Health care ministry has fed his faith

By Lisa Haefs | For The Compass | April 26, 2017

Retiring hospital administrator says his role also had spiritual dimension

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]ANTIGO — Dave Schneider is ending decades as the executive director of a ministry that focuses on the body while nourishing the spirit.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Dave Schneider (Lisa Haefs | For The Compass)

A quiet man, Schneider is retiring within weeks as administrator at Aspirus Langlade Hospital, a majority-Catholic health care facility that he has guided as CEO over the past 28 years. It has been a spiritual, as well as administrative role, for the layman.

‘The Catholic faith has always stood for the affirmation of life as a gift and it fits perfectly within the hospital ministry,” he says. “It melds well with where I stand, with a reverence and a re-affirmation of life. But there comes a time when it is important to turn things over to someone with new ideas and a fresh pair of eyes.”

A native of Green Bay, Schneider attended Annunciation School and Premontre High School, a Catholic boys’ school now called Notre Dame Academy.

“I received a college-level education in high school, with a strong theological grounding,” he says.

After graduating with a degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he worked as a psychiatric aide in a locked experimental unit for highly aggressive and suicidal adults at what was then the Brown County Mental Health Center in Green Bay.

That brought some transformative experiences, including talking a suicidal woman — married with two children — down from a perch on the water tower, where she had planned to fling herself to her death,

“She had convinced herself that she was worthless and powerless and deserving of the abuse that had pervaded her life,” he says. “She sought to end her life and escape what had become a deeply painful and unbearable existence.”

The patient eventually turned her life around and became a successful educator.

“This taught me that the view we take of ourselves, our personal philosophy of life, will shape our successes and failures and ultimately our lives,” he says.

Schneider arrived at what was then known as Langlade County Memorial Hospital in 1980 as director of human resources. The hospital was sponsored and operated by the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, which later joined with other Canadian-based religious congregations to form Catholic Health International, its current majority owner.

In his role as CEO, which he assumed in 1989, Schneider has guided the hospital through major changes, including the construction of a new physical plant and a merger with Aspirus, a highly regarded health system in northcentral Wisconsin.

Key to all those upgrades, he says, was a decision made by the hospital board in the early 1990s. At the time it was debating constructing a congregate living facility for physically frail older adults and wrangling over a hospital’s responsibility to the larger public good beyond the traditional sickness care role.

“That was really a turning point,” Schneider said. “That was the point when our hospital reached out beyond its four walls and expanded its role by becoming directly involved in building community resources that promote health.”

Towards that end, Schneider, in conjunction with the hospital board, took a new look at what the hospital was offering, shifting the focus toward preventive care and other life-affirming programs throughout the community.

“I believe that health care is a basic right of all persons, no one should be denied,” the administrator says.

Schneider has watched the cherished members of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, along with the hospital chaplain, play a more and more limited role due to age.

“When I came here, I was in awe of the deep faith and courage which the sisters have demonstrated throughout their 400-year history,” he says. “It has been an honor and privilege for me to have served with these incredible religious women and to play a small part in their worldwide ministry of Jesus.”

The duties and services once performed by the religious order are now being turned over on a regular basis to laypeople.

Schneider says retirement will allow him to expand other interests. He picked up a guitar when he was 16 years old and has been finessing his talents playing rock and the blues ever since.

“I bought a guitar with the money I earned from my first job at a gas station. It was one I had to assemble from a kit. I was preoccupied with learning everything I could about it,” he says. “What I like about music is it is a means of creative expression. Like any art form, it brings something good into the world. It is an honor to stand up and entertain others and see them enjoy themselves.”

Regardless of his pursuits, he always comes back to the importance of affirming the worth of every person.

“It is the core of Catholic health care and Catholic social teaching that every person is created in the image of God,” he says. “And because of that, every person is deserving of dignity and respect from conception until their last breath.”

Save[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Dave Schneider

Parish: Attends Mass at Aspirus Langlade Hospital, Antigo

Age: 67

Favorite saint: Joseph

Words to live by: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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