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Father Bob’s Openness to the Greater Faith Community

By Kathleen Rogers

St. Stephen is inviting the greater community to share in our joy! As a celebration of our new church, The Cross and the Light is coming May 18-21. Jesus’s journey will be conveyed in a twentieth-century Broadway production designed to entertain and reenergize individuals of all faiths. Reaching out to the entire community is inspired by Father Bob Schneider, the pastor of St. Stephen.  I recently had the opportunity to speak with him about his views.

It was a hot mid-day appointment as I approached the newly constructed church; it was dotted with construction workers and piles of raw materials. When I entered the church offices, I was struck by the newness of everything and the stark walls. Father Bob invited me into his office, which he was still settling into.

We started talking about his upbringing and journey to building the church, when I asked him this question: “Is there a personal message you would like to share with the community at this amazing moment in St. Stephen’s history?” I wasn’t quite prepared for his powerful response.

Father Bob replied, “The most important church we build is our faith community.” At that moment, I didn’t quite grasped what Father Bob meant by “faith community,” so he explained how Catholic actually means “universal,” and how he viewed St. Stephen as part of a larger faith community that believes we should “do as Christ teaches.”

He expanded on this point that this larger faith-filled community could be expanded even more according to German Jesuit priest, Fr. Karl Rahner S.J., who suggested the idea of  “Anonymous Christianity.” As one of the most influential Catholic theologians, Fr. Rahner believed that there were three paths to Christianity: baptism, sacrifice (martyr) or the desire to live the best possible life.

Father Bob’s universal belief is reflected in his actions. He is the leader of HOPE, Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality. As a coalition of spiritual leaders from across Hillsborough County, HOPE fights for issues they support such as more affordable housing, better elder care, and just civil citations.

So when Father Bob and the rest of St. Stephen invite the community to join in our celebration, it’s a sincere invitation. Regardless of faith, we want you here! Order tickets for The Cross and The Light now.