Saying Goodbye to a Friend: John Shuster

John Shuster was a longtime SNAP advocate, leader, and friend. We mourn his passing and send our thoughts and prayers to his wife and surviving family. 

John was a dedicated advocate who for years served in SNAP leadership on the Board of Directors. He was a warm presence to all who knew him and devoted much of his free time to assisting the survivors in the greater Pacific Northwest area. Our movement is lesser without John.

Below is a copy of the obituary written for John by his wife, Sally:


John M. Shuster, Port Orchard, was born September 18, 1951 in Pittsburgh, PA to Andrew and Catherine (Miller) Shuster. He passed away from complications of a stroke on February 7, 2020 at St. Joseph Hospital in Tacoma.

John was ordained in 1979 by Bishop Joseph Francis to serve as a priest in the Roman Catholic missionary order, the Society of the Divine Word (SVD).  He graduated from the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago in 1980 with a Masters of Divinity with specialization in cross-cultural ministry.   During his four years as a celibate priest, he served in Mexico, and at parishes in East Los Angeles and South Central L.A. Due to his seeing the alarming disfunction that was present in the church, John left the clerical priesthood 1983, and began selling medical instrumentation. He had a successful career as a senior salesman of medical diagnostics at Abbott Laboratories, and retired in 2010.

John married the love of his life, Sally Melson Shuster, in 1991, and they enjoyed many wonderful years together, sharing love of family and having fun traveling all over the Pacific Northwest, cross country, and many times to England. Sally brought her two sons from a previous marriage, Nate and Kellen, to the marriage, and John was a wonderful stepfather and mentor to them. Tragically, Nate passed away unexpectedly in 2017, and John was a constant support to Sally and Kellen during that difficult time.

John had an ecumenical wedding ministry for many years, and performed countless wedding ceremonies for family, friends and those who were searching for a caring and spiritual celebrant, creating a ceremony tailored to their needs, especially those who were disqualified by the local parish from having a Roman Catholic Church wedding. He provided thoughtful and meaningful counseling to many couples searching for spiritual guidance.

Most recently, John was writing a Kindle book specifically tailored to those who have endured trauma and abuse in their lives. It is a personal healing model, with a goal to help people to understand how the trauma hurt them and simple concrete actions that they can take on their own to regain control of their lives, shift from focusing on losses to resuming and building their lives, and find personal meaning that provides a calming self-perspective.

Starting in 1995, he dedicated much of his life to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and to Celibacy Is The Issue (CITI). He is a former SNAP National Board Member Emeritus and Seattle SNAP coordinator Emeritus. In his work with SNAP, he has been developing a healing model for those adults who needed spiritual guidance and counseling as a result of being abused as children. John and Sally shared a passion for helping and counseling so many who have been victims of all types of abuse.

John's ministry since the mid 2000s has been to provide free spiritual counseling to clergy sexual abuse survivors in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. He also served on the Board of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) for several years and was its Seattle coordinator. He was in the process of writing an E-Book on healing for clergy abuse survivors.

John had many interests, some for years, and some he concentrated on since his retirement. He was an excellent photographer and always had a dark room for developing his own black and white pictures. A collector at heart, he filled the house with books on cooking, travel, photography, ham radio, art, philosophy, theology, history, psychology, fly fishing, writing, music, and the violin. When John retired he said he wanted “to achieve his origins”. He knew his grandfather had played the violin and was inspired to learn. This was one of his favorite things and loved every minute.

John is survived by his wife, Sally Melson Shuster, stepson Kellen Crosswhite, brother Ron Shuster (Mary Jane) of Overland Park, Kansas; brother David Shuster (Becky), sister Mary Ann Durbin (Bob), sister Karen Ungarino (Mario), and sister Teresa Malmstrom (Rick), all of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and many nieces and nephews from the Shuster and Melson families who grew up loving him as Uncle John. John married at least four couples in the Melson family alone.

The family is so grateful for your support, and requests that any memorials be sent in John’s name to  Symphony Tacoma , at,, or SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests).

We will miss you, John.

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant