Father Pat Jakel is enjoying a family reunion of sorts.
Last month, the most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki, bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, assigned the Grantfork native to St. Paul Parish in Highland, a church with 1,365 families.
“I feel like a hometown boy,” he said.
It was 30 years ago at St. Paul that Jakel, now 57, presided over his first Mass, following his ordination at the church.
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He had one previous stint at St. Paul, when he performed pastoral work in 1977, while he was on summer break from the seminary.
He comes to Highland following a six-year assignment at St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in Troy, where he also served as the pastor of their three satellite churches, St. Elizabeth in Marine and St. Gertrude in Grantfork and St. James in St. Jacob. He is replacing Father Charles Edwards, who recently accepted a stewardship position with the Diocese of Springfield.
“It feels good to be back in Highland,” said Jakel, also a Highland High School graduate and the sixth of 10 children belonging to the late parents, Harvey and Lorraine Jakel.
Jakel said his parents were always involved in a number of local church and diocesan-related activities. (His dad earlier played an instrumental role in getting the Knights of Columbus Hall built in Highland.)
Jakel received a bachelor of arts degree from Cardinal Glennon College Seminary in St. Louis, and a master’s of divinity at Kenrick Seminary St. Louis. He was ordained a priest for the Springfield Diocese on May 25, 1985.
Becoming pastor at St. Paul is a dream come true, he said.
“I always have preferred to serve in a parish like St. Paul, where they also had a parish school.” he said.
He had told the bishop that Highland was on the top of his list for possible assignments, but he did not know if he would get it.
“It blows my mind,” he said. “I had no clue. It came out of the blue.”
Jakel said the St. Paul Parish community has been “extremely hospitable” to him since his return.
Jakel said he was also influenced to come a priest by Father Henry Schmidt, the former pastor at St. Elizabeth and St. Getrude churches. Father Schmidt, now 84, is the second oldest living priest in the Diocese of Springfield. He is now the pastor at St. John Church in Carrollton, All Saints Church in Whitehall and St. Michael Church in Greenfield.
“If I weren’t a priest, I would probably have been a carpenter,” Jakel said.
He might have to put those skills to test at St. Paul, where the church is looking at making a number of building improvements.
Jakel said he wakes up at 4:30 a.m., daily, to enjoy some quiet time to himself, and prepare for his four weekend Masses at St. Paul. He also performs a number of other Masses throughout the week and is the chaplain at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland.
If that weren’t enough, he also serves on the board of directors at the new Father McGivney Catholic High School in Maryville. He hopes to help at Mater Dei High School in Breese occasionally, too.
Throughout the week, he also tries to visit the area nursing homes and presides at funeral Masses.
“My schedule is full,” he said. “But if it isn’t full, my secretary can always find me something to do,” he joked. “But I try to take Mondays off to refresh my batteries,” he said.
Jakel hopes to stay in Highland for a while. But with only 72 full-time pastors assigned to churches in the diocese, it is hard to predict anything.
“I hope I’m here a long time,” he said.