Michael James Snyder was born on October 11, 1950 in Rutherford, New Jersey, son of Francis and Rose Snyder. He has one brother and three sisters. He attended St. Mary’s grammar and high schools before graduating from De Paul Diocesan High School, Wayne, New Jersey in 1968.
He entered Maryknoll at Glen Ellyn in August 1968. When Glen Ellyn closed in June 1971, Mike transferred to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he received a B.A. in Sociology in May 1972. He earned an M.A. in Theology from Maryknoll School of Theology, New York in January 1979.
As a seminarian, Michael completed his Overseas Training Program in Tanzania where, after studying Swahili in Musoma, he went to live and work in the parish of Kiagata. After several months there, he was transferred to Komuge mission where he taught at a school for Catechists, and worked with the local youth to help get them involved in sports and other forms of recreation.
Father Snyder was ordained at Maryknoll, New York on May 19, 1979. He was assigned to Tanzania on July 1, 1979. He served as diocesan director for vocations for Musoma Diocese from 1979 through 1987, and served as Assistant Pastor of Bunda Catholic Church, from 1979 to 1985. In 1985 Father Snyder was named Pastor of Tarime Catholic Church. This, he says, was a high point in his missionary work in Tanzania. He writes, “At Tarime I learned to truly listen to what the people wanted to do as a Christian community.” On March 30, 1989, he was elected Regional Superior of the Tanzania Region, and he served in that position for two three-year terms. On October 2, 1995, Father Snyder was elected an official delegate for the Tanzania Region to the Tenth General Chapter. He also served as Pastor of the new Mtoni Catholic Church in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from 1995 through 1996.
On October 10, 1996 Father Snyder was elected second assistant General Council member by the Tenth General Chapter. He left Tanzania to return to Maryknoll, New York to serve in this new capacity. He also served on the Executive Committee of the United States Catholic Mission Association (USCMA) and on the Board of the Africa Faith & Justice Network in Washington, D.C. In September 1999, while still serving on the General Council, Father Snyder took over as Director of Admissions for the Society, and in January 2001 he was named Coordinator of Vocation Ministries, a position he held until December 2006. During those years he commented on how he found many similarities between his work in Vocations in the U.S. and his work with the people of Tanzania, saying that the work in both locations “… is all about people and our attentiveness to their struggles, values, concerns; their hopes and their fears. It is our job to listen, to pray and to reach out a helping hand in God’s name to each person who passes through our lives.”
In January 2007, after over ten years of service in the United States, Fr. Snyder was re-assigned to the Africa Region. Today, he is the Catholic Chaplain at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences. This medical school at Muhimbili Hospital was once the only one in Tanzania. Formerly the School of Medicine of the University of Dar es Salaam it had a student population of just 400 in the 1970s. Today with a student body of 1600 it stands alone as MUHAS. Nearly 50% of the students are Catholic, a tribute to an historical emphasis placed on education by the Catholic Church. For over 30 years there has been a fulltime chaplain appointed to guide and counsel students during the 3-5 years of training. In 1988 an ecumenical chapel was constructed and divided into two prayer centres, one for Catholics and the second for Lutheran and Anglican communities. With rapid university expansion taking place the time has come for a similar effort on the Church’s part. So, Fr. Snyder is in the midst of an extension program which will double the chapel’s size! Commenting on his new assignment, Fr. Snyder states: “The Catholic Community at Muhimbili engages 40 students on a regular basis in different facets of leadership. They take responsibility for accounts, banking, distribution of salaries, and organization of events and activities for the community. They are intelligent and mature yet maintain the spark and enthusiasm of youth. If they are able to cope with the temptations that lead to corrupt practises and the lure to abandon Tanzania for lucrative jobs outside the country, these young people can make a tremendous contribution in the medical sector. Maintaining the ideals and positive motivation of service is a major challenge facing them. Perhaps the singular most interesting challenge for me as their chaplain can be described with a question: How can the message of Christ alive within us nurture and prepare medical students for the sacrifices needed so that God’s hand may touch the thousands who seek them out for healing in a country where poverty prevails?”