Forming Catholic identity core to former Catholic Charities USA head’s new UST

| January 29, 2015 | 1 Comment
Father Larry Snyder. CNS/Paul Haring

Father Larry Snyder. CNS/Paul Haring

On Feb. 2, Father Larry Snyder will return to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to take the helm as vice president of the Office for Mission at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Ordained a priest of the archdiocese in 1988, Father Snyder has led Catholic Charities USA for the last 10 years. The national office oversees 163 Catholic Charities agencies across the country that serve more than 10 million people a year.

While traveling with a Catholic Charities leadership group, Father Snyder took time to answer questions about what his new role will mean for the university and beyond.

Q. Could you talk about the role of the Office for Mission at the University of St. Thomas and the key things you hope to accomplish as vice president?

A. The office of mission at a Catholic university typically focuses on Catholic identity. This requires being involved in the formation of faculty and staff since they all participate in assuring Catholic values and culture. My goal is to enhance the programs that are already operating and work to engage faculty, staff and students in building a culture that reflects the values and heritage of the university.

Q. You’ve said that St. Thomas’ mission is about educating students to become morally responsible leaders who will advance the common good. What does that look like? How do you do that?

A. Students today are bombarded by messages from any number of sources. A Catholic university strives to provide a filter for students to judge and evaluate which messages are true and of value. That filter is the values of Catholic social teaching. Besides teaching us the respect and dignity all people deserve, we are counseled to work for the common good. Even though we have different gifts and talents, we have to ask ourselves how we are contributing to the well-being of all. Hopefully, all graduates will be convinced that what they will do is critically important — education and formation.

Q. What do you think it means for St. Thomas to be a Catholic university in this day and age? Has that changed since its founding? Will it change going forward?

A. The reality is that the mission of the university is to educate more than simply Catholics. But for all students, Catholic values must animate the university and form people of morals and conscience. This has been a constant throughout the history of the university.

However, at its inception the university had a special mission to educate immigrants and open the doors of opportunity in this country for them. The university was there to educate soldiers returning from war who took advantage of the GI Bill. The university will continue to meet the changing needs of today and the future. In doing so, it continues the mission of the Church to educate and form people.

Q. How do you intend to ensure the university maintains its Catholic identity?

A. It is the responsibility of everyone on campus to build a culture steeped in Catholic tradition. This will require orientation and formation opportunities for faculty and staff, as well as students. It is also accomplished by opening up to the larger community the resources the university has to offer.

Q. Given your background at Catholic Charities, what responsibility do you think the university has to people in need in our community? Do you have specific programs in mind? How do you want to address the need?

A. All of the ministries of the Church in this country were established to serve immigrants who were struggling. We were truly a poor Church. Today, Catholics are economically successful. For those who are lacking resources, St. Thomas offers scholarships. The number of students from immigrant families today is noteworthy.

I think opportunities for service and social action should be a strong part of campus life. Such experiences also help form the outlook and values of students.

Q. What did you miss about the Twin Cities while you were away? Do you have favorite restaurants that you’re excited to eat at again? New things here that you’re looking forward to exploring?

A. As much as I have enjoyed living in Washington, D.C., these last 10 years, I think my heart was always in the Twin Cities. I look forward to opportunities to reunite with friends. I am looking forward to doing [that] at Lucia’s and Moscow on the Hill [both in St. Paul]. I also love to garden, so look forward to that opportunity as soon as spring arrives.

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