barron and Fr. Daniel Ciucci carry the casket of Msgr. Michael Glenn after a funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on March 7, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Father Jim Thermos, Director of spirituality year and formator at St. John Vianney seminary, has known Msgr. Glenn for over 20 years. He, too, was in seminary while Msgr. Glenn was rector and ended up working side-by-side there with him shortly after his ordination.

“[He was] one who [was] in love with Jesus and scripture. That’s what made me trust him initially and want to entrust myself over to him,” Father Thermos said of Msgr. Glenn. “I consider him a man of humility and one of friendship. He offered both to me.

“In my mind, we’ve been through so many times together. He was on the cross in the last few weeks … he was entrusting himself and offering his suffering for the seminary and holy priests, he was so vulnerable. I was able to witness a holy death, I believe. I’m grateful for his example.”

In Msgr. Glenn’s funeral Mass, celebrated March 7 and presided by Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, Bishop Jorge Rodriguez referred to the Gospel message present in the life of his “friend and brother.”

“I am convinced that Father Michael was born to be a priest… [The] great good news [is that] God will always send us these kind of priests, as he sent Father Michael, his priest, to live and to serve you, as a friend, as a brother, as a minister,” Bishop Rodriguez said.

“He probably wasn’t aware that the broken body holding in his hands would be his broken body with Jesus, for the salvation of the world… This is the deep mystery of the life of the priest that, identified with Jesus Christ, falls to the ground and dies… [Msgr. Glenn] loved his priesthood, [and] he was a priest to the end.”

Msgr. Glenn was an avid outdoorsman, and upon learning of his brain cancer diagnosis in 2016, many began offering intercessory prayers to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati for healing. Msgr. Glenn kept a framed photo of Frassati in his office at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Silverthorne, which was given to him by a member of Frassati’s family during his studies in Italy.

In a 2017 article that appeared in the Summit Daily newspaper, Msgr. Glenn spoke of the blessing of being able to continue chemotherapy and radiation treatments at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco instead of in Houston, Texas, where he’d been receiving them for nine months. His parishioners raised $53,000 to contribute to a new addition at the hospital where patients could receive transfusions while looking out at the natural splendor of Lake Dillon and Buffalo Mountain.

“It’s good to be able to look at something while you’re doing it,” Msgr. Glenn told the Summit Daily. “Summit [County] is beautiful — but heaven is going to be a lot better.”

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.”