By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
In an interview with The Catholic Messenger last year, Deacon Mike Snyder talked about his plans to visit every parish in the Diocese of Davenport without an assigned deacon in hopes of encouraging a call to the diaconate. “I want to help men discern whether the Holy Spirit is calling them to this vocation,” said Deacon Snyder, diocesan director of the diaconate. His subsequent visits led him to hear the Holy Spirit’s call to discern a vocation to the priesthood.
“Before I talked about the diaconate as one vocation, one of the things I almost always talked about was finding God’s call for each of us,” he said. Week after week, on the drive home from a parish visit, he began to sense God asking him, “Mike, do you believe what you’re telling these people? Mike, it’s time to step up (to the plate),” Deacon Snyder said in a June 22 interview with the Messenger and Deacon Jeff Schuetzle, the new diocesan director of the diaconate.
“In his oversight of the deacon council and community, Deacon Snyder has provided gentle, joyful and fruitful leadership. His experience and faith-filled dedication to the Church will be invaluable as he begins his preparation for a new phase of service to the diocese,” Bishop Thomas Zinkula said. “Deacon Schuetzle brings 20 years of diaconal service as well as management experience to his new role in the deacon community. His thoughtful and spiritual approach will serve him, the deacons and the diocese well.”
“I truly believe if each of us found God’s will for us, it would be better than anything we could think of for ourselves,” said Deacon Snyder of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf. He will begin studies in mid-August at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. “I’m confident it’s God’s plan and I trust it will turn out good,” he said. Both of his adult daughters are supportive of his decision and his late wife Patty continues to influence his faith and ministry, Deacon Snyder said.
Deacon Schuetzle of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, also trusts that God is calling him to serve as director of the diaconate. He cares deeply about the diaconal community and desires the best for his fellow deacons and their families. “I’ve never felt more blessed than I am now and I want the other deacons to feel this as well.”
He asked the Lord for some signs to confirm his call to serve as director. Prior to a meeting with Deacon Snyder to talk about the leadership position, Deacon Schuetzle was in the checkout lane at a store when he spotted a penny on the floor. He collects pennies because of the motto imprinted on each one: “In God We Trust.”
“When I see a penny, I pick it up and thank the Lord.” Spotting that penny was an encouraging sign, along with support from his wife, Dawn. Deacon Snyder’s organizational skills provided another sign, pointing to a good transition, Deacon Schuetzle believes.
Deacon Snyder describes one of the highlights of his three years as director as “getting more deacons involved with leading the diaconate. We have a deacon council and several deacons are taking an active role in leading it,” he said. “I have a more collaborative style. Getting the council involved was my way of doing that.” Deacon Schuetzle served as the council’s vice president.
Another highlight is establishment of the monthly, virtual “deacon call,” a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that began one year into Deacon Snyder’s directorship. Deacons discuss a variety of topics and foster community and fellowship during the calls. For example, they have discussed best practices in their parishes and strategies for dealing with challenges. The deacon community also participated in one of the first listening sessions of the diocesan Synod, Deacon Snyder said.
At present, the diocesan diaconate has 43 active and nine retired deacons. Several of the active deacons minister outside the diocese. The four dimensions of formation — intellectual, human, spiritual and pastoral — provide the framework for the director’s role, which is part administrative, part leadership and part pastoral, Deacon Snyder said. “Deacons are good at recognizing people in their parishes who need ministry and ministering to them. Who ministers to the deacons? That’s part of the director’s role.”
“We are ministers of charity and we need to keep that primary responsibility in the forefront of ministry,” Deacon Schuetzle said. Every deacon has a ministry in and outside his parish, in addition to a commitment to his own family. It is a tricky balancing act, Deacon Schuetzle acknowledges. The deacon’s goal is “to make sure that we’re where we’re needed when we’re needed.”