Jacob Luecke views the Church in central and northeastern Missouri as a richly textured mosaic of stories, waiting to be shared.
His newfound mission is to help magnify and illuminate those stories while enhancing the Jefferson City diocese’s efforts to spread the Gospel through the innovative use of words and images.
“Journalism is the foundation of everything I do,” stated Mr. Luecke, who began work as the Jefferson City diocese’s director of communications on Sept. 15.
“It’s about telling stories in a compelling way,” he said. “It’s about talking to different people and telling their stories and highlighting what’s going on the community.”
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight appointed Mr. Luecke following a national search for a successor to Helen Osman, who served as the diocese’s communication director since 2018.
Mrs. Osman will continue to work with Bishop McKnight as a communications consultant.
Mr. Luecke is now the general everyday spokesperson for the diocese and advisor to the bishop for creative use of media and communications.
He is a member of the bishop’s cabinet of official advisors and serves as assistant publisher of The Catholic Missourian.
A member of Cathedral of St. Joseph parish in Jefferson City, Mr. Luecke previously worked for eight years as communications director for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the state’s largest business association.
“The Chamber is a fantastic organization where I learned so much about communication,” he noted. “Communication is the lifeblood of what they do.”
Communication is also an essential part of the Church’s work of evangelization.
“Jesus Christ is the ultimate communicator,” Mr. Luecke observed. “He was an incredible storyteller during His life on Earth. He took complex topics and turned them into compelling messages with an incredibly persuasive style.”
The New Testament is filled with stories of Jesus presenting eternal truth in an irresistibly engaging manner.
“To follow His model means speaking to people in a way they want to be spoken to, presenting your material in a persuasive way that’s easy for them to digest, and making the best use of all the tools that are available to you,” he said.
Mr. Luecke grew up in a Catholic family in New Haven and Washington, Missouri, attending St. Francis Borgia Elementary School and High School.
“Mine was a very German Catholic family going back on both sides,” he noted. “I learned the faith from my parents and my grandparents, and from the community at-large.”
He pursued a degree journalism at Truman State University, followed by a master’s degree from the Journalism School at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
He worked as a reporter for five daily newspapers — the Columbia Daily Tribune, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Columbia Missourian and the Kirksville Daily Express — before moving into media relations.
He served for three years as communications director for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, followed by four years as media relations manager for Boone Hospital Center in Columbia.
He returned to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce in 2014.
He and his wife, Meghan, met each other while studying journalism in graduate school.
The couple have three children who are students at St. Joseph Cathedral School.
Mr. Luecke believes God has been using his work and life experiences to help him prepare for his new ministry in the Church.
“You can’t always see the path God has laid out for you,” he noted. “But when you get there, you look back and see how He’s been leading you.”
He’s excited about using what he’s learned as a communicator to help Bishop McKnight succeed in carrying out his vision for the diocese.
In addition to print and online journalism, he has worked extensively with audio and video production, podcasting, and various forms of online social media.
He’s eager to use these tools to help magnify the stories of faith in action that are taking place in parishes throughout these 38 counties.
“We have such a unique assembly of communities in this diocese,” he said. “As communicators, it’s essential for us to speak loudly about the wonderful work that’s going on in the diocese and make sure our work is very visible.”
“Let your light shine”
Mr. Luecke said he’s impressed with Bishop McKnight’s leadership and eagerness to lead people to Christ through communications.
“The focus on communication in the diocesan pastoral plan, I think, shows Bishop McKnight’s understanding of the importance of communication in advancing the mission of the Church,” he said.
Mr. Luecke pointed to the behind-the-scenes work Mrs. Osman led in building-up the infrastructure and platforms to allow the diocese and its parishes to communicate more efficiently and effectively.
“Strengthening our communications will play an essential role in unifying our voices and accomplishing our goals as a diocese,” he said.
This is helpful in effectively reaching not only committed Catholics in the pews, but also “entire communities, the diocese, the people who aren’t Catholic right now, and maybe those who aren’t as involved as they could be,” he said.
He is committed to helping people get the “big picture” when it comes to projects and initiatives for moving the diocese forward.
“But I think it’s also important to talk about who we are as a people, to highlight the individuals who are part of the diocese,” he stated. “Their faith is truly inspiring.”
He’s convinced that Catholics are generally more comfortable “not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3) than letting their light shine before others “so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16).
“We as Catholics and as the Church do all kinds of amazing things,” he said. “But there’s a lot of humility in our culture. We don’t like talking about the good we do as individuals. However, I want to make sure that cultural tendency doesn’t get in the way of us telling the world about the great things we accomplish collectively as a diocese.”
“Stories to tell”
Mr. Luecke has noticed many similarities between the tight communities where he spent his formative years and many of the towns and cities of this diocese.
“You have so many people care about you, so many people supporting you all the time,” he said. “It’s important to feel their support and understand that you’re part of a network of supporting each other — the kind of community you don’t always find in today’s society — that teaches you that you’re part of something bigger.”
He’s looking forward to collaborating with the diocese’s communication staff and working with people and parishes throughout the diocese.
“I love speaking to anyone and learning about each person’s journey in their life,” he stated. “Being the communications director is such a great opportunity to do that. You’re talking about the people and their faith and some of the most important aspects of their life.”
He is grateful for all the help and support he has already received from his predecessor, Mrs. Osman.
“To have Helen to learn from has been fantastic,” he said. “She’s already been a great mentor to me. It’s so fortunate for the diocese to have had someone like her guide us in recent years and continue to help guide us into the future.”
He asks for prayers “that as communications director I can help faithfully represent the many voices of our diocese, and that I can contribute to a strengthening of faith and participation in our communities.”
He noted that most people are more comfortable talking about politics or their favorite sports teams than they are about their faith.
“That’s something we have to work on,” he said. “I think good communications can help with that. If we are putting great stories about the work of our Church into the world, that can turn attention to our faith and open more eyes to the awesome work our Church is doing.”