Fr. Joseph Jacobson

Fr. Joseph Jacobson

March 31, 2014
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

After almost 60 years as a Lutheran, Father Joseph Jacobson entered the Catholic Church.

Following his conversion to Catholicism, he prepared and privately published a 68-page volume titled A Gift of Love, The Joys and Treasures of a New Catholic. Its purpose is to give a serious account of why he became Catholic, and what he learned and experienced afterwards.

Whenever anyone wants to enter into a conversation about his conversion, he always requests that they first read A Gift of Love.

"It does wonders to enhance the quality of that conversation to our mutual benefit. It transforms into real sharing what might otherwise have been a mere butting of heads," said Jacobson.

He recounted his compelling story at the Western Canadian Catholic Homeschool Conference, March 13-15, at Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton.

Born in Milwaukee in 1940, Jacobson is the son of a Lutheran pastor. He studied theology in Strasbourg, France, was ordained a Lutheran pastor in 1965 and got married the same year. He and his wife were blessed with two children.

After serving four parishes in Alberta and homeschooling in the early 1980s, in 1985 he was elected the first bishop of the Alberta Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

ABORTION, GAY MARRIAGE

"Around 1990 some very tragic decisions began being made among Protestants," said Jacobson. "Abortion is okay because we can justify it, and gay marriage is okay, and on and on it goes."

He recognized that Protestantism is defective for not having a magisterium. The magisterium defines the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.

"Protestantism's fatal flaw is the magisterium, and I say that with great sorrow because many individual Protestants have their own internal magisterium that's pretty good," said Jacobson.

"They have a way of regulating their faith by Scripture and the faith points of the Church they come from. They have a personal magisterium."

It is a struggle in these God-denying times, he said, to be a faithful follower of Jesus and a member of God's household. So he respects Protestants with their own personal magisterium because they stand up for something. For example, they might oppose abortion or other detrimental practices.

"But what Christ envisioned for his Church in terms of a magisterium no one else has except the Catholic Church, and that was my aha! moment," he said, recognizing that Protestant churches seemed more influenced by the world's prevalent trends than by God.

"When the spirit of the times can affect the Church more than the Spirit of God, anything is possible, and that's where we (Lutherans) were at. I wanted us to be more focused on what Christ wants us to be, not what the world was pressing us to be," he said.

More and more he struggled with his own theology.

"When the thing that is killing you is the thing you're most proud of, what hope is there? Our people were most proud of being their own pope. They were most proud of being able to make their own decisions - and that's what was killing them," he said.

At age 58 and retired for four years, he realized that through his family life, his study and work, he had been drawn his entire life to the Catholic faith.

Taking RCIA in Ponoka, he and his wife Carolyn were received into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2000. He was ordained a priest in 2007, and now serves as chancellor of the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan and parochial vicar of its cathedral parish.

CHURCH COMES FIRST

At the homeschoolers conference, he was asked about his views on married priests. He responded by saying it's the equivalent of serving two masters.

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) approved Jacobson's priestly ordination, he told him that his first vocation is husband and father, and his second vocation is the priesthood.

"You don't want a Church where being a priest is the second priority for all priests. You end up in situations where you're in a constant conflict."

When he started in ministry as a Lutheran, most of his fellow priests held the Church as their highest priority, and that showed in disastrous ways in their families. In the Catholic Church, celibate priests can give their priestly duties foremost attention without impacting families.