March 21, 2017
Handing on The Spirit: Sisters in Ministry is a series of writings that feature our Sisters in action! The Sisters share how their ministries advance the Society’s mission and hand on our Holy Child values — compassion, confidence, creativity, respect, and joy — to others.
By Susan M. Slater, SHCJ,
Pastoral Associate, Assumption of the BVM, Pasadena, CA
My coming to minister at Assumption Parish in the Fall of 2014 was like a homecoming, not for me personally, but for the Society. Our Sisters had begun the parish school in the late 1950’s and then withdrew because of personnel shortages in the mid 1970’s. Finding out that I was a Sister of the Holy Child prompted several “old-time parishioners” to remember fondly those Sisters who had taught their children so many years ago. Our pastor, Fr. Gerard O’ Brien, is in his late fifties, and like the founding pastor, Monsignor Timothy Crean whom our sisters worked with, he is from Tralee, Ireland.
The tasks of Pastoral Associate are as varied as assisting parishioners seeking marriage annulments to interviewing young parents desiring to baptize their children. I relate to the pastor as a colleague, someone with whom he can consult and discern. I attend Deanery meetings with him, as well as staff, Finance Council, and Liturgy committee meetings. When Fr. O’Brien is away from the parish, I am the “point person.” On almost a daily basis, I am called to help the business manager and/or the secretaries in some aspect of their ministries. I enjoy this informal mentoring and can see the real benefit of being around the office when the pastor is unavailable.
While the formal pastoral associate work is satisfying, my ministry in Adult Faith Formation is the most life-giving. Periodically I offer a short course such as the study group I facilitated on Laudato Si’ or the most recent offering on A Biblical Walk Through the Mass. Each Advent and Lent I try to arrange for some kind of special, seasonal prayer/liturgical experience for adults of the parish. This Fall I initiated an evening of enrichment and fellowship for our Liturgical Ministers in the hopes that it will become an annual event.
The parish is fortunate to have two lay women, graduates of the Archdiocesan Bible Institute, to share their knowledge and expertise as ongoing leaders of Bible Study. Still other lay leaders conduct parent sessions for the children’s Faith Formation Program or for parents baptizing their children. I see myself as a resource person and advocate for these lay ministers as well as for heads of ministries. Finally, I have the privilege of mentoring/supervising our young Coordinator of Faith Formation for children and teens. Being able to get involved in so many aspects of the parish as well as in my specialty of adult faith formation is the ideal position for me!