Monday, July 24, 2006

Newsletter of 07/23/06

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—July 23, 2006

┼John Joseph Fitzpatrick….
I will never forget the first time I met him at a diocesan hearing session for planning in Edinburg. It was November 1st, 1981. We spent the entire morning sharing our responses to three simple questions: What do we like, what don’t we like, and what would we like to see happen. After lunch he had an open forum with the people. People were complaining about not having funds and not having priests. And then it happened, and I knew my life in the Church of Brownsville would be OK. Bishop answered, “I am tired of asking the Bishops north of here for money and priests. We are a poor diocese and we need to learn how to live like we are poor. And, I am tired of asking for priests. The Church is the people, and it is in the people that we need to invest.”

From those hearing sessions came the Diocesan Mission Statement, goals, planning office (chaired by Sr. Marian), diocesan pastoral council, a workable diocesan grievance board (composed of priests, women religious, and laity), and the development of three major divisions. He already had begun the lay ministry/deaconate training program, computerized the fiscal office, and established a pension fund for the employees.

He later would add Pastoral Administrator Training (He wanted a Pastoral Administrator in every parish whether they had a resident priest or not. He wanted to free the priest up to do his priestly duties.), Project Rachel, the Loyola Institute for Ministry, support of Comfort House, Holy Family Birthing Center, Casa Oscar Romero, Military Highway Water Project, Clinica del Valle, and Valley Interfaith.

He attended almost every convention for the United Farm Workers, joined Cesar Chavez for the last leg of the march for wages to Brownsville in 1982, risking being arrested by his own deacons on the steps of the federal court house. Fitz was the first Bishop in the United States to endorse the grape boycott. He stood with us in front of the Detention Center in Los Fresnos protesting immigration policies. He was in court each day with Stacey Merkt and Jack Elder each time they were on trial. We used to joke that he didn’t wear a pectoral cross because he carried a big cross on his back.

He would not allow a priest into the seminary program unless they admitted they could work with women and valued the laity. And 'with' was the key word. He didn’t want people to work for him, but with him. He was an active member of the Texas Conference of Churches, which continues to give out the Fitzpatrick Award for work in justice each year. He certainly did not have the support of all the clergy, or the politically and religiously right wing element of the Church. But he never waned from supporting laity and women, being one of the first Bishops to have a woman chancellor. And three out of the first four pastoral administrators he appointed were women, including one laywoman.

Fitzpatrick told me many times how much he loved the people at Holy Spirit Parish and was so proud of all that we had accomplished. He would brag about us all the time. He was here for our 10th and 20th anniversary. We loved him as well and he was the recipient of our first Peace and Justice Affirmation Award in 1989. And, he stood by his clergy even when they were arrested for transporting submachine guns to Mexico, he stood by them when he confronted them lovingly to get treatment for pedophilia, alcoholism, anorexia, or sex addictions. He stood by them when they were dying of AIDS. He stood by them when they came to him admitting they had fallen in love and were leaving the priesthood. He always called them brothers not sons. He stood by us all.

It was apparent by the numbers who came from far and near to pay their last respects to him that whitewashing over his picture at Casa Romero could not erase the legacy of this man. His final gift of his priestly stole to his friend Sr. Adrian Claire said it all. Praise God he gave us a taste of a Post Vatican II Church, something we may never again experience in our lifetime.

As they wheeled his coffin down the aisle for the last time it occurred to me that this was the first time he left the altar area and did not come down to a chorus of applause. We were all using our hands to wipe away the tears. To quote John Shea, “Fitzpatrick’s crozier was as lean as a prophet's staff and his ring fit the finger of everyone.”

¡Viva Fitzpatrick! From a fellow parishioner.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words
“He was a quiet, simple man who served the Church with fidelity and steadfastness.” Bishop Peña on Bishop John J. Fitzpatrick [who died on July 15th]

“He [Fitzpatrick] believed in helping people. Sometimes it was not the popular thing to do, but he believed it was the right thing to do.” Brenda Nettles Riojas, Diocese of Brownsville spokesperson

After Fitzpatrick stepped down (in 1992), the Diocese phased out Casa Oscar Romero, a center he had established that took in Central Americans fleeing from civil strife in their own countries. based on a McAllen Monitor report, July 16, 2006.

