Update: Meeting with Fr. Bert Diaz .
On Wednesday, June 29, 2005, the 5 representatives for the group of concerned parishioners from Holy Spirit Parish met with Fr. Bert Diaz, Chancellor for the Diocese of Brownsville. Fr. Carlos Villareal was also present to take notes for the meeting.
We are grateful to the Bishop and to both Fr. Bert and Fr. Carlos for this opportunity for dialogue. Fr. Bert will be speaking with both the Bishop and Fr. Louis concerning our meeting and will follow-up with the group of parish representatives.
Thank you to all who especially kept Wednesday's meeting in your prayers and who continue to pray for our parish and our priests.
Catholic Church Workers Say Diocese Flouts Their Union.
By LYNN BREZOSKY
Associated Press Writer
HARLINGEN, Texas. Members of what is believed to be the first workers' union in a Roman Catholic Church say church leaders are trying to break the labor contract and undermine the union.
About 50 lay workers at five churches in the Diocese of Brownsville had signed with the United Farm Workers in 2003. But the union says membership is down to about 30 because of the absorption of one church into another and a pastor's pressure on workers at another. A church tribunal is considering whether a new pastor has to abide by the contract.
"During the two years since Aug. 18, 2003, the agreement signed before Judge Ramirez has been broken, and the employees in the diocese and at Holy Spirit have suffered terribly," Rebecca Flores, a spokeswoman for the workers, wrote in a news release.
The workers were under a confidentiality agreement pending the decision of the tribunal.
There are now only three unionized churches, with membership down from about 50 to about 30. Flores, speaking for the workers, said the Rev. Louis Brum, the newest pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen, hasn't met with them to begin healing and offered raises to maintenance workers who quit the union.
Brenda Nettle Riojas, spokeswoman for the diocese, said Brum denied that allegation. She said he told her the only time he talked to employees about the union was when an employee asked if he could be taken out of the union because he couldn't afford the dues.
Riojas said the diocese wasn't sure why the workers were upset.
"We do have a grievance procedure in place, they were notified of the judges, and healing is taking place every single Sunday at Mass," she said.
A church tribunal is scheduled to announce in September whether an incoming pastor needs to be bound by the union contract signed by his predecessor.
Riojas said the diocese is following church procedure and that church attendance remains strong.
Brownsville Bishop Raymundo Pena has repeatedly denied allegations he is anti-union through a diocese spokeswoman and through letters posted on his Web site.
The dispute dates to 2000, when Pena switched pension plans for lay workers in the diocese to save money.
Some workers went to the United Farm Workers union for advice. The United Farm Workers helped the workers draw up labor contracts that were signed by pastors at five churches in May 2002.
The union drew praise from liberal Catholic church groups like Call to Action, which said the church was not applying its own teachings about workers' rights in its own backyard.
"The Catholic Church has always been at the forefront of supporting workers, yet I don't know of any group of employees that is treated more unfairly than the employees of the Catholic Church," Call to Action spokeswoman Linda Pieczynski said.
David Garza, an attorney for the diocese, said then that the church wasn't sure the civilian concept of a union applied to a religious organization with a religious mission.
In June 2003, a new pastor arrived for his first day at Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen with what workers said was a fistful of termination notices for workers.
The action tore the parish in the months that followed, with workers and their supporters boycotting weekly mass, instead staging vigils in front of the church.
Holy Spirit got another new pastor. The Rev. Ruben Delgado, the previous pastor, was reassigned.
Riojas, the diocesan spokeswoman, said more than 3,000 families at Holy Spirit participate in what is again a vibrant parish.
"It's a parish that is coming together and flourishing. Healing is happening every Sunday," she said.
This article was written by Lynn Brezosky, an Associated Press correspondent in Harlingen.
So far, at least three Texas newspapers--the Denton Record-Chronicle, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the Austin American-Statesman--and a Tyler-Longview TV station, have posted it to their online editions this evening. It was carried on Channel-5 News in the Valley. There could be even more widespread coverage by Thursday morning.
Thursday Morning Update: San Antonio Express and The Houston Chronicle also ran the story. It also was front page news in the McAllen Monitor.
More National News!
An Audio Interview of the above News Story may be heard at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4737565
Validity of the Union Contracts.
I have heard the interview concerning the Union Contracts. As per Brenda Rojas, the spokesperson for the Diocese, she said that the Catholic Church has always supported the rights of workers to Unionize and that the only question concerning the Union Contracts was if the local priests actually had the authority to sign the Union Contracts without the Bishop’s approval or permission.
Well, that makes things quite simple… Quit spending all of the Diocese’s money on attorneys and tribunals and just have the Bishop endorse each of the EXISTING Union Contracts… Problem solved!
~A parishioner that is ready to walk out over all of this foolishness!
Is it possible to post Brenda Riojas' telephone number on your site so we can call her for clarification on some of her statements. In spite of being a little ill informed, she seems to be the only diocesan employee who is giving official comments.
Brenda Riojas is the Diocesan Public Relations Director. According to the Diocesan Web Page, she can be reached at (956) 781-5323. Her e-mail address is: email@example.com.
Have had several suggestions that I put together a "Casualty List" of parishioners who have been forbidden by Fr Louis Brum to participate in Church Ministries or other activities of the Parish.
If you have been forbidden to participate in a Parish Ministry or have been instructed NOT to attend an activity of the Parish, please contact me by E-Mail so that I can bring your story forward and include you in our Official Parish "Casualty List".
