Sister Patricia Jacobsen, MM

Born: March 17, 1926
Entered: October 14, 1948
Died: January 11, 1988

In the readings ordinarily scheduled for today, Samuel responds wholly to God’s call with “Here I am Lord” and Jesus leads His disciples to a missionary understanding of Church — “to other towns also I must go.” Pat Jacobsen understood and lived out a total integration of both these calls in Maryknoll.

Very early in the morning of January 11, Sister Pat Jacobsen died peacefully in our Maryknoll Nursing Home.

Pat was born in Tacoma, Washington on March 17, 1926, the daughter of Jens Kristian and Mary Rowan Jacobsen. She had two sisters, Helen and Betty (Mrs. Casper Krank) and one brother, Bill. After attending local grade and high schools, Pat graduated in 1947 from Washington State University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English with a major in Journalism. She worked as a reporter for about a year on the Diocesan paper in Seattle before she entered the Maryknoll Sisters on October 14, 1948, the second group at the Valley Park Novitiate. At her First Profession in 1951, Pat received the name of “Sister Patricia Francis.” Her Final Vows ware pronounced in 1954 here at the Center.

Right after First Profession, Pat spent three years teaching at St. Anthony’s in the Bronx; from there she was assigned to the South China Region and taught in Hong Kong for most of the next sixteen years. She had time out for language school and for a summer course in literature at Oxford University. Her talents were put to very good use, both her skills in the field of English language and literature and her talents in Domestic Science. She made a kind of after-school refuge for her students, often baking rolls and cakes, creating a home atmosphere for study or just talking over the day. Pat prepared her students by love and by academics to face the future with courage. Many of them are still in contact with Pat and have been here to see her in these past months of illness.

In 1965, Pat was appointed to the newly-created Ecumenical Commission of Hong Kong and she served the Diocese and the Community well in this responsibility as in all else that she did. Her collaboration with her lifelong friend, Father William Treacy on his book, Wild Branch on the Olive Tree, with Rabbi Levine in 1974 was further evidence of her deep concern for the ecumenical dimension of religious studies.

In 1970, Pat began graduate studies at the University of Washington for a Master of Arts Degree in Communication and then began work on the Maryknoll Magazine in 1974 where she worked for thirteen years. She once said, “I have taught most every subject, but I like English best.” This new work at the Magazine allowed her to share her twin loves of language and the peoples of the world in a new way. As Frank Maurovich, Managing Editor of the Magazine commented: “Sister Patricia was a professional editor who insisted that writers portray Third World people as persons with dignity and not as helpless objects of pity or piety.” She became Assistant Managing Editor of the Magazine in 1985.

In 1980, the Maryknoll Sisters and the Maryknoll Society began a Joint China History Project. Pat was chosen to be on that first Board for the project and has been an unflagging support, a challenging critic and a constant motivator for excellence to all of us who have worked with her at various stages of the project.

No story of Pat would be complete without mentioning one particular area of her life at the Center. In the early 70s, while visiting an ill priest at St. Teresa’s, Pat met John Bergwall, M.M., and the gift of friendship that they have shared has touched all of our lives. In the mystery of the heart of God, Pat has now a clearer vision of what suffering means; and how for us who have Christ as our center, all things do, as Bishop Walsh often quoted, “Work together for our good.”

But who was the person in all of these accomplishments and relationships? Pat was a woman intensely committed to whatever she was doing – to work or to a night at the Opera with John. She was a private person who did not flourish in larger houses of the Community; but she was a joy in a small house, making it a real home for all the Sisters. She cared deeply for her family and wrote long letters to them filled with her news and her love. She was a private person, but her poetry opened her heart and mind for all to read. For this reason, I close with a poetic essay written by Pat for the June 1987 Maryknoll Magazine. She linked it to photos of peoples of the world – let us hear Pat’s voice speaking now to us:

One With God by Sr. Patricia Jacobsen, M.M.

“I am one with the universe,
one with the Creator of all there is.
I touch my God in the farthest star,
Hold the Infinite in the deepest
recesses of my own being.

“Why, my God, if you
are everywhere present,
Do I not hear you
above the clamor
of my own anguish,
not see your light through the
dark of my grief?

“Constrained by my own dimensions,
I build tabernacles to you, my God,
and seek to touch you
with your gifts to me.
All creation tells your glory, God,
and I, made finest of your creatures, can be you to others.
Let me go out, then, disarmed and disarming
to co-create your unfinished world.

“O God, who impels the stars and fashions the mustard seed,
You pledged your joy in us, called each by name.
Sure of your Word and Bread, we burst upon the Sabbath
with color and life
to celebrate together
your presence among us,
to celebrate one another.”

Our Liturgy will be led by Father Ron Saucci, M.M., Director of the Maryknoll Society Office of Social Communications, along with Maryknoll Fathers Don Doherty, Morgan Vittengl and Leo Sommer, all co-workers with Pat. We welcome all our Maryknoll Brothers and Sisters to this Eucharist of Resurrection.