Sister Joan Chittister uses the analogy of an oyster for the church and our faith life as well. During spawning season, sand invades oysters and the oysters emit a gel to try to keep out the sand. The end of this process is the creation of the pearl. Without the opening up and the success of the irritation of the sand, the oyster remains only an oyster. The oyster only becomes more valuable, only discovers the treasure it can hold and produce when the sand can claim its place in the oyster.

And so it goes for our church and our hearts. Our church will remain shut up tight and unable to discover the treasure it holds unless it can open up to God’s will—even the parts that are challenging and discomforting. Jesus was constantly a grain of sand, rocking the boat and upsetting the status quo. As the “stone the builders rejected,” Jesus continually refocuses our attention to God’ will and God’s love. We are continually challenged as a Church and in our hearts to find the treasure that results from embracing the uncomfortable.
Submitted by fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

$$$$$ Update
According to the Sunday bulletins, since 10/16/05 parishioners have donated $61,852.32 less than the $580,000 the parish budget has called for (this includes an estimate for the weekend of April 2, since no data was ever reported for that date). If the spending patterns of the last fiscal year have continued (13.4% over budget), then this gives a total of $139,542.72 of red ink (versus budget) for the period 10/16/05 to 7/16/06. Stretching that pattern for an entire year, the Parish would fall short by $181,405.53.

The Eucharistic Community
We bring our entire lives to the Eucharistic table each Sunday. In a special way, we bring to that table the work we do with and for our parish community. When we minister and when we witness the Gospel, whether to each other within the Parish or within the larger community with our fellow parishioners, we are acting as a Eucharistic Community, which is affirmed and strengthened by our sacramental meal, which unites us to the saving work of Christ, His death and resurrection.

To say to a parishioner that they can come to Mass but are not allowed to participate in any other parish ministry is a direct contradiction of the very meaning of the Eucharistic celebration. Aside from being personally hurtful to people and harmful to the effectiveness of parish ministries, such an edict creates a disconnect and a disunity that can best be described as sacrilegious.

Exclusionary practices based on prejudice, personal animus, misinformation, etc. are more than unjust, they are a violation of the most fundamental foundation of the Church—the Eucharistic Community.

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

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Anonymous said...

What a moving account of Bishop Fitzpatrick; many thanks to the parishioner who wrote it. Bishop Pena is not worthy of even speaking his name! But that could change; Pena could see the light and become a true folllower of Christ. Continue to pray for this.

Anonymous said...

Re: Eucharistic Community
I just can not understand how our Bishop can continue to call himself a man of God when he so openly allows the exclusionary practices of Father Louis to continue at Holy Spirit.
Father Louis' methods have been called to his attention time and time and time again. Certainly he doesn't think that what his appointed one is doing is in any way strengthing our Eucharistic Community? Bishop Pena, it is time you quit playing games and address the issue!

Anonymous said...

Amen, Bishop Peña!

Ana Hallman said...

I believe bishop Gumbleton words can help us understand and give meaning to the struggle we have been experiencing as parishioners of Holy Spirit, and as members of the Catholic Institution. For some they may be consoling, for others, hopefully inspiring.

Excerpts from Bishop Gumbleton's July 16, 2006 homily.

