Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Newsletter of 02/06/05

Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—February 6, 2005

The Beatitudes
When we feed the hungry, we are saints; when we ask why they are hungry, they call us communists. Dorothy Day.

Sheila O’Keefe O’Brien died November 27, in Tallahassee, Florida. She was a gentle, smiling woman who led the formation of the local Pax Christi USA chapter, the Tallahassee Citizens Against the Death Penalty, and was an unwavering force on the Tallahassee Network for Peace and Justice. She was appointed to the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission and was involved with those who raised the awareness that led to the release of 26 innocent people from Florida’s death row.

At her funeral, in the packed cathedral of 500 people, her pastor said that when Jesus created the Beatitudes he looked down through the ages to his disciples of future generations. In the 20th and 21st centuries, "He saw Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Sheila O’Brien among those living the Beatitudes". National Catholic Reporter, January 7, 2005.

“Just weeks before the scheduled execution of serial killer Michael Ross, Connecticut’s Catholic bishops urged the state’s more than one million Catholics 'to make their voices heard’ by calling for repeal of the death penalty….The Connecticut bishops each issued letters outlining the Catholic church’s opposition to capital punishment that were to be read at all Masses January 8th and 9th”. National Catholic Reporter, January 26, 2005.

The contrast between the Catholicism that is preached from the pulpits and being exhorted to practice in the parishes of Tallahassee and Connecticut, and the Catholicism being presented in our parish is not only sharp, but is deeply disturbing to anyone who has listened to the Scripture readings of the last few Sundays.

Peace and Justice Commission Meeting.
At the Peace and Justice Commission meeting on January 31st, our Pastor refused to provide any justification to the gathered Commission for his limiting its activities. He told the group that he had made a decision and owed the group no explanations—even though he indicated he was willing to meet individually to discuss the matter.

After some unruly time, the Commission began to work its way through the agenda, with the discussions punctuated by comments from the group reminding the Pastor that simple charity is never enough—the Gospel compels us to seek changes in society so that social injustice is corrected; we must do more than bind those wounded by it.

Throughout the evening, our Pastor voiced, again and again, the sentiment that systemic change is impossible and we must content ourselves with direct help to those closest to us.

The defeat of slavery began with the voices of a few Christian abolitionists, the British were driven from India by the insistent voice of one man inspired by Christ’s Beatitudes, civil rights were won for Black Americans by a few voices speaking out, guided by their understanding of the Gospel, and a whole world was changed by twelve people who believed in the message they heard that day on the Mount.

The Parish Council
"…In this council, which is presided over by the parish priest, Christ's faithful, together with those who by virtue of their office are engaged in pastoral care in the parish, give their help in fostering pastoral action." (Canon Code 536.1)

On the weekend of February 12-13, we will have an opportunity to nominate people to serve on an interim Parish Council (why the current Council cannot serve until the Diocese “develops its guidelines” is not at all clear).

What will happen with these nominations?
What qualifications should members of the Council have?
How will the Council function?
What are to be its responsibilities?

These are only a few of the questions that should be answered before we are asked to put people’s names forward.

Letters, We Get Letters…
What follows is from a letter sent to our Pastor in December:

“It is with great sadness that we are writing this letter. After more than 8 years of growing and celebrating our faith as members of Holy Spirit Parish, we find it necessary to terminate our membership and move on.

“…We have appreciated greatly the challenge to growth that it has provided with the continuous invitation to serve the poor, reach out to the needy, struggle for social justice, develop a mission consciousness, serve the youth and the elderly and celebrate the faith that unites us in meaningful and Spirit-filled liturgical celebrations.

“All of that has changed since you have become the pastor of Holy Spirit. You have quenched the Spirit in Holy Spirit and have substituted external symbols and meaningless, outdated ritual in its place. You have closed yourself to the involvement and input of us as parishioners and have set yourself up as the sole authority and only instrument of God’s action in the parish.

This ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’ (cf Mt 12:31) cries out to heaven as the parish itself is dying… .”

“…Therefore we pray that God will have mercy on you, on Bishop Pena for what you have done to this formerly alive, vibrant community of faith. And once again, Jesus wept.”

Ron and Janella Frankl Reicks, former Parishioners.

The Church in the Desert, Part Two
Along with the rights we have as members of the Church, comes responsibility. We have the responsibility to actively claim and live out our rights and our faith. Yes, we have a right to be a Vatican II Church – but just as Vatican II gave voice and a place for laity, it also asks the laity to step up to the plate. As Ghandi has said, we have to “be the change.”

Yes, our Church is in a desert time, but that does not necessarily mean a barren time. Jesus actively went to the desert to spend time in prayer, to seek clarity, to gain wisdom and courage. Jesus sought His Father in the desert and then renewed in strength went out in compassion to “be the change.” And so it should be with our Lent in our desert.

The desert can seem harsh, but it is also a place full of life and growth if we search and listen. We must keep in mind the words of Margaret Mead as we journey: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” From a Parishioner

A Brief Note
The Pastor has asked the Choir Director to tell a parishioner that she is no longer welcome to sing in the choir because "she does not support me 100% and has been defiant." Not singing out of tune, you understand, but just hearing a different drummer.

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted to Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of “Holy Spirit” in your title line.

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