The Rev. Greg Jakubowicz has an offbeat way of introducing himself to students on the campus of Hilbert College.
Wearing a flowing brown frock – a symbol of his Franciscan order – Jakubowicz appeared Wednesday evening outside the dorm rooms of Trinity Hall toting a brightly-colored squirt gun and posing an unusual query.
“The priest is here,” he said. “Who wants their room blessed?”
For the first time in at least five years, Hilbert, a Catholic college of 1,100 students in Hamburg, has a chaplain again.
And Jakubowicz was taking his role very seriously – but with a little frivolity, as well.
The blessings, he said, helped provide him with “an ingress” into the lives of students.
“I want to get to know a little bit of what their needs are,” he said.
As for the large water soaker, Jakubowicz said it’s simply a way to cover a lot of ground.
Besides, he added, “the blessings of God are so overwhelming in a way.”
Precious Dozier, a freshman from Rochester, was more than game, choosing the super soaker over the more traditional vial of holy water for the blessing.
“We bless this room, and may nothing evil ever cross this threshhold,” said Jakubowicz, while spraying some of the water onto the carpeted floor.
Dozier, who is Catholic, was grateful for the blessing.
“I don’t know. I just felt like I needed it. One night, my door opened by itself, and I just freaked,” she said.
A Buffalo native who graduated from Bishop Timon High School and St. Bonaventure University, Jakubowicz practiced law before joining the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province in 1997.
He started blessing dorm rooms at St. Bonaventure, where he taught and served as a friar-in-residence in 2004, and then at Siena College in Albany, where he was chaplain from 2009 until last May.
“It was incredibly popular with the freshmen in particular,” he said.
He hopes the blessings will help Hilbert students become more familiar with him and his role on campus, where he also will be teaching a philosophy course, “Moral Issues in Contemporary Society.”
Down the hall from Dozier, roommates Jennifer Williams and Tatyana Duke said they were not Catholic, but asked for the blessing anyway.
Jakubowicz was happy to dispense the holy water to whomever wanted it.
“For some of them, it’s a curiosity quite frankly. They might not even know what a blessing is,” he said.
Williams, of Averill Park in Rensselaer County, appreciated the gesture and said the blessing made her feel better about the semester.
“It just was a fresh start – cleanse your room,” she said.