I am personally excited about the commissioning of the Parish Council for 2020-2021 this coming Sunday. Msgr. Torgerson will be blessing each member of the Council, as well as praying for the success of our determined goals for the coming year. This is a new chapter in the life of our Community.
This is my first tenure leading the Council and I am so truly honored to have this amazing group of Council members working along side me to achieve our challenging objectives during these turbulent times. They represent a diverse cross-section of the Parish in every aspect, and each brings a vibrant perspective to the table.
Further along on these refreshed pages you can get to meet your Council individually as you read each of their mini-biographies. I’ve tried to explain a bit about what the Parish Council is all about and how we function as a representative body at St Monica. You will also notice I’ve explained the make-up and functioning of our five Ministry Councils. Along with our healthy number of ministries, we all work hand-in-glove to assist the Pastor and his leadership team to fulfill the mission of creating loving disciples who will transform the world.
I wanted to remind you that over the coming months, members of the Parish Council will be hosting our Virtual Holy Grounds on various weekdays - come chat with us, log in, and meet us.
I invite you to share your thoughts, concerns, questions, ideas with us. We have a dedicated email address which is continually monitored: - as well as a telephone contact (310) 566-1522 to leave a voicemail.
We thank you for your continued support and prayers.
Chairman - St Monica Parish Council
The Parish Council advises the Pastor on a wide range of issues including, but not limited to: developing a Pastoral Plan, providing feedback on ministry outreach, and shaping our response to public health crises. Effectively, the council acts as additional eyes, ears, and mouth of the Pastor. Our Council has been in place since 2000 and our primary mission is:
To be an advisory leadership body, guided by the Holy Spirit and the Gospel, that assists the Pastor and the Parish Staff in discerning the needs of the Parish and, by recommending strategic goals and priorities, guides the Parish in fulfilling its mission as a Christian Community.
Our Parish Council consists of our pastor, Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson, Chair Person Peter Heller, Vice chairperson Cheryl Thode, a maximum of two representatives for each of the five Ministry Councils, four at-large members appointed by the pastor, the Director of Administration, Felipe Sanchez, and the Director of Development & Strategic Communications, Merrick Siebenaler.
The Council’s deliberative process is guided by a Covenant Book that sets out its role as threefold: to investigate, ponder, and make recommendations on Parish matters. We meet every other month, but will engage on urgent issues between regular meetings.
The Council aims to reflect the diversity of voices in our Community and its members are open to feedback, ideas, and questions.
To reach the current Chair of our Parish Council, Peter Heller, contact [email protected] or call (310) 566-1522 to leave a voicemail. Depending on the nature of your query, you may be connected with a specific Council member, who may introduce your concern at a future meeting or discuss it with the Pastor directly.
Peter has been a member of St. Monica for 24 years, having been transferred from the New York area to lead a team of British Airways managers in North America as Regional Director. He discovered our Community walking around town one Sunday afternoon; the energy from the Church was overwhelming, and he was sold. A graduate of Fordham University, Peter has run 15 marathons and travels extensively, only recently returning from Madagascar. He currently heads up the Parish Council and has had the privilege of being a part of several ministries over the years, including the Africa Ministry at St Monica, where he has led five groups of parishioners to Kenya, Stephen Ministry, Worship & Liturgy Ministry Council, Eucharistic Ministry, and GLO.
Cheryl has been a member of St. Monica Catholic Community for several years, however, she only became an active member eight years ago, after being encouraged to attend a YMA event. From that point on, she caught the St. Monica "spirit" and became actively involved in various ministries, including YMA, Marriage, Confirmation, and Liturgy. Her connection to St. Monica has only grown through these years, having met and married her husband in our Community, and baptizing their son at St. Monica. This is Cheryl’s fifth year on Council and she is currently the Vice-chair. Professionally, she is a litigation attorney, defending hospitals and physicians in medical malpractice lawsuits.
This is Jakub’s second year as an at-large member of the Parish Council. He hails from the Czech Republic and moved to California for his doctoral studies. He now works as a research professor at USC, where his focus is on the affordability of care and on innovative therapies. Jakub plays the violin in two orchestras and since joining the parish in 2014, he has regularly played the violin during our Sunday Masses. Aside from the Music Ministry, he is on the core team of the Holy Cross Africa Ministry, focusing on education, youth, and medical initiatives supporting our Sister Parish in Dandora, Kenya.
