Catholic archbishop's path to priesthood included Buddhist temple (Faith and Values)

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When he was a college student, Catholic Archbishop Michael Jackels started going to a Buddhist temple instead of Catholic mass.

It was just one step on his path to the priesthood, he told hundreds of the faithful who gathered at St. Matthew Catholic Parish in Cedar Rapids Monday.

He said every member of the church comes to faith through their own story and their own path. He called on every parishioner to find their own way to live intentionally as Christians. It doesn’t take miracles or extraordinary faith to find a way to serve the church, he said.

“There was nothing extraordinary about my Catholic upbringing,” he said. “I was a cultural Catholic.”

For many in Cedar Rapids, this was their first chance to hear from the archbishop, who was appointed head of the Archdiocese of Dubuque by Pope Francis in April. The archdiocese covers 30 Northeast Iowa counties, including Linn County.

The sanctuary of the church was at capacity, with an overflow crowd watching his message on a screen in the basement.

Wilma McGrane and Chris Bolden, both of Cedar Rapids, serve on St. Matthew’s pastoral council. They said they enjoyed Jackels’ message.

“It was most inspiring,” McGrane said. “I liked that he spoke about the need to be vibrant, the need to be alive.”

Jackels was raised as a Catholic, but said he stopped going to mass in high school. After his college experiences with Buddhism, he came back to Catholicism after a fellow dishwasher at a college job handed him a pocket New Testament. He then traveled to Guatemala with the Maryknoll missionaries, cementing his return to Christianity.

He said he realized the things that attracted him to the Buddhist temple were also present in the Catholic church - things like chanting and incense as part of spirituality - but he felt he could better understand the deeper meaning in Catholicism.

“I felt called. I didn’t know a priest; no one suggested it to me,” he said. “I felt mysteriously drawn to the Tabernacle.”

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