New Project Rachel coordinator begins - Catholic Courier
Deacon David Snyder is the new diocesan coordinator of Project Rachel. Deacon David Snyder is the new diocesan coordinator of Project Rachel.

New Project Rachel coordinator begins

In the early 1990s Deacon David Snyder and his wife, Barb, began a deep immersion into parish and diocesan Respect Life initiatives.

"We accomplished a lot," he said, recalling numerous efforts to promote the Consistent Life Ethic while also raising funds to support pregnancy centers, prison ministries and migrant communities.

As of mid-August, the Fairport resident has a new and important outlet for his pro-life interests.

Deacon Snyder has been appointed by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano as diocesan coordinator of Project Rachel, a ministry that assists women and men who have been affected by abortion. He succeeds Father James Hewes, a diocesan priest who was the inaugural local Project Rachel coordinator from 1996 until early 2015.

Deacon Snyder is balancing his volunteer position with ongoing duties as parish deacon at St. Louis in Pittsford. Ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2012, he is a member of St. John of Rochester Parish. He works full time for Harris Corporation — RF Communications, where he is a longtime electrical engineer/engineering manager.

In his Project Rachel role Deacon Snyder works in conjunction with Suzanne Stack, diocesan life-issues coordinator. He noted that his chief responsibility is to coordinate a network of 1,000-plus telephone volunteers in the Rochester Diocese — "many priests, deacons, sisters and laypeople," he said — who are available for one-on-one phone contact with people hurting from abortion.

Deacon Snyder is not new to his duties, having facilitated Project Rachel operations with Father Hewes’ assistance for several months prior to his official appointment.

"I have such great respect for his views on all the life issues," Deacon Snyder said of Father Hewes, who currently resides at St. Mark Church in Greece as a senior priest.

In turn, Father Hewes lauds Deacon Snyder’s ability to carry Project Rachel forward.

"Deacon Dave is such a generous, caring and dedicated person that I know that the future of the ministry of Project Rachel in our diocese will be in very good hands," Father Hewes commented.

Project Rachel, begun in 1984 by Vicki Thorn of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, exists in more than 140 Catholic dioceses in the United States and other countries and is nondenominational. According to Stack, local Project Rachel funding is derived mostly from individual donations and special parish collections.

Whereas Project Rachel’s offerings include support groups and retreats, the crux of its local ministry involves the trained phone representatives who provide free and confidential support. These volunteers often refer callers to priests for hearing confessions or to mental-health professionals; other times they simply lend a compassionate ear.

Deacon Snyder emphasized that word of mouth about Project Rachel is vital, stating that most people are somehow linked to at least one person who has unresolved issues about an abortion that occurred.

"One of the major drives we’re doing is to get the word out to people of today’s generation — Facebook, Twitter and all that — keeping up with the technology of today," he said.

Deacon Snyder observed that in addition to mothers of aborted children, men and other loved ones are among those who can benefit from Project Rachel: "It could be almost anyone in the family."

However, people who become aware of Project Rachel may still hesitate to face the mental, emotional and spiritual aftereffects of abortion. Thus, Deacon Snyder said Project Rachel operates in a nonjudgmental fashion so people can be reassured that they’re supported by "a merciful God who’s available to the people."

"We want this to be a place to experience God’s mercy," Stack added, "instead of a place where they experience condemnation."

Speaking of mercy, Deacon Snyder and Stack noted that Project Rachel’s approach complements Pope Francis’ call for a Year of Mercy beginning in December 2015. A key facet of the Year of Mercy is the pope’s decree that all priests will be given the discretion to grant absolution to anyone who has obtained, or helped procure, an abortion, provided they seek forgiveness.

Stack said that according to canon law, priests who can grant such forgiveness are determined by the local bishop, although she added that in the Diocese of Rochester, permission has extended to all priests for many years (see related story on page A15).

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you or someone you know is struggling with the lingering effects of an abortion, contact Project Rachel at 1-888-972-2435, by e-mail at or by visiting


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