HARRISBURG - A Shamokin native will lead the Diocese of Harrisburg until a bishop is selected to replace Kevin Rhoades, who this week became bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.

Father Chester P. Snyder, 58, who is pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Mechanicsburg, was elected to the position of diocesan administrator by the College of Consultors of the Diocese of Harrisburg.

"I appreciate the confidence of the College of Consultors, and with their help I will do all in my power, and with the good graces of the Lord, to keep the diocese as vibrant and God-centered as we need to be in these days," said Snyder.

He said his job is to help the diocese transition into the era of a new bishop.

The prominent appointment was met with pride in his home area.

The Very Rev. Francis Karwacki, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, called Snyder, "a very excellent pastor" who's gifted at leading spiritual retreats.

Susan Snyder, the pastor's sister, was stunned to hear the news.

"I'm happy for him," she said, "very happy."

The Shamokin resident described her brother as wonderful.

"He's good to talk to, if you have questions, something on your mind. He's a good brother," she said.

Susan Snyder recalled a man who was always helpful as a child, involved in school activities during his time at St. Joseph's and Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School.

"He was always there if you needed him," she said.

A man of the cloth, Snyder is also a man of the world, enjoying traveling to such places as New York, Rome and Jerusalem. During a sabbatical in Jerusalem, he wrote a book on the Holy Land, "A Sabbath Shared," his sister said.

Will conduct Mass

According to canon law, the College of Consultors elects the administrator, who acts as a caretaker of the diocese and does not have all the authority a bishop would have. For instance, the administrator could not appoint priests to be pastors of parishes.

The administrator is bound by all the obligations of a diocesan bishop; in particular he must have residence in the diocese and he must celebrate Mass every Sunday and on holy days of obligation.

Snyder will hold the office until a new bishop takes possession of the diocese.

The appointment of a new bishop is a lengthy and confidential process that begins at the local level and works its way through a series of consultations until it reaches Rome. It can be a time consuming process, often taking eight months or more to complete. The ultimate decision in appointing bishops rests with the pope, and he is free to select anyone he chooses.

Priest for 32 years

A priest for 32 years, Snyder has served as an advisor to the past two bishops of Harrisburg. Bishop Nicholas Dattilo appointed him to several advisory bodies including the Board of Examiners of Seminary Applicants, the Presbyteral Council, the Priest Personnel Board and the College of Consultors. Under Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Snyder has continued his role as an advisor, serving on the Presbyteral Council or Council of Priests and the College of Consultors.

Snyder was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Harrisburg in 1977 by Bishop Joseph T. Daley in his home parish of St. Joseph in Shamokin, which became part of Our Lady of Hope during the 1995 diocesan merger.

As administrator for the diocese, he will also continue to serve as pastor of St. Joseph in Mechanicsburg. He has held that position since 1995.

Previous assignments have included assistant pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Lancaster, chaplain to Trinity High School, Camp Hill, and campus minister at Bloomsburg University from 1983 to 1994. He has also held appointments as director of the Office of Continuing Formation of Priests and as chaplain to the Carmelite Monastery in Elysburg.

A graduate of Our Lady of Lourdes, Father Snyder holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and philosophy from the University of Scranton, a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, Italy, and a Masters of Art History from Bloomsburg University.