No March for Life this month, but still lots of ways to Celebrate Life

Although the annual Celebrate Life March will be a little different this year, what will remain the same is the enthusiasm of the pro-life community that is once again ready to demonstrate and defend the beauty of human life from conception until natural death. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and to keep everyone safe, the Celebrate Life March will not be held in Denver this year. In spite of this, the pro-life community will still be able to celebrate life and participate from their own homes or local parishes, if allowed.  

“We need to thank God for the gift of life and mourn the loss of vast millions of innocent children,” said Lynn Grandon, Program Director of the Respect Life Office at Catholic Charities of Denver. “Participate in our social media campaign with clever and poignant messages – and pray before you post them – that God may use them to touch hearts and change lives.”   

Social Media Campaign

For starters, the Respect Life Office has launched a social media campaign throughout January for people to show their support in creative ways. To participate, all you have to do is create images, skits, songs, or banners and hold them on public sidewalks at intersections to support the pro-life movement. You can also participate by sharing inspiring pro-life posts on social media using the hashtag #CelebrateLife2021

“This is a challenging time in our country.  Strong winds are blowing to overturn our core values honoring the value, worth, and dignity of all human life at every age and every stage of development,” Grandon added. “We as Catholics must set our hearts to lead by example: learn apologetics on all life issues, share these truths with kindness, and encourage one another in community.”  

Local Ways to Celebrate

In Colorado and across the country, local parishes will be celebrating life in their own ways with special Masses, Adoration Holy Hours and Eucharistic Processions following the Department of Health’s COVID-19 guidelines to keep everyone safe. 

For Colorado parishes that will be participating in the celebration for life, click here. To find the parish nearest you, click here to view an interactive map.

Additionally, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila will be celebrating a special livestreamed Respect Life Mass at the Cathedral on Jan. 23 at 10 a.m. Click here to tune in.

There is limited space to attend the Respect Life Mass with Archbishop Aquila; to sign up, click here.

National Day of Prayer on Jan. 22

Another way to participate in the celebration for life is by joining the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children on Jan. 22.  On this day in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the country. As Catholics and pro-life advocates, we are called to observe this day through prayer and fasting. Click here for more information.

National March for Life

On the other hand, just as it has been happening since 1974, the National March for Life will be held on Jan. 29 in Washington, D.C. 

Even though it, too, will look different this year due to the pandemic, the pro-life community will still have the chance to participate virtually. The event will feature as the keynote speaker and guest of honor Tim Tebow, former NFL player, New York Times bestselling author, and Heisman Trophy recipient. Among other special guests, Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knight of Columbus, will be honored with the 2021 Pro-Life Legacy Award, an award recognizing his exceptional work advocating for the dignity of the unborn human. To watch the events virtually on Jan. 29, RSVP here

Livestreamed Holy Hours on EWTN

Moreover, as a result of local attendance restrictions in place, this year’s National Prayer Vigil for Life in Washington, D.C., will not be open to the public. In response, for the first time ever, bishops across the country will be taking turns leading live-streamed holy hours throughout the night, with an opening Mass celebration that will be televised through EWTN. For the full programming schedule, click here.

“Coming together in these events remind us that we are not alone in the challenge to uphold our faith in the public square,” Grandon concluded. “Also, our Lord and the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us join us in the Holy Mass to speak to our hearts and give us grace and courage to do what is right as we strive to promote the Gospel of Life.”  

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.”