While looking for a new faith community in 2001, Mike responded to an invitation from a friend of a friend who had gone through the RCIA program at St. Monica. After attending a YMA welcome dinner and Social, he knew he had found his new home. In addition to the YMA Social Committee, he has enjoyed being part of the TTF Core team, Community Life Ministry Council Chair, and Parish Council. Mike currently works as a Senior Mechanical Engineer at Amgen, developing new medical devices and he has a keen passion for Automotive Racing.
Diane has been a member of St. Monica Catholic Community since that first date with her husband Thom, in December 1996. Since then, she has been involved in several ministries, including the Worship and Liturgy Ministry Council, Eucharistic Ministry, and the Women’s Cornerstone Core Team. Currently, she acts as the chair for the Faith Formation Ministry Council and is privileged to teach in the Bridges program. Diane is a proud St. Monica Schools parent, her children will both be “lifers” when their son graduates from SMCHS in 2022.
Joe has been a member of St Monica for over 11 years. He was first introduce to the Community by his sister, and eventually met his wife, got married, and baptized his children at St. Monica. He has served on Vespers, YMA Core Team, YMA Retreats Team, YMA Welcome Committee, Men’s Cornerstone, Community Life Ministry, and the Black Lives Matter Committee. Professionally, Joe serves on the ULI Leadership Initiative Council, Lusk Center for Real Estate and teaches at the USC Sol Price School as an Adjunct Professor. He is a Finisher of the 140.6 mile Ironman Triathlon and is Founder and Chairman of Pathway to Peace, The Patricia and Jessica Lutz Foundation. Joe works in Real Estate Development and holds a BS in Architecture from Ohio State University, Master of Architecture from Clemson University and Master of Real Estate Development from USC.
Kevin was born and raised in Chicago, and has been part of the St. Monica Community for the past 6 years. When he moved here, he struggled to find a meaningful church but, thankfully, one of his college friends invited him to the 5:30 p.m. Sunday Mass. He never expected that the invitation would eventually result in finding a family. It took him a few years before getting seriously involved in Ministry, but once engaged, he quickly jumped into serving on the Thanksgiving Dinner and Boutique Committee, Holy Cross Africa Ministry & YMA. Kevin currently works in marketing at Game Show Network.
Brianna is a nurse practitioner at UCLA Hospital. In her free time, she enjoys chasing waterfalls and exploring nature. She’s been at St. Monica for 6 years and was introduced by an acquaintance, a potential roommate, who loved the music and environment at St. Monica. It didn’t take long for Brianna to quickly became actively involved at St Monica, especially with YMA. Over the years, Brianna has gained lifelong friends and has experienced a shift in her faith life. She had a ‘fire’ lit within her to do more for those in need, whether it involved fighting for racial injustice for Black Lives, or helping the homeless through the Thanksgiving Boutique.
Born and raised Catholic, Nico has been a parishioner for 8 years. He grew up in Whittier, and his first job was at Disneyland, in both the legal and the finance fields. Msgr. Torgerson was the first person to call him after a car accident in 2012; that was his auspicious introduction to our Community. A few friendly faces and warm greetings later, he was involved with the GLO Ministry, Hospitality Ministry, the Thanksgiving Dinner and Boutique Committee. He now lives in Koreatown, but still feels “at home” at St Monica, despite the considerable distance. He is working for Alzheimer's awareness, motivated by an affected mother and grandmother.
Alexandra (Ali) has been involved in several ministries at St. Monica, including Women's Cornerstone, YMA, Thanksgiving Dinner and Boutique, and the Lector Ministry, siince she entering into the church through the RCIA program in 2008. Ali works as an analyst in the healthcare field and enjoys spending time with friends and family, traveling, and cooking inher spare time.
Rosemarie has been an active St. Monica Catholic Community, a parishioner since 2010 when, on a lark, she traveled with fellow parishioners to Nairobi, Kenya. It was a 'baptism by fire' in the discovery of new ministries, meeting new friends, and witnessing her faith evolve. It's been an amazing adventure and she believes true collaboration and development of shared goals deliver sustainable growth. Ideally, Rosemarie would like to expand the impact of our Parish and for all to feel genuinely welcome to create their own memorable faith experiences.
Dr. Mike Gruning and his wife, Susan, started attending St. Monica 31years ago, but he did not become involved until he participated in the Cornerstone Retreat in 2017. Mike became Lay Director for the Retreat in 2018 and this year managed the cooking and all of the men’s meals. He also learned about Fishers of Men in 2017 and has been a weekly participant since that time. Mike became a CSAP Minister (Communion Service in Absence of a Priest) last year, assisting at Berkeley East, until the pandemic hit. Mike was asked to be part of the Admin Council and joined Parish Council in 2019.
