Originally from Italy, God called him to the priesthood at Denver’s World Youth Day 1993. Today, he serves as judicial vicar and is vice rector of Denver’s first diocesan seminary.
Now a priest of 13 years, Father Giovanni Capucci, 42, was among the pioneer group of 12 seminarians and two priest formators who arrived to Denver 20 years ago to establish Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary.
“The seminary was erected as a diocesan missionary seminary on March 25, 1996,” Father Capucci said. “It was the first diocesan seminary of the archdiocese to be established.”
Redemptoris Mater forms priests to serve the archdiocese who also receive missionary training and are willing to go anywhere at the archbishop’s discretion. It is one of 105 such seminaries around the world, including Rome.
Like other Redemptoris Maters, Denver’s is international with 38 men from 19 nations enrolled. It has ordained two-dozen priests. While most of these men are serving local parishes, three are on mission in Mexico, South Africa and Philadelphia.
Father Capucci and his classmate, Father Bill Jungmann, were the first priests ordained from Denver’s Redemptoris Mater.
“It is a privilege,” Father Capucci said, “to have been part of this endeavor and to see how the Holy Spirit has built a seminary out of scratch.”
He was 19 and studying law when he attended Denver’s World Youth Day with others from his home parish in northern Italy.
“During the Mass with St. John Paul II, I felt a strong call … to be a missionary priest for the new evangelization,” Father Capucci recalled. “Since I also belong to the Neocatechumenal Way (a parish-based catechumenate) the following day we had a vocational meeting … and I confirmed my call.
“I never would have thought that (three years later) I would be sent to Denver to begin the seminary here,” he said.
While the logistics were different the first years of the seminary—absent the now-beautifully renovated seminary the students stayed with lay families—their spiritual and academic formation was of the same excellence offered today.
“I have very good memories of the formation,” Father Capucci said. “Redemptoris Mater is geared toward missionary work for the new evangelization. We are ordained as diocesan priests with missionary zeal for the new evangelization.”
That zeal shows not only in his work—as judicial vicar overseeing the Metropolitan Tribunal and the Office of Canonical Affairs, resolving matters governed by canon law; and as vice rector forming priests—but also in the evangelization he does when he’s not “working.”
In his “downtime” he helps run a parish post-Confirmation program serving 50 youths weekly that includes a summer camp, as well as a monthly lectio divina (Scriptural reading) that draws 100 youths and young adults from across the archdiocese. He also offers catechesis with the Neocatechumenal Way.
Where does he find the energy for his many duties and apostolates?
“The strength comes from a life of prayer, to be always present in the life of a priest,” Father Capucci said. “The seminary has to form the habit to pray in the priest. This is part of the formation.
“I also find strength to do the pastoral work through my Neocatechumenal community, where I experience the power of the word of God and where I am also strengthened by the experience of the (laypeople) who, as me, try to live a Christian life.”
None of his priestly work is burdensome; rather, it’s all “grace.”
“In God every challenge can be overcome easily,” he said. “Even the celibacy, if lived in God, is a grace and is possible.”
What does he enjoy most about being a priest?
“What I love most is it allows me to live a life that I did not choose but that answers to the call of God,” he said. “Every time we do the will of God it’s the best for us. I would have never thought to become a priest. I see it is only God’s doing.”
Father Capucci’s take on service
Q: How do you strive to be of service to others?
A: It starts with prayer and intimacy with Christ. When we lose this dialogue and relationship everything becomes difficult and a burden. The same may happen in a marriage. As Christians we are all called to serve: me as a priest. A husband and wife are called to serve each other and their family.
Q: What would you say to those who supported your formation in seminary?
A: I have an enduring sense of gratitude. As part of seminary formation we foster gratitude for our benefactors for their prayers, donations and volunteer work that make the formation of priests possible. We make it a point to always pray for them and to remember them in all our liturgies. On Fridays we have a vigil of prayer the whole night in which we pray for our benefactors.