Sister Ruth to retire

Published 11:18 am Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sister Ruth Snyder, shown at Queen of Angels Catholic Church Tuesday afternoon, will retire toward the end of June. -- Kevin Coss/

After 60 years, nun won’t completely call it quits

Sister Ruth Snyder, a longtime nun at the Sisters of Saint Francis who serves in the Hispanic ministry for Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Austin, is retiring. But she wouldn’t call it that.

Sister Ruth Snyder leads a children’s service during the regular service at Queen of Angels Catholic Church earlier this year. -- Herald file photo

“I don’t really intend to ‘retire,’ which means do nothing,” Snyder said. “I intend to keep trying to serve the people’s God in the way I can.”

Snyder decided to retire about a month ago, citing a series of circumstances which would mean she’d have to move away from Austin regardless. At 80 years old, she said she resolved to move to Assisi Heights in Rochester. She leaves on June 20.

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Snyder was born in Austin and went to high school in Grand Meadow. It was there she decided to become a nun.

“I wanted to do something good with my life,” she said. “I felt that being a sister was a good way to do something.”

Snyder performs a variety of services, but she doesn’t know which of those opportunities will be available in Rochester. Still, she expects to find things to do.

“I teach English, and I hope to be able to continue that,” Snyder said. At Queen of Angels, she has also helped interpret and translate documents between English and Spanish, fill out forms and get people to various appointments. She describes it as social service work, where she could be taking someone to a dentist appointment one moment and helping another pay a utility bill the next.

“It’s person to person contact with people who need some kind of help,” she said. “I don’t limit it just to the people who come to the church.”

Snyder’s decision to retire comes less than a month after she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, which marked 60 years of service as a nun on May 10. She was one of seven people to hold that achievement at Sisters of Saint Francis, said Kathryn Gatliff, director of communications.

Sisters who reach the 25- and 50-year marks are also recognized.

Snyder entered the Rochester Franciscan Congregation from St. Finbarr’s in Grand Meadow. According to a news release, she was given the name Sister Ricella when she pronounced her vows in 1952.

Snyder received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from the College of Saint Teresa in Winona and her doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Notre Dame. She spent 21 years teaching in elementary, high schools, and universities in Minnesota, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and New Mexico. She also spent 12 years in pastoral work and 21 years as a missionary in Peru.

Going forward, Snyder plans to continue her service to God. She said she feels grateful for her good health and the wonderful people she has met. It reminds her of a Spanish phrase, often used as thanks for a selfless act, that translates to, “may God repay you.”

“I was just thinking this morning about how God has paid me very, very well,” she said.