Today’s lesson and the role of prophecy, I think, becomes a little bit more clear in that first lesson of the prophet Amos. To understand what was happening, we should know that Amos was from the part of the chosen people, the kingdom of Judah , that had been split away from the kingdom of Israel. The kingdom of Israel was very rich and prosperous, the king was Jeroboam, and his chief priest was Amaziah, as we heard in the lesson. Amos is a shepherd, out of the kingdom of Judah, called by God, though, to leave his work as shepherd and go into the mighty kingdom of Israel -- the rich and powerful kingdom -- and there speak God’s word. And he speaks the word that is threatening to the king. “Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, then sent word to King Jeroboam. Amos is conspiring against you in the very center of Israel. What he says goes too far. These are his very words, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword and Israel shall be exiled from its land.’” That was God’s word to the king. But Amaziah, the priest who was protecting the king, did not want him to hear that word, and Jeroboam did not want to hear it. So Amaziah says to Amos, “Leave here, you’re just a shepherd, get out of here, go back to where you came from. We don’t need you.” And what had happened? The king, supposedly, had a group of prophets, and he had this priest, Amaziah, who was the priest in the king’s chapel at Bethel. But that priest and those prophets always said only what they thought the king wanted to hear, they were not true prophets. So that’s why God had to raise up somebody like Amos who could speak the truth, and who would speak the truth, no matter what.
This was a development that took place as the chosen people began to become more structured into a structured religious community. You know, in the very beginning, when God chose the people of Abraham and Sarah and then later on made the covenant with them through Moses, there was no structure, they were simply God’s people. First moving through the desert, then becoming established. It was only later that they began to have a structure. They asked for a king and God gave them a king, even though God said it would not be for their best interest.
Then they began to institutionalize their religious practice. This is usually what happens -- you start with someone who’s very charismatic -- Moses, leading the people. Then Moses becomes overwhelmed by the responsibilities and he sets up the structure of the 70 elders and later on the whole priestly structure.
Well all of that, then, begins to act in a way to protect the structure, the institution. People tend to forget the original mission. That’s what had happened to the chosen people, to God’ people. They had a temple or a sanctuary, they had a priesthood, and they had prophets, but they really weren’t speaking God’s words. The priests were not really challenging the king or the people, they were there only to protect the institutional structure. And that’s why God had to raise up someone like Amos -- to come and tell the truth. This outsider, this person who had no claim to any special authority, a poor shepherd, but one speaking God’s Word.
If we take all of that and think about ourselves as the community of disciples of Jesus and the church, which is how we name our community, haven’t we done some of the same things that the chosen people did? We’ve established structures, we’ve established an institutional church, and that’s so different from what it was in the beginning. Did you hear in today’s Gospel? Jesus has drawn together a community of disciples -- they’re all equal in freedom and dignity, there’s no ones that are above the others, and no ones ruling the others. And he sends them out to preach the Word. To say God’s message. They are to go out without any wealth, without any power, without any worldly tool that will enable them to force themselves on others. They go out poor, they go out without any structured community. They go out simply to say God’s word. And so the message begins to spread.
We could think, I suppose, why couldn’t it always be that way? We do need some structure. If we depended only on charismatic leaders, pretty soon the community would fall apart, and so we need some structure. But the danger is that at some point, we make too much of the structure, too much of the institution, and not enough of the message of the Word of God that we’re supposed to be hearing and living and proclaiming.
But God still sends those who come from outside sometimes, who try to awaken us to become what we’re really called to be -- a community of disciples of Jesus. I think of World War II as an example where our church failed in the face of a tyranny and an evil that was unbelievably evil -- the Nazi tyranny. The church in Germany failed to speak a prophetic word to that tyranny. Why? Because they had entered into an agreement with the Nazi dictatorship in 1933. Hitler would allow the church to have its schools if the bishops of the church would agree they would not allow their priests to preach any so-called political message. And so the Church became virtually silent during those years. There were a few exceptions -- a peasant in Austria, Franz Jägerstätter, and a few others like him said, “No! I won’t serve in Hitler’s army,” and he was executed. A whole group of young people connected with the universities called the White Rose group -- the same thing -- they spoke the truth; most of them were executed. The church refused to listen. It was more concerned about its institutional structures than about God’s Word. So we failed.
Our side too failed in World War II. The Allies, led by the United States, began to engage in carpet bombing of cities, killing hundreds of thousands of people -- innocent people. It all culminated in Hiroshima in 1945. Not a word of protest from any church leader that we were destroying innocent people with weapons of mass destruction. Later on Pope Paul VI described what happened at Hiroshima as a “butchery of untold magnitude.” That was 30 years later when we finally condemned what had happened. Paul also pointed out that there had been a prophet whom if we had listened to we might have moved differently or acted differently because in the same document where he wrote that this was a “butchery of untold magnitude,” Paul said, “Who is the model for our day?” At a time when that kind of violence is being perpetrated, who is the model? The poor, weak man, Gandhi, who had been leading a nonviolent revolution in India during those same years, following the message of Jesus, proclaiming God’s Word. But we never listened, so we committed the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. God does provide prophets to speak to us, but we have to be ready to listen.
Sometimes those prophets come, again, from outside our community. One of the crucial issues of our time is the issue of what we’re doing to our planet. A few weeks ago the Catholic bishops met for their semi-annual meeting and as you may know, one of the most important things we discussed, according to the bishops’ criteria of importance, was translations of the liturgy, the words that we use at Mass. Now we’re supposed to say, “The Lord be with your spirit,” instead of “The Lord be with you.” Does it really make that much difference? Instead of talking about something like the sin we are committing against our world. But there is a prophet who is speaking about that. One who has been marginalized to some extent -- Albert Gore. He’s written a book and now has a documentary called, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Will we listen and save our planet? Or will we continue to destroy it as we seem to be doing very rapidly?
These are the kinds of things that we have to be concerned about, issues that are very important. The use of violence in the war we started in Iraq has now escalated to total turmoil in the Middle East, because we refused to listen to those who say violence is wrong. We refuse still to listen to a prophet like Gandhi who showed us the way of Jesus even though he himself was a Hindu.
Perhaps as we reflect upon what Amos did and his experience, as we reflect on the other prophet,
Ezekiel, most of all as we think about Jesus and the prophetic group that he sent out, maybe we as a community will recommit ourselves to follow this simple way of Jesus -- the way that rejects wealth, power and violence. Reject that way and listen to those prophets in our midst who tell us that God’s way is a way of simplicity, a way of love, a way of nonviolence, a way that really can make the reign of God happen.
Not only must we listen to these other prophets, but again we ourselves as a community of disciples of Jesus must listen deeply to God speaking in our own hearts, listen deeply and then we ourselves become a prophetic community, speaking the truth about the environment, speaking the truth about how to bring peace into the world and perhaps be those who are the faithful community of Jesus, the ones he sends out in today’s Gospel. He is sending us out and we must commit ourselves to go out in the way that he described and say his words and bring his message of peace and love into our world.

