Generous, kind, funny, compassionate, gracious, authentic, gentle, non-judgmental, and humble—just some of the words parishioners use to describe our dearly loved Fr. Brian Snyder, who died on May 14, 2014. “Fr. Brian was a humble and kind person, full of God’s presence. He listened and would give advice, but was never judgmental,” says parishioner Millie Kusmirek.
Fr. Brian came to St. Stephens in July of 2003 with some trepidation. He had worked in hospital ministry for over twenty-five years and was apprehensive about returning to parish work. St. Stephens won him over with its welcoming and accepting arms, and he won over the parish with his gentle spirit, humility, and humor. “He loved people where they were at,” says parishioner Louise Scott. “He saw you and whatever you were going through as more important than himself.”
One of the things that endeared Fr. Brian to many was his sense of humor. He loved it when we had people standing at the doors collecting for some cause or another, so that he could direct people to the exits, impersonating airline flight attendants pointing out the doors, “there, there, and there.” He put a sign on the office conference room door that said “God so loved the world that he didn’t send a committee.” He would comment after the reading of the lengthy Passion narrative that his homiletics professor in seminary instructed the students that “the homily should always be twice as long as the gospel reading . . .”
But it wasn’t just his sense of humor that endeared Fr. Brian to others. He was a truly loving and caring presence of Christ to his flock. Larry and Arleen Schinke met Fr. Brian in October of 2009 when Larry’s mother died and Fr. Brian did her funeral. The Schinkes had been away from the church for over fifty years, and although they were aching to return, they were hesitant, a bit fearful, and unsure of what to do. “Sitting across the table from Fr. Brian there was just something in his eyes and manner, such kindness and compassion, that I knew that God had put us there and him there at that time, because he was just what I needed to assure me of God’s love and that returning to church was what we were called to do” says Arleen. Arleen and Larry went through our program of Returning Catholics, and are now very involved in this program, welcoming back those who have been away from the church.
Parishioner, Betty Mencke says “Fr. Brian said one of the most profound and impactful things anyone has ever said to me. I was talking with him about failing to follow through on spiritual resolutions to sin less, pray more, be a better person, etc., and he responded “honest desire wins out over perfect practice in the eyes of the Lord, every time.” Wow. Add wise to the list of Fr. Brian’s attributes.
Our pastor Fr. Ed White says of him, “Fr. Brian was a true friend and priestly servant to me and our community. He always had a compassionate response to difficulties and the humor to lighten the mood. He could contort his face with that quirky smile which was enough to comfort a soul. He also had a great gift of hospitality. He is missed, but I believe his prayers are at work at St. Stephen the Martyr."
Father Brian received his diagnosis of terminal cancer in November of 2012. He suffered through many sessions of chemotherapy, all the while keeping his equanimity and sense of humor. He would say “please pray for me because hooray, hooray, it’s chemo day.”
Fr. Brian was a wonderful gift to our parish, he is greatly missed.