Friday, June 03, 2005

Letter to the Most Reverend Bishop Raymundo J. Peña.

Parishioners Update

The Following Letter was sent to our Bishop relative to the letter of concern that was signed by 273 Holy Spirit parishioners. We will keep you posted on any progress.

May 27, 2005


Most Reverend Bishop Raymundo J. Peña
Catholic Diocese of Brownsville
700 N. Virgen De San Juan Blvd.
San Juan, Texas 78589

Dear Bishop Peña,

It is with deep sadness and disappointment that we write this letter to you. As you are aware, on April 11, 2005, 273 parishioners of Holy Spirit Church in McAllen shared a number of concerns regarding the parish with the Pastor, Father Louis Brum. Our letter was addressed to Father Louis out of respect for his role as our Pastor and the leader of our parish community, in hopes that he would accept our invitation to work together towards a cooperative resolution of the identified concerns to bring peace and healing to our parish. In this spirit of respect and cooperation, Mark and Michelle Peña, as representatives for the 273 parishioners, contacted Father Louis and requested a meeting between Father Louis and the group of 5 designated representatives. As you know, after considerable time, effort and needed intervention by your office, Father Louis Brum finally agreed to meet with the Peñas.

The Peñas met with Father Louis at their home on May 6, 2005 to explore Father Louis’ willingness to resolve the identified concerns and hopefully begin a process of cooperative resolution for the parish. At the meeting, Father Brum expressed his continued refusal to meet with the five designated representatives, and stated that he would not commit himself to addressing the concerns with any group of people. Father Louis expressed his belief that the letter’s contents consisted of what he described as the “agenda of a few people” and that the problems in the parish were the result of people who were unwilling to let go of the past. Although Father Louis acknowledged that what happened at the parish in June of 2003 regarding the firing of parish staff was “wrong and should never have happened,” he did not express any willingness to reconcile these matters with the parish. Father Louis also shared his personal philosophy that “one must let go of the past” and that “time takes care of things.” He stated that as Catholics, we should take a more obedient role and defer to those in authority. Father Louis espoused embracing a more passive approach to addressing problems and leaving solutions in the hands of those in charge. At the conclusion of the meeting, Father Louis agreed to meet with the Peñas a second time to address these matters. Unfortunately, efforts by the Peñas to schedule a second meeting have been rebuffed by Father Louis, and he has stated that this matter “is not a priority” for him.

The meeting and communications with Father Louis have clearly established that Father Louis chooses to ignore the problems in our parish and refuses to embrace the humility and courage needed by our Pastor to address the concerns of his parishioners. It is with this unfortunate reality that we remember your own message to the parish in June 2003 in which you stated, “As your shepherd in the Valley, I am also very concerned about your welfare and the welfare of the parish. I have asked [the Pastor] to design a plan whereby we can both reach out to all the parishioners to help heal the wound that …the entire community at Holy Spirit [has]… endured. I have also offered to help in any way that I can to bring about harmony and peace to which the Kingdom of God calls us.” Bishop Peña, we now call upon your help.

We understand you have asked Father Maher to assist in resolving this matter. In this regard, we must express our strong reservations about Father Maher’s ability to be an effective and fair mediator in this matter. Specifically, Father Maher has a history with Holy Spirit Parish that had its acrimonious moments, particularly with some of the staff. Also, we understand he has spoken harshly and openly, from his pulpit at St. Joseph’s in Edinburg, about Holy Spirit Parish, its parishioners and staff. These comments include such things as referring to the parishioners as “sinners.” Lastly, Father Maher is perceived to have played a significant role in the disagreements regarding the labor union contract with the parish workers, and he is believed to have written a letter to Bishops in other dioceses concerning his opposition to the Farm Workers Union and provided suggestions on opposing the Union’s efforts. Because of the tremendous hurt and emotions surrounding the events which occurred at the parish, we strongly recommend that any mediator you assign to assist with the resolution of this matter be someone that is not only entrusted with your authority to bring positive change to our parish, but also someone who has no connection or perceived connection with the events of June 18, 2003.

The expediency of this matter cannot be over emphasized. Since the letter was sent to Father Louis in April, hostility by Father Louis towards the parish staff and some parishioners has mounted. Most recently, it has come to our attention that Father Louis has forbidden any parish employees from participating in regular Sunday evening prayer vigils outside the church, because according to Father Louis, “this time is used by people to conspire against him.” Also, Father Louis continues to forbid parishioners from participating in parish ministries because of his perception that they oppose him regarding decisions on parish matters. It is clear Father Louis unreasonably and unjustifiably blames some of the parish staff for the problems at the parish. In essence, the victims of a great injustice continue to be persecuted at the hands of our clergy. This is unacceptable and must end. Our parish must have the support of its Pastor in finding reconciliation and peace. This peace cannot be achieved through hostility and oppression, but is possible only through open communication and mutual respect.

For these reasons, we ask that you please meet with the five of us, representatives of the concerned parishioners, as soon as possible, to set in motion a process by which the concerns raised in the April 11, 2005 Letter from Parishioners of Holy Spirit Church can be properly addressed to bring healing to our parish community. To schedule a meeting, please contact Ana Hallman at 584-3477(home) or
457-8059 (cell).

Yours In Christ,

Mark and Michelle Peña
Mirtala Rodriguez
Gerald Brazier
Ana Hallman

cc: Father Bob Maher and Father Louis Brum

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