Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—July 9, 2006
Thoughts About Galas and Other Things
We had a partial report of the Parish’s 25th Anniversary Gala in the bulletin on July 2nd which indicated that the proceeds were approximately $47,700. Whether this is a gross or net figure wasn’t made clear, but who’s counting? What was striking was the editorial comment that the Gala was a great sign of the Parish’s unity. It is difficult to see how such a conclusion could be arrived at, since the event was attended by only 125 people (approximately) and could hardly be characterized as drawing from a representative cross-section of the Parish.
The generosity of those attending (contributions of ≈$760 per couple) is commendable, but we need to ask ourselves is this the sort of Parish that we really want—one supported on special occasions with large donations from a small group of people? The model of a tithing parish supported week in and week out by a large cross-section of the parishioners is one that was very successful in the past and seems closer to the notion of a community where everyone has a stake rather than one in which only a few can realistically contribute. Even though Holy Spirit sits in upper class, well-to-do North McAllen, it is only recently that events in which a family spends almost $800 in an evening would be thought of as an appropriate way to raise money or have a parish celebration.
“But our contemplative and mystical traditions won’t let us forget that God is ultimately mystery and we know far less about God than we sometimes think. Do we really believe that we know the truth about God, the truth about the Spirit of God, the truth about grace and redemption? Do we believe, on a completely different and subservient level, that we know precisely what structures best serve the vitality and mission of the Church in any given period of history? Some of us apparently do. And we cannot tolerate any doubt about our convictions whatsoever. When this happens, we make idols of our ideologies masking them as theological givens.
“Perhaps it is the nature of religious conviction and belief that we assume a defensive, superior posture not only against other religious traditions but also against fellow believers who embrace our common faith from different perspectives. It is precisely against this faulty religious fidelity that the prophets of all ages speak out so strongly. The prophets of old understood more clearly than we do today that the most blinding fault of the true believer is always idolatry – making a historically conditioned understanding of God’s mysterious ways into immutable truths that stand in no need whatsoever of further plumbing and reflection.
“…What is so striking about the present cultural wars engaging many of the developed Euro-American countries is that they are only minimally doctrinal in nature if doctrinal at all—understanding doctrine here as revealed teaching. More often than not, the matters so fiercely contested are about church structures, ecclesiastical disciplines, the role of the laity, and the hot button issues of accountability, transparency, and governance. What is at stake, it should be clear, is not revealed truth but long-standing lines of control and power.”
From Faith That Dares to Speak, Rev. Donald Cozzens. Submitted by fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña
The Sunday Bulletin of April 9th did not have a report of the collections for the weekend of April 1st and 2nd. Using the average of the collections from 10/16/05 for that weekend and the reported amounts for the other weekends, we can estimate that since 10/16/05 parishioners have donated $54,790.95 less than the $551,000 the parish budget called for during that period. If the spending patterns of the last fiscal year have continued (13.4% over budget), then this gives a total of $128,596.83 of red ink (versus budget) for the period 10/16/05 to 7/2/06. Stretching that pattern for an entire year, the Parish would fall short by $175,974.60
Downfall of a Priest
DARIEN, Conn., July 8 — The Rev. Michael Jude Fay repeatedly spent thousands of dollars on luggage, jewelry and designer clothes, even though his salary was a modest $28,000 a year.
To many of his parishioners at St. John Roman Catholic Church in Darien, Father Fay's lavish ways came as a shock nearly two months ago when the Diocese of Bridgeport demanded his resignation because of questions about his suitability for the priesthood, his lifestyle and his financial stewardship of the church.
Parishioners say there were warning signs about his spending, such as a black-tie bash he threw for himself at one of the premier hotels in Manhattan in May 2003 to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the priesthood. But the Bridgeport Diocese did not pressure him to step aside until this year, after private investigators hired by the parish's bookkeeper and associate pastor documented at least $200,000 in questionable spending by Father Fay.
For all his outward success, it was evident that Father Fay had an appetite for little luxuries, such as the blond highlights his Darien hairdresser said he put in his hair. A small bridal shower he threw for a Sunday school teacher had a three-piece combo and jaw-dropping flower arrangements, a person who attended said.
Parishioners said he spent thousands of dollars sprucing up the church and expanding the house where the priests lived. When one parent questioned the cost of a tapestry, Father Fay cut her off by saying, “What makes you think it wasn't a gift?”
Parishioners would call the office, wanting to discuss their problems with the priest, she said, and “every time Jude would get on the phone, he'd roll his eyes.” Over time, she and others said, they noticed that he left more of the pastoral work to his parochial vicar, the Rev. Michael J. Madden.
Father Fay did not relinquish his tight control over the church's finances, however, according to the church's bookkeeper, and the investigators she and Father Madden hired in May to look into possible improprieties at the church.
Father Fay typically kept donations to the church in his desk drawer instead of promptly depositing them in the church's bank account, making it difficult to track how the funds were used, said one of the investigators hired by Father Madden.
In recent years, Father Fay also picked the members of the church's lay boards rather than let parishioners cast ballots, as they once did.
In April, the bookkeeper and Father Madden took their concerns to the diocese. Father Fay appeared before the bishop on May 9 to respond to the allegations but left without being relieved of his duties.
Frustrated, the bookkeeper and Father Madden asked investigators to review records the bookkeeper had copied. On May 17, these investigators took their findings to the Darien police. The bishop asked Father Fay to resign and to leave the premises that same day. NY Times, 7/9/06.
Mi Casa Es Su Casa
Rumors are constant in any community, and they are even contradictory ones floating around at the same time. We keep hearing that the Monsignor is soon moving on to another parish—“it’s just another month or so.” We also hear that the current rectory is going to be sold, and those proceeds, together with 25th Anniversary profits, will be put to building a new rectory on the Parish grounds. Those two rumors are certainly at odds, right? No pastor would so irresponsible as to put another financial burden on a parish just as he was leaving it, would he? Certainly no pastor would put personal comfort above needed maintenance of the parish plant.
Maybe the rumors aren’t true. We’ll have to see.
Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. 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 mailto:email@example.com
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