‘Not the outcome we hoped for,’ says archbishop

Though the final score of Super Bowl XLVIII wasn’t what the Denver Broncos had in mind, Archbishop Samuel Aquila reminded Coloradans there was still reason to rejoice.

“Not the outcome we hoped for,” he tweeted after the 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Feb. 2. “A disappointing end to a great season for the Broncos.

“All for the glory of God!” he added. “Blessings on everyone.”

Denver’s shepherd traveled back East, at the invitation of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and his wife Linda, who are Catholic, to celebrate Mass for the team and attend the game.

“I have been edified by the example of many NFL athletes and coaches and their families who make the effort throughout the football season to attend Sunday Mass,” Archbishop Aquila said earlier in the week.

Archbishop Aquila celebrates Mass for families of the Denver Broncos Feb. 2 in Jersey City before the Super Bowl. Click image for photo album.

The evening before the game, a small group of players and coaches gathered for an 8 p.m. Mass at an undisclosed hotel the team had moved to earlier in the day where they prayed for “guidance, strength and health,” according to the archbishop. It was the feast of the Presentation of the Lord recognizing Mary and Joseph’s trip to Jerusalem to present Christ in the temple 40 days after his birth, also known as Candlemas. During his homily, the archbishop reminded those gathered to “be a light of Christ to the world.”

He also celebrated Mass on game day: a pregame liturgy at 2:30 p.m. with a packed room of Bronco family members at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City.

Archbishop Aquila is a self-described “longtime Broncos’ fan” since graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1972. After his 1976 ordination, he served as a priest in Colorado for 25 years.

“Even when I was bishop of Fargo,” he added. “I followed and rooted for the Broncos.”

He was the bishop of the Diocese of Fargo, N.D. from 2001 until his appointment back to Denver in May 2012.

Denver Broncos Players Warm Up New Jersey

Coat giveaway at Sacred Heart School in New Jersey. Click photo for more images!

Several Broncos served as a light of Christ to others while in New Jersey when they took time out to give back to the community. On Jan. 28, in coordination with the Knights of Columbus, members of the organization visited the inner-city Sacred Heart School in Jersey City to distribute coats to about 200 students through the Knights’ Coats for Kids program.

“There’s a lot of kids that don’t have the necessities to survive,” defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said in an interview with FOX CT at the event. “We just want to do whatever we can to help them.”

The 100-year-old school is the only faith-based elementary school in the eastern section of Jersey City and considers itself a true “lifeline” for the neediest of families.

Other from the Bronco organization participating were the Del Rios, defensive end Robert Ayers of Jersey City and former student at Sacred Heart, running back Knowshon Moreno from Middletown Township, N.J., safety Mike Adams from Patterson, N.J., defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and assistant secondary coach Sam Garnes from New York City.

They were joined by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, retired New York Mets All-Star catcher Mike Piazza, president of Catholic Athletes for Christ Ray McKenna, and missionaries and student-athletes from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., involved with Varsity Catholic.

The celebrity guests mingled, signed autographs and helped students pick out coats, and in the end, provided more than outerwear.

“Today I saw something I didn’t (expect), I saw hope in the eyes of the kids,” said New York City-based photographer Jeffrey Bruno, who covered the event for the Denver Catholic Register. “They looked at these legends and saw possibilities, they saw hard work and what it yields—they saw a way out.”

While Sacred Heart reports that 100 percent of their students continue to high school and many attend college; in Jersey City, less than 60 percent of students graduate from the three public high schools.

“That’s the goal: the kids’ faith and the power of sports within it,” said Linda Del Rio, event organizer. “John Paul II really understood this.”

Del Rio also organized a Denver event last October where Knights and Broncos distributed 1,000 coats to kids in Colorado, including students at Annunciation School and victims of the Front Range Flooding.

Online Extras
For photo albums from the Super Bowl, visit our Facebook page here.
For photos from Coats for Kids, click here.

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.”