People Are Not The Only "Casualties" of Fr. Louis Brum.
People are not the only "casualties" of the discriminatory actions of our pastor, Fr. Louis Brum. Our Parish Ministries and Parish Traditions are too!
Everybody knows of the strong Social Justice agenda of Holy Spirit since the beginning of the Parish and of its Peace and Justice Commission. What many do not realize is that the Peace and Justice Commission has been disbanded, shut down by our pastor with no reason and its educational and prophetic missions have been completely silenced. Activities like Affirmation Night and Holy Friday Stations of the Cross in downtown McAllen have all been prohibited by our pastor. More recently, the sponsorship of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton to the Valley. These are all casualties, too!
My personal involvement as a representative of Holy Spirit parish in anti-war demonstrations (my answer to the teachings of the Gospel and to the calling of our Pope for peace in the world) has been harshly criticized by our pastor.
For these reasons and as a member of the ex-Peace and Justice Commission, I declare myself to be a casualty. Because of a capricious decision by my pastor, I cannot perform a ministry that I dearly love and feel strongly called to do.
~Ana L Hallman
The "Real" Casualties at Holy Spirit.
Thank you so much for speaking out, Ana. You are totally correct, but also consider the hundreds of parishioners that have left our Parish because of our Bishop's foolishness. Many have changed religions or are simply no longer coming to church. Those lost souls are the "real" casualties of this Bishop's tenure!
Also, consider that Holy Spirit, previous to the Bishop sending in his troopers, had over 100 active ministries. Holy Spirit was truly a coming together of hundreds of parishioners for Christian causes that extended far beyond our Parish boundaries, contributing to the spiritual and economic needs of many. Where are all of these ministries now? Casualties all!
I would like to commend and praise Ana Hallman's letter about the antiwar demonstrations that are now being discouraged by Fr. Louis Brum. In America, we are all allowed to exercise our freedom of speech. Under a dictatorship style of management, there is no freedom of speech. One can easily compare Fr. Louis Brum's style of management at Holy Spirit to the dictatorships of the previous USSR. Many of our parishioners are now personas non grate because Fr. Louis Brum has stripped them of their rights.... they may only attend Holy Mass. Perhaps one of these days, he will disallow this freedom as well.
Concerning the weekly demonstrations against the war in Iraq, Fr. Louis Brum is not recognizing the Gospel and the Holy Pontiff's relentless efforts to encourage Peace among all nations. Apparently, he also disagrees with the Commandment of "Thou shall not kill."
I cannot believe that an Apostle of Jesus Christ believes in such belligerent fallacies. This is truly not in accordance with Catholic Theology. To add insult to injury, our very own Bishop also must agree with Fr. Brum! So far, he has condoned every action Fr. Louis Brum has taken against the many ministries of our beloved Parish.
We must pray for Fr. Louis Brum and for Bishop Pena as they need our prayers and perhaps someday soon, God will grant us our wishes to return our beloved parish to what it once was....the most vibrant Catholic Parish any of us had ever seen.
~A Concerned Parishioner
More on Church Casualties.
I recently ran across a Small Church Community couple that I had not seen in quite a while. They now attend Baptist Temple. They said they now get nothing out of the services at Holy Spirit. The sad thing is that at one of our small church meetings, they recounted how they had helped their son through a lengthy faith crisis to stay in the Catholic Church. Now, look what has happened to them!
Sadder still is the fact that they could not find another Catholic Church in the area to satisfy them; it points to a larger crisis within our diocese. They still consider themselves Catholics, but can find no peace, no room at the table, at any Catholic parish in their area. These are not some far-out Catholics who want to pick and choose their beliefs, but what I would consider people centered in Catholic tradition and faith.
I think that before Ms. Brenda Nettle Riojas makes any comments about our parish, i.e. "It's a parish that is coming together and flourishing. Healing is happening every Sunday,” she should actually come visit our parish in person, instead of just taking Father Louie's word for it! Don't take all that you hear as the Gospel, Brenda.
~A parishioner who is still hanging on, but wondering until when.
Peace & Justice Commission Announcement.
Since the Holy Spirit Peace & Justice Commission is no longer allowed to place announcements within our Parish Sunday Bulletin, would Reflections of the Spirit please allow us to post the following?
400,000 people have died in Darfur over the past two years.
15,000 continue to die each month.
More than two and a half million people have been displaced from their homes.
The Sudanese government, through its army and militias has murdered, raped and displaced the people of Darfur. They are mostly ordinary farmers and herders, husbands and wives struggling to raise their children and survive in one of the world's harshest environments. Now, through no fault of their own, they are facing man-made horrors that no one should have to bear.
This weekend, people all over the country will be joining together in prayer and political witness to call for an end to the genocide in Darfur.
Prayer for Darfur
Merciful and compassionate Spirit
Be present to the suffering people of Sudan
Shelter the widows and the children
Comfort all who are weary and afraid
Bring relief to those who hunger and thirst
Center our thoughts with those who suffer in silence
Move us to recall our shared humanity
Unite us in our determination to respond to injustice
May we never forget! May we never forget!
Hear our prayer. Make our action swift.
Submitted on behalf of the now disbanded Holy Spirit Peace & justice Commission.
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Friday, July 01, 2005
Update: Meeting with Fr. Bert Diaz .