By George Gregory
Special to The CS&T

At 6 feet 8 inches tall, Father Ronald M. Jakows was known as a “gentle giant” among his family, friends, students and parishioners. Father Jakows was pastor of Annunciation B.V.M. Parish in Philadelphia for only six months when he died of a heart attack in the parish rectory Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord. He was 46 years old.

“His gifts were obvious to anyone who met him,” said Father Gary T. Pacitti, who is pastor of St. Basil the Great Parish in Kimberton and former pastor at Annunciation. “He was extraordinarily kind and had a phenomenally funny, dry sense of humor, and when he laughed, he laughed from his shoulders!”

Father Pacitti added, “While we’re all shocked and saddened at how suddenly he left us, it is fitting that his soul was presented to his God on the feast of the Lord’s own Presentation.” {{more}}

Father Jakows was born in Philadelphia Nov. 28, 1964, and was the son of Irene (Kirland) Jakows and the late Raymond Jakows. He attended St. Josaphat School and Roman Catholic High School for Boys in Philadelphia before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

He was ordained May 19, 1990, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul by then-Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua. He served as parochial vicar at St. Adalbert Parish, Philadelphia, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Doylestown.

He also served on the faculty of his alma mater, Roman Catholic High School, as well as school minister and later president of SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School in Philadelphia. He was appointed pastor of Annunciation B.V.M. Parish in Philadelphia in July 2010.

“To celebrate one of our international nights at school, Father Ron decided to form a polka band called the Holy Rollers,” said Jerome Hunt, an alumnus of Roman Catholic who now resides in Washington, D.C. “He cracked jokes and danced around – polka has never been as fun.”

Father Jakows’ brother, Gregory, described him as a tremendous son, brother, uncle and friend who was an avid photographer, an HO scale train buff and a faithful Phillies fan who took great pride in his Polish heritage.

“He always had a camera in his hands, and we used to love to take pictures of him taking pictures of us,” said Theresa Fields of St. Edmond Parish in Philadelphia, a Neumann-Goretti alumna.

Unshakable in his faith, Father Jakows would often say to his spiritual directees, “Without the love and faith we all share and believe in, this world would seem even crazier than it actually is.”

Father Richard J. Smith, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Morton, was a student of Father Jakows at Roman Catholic High School and went to him for spiritual direction while in seminary formation. “He strived for nothing less than to be Jesus for whoever he was with, whether it was in a classroom, at a hospital bed or in the parish,” said Father Smith, who remembered Father Jakows as having a pipe in his hand and hope in his heart.

“He was a spiritual guide to me ever since I was 16, and I can’t believe he won’t be around to talk to any more,” said Mark Gonzalez, director of religious education at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Philadelphia.

Joseph Nicotra, a seventh and eighth grade teacher at St. Nicholas of Tolentine School in Philadelphia remembered him as a mentor and friend. “From my days at Roman to now, Father Ron has been a good friend as well as my spiritual director and mentor – truly a great priest,” he said.

Cardinal Justin Rigali celebrated Father Jakows’ funeral Mass Feb. 7 at Annunciation B.V.M. Church. Concelebrants included Auxiliary Bishops Daniel E. Thomas, Timothy C. Senior, Michael J. Fitzgerald and retired Auliliary Bishop Louis A. DeSimone; Fathers Smith, Joseph N. Accardi, Francis Straka of the Diocese of Allentown, and Father Pacitti, who was the homilist.

Father Jakows is survived by his mother, Irene; his brother, Gregory, and sister-in-law, Denise; and his nieces, Selina and Nora.

Interment was at Westminster Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd.

George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville.