(Sacramental) Monsters, Inc.
FATHER LAWRENCE ESTRADA
"Have stole, will transubstantiate"
25 years ago, Father Lawrence Estrada was ordained a priest at the future Saint Vibiana Performing Arts Center/Hotel/Restaurant complex over on 2nd and Main. He's held several assignments throughout those years, including a stint as Archbishop Roger M. Mahony's priest-secretary, as well as serving as pastor of St. Stephen's Church in Monterey Park from 1996 to 2003.
You can still find him at St. Stephen's, but he doesn't answer to "pastor" anymore. He is now the designated SACRAMENTAL MINISTER. He steps in when you absolutely need something to be done "ex opere operato." For all your other pastoral needs, you must go to Sister Susie. You remember her.
"I love to vision for the future and think about how we're going to get there," said Sister Slater, [Parish Life Director] at St. Stephen Church in Monterey Park. "There's enough work for all of us. It's about doing it together and not being threatened by each other."
As PASTORAL LIFE DIRECTOR at St. Stephen's, Sister Susan Slater baptizes, she witnesses marriages, she officiates at funerals and preaches homilies. She probably even slices and dices for all I know. And she does all this right smack in the middle of Los Angeles with Father Estrada just a few steps away. Isn't that somethin'? Looks like the future is already here.
"Parish Life Director"
These terms form part of the specialized lexicon for the "new church" which is being "sung" into existence in L.A. by the painfully tone deaf Cardinal Roger Mahony. And about the only one at St. Stephen's who is escatic about this radical retooling of parish life is Sister herself. No doubt she'd love to be the SACRAMENTAL SISTER, but since that's an impossibility, PARISH LIFE DIRECTOR will do. After all, she is doing everything a priest does except transubstantiate. Theoreticaly, she can even hear confessions. That is to say, she can listen to peoples' sins; she just can't absolve them. But very likely Sister doesn't believe in all that hocus pocus anyway.
This is all part of Mahony's "broader" vision (no pun intended) to deal with a future with fewer and fewer priests. The Cardinal wrote about this in his pastoral letter, As I have done for you.
"What is called for is a major reorientation in our thinking about ministry as well as in our ministerial practice."
Wittingly or not, what the Cardinal is promoting in his Archdiocese is nothing short of a kind of Frankensteinish tinkering with the priesthood. SACRAMENTAL MINISTER is really a euphemism for SACRAMENTAL MONSTER. Men are ordained to be priests, not sacramental machines. I do not know Father Estrada or what he thinks about all this, but I do feel very sorry for him. 25 years ago when he lay prostrate on the floor of St. Vibiana's Cathedral, did he or anyone ever think it would come to this?
How long, O Lord?