He prayed for God to raise up holy priests, now he’ll be forming them

New seminary rector Father Traynor to be installed Dec. 12

While in junior high, Scott Traynor wanted to be a Navy pilot.

“I wanted to spend my life doing something that was challenging, adventurous and demanded the best I had to offer,” he told the Denver Catholic Register.

Securing a Navy ROTC scholarship, he was studying computer engineering at Iowa State University with the goal to become a naval aviator when he spent one summer volunteering at a youth camp. He woke up one morning with the clear conviction that God had a plan for his life.

“That is how I’m going to be most happy, and I’ve never asked God what that plan is … and I should,” he recalled. “So I determined to take a year off of school, do some mission work and ask God what his plan for me is.”

He did, and while praying one day “for God to raise up outstanding priests,” he heard a call he didn’t expect.

“I heard Jesus say in my heart, ‘I want you to be my priest,’” he said. “I was honest with the Lord in that moment, and told him that being a priest was the last thing I wanted to do but that I trusted him, and his plan.”

He told Christ that if he wanted him to be a priest, to give him the desire to be one.

“I prayed that prayer every day and by the time six months later I had finished with NET Ministries (mission work), I was eager to pursue the priesthood,” he said.

The following month he attended Denver’s World Youth Day 1993 with 150 other NET alumni.

“The moment Blessed John Paul II came to the microphone at Mile High and began ‘Dear young people, I greet you in the name of Christ!’ I knew in my heart that all the desires I had to be a Navy pilot really did come from God,” he said, “and that they were meant to be fulfilled—not as a pilot, but rather as a priest of Jesus Christ.”

Now 42 and a priest of 13 years, tomorrow, Dec. 12, Father Traynor will be installed as rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. As rector, he’ll be responsible for forming the “outstanding priests” he had once prayed God would raise up.Father Scott Traynor will be installed as rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver on Dec. 12.

His response to that remarkable turn of events?

“Gratitude and joy,” he said. “I am grateful not just to be called to the work of priestly formation as rector, but to become rector of this particular seminary!  St. John Vianney is a jewel in the Church, with its outstanding faculty and staff, and with the excellent and fruitful leadership of Msgr. (Michael) Glenn for the last 12 years, not to mention having its founding rector returned now as Archbishop (Samuel J. Aquila)—so many causes for gratitude!”

The third of three adopted children of John and Dona Traynor, Father Traynor grew up in Eagan, Minn. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn., a baccalaureate in sacred theology from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and a licentiate of canon law from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Ordained to the priesthood for the Sioux Falls Diocese in 2000, he served as pastor of three parishes in South Dakota and as director of the St. Thomas More Newman Center at the University of South Dakota. From 2004-2007 he served as formator for seminarians at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and worked as a judge for the Marriage Tribunal of the Sioux Falls Diocese. Since his priestly ordination, he has been an instructor and director at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

A book he wrote about prayer, “The Parish as a School of Prayer: Foundations for the New Evangelization,” was published in February. Written at the request of the Institute for Priestly Formation, he was inspired by Blessed John Paul II’s remarks on prayer in the apostolic letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte” (“At the Beginning of the New Millennium”).

“It was written with priests in mind, but is accessible to anyone,” Father Traynor said about his book. “I’ve heard from many lay people who have read and enjoyed it and have been helped by it in simple ways to grow in their lives of prayer.”

Prayer is a topic Father Traynor often addresses as a retreat master and spiritual director. He also leads retreats on priestly identity and mission.

“If a man is called by God to priesthood, the love of God in him forms a specific vocational identity that is expressed in priestly mission,” he said. “In God’s love the man was born again in baptism to live Christ’s own beloved Sonship. In holy orders, the priest is configured to Christ the Head to live Christ’s own chaste spousal love, to live Christ’s own healing love, to live Christ’s own revelation of the Father, and to live Christ’s own servant love.”

He feels it’s a special blessing to be installed rector on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe was revealed to Juan Diego bearing Jesus in her womb, where the Father is knitting together the perfect humanity of his Son in the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “(She) is a great icon for the whole endeavor of priestly formation.”

He sees his new post as a “great adventure.”

“The Church needs well-formed, holy, knowledgeable and generous priests,” he said. “I want to give myself fully, with humility, joy and trust to SJV’s mission to form such priests.”





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.”