Hastings native first lay person to serve on archdiocesan tribunal

The archdiocese’s Metropolitan Tribunal, which decides marriage annulment cases, has hired a canon lawyer with a background in politics, theology and pastoral ministry as a judge.

Elizabeth Sondag, a native of Hastings, Neb., is the first lay person and first woman to serve as a judge in the archdiocese. She will gather and examine evidence, and help determine annulment cases as part of three-judge panels.

She joins a staff of four judges, including two permanent deacons and two priests, the judicial vicar, three lay assessors, two defenders of the bond and the promoter of justice.

"Being the only woman judge, I can bring a female perspective and my own experiences, which can offer a unique insight," she said.

Sondag holds a licentiate in canon law, a bachelor’s degree in politics with minors in philosophy and theology, and a pastoral ministry certificate from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

She also did graduate work in theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, and taught religion at a Catholic elementary school in Alton, Ill.

Sondag completed internships with the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees Office, now part of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, in Washington, D.C.

"I studied politics in college, plus was very active in campus ministry. I decided that canon law was the best way of putting my two loves together – my love for the law and my love for the Catholic Church," Sondag said. "The laws of the church seek to protect what God has given to us in the church. It is a gift for me to be able to use my canon law degree now in the service of this church.

"I am grateful to Archbishop Lucas for appointing me as a judge. It is an honor to be the first lay person and woman in this role for the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Omaha," she said.

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