Two new pastoral associates commissioned in Los Angeles archdiocese

Pastoral associates work closely with a parish pastor to oversee decision-making responsibilities and assist in the formation of the congregation

New pastoral associates Katie Tassinari (left) and Suzette Sornborger (second from right) are pictured with Archbishop José H. Gomez and Katherine Enright, director of the archdiocesan Office of Parish Life. (Photo/Dima Otvertchenko)

Thirty years ago Suzette Sornborger was a college graduate looking for a job — little knowing that her first job would start her on a path of service for the Church, which would mean trading one ministerial job for another, moving from parish to parish, until she would finally be commissioned as a pastoral associate.

“I won’t have the official title until after Sunday,” Sornborger said before her recent commissioning. Although her role at St. Monica Church in Santa Monica won’t change drastically, she has served under the title director of faith formation in the few months leading up to the ceremony. On July 1, Sornborger assumed the role Sister Catherine Ryan held before her retirement.

The term “pastoral associate” can only be given to someone who has been specifically commissioned as such by the bishop of the diocese. Pastoral associates work closely with a parish pastor to oversee decision-making responsibilities and assist in the formation of the congregation. On Nov. 5, Archbishop José H. Gomez commissioned Sornborger and Katie Tassinari as pastoral associates at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Katherine Enright, the director of the office of parish life for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, stressed that the Church needs laymen and women to respond to the call of service, noting, “The call to serve the Body of Christ is [for] everyone who is baptized.”

Sornborger and Tassinari were carefully vetted. Pastoral associates must hold a master’s degree in divinity or in pastoral, theological or religious studies and have had years of experience serving in a parish.

The needs of each parish are “wildly different” Enright said, noting that there are many cultures, traditions and ministries that are in need of leadership, especially in light of the ongoing priest shortage.

Since Vatican II, more laywomen have responded to the call to serve the Church, becoming theologians or receiving graduate degrees in divinity studies. Pope Francis is encouraging this movement. In “Evangelii Gaudium,” he wrote, “We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.”

Although Pope Francis wants women to take on more responsibilities in the Church (while acknowledging that only men can be ordained priests), he also seems to imply that their specific form of service is yet to be properly determined.

Earlier in 2013, the pope said during a press conference, “The role of women in the church must not be limited to being mothers, workers, a limited role. … No! It is something else.”

Full story at Angelus.

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  1. It just gets worser and worser. What religion/church is this, anyway?

  2. St. Monica’s in Santa Monica is a notoriously heterodox and gay-friendly (wink) parish. Monsignor Torgerson is the pastor. Check out the 5:00 p.m. Mass videos, archived at the parish website, to hear music that doesn’t belong at Mass.

    • Sadly Covfefe, you are correct. St. Monica’s is a liberal bastion of watered down Catholicism, a gathering place for social justice warriors to enjoy their virtue signaling prowess.

      This, my local parish, is loud and proud, and though “All Are Welcome”, the circus nature of St. Monica’s does not foster or encourage peaceful prayer and reflection. I rarely attend Mass at this church, for these and other reasons, however kudos to them for offering confession six days a week. Now if they could just get the flock to go…

  3. None of this nonsense occurs at FSSP or SSPX parishes.

  4. Don’t all or most parishes have lay [usually female] pastoral associates? Traditions are like poker hands: need to know when to hold and when to fold.

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