Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Father Zuckerman named canonical pastor for St. Joseph parishes in Spokane, Rockford

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the July 3, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Jesuit Father Eric Zuckerman (left) is the new canonical pastor of two St. Joseph parishes: in Spokane and in Rockford.

Jesuit Father Eric Zuckerman will be the canonical pastor for two diocesan parishes: St. Joseph on Dean in Spokane and St. Joseph in Rockford starting July 1. He will make his home in the convent at St. Joseph on Dean, which he finds ironic since Holy Names Sister Irene Knopes, who is the parish’s pastoral administrator, lives in the rectory.

Father Zuckerman was ordained June 20, 1998, at St. Joseph Parish in Seattle, another irony. “I’ve had my eye on (St. Joseph on Dean) ever since Peter Byrne (a fellow Jesuit) was rector,” Father Zuckerman said. “It’s a beautiful liturgical space and I had a dream that perhaps I would end up there. It was a fluke when Sister Irene called and I was between assignments.”

However, there needed to be “10 miracles,” Father Zuckerman said, before he could accept the appointment. “The Lord cleared some formidable obstacles and it became clear that he was inviting me, along with Sister Irene.”

Father Zuckerman (the zuck rhymes with cook) grew up in New York City. He is a convert to Catholicism from Judaism. His conversion experience came when he saw Michelangelo’s Pieta at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.

“This was right after my bar mitzvah, and I had a very profound sense that I would have dealings with these two people,” he said.

He evaded those “dealings,” he said, as he became aware that conversion brings responsibilities. “That was pretty daunting for a young Jewish boy,” he said.

The “young Jewish boy” eventually became a chef, then a Jesuit and, later, a poet. He attended a culinary school in San Francisco and became a chef. He said the movie Babette’s Feast gave him “the courage to enter the Jesuits and to see what God could do with a chef as a priest.” What he could do is what priests everywhere do: gather people around the table for the Eucharistic feast.

Father Zuckerman entered the Jesuits from Spokane and has “deep fondness for this town.” He has been in the Pacific Northwest for 25 years and for a time, he was a chef at the Spokane Club.

After his ordination, he was assigned to St. Aloysius Parish in Spokane. He served on the West Side of the state for a time, and returned to Spokane several months ago.

Father Zuckerman earned a master of fine arts degree in poetry from the University of Montana in Missoula, and has had several of his works published.

There was one other experience that helped prepare him for life as a priest: a job as an elevator operator when he was a young man. “I worked in a 15-story building on Times Square,” he said. “I had to learn to quickly size up people. Did they want to talk or not? It was like being a bartender. It gave me a great sense of human nature and I learned a lot about life.” He held the job four years.

“I’ve had an interesting journey,” said Father Zuckerman. “Through it all, despite all my wanderings, God has been so faithful to me. Once I accepted that, and could trust that it was true, he brought me to a place of great peace. If we give Jesus the room and let him work, life becomes extraordinary, better than we can ever imagine.”

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