“Your hearts must burn with love”: Six men ordained to diaconate (PHOTO GALLERY)

Six men were ordained transitional deacons Feb. 7. During the ceremony at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila reminded the men that they are both chosen by Christ and called to be a gift.

“The work of a vocation is the work of God. It is a call of God that is given, and one is chosen. And in that choosing, one must open his heart to serve the Lord and respond to the call, saying yes to that call,” he said.

He reminded the men of the virtues St. Paul asks for in Ephesians 4:2. These virtues include humility, patience, and bearing with one another through love.

“All of those virtues are rooted in the virtue of charity. You, my dearest sons, are called to strive and desire those virtues,” Archbishop Aquila said.

The archbishop then reminded the men that they must remain in the love of Christ.

“My dearest sons, when you are challenged in today’s world, and you will be, when you are challenged and hated, remember the promise of joy that Jesus gives to you, and live in that joy. It is something that the world cannot understand, but only those who keep their eyes fixed on Jesus can truly understand that type of joy,” he said.

“As a deacon, and later as a priest, you will be called to lay down your life, to make your life a total self-gift to Christ and to the Church. It means not seeking for yourself, but rather for the good of others.”

He then reminded them that the diaconate is a position of service.

“Your hearts must burn with love for Jesus and the people that you serve,” he said.

DEACON PROFILES

Daniel Ciucci
Age: 28
Hometown: Boulder, CO
Parish: Sacred Heart of Jesus, Boulder

The seed for Daniel Ciucci’s path to the priesthood was planted in 8th grade.Ciucci-Daniel

“A mother in my parish said, ‘Daniel, I think you’re going to be a great priest some day,’” Ciucci said. “I was really disinterested in the priesthood and did not really take that invitation to heart, [but] from that point on the Lord was asking me to ask him if I was open to the priesthood and to just dialogue with him in that.”

It wasn’t until Deacon Pawel Zborowski from St. John Vianney was assigned to his parish that he became truly open to the call of the priesthood.

“He really touched me and gave me the courage to say, ‘OK Lord, I’m open to what you want.’”

He entered the seminary after college.

Ciucci said there’s something freeing and scary in his ordination to deacon all at once.

“It’s a moment for me to realize this is a part of death to the self, that we’re professing resignation of will and intellect to something way beyond ourselves,” he said.

Shaun Galvin
Age: 32
Hometown: Grew up all over
Parish: Our Lady of Lourdes, Denver

Shaun Galvin grew up Catholic, but it wasn’t until college that he began considering the priesthood.Galvin-Shaun

“I went on the Buffalo Awakening retreat at CU Boulder my freshman year, [where] I had a more real experience of God,” Galvin said. “I finally said, OK God, you exist,’ and from that point on I started getting involved in the Church.”

At this point he began questioning what God wanted for his life. He discerned whether or not the Lord was calling him to marriage or the priesthood for four years, and eventually God gave him an answer, which led him to St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

Galvin has been inspired most by St. Padre Pio and St. Damien of Molokai, he said. He hopes the graces of ordination enable him to continue growing in the love of the people of God.

As a deacon, Galvin is most excited for, and most fearful of, preaching.

“I’m looking forward to getting to help people get to know God through the Word of God, but it’s also a scary spot to have that responsibility,” he said.

John Mrozek
Age: 30
Hometown: Littleton, CO
Parish: St. Thomas More, Centennial

John Mrozek didn’t think the day of his ordination into the diaconate would ever come.Mrozek-John

“Honestly, I did not think I was going to make it through seminary,” Mrozek said. “Now, I suppose I can give myself permission to look forward to ordination. However, I have learned that if you ever want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

Upon taking the profession of faith and oath of fidelity, Mrozek said his relationship with the Church has changed into a marriage, and these oaths require him to be loyal to his spouse, the Church.

“I can only pray that by the grace of God and the intercession of the angels and saints, I can hope to be as good to my wife as she is to me,” he said.

Mrozek jokes that he’s becoming a priest because he couldn’t stand the homilies he listened to when he was younger. He’s most looking forward to preaching.

“I told God I could do better. I guess he has given me my chance,” he said.

Nicholas Larkin
Age: 25
Hometown: Delta, CO
Parish: St. Michael’s Parish, Delta

Nicholas Larkin heard the call to be a priest when he was three years old.Larkin-Nicholas

Larkin has vivid memories of watching coverage of Pope St. John Paul II’s visit to Denver in 1993 for World Youth Day on his grandparents’ television. This event changed his life.

“I decided that I was going to become Pope at that point in time,” Larkin said. “Then I was told by family members that you have to be a priest before becoming Pope, so it seemed like a natural step.”

Now, seven and a half years after entering the seminary, Larkin is taking the next step towards the priesthood.

He hopes to live into the servanthood of Christ in an even deeper way after being ordained.

“I desire to receive the grace just to be able to live Christ’s own servant mysteries,” he said. “The word deacon means to be a servant, so the deacon is ordained in the person of Christ the Servant. I want to imitate Christ in his own servanthood.”

Peter Wojda
Age: 34
Hometown: Southern Calif.
Parish: St. Thomas More, Centennial

Peter Wojda came to the priesthood through the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).Wojda-Peter

Wojda attended college at Purdue University in Indiana. He got involved in a local young adults Catholic group, where he met people who knew, lived and loved their faith, he said.

“I felt convicted I needed to be the same way,” Wojda said.

After college, Wojda considered the priesthood, but wasn’t fully sure that’s where God wanted him to go. Around this time, he was introduced to FOCUS. He joined as a missionary. FOCUS brought Wojda to Denver, where he stayed. After several more years if discernment and figuring out what God was asking of him, Wojda felt that the priesthood was indeed where the Lord was leading him to.

“I realized I had done as much discernment as I could outside of seminary, and the next step was just to enter seminary,” Wojda said. “There was nothing else I could do, and it’s turned out far better than I thought.”

Joseph Grady
Age: 28
Hometown: Broomfield, CO
Parish: Nativity of Our Lord, Broomfield

Joseph Grady’s sense of adventure was likely a contributing factor to his decision to become a priest.Joe Grady, 4th Theology

Grady was a Boy Scout for 10 years growing up, and his Eagle Scout project was installing the Stations of the Cross in the backyard of the Frassati House at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Broomfield.

Grady entered St. John Vianney Seminary in 2007. He was an exchange student in Germany for several years. After his Spirituality Year, Grady took supplemental classes at Regis University in addition to his coursework at St. John Vianney and earned a philosophy degree from the Pontifical Lateran University.

Grady’s studies eventually took him to Rome, where he has been studying theology at Gregorian University for the past two years.

Grady is most inspired by St. John Paul II and Luigi Giussani, he said. As a deacon, he is most excited about serving at mass.

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.”