Father Francis Snell, left; mom Judith; and Archbishop Henry J. Mansell (Photo by Jack Sheedy)
HARTFORD – Father Francis Snell is a funny man. In the solemnity of the Pope Pius X Chapel at the Chancery, as he was awaiting the ceremony at which he was to be incardinated into the Archdiocese of Hartford on Feb. 28, he turned to his mother, Judith Snell, and said, "Try not to make a scene."
She chuckled along with the other guests, including his friend Patricia Verde of Farmington; Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso; Father Jeffrey V. Romans, assistant chancellor and secretary to the archbishop; Father Thomas Mitchell, pastor of St. Mary and St. Ann Parishes in New Britain; and Msgr. Gerard G. Schmitz, vicar for priests. Archbishop Henry J. Mansell would later remark, "You see his very facile sense of humor."
Incardination, which is an ancient canonical concept ensuring stable pastoral service, pertains to the process by which a cleric commits to, and is formally accepted for, ministerial service in a diocese or its equivalent, such as a religious institute. The term comes from the Latin words for "into" and "attached." Every cleric must be incardinated into a diocese, personal prelature or another canonical Church unit.
Before the incardination ceremony, the archbishop said, "It’s a great day in the Archdiocese of Hartford, obviously a great day for the priests who know Father Francis Snell." Turning to Mrs. Snell, he added, "We owe all of this to you; you know that."
"I always tell him that," she said.
Archbishop Mansell called Father Snell "a tremendous priest by any standard, by every standard."
The archbishop briefly outlined Father Snell’s priestly ministry, noting that he was ordained in Rome by Pope John Paul II on Jan. 3, 1991, as a member of the Legionaries of Christ. He spent nine years in Rome and then three years in Mexico, then went on to Chile, where he was a professor at Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago.
"We think of his tremendous facility with languages," the archbishop said. "It’s superb. People don’t know what his native language is." That would be English, but he is fluent in Spanish and Italian.
Father Snell also ministered in Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Bolivia.
"You talk of the Church Universal, he has lived it and led it. And in coming here on Feb. 15, 2005, he was assigned to the [Hartford] parishes of St. Justin, St. Michael and Sacred Heart," Archbishop Mansell said.
He also became director of St. Peter Parish in Hartford.
In December 2011, Father Snell became pastor of both Sacred Heart and St. Anthony in New Haven.
After a ceremony of hymns, psalms and other readings, Archbishop Mansell read a solemn decree of incardination, concluding, "I hereby incardinate you absolutely and permanently into the Archdiocese of Hartford. This act of incardination was issued in accord with Canons 265, 267, 269 and 693 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law."
He remarked, "A lot of canons here, but you’re worth every syllable."
Father Snell’s friend Mrs. Verde, a parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Farmington, told the Transcript, "I know Father Francis from Sacred Heart in Hartford. He really brought the community together. It’s a church that I’ve sponsored for years and they’re very supportive of the Hispanic church, and he really brought it together. He had fund-raisers for the church, and just his personality has been a contribution."
Mrs. Snell recalled how her son Francis told her of his plans to enter the seminary in 1979. "After he graduated from Amity High School [Woodbridge], he just said, ‘I’m going after the Fourth of July into the seminary.’"
She said the family, including his father and his 11 siblings, fully supported the decision. But, just in case he decided to change his mind, she kept his registration open at Fairfield University, where he was to study languages.
He didn’t change his mind. "All of a sudden, here we are, dressed in black," Father Snell said.