Nicole is a clinical psychologist and director of an outpatient trauma and mental health center. She became a parishioner in 1999 to enroll her two young daughters in Faith Formation. Initially a Christmas/Easter Catholic, life’s challenges, including the seven week coma of her teen-aged daughter, changed all that. Clearly, she could not survive without more spiritual focus. In 2013, she attended the nine-month JustFaith program, where the overwhelming needs of the world awoke a yearning in her for more spiritual sustenance, like attending the 6:30 a.m. Daily Mass. She was invited to become a Eucharistic Minister and, later, completed training for the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. She now serves on the Parish Council as a representative for the Pastoral Care and Social Justice Ministry Council, several parish task forces to address changes as a result of Covid-19, and among other responsibilities, she created and co-leads a Spirituality Group along with a woman rabbi.
In general, the purpose of each Ministry Council is to:
Therefore, each of the over 100 ministries and activities in the St Monica Catholic Community is covered by a designated Ministry Council. Two representatives of each Ministry Council sit on the Parish Council. In this way, the needs, concerns, ideas, recommendations and voice of each ministry can be brought to the attention of the full Parish Council, the Pastor and the leadership team.
Below is a representative list of the Ministry Councils, their Staff Advisors, Council Reps, and some of their Ministries.
Staff Advisor: Dale Sieverding
Parish Council Representatives: Rosemary Ryder and Nico Jimenez
Hospitality, Lectors, Eucharistic Ministry, Sacristans, Altar Servers, General Liturgy Committee, First Friday Adoration, Funeral, Art & Environment, 5:30 Vigil Liturgy Team, 5:30 Sunday Liturgy Team, Liturgical Dance, Sacramental Prep (Marriage Information Nights, Infant Baptism Prep), Special Events (Seder Dinner, Simbang Gabi).
Staff Advisor: Felipe Sanchez
Parish Council Representative: Michael Gruning
Administration Ministries, Holy Grounds, Strategic Planning (Five-year Plans), Human Resources, Leadership Development.
Staff Advisors: Delis Alejandro & Christine Gerety
Parish Council Representative: Nicole Gilbert
Pastoral Care: Always Beginning, Hope at the Door, Phoenix Ministry, Stephen Ministry, Unemployed Together, Health Ministry, Eucharistic Ministry to the Sick (Communion Service in Absence of a Priest - CSAP, Homebound, Hospital, Nursing Home), Active Duty Prayer Board, Bereavement Ministry, COVID-19 Response Ministry.
Peace and Justice: Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl, Catholic Social Teaching, Just Faith, Green Team, Habitat for Humanity, Holiday Outreach (Adopt-a-Family, Toy Drive), African Ministry (Education, Veronika’s Place, Visitation Maternity, Trips), Loaves and Fishes, Ministry to the Currently and Formerly Incarcerated, Homeless Action Network, Westside Coalition, Respect Life, St Francis Pet Ministry, St Robert’s Center Weekend Food Pantry, Samoshel, Turning Point, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH).
Staff Advisors: Delis Alejandro & Christine Gerety
Parish Council Representatives: Joe Lutz & Mike McColligan
Young Ministering Adults (YMA), Theology on Tap, Vespers, Retreats, Thanksgiving Dinner and Clothing Boutique, Film Club, Gay and Lesbian Outreach (GLO), Parish-wide Events (Pancake Breakfast, St Patrick’s Day Party, All-Parish Movie Night, Parish Picnic / Feast Day Events,Lenten Sunday Night Soup Suppers), Primetime, Boutique, Thirty-Five Through Forties (TTF).
Staff Advisors: Suzette Sornborger & Dominik Gnirs
Parish Council Representative: Diane Gaspar
RCIA, Men’s Cornerstone, Women’s Cornerstone, Confirmation Prep, First Eucharist Prep, Early Childhood, Religious Education Grades 1-8, Children’s Mass / Children’s Liturgy of the Word, Vacation Bible School, Voices of Faith (Catholic Conversations, Parish Missions, JimFinley meditation events), Small Groups (Advent, Lent, Thomas Merton, Legion of Mary,Christian Meditation), Fishers of Men, Women on the Journey, Scripture Encounter, Bridges of Faith.