WCR PHOTO | LASHA MORNINGSTAR
Br. Joe Glaab worked as a forester and with the Frontier Apostolate in British Columbia before joining the Franciscans.
September 26, 2016
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Brother Joseph Glaab's journey to donning the Franciscans' robe and way of life was a weaving of choices and circumstances. The 55-year-old man made his final vows Aug. 19 in St. Mary's Catholic Church in Cochrane.
The roots of his faith were planted during his childhood. Born in Guelph, Ont., to Joseph Sr. and Mary Glaab, he is the eldest of seven children.
The family attended Mass every Sunday, and Glaab went to Catholic grade and high schools through to Grade 13. On graduating from high school, he worked in a factory in Guelph for the next six months.
After a year at Guelph University, Glaab entered the bachelor of forestry program at the University of Toronto, living at the Newman Centre during his three years at the U of T.
His fellow residents were a "group of guys who worked hard at their studies and sports. All of us journeyed in our faith, wanting to combine it with our studies."
Glaab took an extra year in forestry and combined soil sciences, as well as courses at St. Michael's College focused on philosophy and religious studies. Those courses "certainly fed into something that was already there," he said.
No specific incident led Glaab to seek entry to religious life. "It was a gradual realization for me to be in community and that community's saying 'yes' to me. It goes both ways."
Discerning his path to the Franciscans was an ongoing journey.
He worked as a forester in Toronto's urban forests and enjoyed the work. But Glaab had read of the Frontier Apostolate in Prince George, B.C., and applied to work there for a two-year term.
After the exchange of letters and an interview, he came to be part of the volunteer organization which has served the Church in the northern British Columbia diocese for decades.
Based in Fort St. John, he served his two years in the local parish. At the end, "the parish wanted me but could not afford to keep me."
So he got on staff with the B.C. Forestry Service in Prince George and combined that work with doing youth ministry in Fort St. John.
He stayed 19 years, working in youth ministry and serving in the diocese.
Glaab studied for his master of divinity degree at Newman Theological College while in Prince George.
People he met along the way nurtured his attraction to the Franciscans. He referred to the wisdom and presence of Fathers Don MacDonald and David Norman as well as others in Newman's theological circles.
"I found that in my mind I was already living the Franciscan way of life, that I had come by it in the natural way. The big attraction for me was the equality among the brotherhood and the broader community, that we are all equal before God."
So Glaab asked to be considered for Franciscan formation and moved to Alberta in September 2010. His novice year was spent in Burlington, Wisc., along with other men from Mexico.
"It was not a monastic community, but gave the men a chance to become connected with each other and take part in the local community and churches."
Glaab has been based in Edmonton since August 2012, mostly doing ministry in Catholic schools in Sherwood Park through OLPH Parish.
He also took part in music ministry at Edmonton's St. Alphonsus Parish by "playing guitar along with other musical people who are better than me."
Noting that Franciscans are sent to ministries at which they are adept, Glaab said the trees surrounding Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre in Cochrane reawakened his interest in forestry.
No one else in Glaab's family has gone into religious life or the priesthood, and he is asked about the impact becoming a Franciscan had on his family.
His parents are deceased, but Glaab said, "They would be pleased."
His brothers and sisters have had a variety of reactions. Some were "right into it." Others were "cautious, not sure what this was about, but they respected the choice I made."
His brothers and sisters journeyed to Cochrane for his commitment service, and "The friars enjoyed meeting the family and we had a lot of fun."
PRAY, ASK QUESTIONS
Now a fully professed Franciscan, Glaab said he has no plans to seek ordination to the priesthood.
Asked what he would say to a man considering the religious way of life, Glaab recommended they pray and ask questions. The questions would depend on their parish and religious community.
He initially found himself crossing paths with the Franciscans and so began his inquiry.
Of his own journey, Glaab said "I am trying to respond as a faithful person in the name of Christ."