submitted by Ana Hallman

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting Gumbleton's homily, Ana. The institutional Catholic Church in the US is failing us grievously. How will our country and ourselves be made to pay for these sins?

Kanickers said...

Yes, thanks Ana...
His homily from last Sunday is also right on terget... Here is a link: (copy & paste)

KofK Watcher said...

Please post this comment about KofC in a new column.

After Louey's disgusting display of lengthy, lavish, unearned praise toward the Knights of Columbus, I went to check out what he said. On their website they make no such claim for being the first at Katrina. Does Louey make this stuff up?

"The greatest fraternal organization in the world!" What a load.

Anonymous said...

More K of C...
Fr. Louis referred to the KCs as models of Jesus Christ this morning at Mass. Well, I wish that one of the heads of the KCs at Holy Spirit would take note of his comment.
Even after the Bishop sent priests to talk to us of the need to reconcile, he and his wife refuse to socialize or allow their children to socialize with anyone in "our" group.
Now, that is really sad, especially since some of us nearly raised their daughter when they were off on Marriage Encounter retreats weekend after weekend.
How sad they won't allow her to even play with the children of "our" group. And, the people in "our" group do want to be in relationship with them.
What a model of Jesus Christ they are, NOT!!!! Take note and get real. Who really needs to reconcile with whom here?

Anonymous said...

