Retired Bishop John J. Snyder, who led the Diocese of St. Augustine, Fla., for more than 20 years, died Sept. 27. He was 93.
His Funeral Mass was celebrated Oct. 2 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, with Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski presiding. A committal service took place at San Lorenzo Catholic Cemetery in St. Augustine.
Bishop Snyder led the 17-county diocese during a period of tremendous growth, when the number of Catholics more than doubled, requiring eight new parishes, seven elementary schools and two high schools, including one named for him in Jacksonville.
He was best known as a people’s bishop—gregarious, approachable and interested in the lives of ordinary people. In the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, he empowered laypeople, especially women, to assume leadership roles in their parishes and diocesan ministries.
“I will measure the effectiveness of my leadership by the ability and willingness of this local Church to call forth, develop and utilize the gifts and talents not only of its priests and religious but all its people,” he said on Dec. 5, 1979, when he was installed as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine.
He streamlined the annulment process for the divorced. He established ministries for farmworkers, refugees, and immigrants, offering medical services and legal assistance as well as pastoral support.
He was active in prison ministry and after his retirement in 2000, ministered to inmates on death row.
In 1987, he was awarded the Brotherhood Award by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, now called the National Conference of Community and Justice.
In 1991, he became co-chairman of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue, an outreach of the Committee on Ecumenism of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He traveled with Catholic and Episcopal bishops, first to England to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury and then to Rome to meet St. John Paul II.
From 1992 to 1995 he was the chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Women in Society and in the Church.
Bishop Snyder was a New Yorker, born into an Irish Catholic family. He grew up in Flushing, Queens.
He studied at the Seminary of Immaculate Conception in Huntington, and was ordained a priest in 1951.
He served for six years in his neighborhood parish before he became the personal secretary to Bishop Bryan J. McEntegart of Brooklyn. On Feb. 2, 1973, he was ordained a bishop to serve as auxiliary to Bishop Francis J. Mugavero of Brooklyn.—CNS