Deacon Jeff Jacobs hired as associate campus minister

Jul 17, 2023
Deacon Jeff Jacobs preaches during a Mass at Church of the Magdalen.
Deacon Jeff Jacobs preaches during a Mass at Church of the Magdalen.

Deacon Jeff Jacobs served as a familiar face for many Newman community members during the 2022-23 academic year, as both an assistant coach and spiritual companion for the women’s basketball team.

Now, he’ll take on the part-time role of associate campus minister. 

Jacobs joins the Campus Ministry team with Father Adam Grelinger, Newman’s full-time chaplain, and Emily Simon, assistant director of Campus Ministry and the Honors Program. In addition to supporting Campus Ministry’s on-campus efforts, Jacobs will serve as a campus minister for the entire university with a particular focus on athletics.

In his role, Jacobs will support the spiritual companions program, OCIA (Order of Christian Initiation of Adults), offer ministry and eventually host retreats. One of Jacobs’ hopes is to assist with Mass for particular campus departments such as athletics, theater, the five schools, etc. He also wants to make it crystal clear that “you don’t have to be Catholic to come to Mass. Let everyone have a greater familiarity with what we’re about, pray with them, bless them on their journeys.”

Simon and Grelinger are both excited to have Jacobs join the Campus Ministry team.

“We feel like we’ll be able to operate on full-speed ahead mode with all the experience and love for ministry that Deacon Jeff brings with him,” Simon said.

Jacobs and Father Matt Davied at Kansas State University.
Jacobs and Father Matt Davied at Kansas State University.

“Deacon Jeff is a wealth of experience and wisdom, even outside of the realm of sharing the Catholic faith,” she continued. “We’re particularly excited by his dedication to athletics, though. I have no doubt that his example of ministering to student-athletes will help Campus Ministry better provide for the spiritual life of Newman University as a whole.”

Jacobs’ ultimate goal is to be of service to everyone on campus. 

“To everyone outside of Campus Ministry, it can almost look like a clique, but we don’t want that,” Jacobs said. 

“We want to ensure it’s for everyone — not just students, but faculty, staff — everyone. We’re looking at what other universities are doing, what works to grow in the faith and how to help young people with their comfort zones. We take you where you’re at — even if you don’t think there’s a God or feel lost, we’d love to visit. … Having all of us together and with the help of student volunteers, we’re hoping Campus Ministry can really blossom even more.”

Jacobs’ office is located on the second floor of McNeill Hall and his door is open for anyone who would like to visit. He is always an email away at [email protected]

About Deacon Jacobs

Jacobs was born and raised in Oakland, California. In 1982, he married his wife and went on to have seven children, all of whom live in Kansas.

He hadn’t considered himself to be “deacon material,” he said. But after receiving encouragement from multiple sisters and priests over the years — including Father Loren Allen whom he worked closely with in California — Jacobs took the suggestions to heart. 

“I spent a year figuring out if this was what I wanted to do and after five years of training, I was ordained on Nov. 4, 2001,” he said.

The word “deacon” derives from the Greek word “diákonos,” which means service. Deacons are ordained into the Sacrament of Holy Orders and are members of the clergy with the ability to preach, baptize, witness marriages and even conduct wake and funeral services.  

Jacobs with two of his daughters at the MIAA playoffs. (Courtesy photo)
Jacobs with two of his daughters at the MIAA playoffs. (Courtesy photo)

“We’re of service to God’s people,” Jacobs explained. “It’s who we are not what we do.”

He answered the call knowing that all he does is means of giving thanks and glory to God.

“You really don’t know where God might place you,” he said. “I’ve run into people who’ve had a certain need and for some reason I’m there at that time, trying to give them comfort. I’m just an instrument of His.”

In California, Jacobs was nicknamed the “Deacon of Death” because his primary ministry was administering to those who were dying. This was an incredibly rewarding experience, Jacobs said, “because as people are in sorrow, I’ll do my best to make sense of the suffering for them by bringing Christ’s comfort.”

He worked for 18-and-a-half years in Catholic schools as a teacher, coach, principal and president, and eventually transitioned to the Boys and Girls Club to help them identify a new CEO. Once again, when others encouraged him to apply, he listened to their suggestions and eventually became the CEO. 

“Fourteen years ago, I came out to the Midwest and fell in love with it,” Jacobs said. “It was right when everything crashed in ‘08 and ‘09, and money was tight so getting donations was more challenging. I ran the Boys and Girls Club for six years.”

Jacobs served as a basketball coach for Hesston College and through its sister school, Bethel College, got to know previous Newman women’s basketball coach Drew Johnson. Johnson asked Jacobs to be an assistant coach and team chaplain, so Jacobs accepted both on a volunteer basis. 

You really don’t know where God might place you. I’m just an instrument of His.

Deacon Jeff Jacobs

The most rewarding aspect of being the team’s spiritual companion was seeing their faith grow.

“When I’d say ‘Lord be with you,’ there would initially be silence from the players, but by the end, everyone was responding ‘And with your spirit,’” Jacobs said. “They became willing to lead team prayer, felt comfortable in their faith and the whole team — even non-Catholics — blessed and crossed themselves. I could see them build up relationships and mutual trust. It just blossomed from there.”

Jacobs said he is excited to help enhance the Newman community even more through stewardship, faith and fellowship opportunities.

Campus Ministry at Newman University

Explore how the Campus Ministry team is living out sacramental life, faith formation, fellowship and service at Newman University.