Well, I went to register for Religious Education and found out that the office doen't have any idea of when it's going to start. I was at the Appreciation Dinner and heard Fr. Louis say that he had Family Religious education in Weslaco. I did some research. They never had family religous education in Weslaco for as far back as this person could remember, which was further back than Fr. Louis being the pastor. I think he does lie. He will probably lie about that here as he makes his changes. I wish he would have taken a survey of us parents before the end of the year to find out what program we want. Wait and see...........

Anonymous said...

Hey, I just heard that Elfida was let go by the Pastor. Guess she wrote a note about wanting to meet with him because she was frustrated about things. She evidently gave him some list of sorts and said she wanted to meet or didn't know how she could continue to work there. She didn't hear from him for two months and went in last week, had Hilda call him and he told her he accepted her resignation. Didn't want to meet. Said he was too busy to put it in writing because he had to help some nuns or something but maybe he would put it in writing the next day. Hey, my kids are upset. What's going on over there anyway? Does he know how much Elfida did? Seems like he is doing what the Bishop wanted Fr. Ruben to do in one day. Just took Fr. Louis three years. How sad. I wonder if there is going to be a despedida for her, she's been here for 15 years and helped both my kids celebrate their quinceanera. Who's giving him advice? No one on the parish council has certification in religious education or youth ministry. Who's going to replace her?

Anonymous said...

Well, I heard Fr. Ruben is now in Edcouch. At least he knew he wasn't effective at Resurrection. How dare someone from there tell us to put up with Fr. Louis. They were angry that Fr. Ruben changed things that Fr. Louis did, and came over here. How do they think we feel with Fr. Louis changing things here, it's no different. I heard that Fr. Louis was asked by the Bishop if he wanted to be transferred and he told the Bishop that he didn't want to move because it would look like "that other team" won. Is there a contest or something? Is anyone concerned where the women religious in this community are at with things? Someone needs to talk to Sr. Marian and Sr. Cecilia and ask them what they think. They've been in this church ministry for years and have a lot of wisdom. But, guess that doesn't matter anymore. This is a mess.

Anonymous said...

Re: Elfida
What a shame. The telltale sign of a highly inefficient administrator is to just keep putting things off, never responding or facing the issues, until the involved parties get so totally disgusted that they leave! Bishop Peña and Fr Louie are two of a kind in this sense. What a loss this is to our parishioners! The destruction of Holy Spirit continues!

WHEN? WHEN are the parishioners of Holy Spirit going to realize what the Bishop and Fr. Louie are doing to our parish? OPEN YOUR EYES, PEOPLE!

Anonymous said...

Re: Elfida
Amen. How long is it going to take for the parishioners of Holy Spirit to realize that Fr. Louie and Bishop Pena don't give a DAMN about Holy Spirit parish?
And, how about our Parish Council Members? I actually had hopes that a few of them would be strong enough to stand up to Fr. Louie and his exclusionary tactics... Guess I was wrong! And we call ourselves a Catholic Church! What a great example we are setting for our youth!

Anonymous said...

Whether encouraging her to resign or firing her, loosing Elfida will be a tremendous loss to Holy Spirit. Here we go again. How stupid!

Anonymous said...

Will somebody please tell me why our Bishop is allowing all of this to happen? Father Louie has been slowly firing or running off all of our talented people. How will we replace them? Who is going to want to work there anymore? Just think back to all the people that he has removed. When will it stop? Please Bishop Pena, step in and help us with this guy.

Anonymous said...

Don’t expect the Bishop to change anything at Holy Spirit. We have been trying to get the Bishop to do something about Holy Spirit for years! Face facts. The Bishop sent Fr. Louie here to finish what he ordered Fr. Delgado to do. Don’t blame Fr. Louie for this. His only crime is that he is too dumb to figure out that he is being used by his Bishop, and even if he does realize it, he doesn’t have the guts to stand up and refuse to do it!
We have TWO problems at Holy Spirit: (1) a dumb, gutless pastor and (2) a poor excuse for a Bishop. That may sound a little harsh, but this has been going on long enough! I think it is time we start e-mailing the Pope, requesting that he replace our Bishop! That would take a lot of e-mailing, but we can do it! That seems to be our only hope!