Jonathan Sorensen, priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Scottsbluff since 2014, has left to continue his studies on canon law in Washington, D.C.
“This was my first assignment as pastor,” Sorensen said. “Previously, I was an assistant priest for about five years at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Grand Island.”
Sorensen said there was a lot to accomplish once he arrived in Scottsbluff — cleaning up the church, getting to know the people and getting the operation in better working order.
One of the major projects he will remember was a complete renovation of the church originally built in the 1950s.
“That project was truly guided from above,” Sorensen said. “Everything from how it came together all the way to the dedication was a blessing to see. The community was so proud of their church. They even sold tamales in the community to help with construction costs.”
As an added bonus, one of the construction workers on the building later became the groom in the first wedding held in the new church.
Last Sunday, parishioners from the area’s three Catholic churches, along with friends from around the community, showed up at the Guadalupe parish. During this time of social distancing, a drive-by farewell was organized for Sorensen at the church.
“People came in their cars to hand me cards as I stood out front,” he said. “I had gloves on and a mask in case people wanted to shake my hand. Members of the parish were also handing out fresh tacos to go. And every family got a Bible that I signed.”
Sorensen is now in his hometown of Kearney to put some belongings into storage before heading on to Washington, D.C. to continue his studies on Catholic canon law.
“Catholic priests are always doing a lot of studying,” he said. “I spent almost nine years in seminary before my assignment to Grand Island.”
About three years ago, Sorensen began a course of study for an additional degree in canon law, the Catholic Church’s system of law that dates back 1,000 years.
“I’ve been doing the studies online and spending my summers studying in D.C.,” he said. “For the next year I’ll be full time in Washington to finish the degree and write a thesis.”
Once his degree is completed, Sorenson said he will return to Nebraska for a new assignment from the bishop. He thinks it might be in the Grand Island area.
One of the things he said he’s missing already is the good home-cooked Mexican food from the community, as it was almost a daily staple part of his life during his ministry.
And he will miss the people.
“This is such a beautiful place with the church, the neighborhood and people who are here,” he said. “I don’t think I will ever live in a more unique place again in my life. It’s a beautiful cultural place that can almost be like living in another world. It was an incredible experience of leaning a lot more than I teach.”