When Fr. Kyle Schnippel’s parishioners heard he was going away for six weeks, rumors started to fly. Some thought he was going to exorcism school or bishop school; others thought he was seeking therapy or treatment for some terrible illness. (Read Father’s blog at FatherSchnippel.com.)
Fr. Schnippel couldn’t reveal the real reason for his absence, but he had to give some excuse. In a letter, published in the bulletins of his two Cincinnati parishes — Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann — he told parishioners, “I’m going away for an important evangelization project.”
He also wrote a prayer and asked them to say it for him. “I used a few baking terms in the prayer, trying to provide a clue but no one had an idea of what I was doing,” Fr. Schnippel told Catholic Digest in a phone interview.
When Fr. Schnippel, 40, was going through the long vetting process for The Great American Baking Show, it was on his mind that he would have to get Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr’s approval. “I pulled him aside and said, “Archbishop, I might have to be gone for up to six weeks. I am going to be on a baking show. He looked at me and said, “You bake?” I was like, “Trust me, it’s a surprise for me as well, but yes, I do!”
Archbishop Schnurr agreed as long as Fr. Schnippel could get his Masses covered. The parish secretaries — who were privy to the secret — were a big help, and they were rewarded by being taste-testers as Father practiced for the competition.
Surprisingly, Fr. Schnippel has only been a baker for less than two years. He started with home brewing, which led to him to baking bread and then to desserts. Father was confident that he could deliver great flavor, but The Great American Baking Show challenges where he would have to create “showstoppers” intimidated him.
“Through the application process, I met some of the other contestants, and I thought their desserts were so much more beautiful than mine. That caused me to think, “Do I really deserve to be here. I knew I couldn’t do as well artistically, so I am just going to let my flavor profiles pull me through,” says the priest. “I was pretty happy when I heard the judges tell me your flavors are spot on.”
In late August 2017, Fr. Schnippel flew to England for the filming of The Great American Baking Show — sister show to the popular United Kingdom series The Great British Bake Off. Like the sister show, the American version features bakers competing in themed challenges, which include signature bakes, technical bakes, and showstoppers that separate the wheat from the chaff.
It wasn’t a fib when Fr. Schnippel told his congregation that evangelization was part of his hiatus.
“I made it a requirement that I be allowed to wear clerics on the show because it’s a reflection of who I am,” he says. “After filming, one of the other contestants said something along the lines of, ‘Thank you so much for being such a joyful witness of your faith and the priesthood. Even though I am not Catholic, I got a sense of the joy that you have in who you are and what you do. Thank you for sharing that with us.’”
Fr. Schnippel hopes his joyful witness comes across in the show. He’ll find out if it does, along with his congregation, because there will be a giant watch party at one of his parishes when the The Great American Baking Show airs 9-11 p.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 7, on ABC. The experience will be interactive for his parishioners because Fr. Schnippel will serve up the same bakes as he made on the show.