St. Thomas has a new chaplain and director of Campus Ministry: Father Larry Blake will start in October, moving from his current position as a chaplain at Hennepin County Medical Center. Blake also has been a chaplain in the Air Force for the past 11 years.
“I’m very excited about being on this campus. The university has an excellent reputation locally, nationally and globally,” Blake said.
Blake will join the leadership of the newly structured Office of Campus Ministry, and Father Larry Snyder will serve in an interim role until Blake’s arrival.
“When you look at that new structure and what we want the office [of Campus Ministry] to focus on, then I get very excited about Father Blake’s leadership,” Snyder said. “If you talk to anyone who knows him the first thing they say is how pastoral and caring he is. He has a gentleness about him, but also a way of relating to people that puts them very much at ease. He really is a concrete expression of God’s love for us. He’s a man of great faith who really practices that belief that God has tremendous care and concern for all of us.”
Blake’s journey to St. Thomas is of the rare variety in that he was a Lutheran pastor for more than 15 years before joining the Catholic Church in 1993. Because he was married and had children, he applied for – and received – a special indult, or permission, from the Catholic Church’s leadership to be ordained as a priest, which he was in 1999. From there Blake served in Chanhassen and Waconia before moving to his position at Hennepin County Medical Center, which is a level one trauma center. Throughout those years Blake also served two tours in the Middle East and at several postings at stateside Air Force bases.
“It has been deeply meaningful for me to work in that [hospital] setting,” Blake said. “Most of my ministry people have suffered directly or they’re there because a loved one is suffering. It’s an opportunity to be a person of compassion. … As a chaplain I hope to bring a sense of healing and a sense of God’s presence in the lives of people here, as well.”
The newly focused area of Campus Ministry under Blake will be involved in pastoral care, liturgies, music and the Catholic sacraments. The area also will examine ways to offer services for other denominations and faiths, including stronger working relationships with Muslim students and the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center in the Theology Department.
“It will be [exciting] and that’s one of the things that attracted me to this position: that new direction that Father Snyder has helped set ahead of us,” Blake said. “Also [attractive is] President [Julie] Sullivan as the leader here, her desire to have a campus that’s diverse and welcoming of all kinds of people who want to study and work here. I’m very much in tune with that and want to be a part of the team here.”