A FAREWELL MESSAGE
Ann Cass, Martha Sanchez and Chayo Vaello
Three years ago, Bishop Raymundo Peña and his “transition team” forced us out of Holy Spirit Parish. It is interesting that on that day, all of the locks to the church were changed. Yesterday, our pastor again ordered that all of the locks be changed.
As you know, because of the efforts of the United Farm Workers, we were all able to go back to work after we were fired. But Bishop Raymundo Peña’s intense efforts to defeat us have continued.
We know from a letter sent to every Bishop in Texas from the Vicar General's Office (attached), that Bishop Peña has consulted with Canonical and Civil Law Experts to develop strategies to use against us and we feel that we have continuously been harassed and libeled and that our characters have been defamed because of this retaliation during the last three years.
Bishop Peña and Monsignor Louis Brum have refused to deal with our Union Contracts and our grievances have been totally ignored. For example: we were not even given cost of living increases which were called for in our contract, in spite of the fact that cost of living increases were given to every other diocesan employee. Our bookkeeper even told us that our phones were bugged.
Our Pastor refused, early on, to sit down with our union representative to review our contracts. To this date, our Pastor has not even read them. The Tribunal that was ordered by Bishop Peña found no fault with our contract itself, only with the addendum regarding our pension, which was an arguable point.
Most importantly, under directions from our Bishop, our Pastor has not allowed us to perform our ministries. We have not been allowed to do our jobs. We have been micro-managed by a person who was never here to make any decisions, by a person whose way of dealing with personnel has been passive-aggressive and by a person whose way of working with staff has been to simply ignore them. It is our contention that such poor management practices could only have come about through intention.
We cannot even begin to describe the stress that we have been under during the last three years. One of us was recently informed by her doctor that she needed to quit work or suffer grave consequences to her health. This is the reason that we have now all decided to resign our positions at Holy Spirit. It is not worth putting our health in jeopardy.
Our struggle has never been about winning or losing. Our struggle has been about being faithful to the Gospel, about speaking truth to power and about working for justice for all people who are employed by the Catholic Church. We leave here today with our heads held high, knowing that we did what was correct according to His teachings. We could not have found the courage to speak up against the power of our Church if it had not been for all of you, the people within our community that have supported us and have become our “Church beneath the Church.”
We apologize that our actions for justice have ended with so many being hurt, with so many experiencing pain and with the destruction of our parish. By neglecting the problem, our Bishop has encouraged this to happen. We do not buy his repeated statements that he is helpless to intervene in the operation of a parish or with its pastor.
Bishop Peña was appointed by our Pope to be our Head Shepherd. We feel that a wolf, rather than a shepherd, has come into our sheepfold. We never dreamed that a Bishop of the Catholic Church could retaliate against one of his own Church communities with such meanness of spirit and vindictiveness.
It has been part of our Catholic social teaching for over 100 years that workers have the right to organize. Our Bishop has even claimed to have "walked" with Cesar Chavez. Why has he been so afraid to embrace our efforts and to have it serve as a model for all of our church, as the Catholic Church so vividly teaches? Even the workers serving the Vatican are unionized.
It is unfortunate that Bishop Raymundo Peña and Monsignor Louis Brum have taken the route of ignoring this problem rather than addressing it. It is unfortunate that neither of them has responded to requests to bring someone in from outside, not to preach, but to facilitate healing in our parish. Monsignor Brum has even refused to allow prayer requests on Sunday asking for the healing of our parish. Outside of our maintenance staff, the only employee now remaining at Holy Spirit parish is our bookkeeper. All of our professional staff have now either been fired or have left our parish in disgust.
Our resistance has not been about accepting the change that comes with a new Pastor. We never had any problems accepting any of our four previous Pastors. This has been about resisting a Pastor that was sent here specifically by his Bishop to destroy our parish. It seems that our Bishop just doesn’t care that he is destroying a parish that has been the model for social justice, religious education and worship for over 22 years in this Diocese.
Now, however, our voices can be freer than ever. We are not leaving this parish; we are only leaving its employ. We will now be able to lift our voices even louder to our Pastor and to our Bishop in our continuing effort to bring about justice in our Church. That is the only way that the Church that we love so dearly can regain its integrity and can bring about the kingdom.
We now kick the dust from our sandals and ask for your prayers to insure that we love our new ministries as much as we have loved serving the people in this parish for so many years.
Ann Williams Cass
Family Ministry Coordinator
Vicar General's Letter, July 3, 2002
(Click on image to enlarge, click on "back button" to return)
Posting a Comment: You may now submit a comment simply by clicking the "POST A COMMENT" link under the "COMMENTS" button below. Approval of comments are done only to prevent unsuitable or advertising type posts. You may also wish to add your e-mail address to our database to automatically receive biweekly newsletters. Simply e-mail us at: Kanickers@aol.com with a notation to add your name to our list.