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How two permanent deacons inspired their sons to become priests


Philippe Lissac | Godong

Cerith Gardiner - published on 07/23/21

And in return, their sons inspired them.

There have been a few stories of siblings (and even the occasional twins) joining religious life together, and a recent article in Denver Catholic spoke of the instrumental role two deacon dads had in helping their sons discern a vocation in the priesthood. Here’s a snapshot of their two different, but equally inspiring, stories:

Deacon Michael MacGee & Father Matthew MacGee

This father-son duo inspired each other on their road of discernment. In 2009, Deacon Michael was ordained a deacon, and in that same year his son, Matthew, was finishing his first year at a seminary. Yet, neither were really aware of how much they were inspiring each other.

Deacon Michael explained how he came to be a deacon:

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing,” 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.”

However, little did he know how much work this would involve, including five years of training and discernment. Along the way he had moments of doubt. So he decided to put his faith in God to guide him in his decision. And God responded.

Unbeknownst to Deacon Michael, his son Matthew was inspired by his dad’s journey of faith:

“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. 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.”

Seeing his son grow closer to God encouraged the deacon to continue in his calling, “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” explained the dad.

Seeing his father fulfill God’s plan has positively impacted their father-son relationship. The priest shared a very special moment that the pair shared at the altar, when his dad referred to him as “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.”

Seeing God’s providence at work has only strengthened their vocations and their family bond. While Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, his son worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for several years and will shortly be taking up a new posting as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder.

Deacon Darrell Nepil & Father John Nepil

This father and son team had a very different story on their road to answering their callings.

Deacon Darrell explained that while his son was raised a Catholic, he wasn’t interested in contributing to church life at all. So Deacon Darrell and his wife resorted to every parent’s back-up trick — bribery.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference. 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 they decided to forgive their son’s debt of apparently $500 if he went with his brother to the conference. The siblings went and John came back a new man. “He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat,” shared his dad with Denver Catholic.

Fr. John shared how pivotal his dad’s relationship with God was for him growing up, and eventually showing him the path to his vocation:

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years. 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.”

And now as a priest, Fr. John shared of how deep their father-son bond has become. When Deacon Darrell was hospitalized with a stroke in 2018, it was his own son who came to hospital to celebrate Mass with him every day.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” expressed Fr. John. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

For Deacon Darrell, the occasion was equally as impactful: “I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today.”

Fr. John is now a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary after serving in various parishes and his dad serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver. And the priest sums up beautifully what their joint vocations has brought to their father-son relationship: “the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”

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