Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 25, 2006
Ex-Lutheran bishop found Catholic rock
Joseph Jacobson will be ordained a Catholic priest by Christmas
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"No other Church really can duplicate what Jesus gave."
- Joseph Jacobson
He describes the insight as a "moment of clarity" that didn't just come out of the blue. "I had been wresting with the issue for a long time. It crystallized after a long period of prayer and reflection." It helped that Jacobson served as co-chairman of the Lutheran-Catholic theological dialogue for Canada for almost eight years together with Vancouver Archbishop Adam Exner.
His wife was part of the journey. "It took her a long time to understand what the real breakthrough was for me - about a year. But it took me many years to get there, so a year for her wasn't that long," he laughed. Some of Jacobson's family and friends of course haven't come on that particular journey and no matter how much he explains it, they can't identify with it.
In 1998, almost five years after he took "early retirement" as Lutheran bishop, Archbishop Joseph MacNeil invited Jacobson to consider becoming a priest. "I had not actually thought about that. He asked me if I would serve if the opportunity was there and I said I would if the Church decided that was the right thing to do."
Jacobson was born in Milwaukee in 1940, the son of a Lutheran minister. He earned his bachelor of arts from St. Olaf College and his bachelor of divinity from the University of Strasbourg, France, before graduating from Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary in Minneapolis in 1965.
His fluency in languages led him to serve in Western Canada, where there were many first generation immigrants and there was a need for a minister who could preach in German, French and Spanish.
"Oh, good Lord. I have been trying to reinvent something Jesus made right the first time."
- Joseph Jacobson
Over the years he served in Westlock and missions, Calgary, Camrose and then Donalda. He eventually became Lutheran bishop of Alberta, serving in that position for 10 years.
How does it feel to become a Catholic after a lifetime of Protestantism? "A great relief and a wonderful joy in the homecoming," he said, explaining that many Lutherans understand their entire progress as a gradual homecoming.
"Once the causes of the Reformation were reckoned with, many Lutherans believed that union with Rome would be the way the Church would go. But it became apparent about 1990 to many of us that this was not about to happen within any Protestant Church at this point in history.
"And so whereas I was always on a homecoming journey, back into the Catholic Church for my entire ministry, all of a sudden I realized that the Church that I was part of was not."
Jacobson said he was asked to join the Grouard-McLennan Archdiocese so he would not be in the face of the people that he has served before and thus offend them unnecessarily.
As a pastor and chancellor he plans to serve the people with dedication and enthusiasm. "I see myself as a pastor that's very close to the people and a faithful servant of the Lord that always functions within the guidelines," he said. "I'm not going to challenge authority."
During his term as Lutheran bishop, Jacobson ordained many women as ministers but he said that doesn't mean he endorses it for the Catholic Church "because a priest is not a minister. There is a difference."
In his free time Jacobson pursues interests in botany and animal life as well as in music and poetry. A prolific writer, he has written several books, the latest being All Nature Sings, a book of poems that speaks about creation and new creation through the eyes of the Scriptures.
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