Catholic Herald staff
Deacon Samuel Schneider will be embarking on a long and winding journey when he is ordained June 4, Pentecost Sunday.
That’s because the Rhinelander native will divide his service between the Diocese of Superior and the Archdiocese for the Military Services. After gaining three years of pastoral experience in the diocese, he will spend between three and 30 years as a military chaplain before resuming his service in the Diocese of Superior.
In a mid-May phone conversation, Deacon Schneider said he was studying for finals, putting the final touches on a major presentation and preparing to complete his Masters of Divinity at St. Paul Seminary, at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota.
For a man of action, seminary has been both “a joy and a cross at times.”
“It’s a great environment of brotherhood, of learning, of formation, and building each other up, but it can also be a place that’s removed from what we’re studying for,” he explained. “There were times in the classroom where we get to study God and theology, which is beautiful, but I don’t enjoy sitting in a class per se, so that’s sometimes a cross.”
Deacon Schneider is the son of David and Paula Schneider, who currently live outside of Rhinelander. He has three siblings: Donald, Will and Mary.
Members of Nativity of our Lord, Rhinelander, the Schneiders “were faithful attendees of the 7:30 a.m. Mass.” The deacon attended Nativity Catholic School through eighth grade; his mother also teaches at the school, and his father is a hydraulic mechanic.
Military service runs deep in the family. Deacon Schneider’s older brothers both served in the Navy – the second oldest, Will, still does – as have his cousins, and he was set to follow that path when he accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
As the deacon explains in his vocation story, his path took an unforeseeable turn. Attending daily Mass led him to the discernment of a deeper vocation – a pairing of his military service with the priesthood, a calling to pastor those men who serve God and country in the armed forces.
One of the most inspirational stories Deacon Schneider has encountered is that of Fr. Vincent Capodanno, a Navy chaplain who died shielding a medic during the Vietnam War.
“I hope in some ways to minister in the areas that need me the most,” he said, adding that the place where he is most needed “is not necessarily in a church.”
Conflict doesn’t scare the deacon so much as motivate him “to want to be with those men and women who are in harm’s way,” he continued. “If I can bring some comfort to them … bring God to them … that’s what I want to do.”
Having served in the Navy, Deacon Schneider already has the sense of duty that drives military personnel. He does not fret about the state of international affairs.
“I’m not exactly a worrywart or anything, so I’m not worrying too much,” he said. “We’re all going to die some day, and if I die in the military and in conflict, that’s the day God wills.”
The deacon’s other inspirations include St. Damien of Molokai, a Belgian priest who ministered to lepers in Hawaii.
“I got to learn about him at different times, but I actually read a book about him,” Deacon Schneider said. “He’s a man of action – a man who loves and goes where is needed, no matter what the consequences and effects on him are.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola, “kind of the soldier saint,” is another of Deacon Schneider’s favorites, as is St. George, another soldier-saint who “is kind of a patron of mine.” The deacon’s birthday is also St. George’s feast day.
Above all, Deacon Schneider’s passion is Christ.
“That motivates me to do whatever He would tell me, in this case, it’s pursuing the priesthood, as well as the military, to make Him known to others,” he said. “I want others to know who Christ is, and not just because I want them to come to church, because I want what is best for them … to know their Creator, to know their Father … to know who redeems them in this life.”
Two sacraments, Reconciliation and the Eucharist, have been integral in his travels toward “a deeper understanding of Christ,” and the deacon is most eager to share those gifts with others as he undertakes the duties of priesthood. He’s also eager to be a mentor and father to parishioners, to help people live out Christ’s plan for their lives.
In his free time, Deacon Schneider enjoys recreational activities, especially single track mountain biking. He likes sailing, although he doesn’t often have the opportunity, and he’s looking forward to a camping trip with a few friends the week after his ordination.
As he prepares to take vows and begin his priestly ministry, Deacon Schneider has one request.
“Pray for me,” he said. “Pray for all priests. We sometimes assume that the priest is perfect or they’ve got it all figured out … but priests need our prayers. As we know, they’re as human as everybody else.”