Praying for Joshua and the millions lost to abortion

Sarah Flores regrets her abortion. She’s sorry that she and her boyfriend chose to kill their child.

“I had an abortion when I was 17,” she told the Denver Catholic Register at a prayer vigil in front of Denver’s Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Jan. 18. The vigil followed a solemn procession led by Archbishop Samuel Aquila from the nearby Lighthouse Women’s Center run by Catholic Charities.

A message painted on Flores’ T-shirt openly expressed her remorse: “My son Joshua killed by abortion July 11, 1997.” Her husband Derek and teenage daughter and son, Sierra and Ethan; shared the sentiment through T-shirts customized with their relationship to Joshua: stepson, sister, brother.

“And for a long time, I didn’t really think it affected me,” Flores said. “I’d say that my biggest guilt was having no guilt.”

About a year ago, after volunteering at a Longmont pregnancy center and studying Scripture, the Catholic convert and parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn, had a profound experience of meeting her baby boy through prayer.

“It really changed my relationship with God,” she said, and through continued prayer and public witness, she hopes to relay that message of God’s love and mercy to more women.

Joshua is one of the 56.9 million babies lost to abortion since it was legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court 41 years ago on Jan. 22. Recognizing the anniversary, hundreds of Catholics gathered for the Lighthouse event, as well as a Mass and march Jan. 18 to pray for the children lost, for families in need of healing, workers in the industry, and all who sin against the dignity of human life.

Events began with a mid-day Mass at Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception celebrated by Archbishop Aquila. He began his homily asking why Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, as described in the day’s Gospel (Mk 2:13-17).

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do,” Jesus responded to the Pharisees in the reading. “I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.”

He ate with tax collectors and sinners because he wanted them to “come to know and to receive his love,” the archbishop explained to the standing-room-only congregation.

“When we receive the Eucharist, we can pray for every grace that we need,” he continued.”It’s in that encounter with the Lord and his mercy that we recognize our sin more clearly… in that encounter, we too must intercede for others.”

Not through prayers of condemnation, he said, but prayers of intercession asking the Lord to convert their hearts and minds.

“It is essential that we pray for people by name,” the archbishop said, specifically mentioning that the country has its most pro-abortion president ever. “And (pray) for their conversion.”

Jon Simmons, a parishioner of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Littleton, attended the Mass with his wife Cindy.

“I think so often we pray for people but we don’t pray for them by name,” he said after the Mass. “It made me think, I need to find out who some of these people are.”

Following Mass many walked to the nearby State Capital for the annual March for Life, organized by Colorado Right To Life, before making their way to Lighthouse at 3 p.m.

There, with Archbishop Aquila presiding, a group of about 300 memorialized Denver’s children lost to abortion through prayer and hymns, and area pilgrims traveling to the Jan. 22 March for Life in Washington, D.C., were blessed. Archbishop Aquila is attending the national march as well.

“(God) gives us the courage to keep coming out year after year,” he said. “We can never, ever tire of giving witness to life.”

Francisco Rodriguez, 16, was among 31 students from Denver’s Bishop Machebeuf High School attending the march.

“I want to get to experience the love of everyone throughout the country,” he said of the event that draws hundreds of thousands to the nation’s Capitol. “To really get closer so I can do my part for the cause.”

The event concluded with the archbishop leading the block-long procession in silence to Planned Parenthood, the second largest facility in the country. Participants quietly placed flowers at the fence in front of the facility while some sang, some knelt in prayer and some cried.

9 Days For Life
Archbishop Aquila asks Catholics to join U.S. bishops in 9 Days For Life

What: 9 days of intercessions, reflections and acts of penance, reparation and charity
When: Jan. 18 to Jan. 26
Available: online, app, texts or emails
Sign up: www.9daysforlife.com or text “9Days” to 99000

 

 

 

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.”