While Father Larry looks on ...
(Paula Doyle/THE TIDINGS)
The TIDINGS caption which accompanies the above photograph says it all ...
PARISH LEADERS --- St. Stephen parish life director, Sister Susan Slater, SHCJ (far left) helps to distribute catechetical materials during a recent Sunday liturgy while Father Larry Estrada looks on.Even as Cardinal Mahony calls for a Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations, he is aggressively moving forward with a plan to appoint non-ordained persons (typically women religious of this variety) as surrogate "pastors" of parishes. This, the Cardinal has said, is the way of the future.
"Furthermore, I am committed to the implementation of this form of parish leadership, which is not a stopgap measure or temporary solution [emphasis mine] to the diminishing number of priestly and Religious vocations." [source]Sister Susan Slater is one of the pioneers of this "new way of being church." She is the "Parish Life Director" of St. Stephen's Parish in the L.A. suburb of Monterey Park. Father Larry Estrada is the "Sacramental Minister" who comes in from the sidelines only when something needs to be done ex opere operato. Otherwise, Sister's in charge.
According to THE TIDINGS,
"[Sister Slater] likes to promote the idea, which she has voiced to anxious parishioners wondering who will pastor them, that 'many people pastor you.'"This, of course, flies in the face of what the Church teaches about the unique and indispensable role of the priest for the life of the parish community. In the introduction to the document, THE PRIEST, PASTOR AND LEADER OF THE PARISH COMMUNITY, Pope John Paul II wrote:
"It is therefore of fundamental importance for the parish to have a priest as its pastor and the title of pastor is specifically reserved to the priest. The sacred Order of the presbyterate represents the indispensable and irreplaceable condition for him to be appointed pastor validly (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 521, 1). Certainly, other faithful can actively collaborate with him, even full-time, but because they have not received the ministerial priesthood, they cannot replace him as pastor."Sister Slater arrived at St. Stephen's as its first "pastoral associate" a number of years ago. In an October 2003 edition of THE TIDINGS it was explained ...
"After Sister Slater's pastor took a leave of absence from the parish in February, Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala and the Vicar for Clergy's office recommended she be given extra responsibilities as parish director for five months until a new priest administrator could be named for the parish in July. Sister Slater was able to perform child baptisms, offer Communion services (not Mass), preach the Word, direct funeral liturgies and witness marriages."A new priest administer was never appointed.
Here is Sister Slater today, "embracing a parishioner [boundary violation?] in St. Stephen's vestibule."
(Paula Doyle/THE TIDINGS)
Sister told THE TIDINGS that ...
" ... she has been accepted as a pastoral leader by parishioners. When she wore an alb on the altar for the first time at a prayer service, "a lot of women said it was nice to see me up there --- even older women," confided Sister Slater, who feels Catholics can adapt to pastoral leadership changes.""I do whatever the pastor would have done."
Working six days a week, and always on Sunday, Sister Slater balances administrative and pastoral duties such as bereavement counseling, marriage preparation and visiting the sick. "I do whatever the pastor would have done," said Sister Slater. She greets parishioners before Mass and makes announcements following the liturgy. Parishioners know she is there for their spiritual needs.
Yes, Sister is doing whatever 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.