Monday, October 02, 2006

Newsletter of 10/01/06

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—October 1, 2006

A Letter That Reveals
In July of 2002 (ancient history by now), Father Bob Maher, Vicar General of the Diocese of Brownsville, wrote a letter to all the Texas bishops “on behalf of Bishop Raymundo J. Peña.” This letter is posted currently on the Blog ( and even though the issue discussed (unionizing parish workers) is no longer the hot topic it was four years ago, the letter reveals quite a bit about the mindset of the Bishop (yes, the Bishop on whose behalf the letter was written) and the administration of this diocese.

First, in the upper right hand corner is the “CONFIDENTIAL” stamp, as if having this correspondence seen by others (like the laity of the diocese, whom these men supposedly serve) would be a bad thing. Was the Bishop concerned that this letter would put himself and the diocese in a bad light? Throughout the Holy Spirit labor dispute, the diocesan administration consistently spouted their support of unions, claiming the issue was one of procedure and proper authority—“we love unions, think they’re great, just go about things in the right way.” Father Maher’s letter puts a lie to that, so maybe the desire to keep it under wraps makes some kind of perverse sense.

Second, the letter links the unionizing effort to Valley Interfaith and the Industrial Areas Foundation. The public support of the Diocese for both of these organizations is a well-documented fact, yet Father Maher’s tone makes it clear that he views both of these as suspect groups.

Third, Father Maher bemoans the fact that pastors are “ill-prepared” for the responsibility of “negotiating the term and conditions of their employees’ work with a union representative.” Certainly having his treatment of employees subject to some accountability might make a pastor uncomfortable, but is that not the price of a fair employment situation? Surely the dimensions of a pastor’s comfort zone cannot define the parameters of a worker’s right to organize.

Fourth, Father Maher describes Valley Interfaith and IAF as attempting to “inseminate other dioceses with this unionizing project” [emphasis added]. Not infiltrate, not even infect, but instead a verb with earthy connotations that might raise some questions from the realm of psychology about how the administration of the diocese really views its faithful.

Views Open for Discussion
From the National Catholic Reporter, by Sr. Joan Chittister,OSB (September 7, 2006):

“The day Katie Couric became the first woman anchorperson of a prime time news broadcast, Princess Kiko of Japan gave birth to a baby boy. If you're a girl, we have a little good news, a little bad news for you. The good news is that you, too, can grow up to be Katie Couric. The bad news is that you cannot yet grow up to be empress of Japan.

Getting to be ruler of Japan, a once-divine position, means you have to have some established relation to God. And God, we are led to believe, does not express divinity in girls. There's just something about girls that seems to lack what it takes to be divine. It's not God's fault, of course. It's not anybody's fault really. Things just are what they are. It's just that it can't be done because girls are not as good as boys for some reason that no one can discover.

We have a bit of the same problem ourselves.

Jesus became ‘man’ we are now supposed to say - despite the fact that for centuries we said, "And the Word became ‘flesh’—as in human. They tell us that they mean ‘woman,’ too, when they say ‘man,’ of course. Except not always.

In the middle of the Rhine River, on the St. Lawrence Seaway, on a boat on a river in Pittsburgh, women who feel called by God to serve the people of God are being ordained beyond legitimate diocesan boundaries. Why? Because they have no other choice. There's nothing they can do about it. They have no authority to open the theological discussion of whether or not Jesus became ‘man’—meaning male—or Jesus became ‘flesh’—meaning human—and the implications of that answer for the life and structures of the church itself.”
From Good Catholic Girls by Angela Bonavoglia.

“Mandatory celibacy is built on the notion that women are inferior, and that marriage is a second-rate way of being Christian,” says Anthony Padavano. … in the Catholic Church today, there are already married priests. The Church’s Eastern rite priests (e.g., the Ukrainian Catholic Church) have been marrying for centuries, and there are married Roman Catholic priests who wed before they converted from various Protestant denominations, which the Church began to allow in 1980. Padavano adds, if a man leaves the priesthood to marry and his wife dies, he is welcomed back immediately; if he divorces and has no financial liability, Rome will consider readmission as well.”

$$$$$ Update
According to the Sunday bulletins, since 10/16/05 parishioners have donated $74,861.94 less than the $725,000 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 $171,974.94 of red ink (versus budget) for the period 10/16/05 to 9/24/06. Stretching that pattern for an entire year, the Parish would fall short by $178,853.94.

Religious Education and the Diocese
The Diocese is about to build a high school in the upper Valley (on donated land north of Edinburg). Well, not exactly build, the operation costs and the $13 million building cost must be raised entirely by interested lay people. The Diocese will own the school and the appointed board, while having all the financial responsibility, will have limited control. It will be the laity’s money, but the Bishop’s school.

There are five Catholic elementary schools in the upper Valley (one in Starr County and another which already has a high school associated with it). Exact enrollment figures are not easily available, but the national average is 150 students in grades 5-8. So, in Hidalgo County there would be approximately 450 students in Catholic schools in grades 5-8 who can be reasonably thought of as potential students in a four-year high school. The Diocese’s own survey of parents of Catholic elementary school students indicated that 58% would send their children to a Catholic high school—that’s 261 students. The Diocese is projecting 600 students.

The school’s tuition will be at least $6,000 per year, in addition to all the typically unstated costs (books, uniforms!!, transportation, etc.). It is clear that this will be a school for the financially well-off. At a town hall meeting at Our Lady of Sorrows less than twenty people attended (a star-tlingly small number for such an ambitious project) and the impression they left was that this school is seen as either a refuge from poor quality public schools or an attempt to provide a religious education for their children that their parishes aren’t providing.

Why can’t we get serious about religious education and youth programs in our parishes, put them in the hands of professionals, engage the parents in a meaningful way, etc.? Instead, scores of millions of dollars are being proposed to be spent on a very small number of young people. Hidalgo County has over 40,000 students in grades 9-12, the overwhelming number of them at least nominally Catholic. If the parishes had effective religious education for them, then the justification for a Catholic high school would be reduced to a desire to flee the public schools. Should the Diocese really be in the business of fostering that sort of elitism?

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 oppor-tunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at

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Bob Schmidt said...

While I continue to support the purpose and intent of "Reflections of the Spirit," I am compelled to respond to the negative comments about the work being done to open a Catholic High School in the developing La Sienna subdivision in north Edinburg.

As a product of Catholic elementary and secondary schools, I can attest to their academic excellence, as well as their ability to form faith-filled young people for the challenges of today's world. My parents sacrificed a great deal to send my brother, sisters, and myself to Catholic schools. I thank God every day for my Catholic education without which, I would not have received the academic and religious training to form me as an effective Catholic lay minister. I'm not saying we don't need effective religious education programs. What I am saying is that there is a place for Catholic schools, too. I taught and administrated in Catholic schools for 12 years. You will not find a better learning atmosphere. You can put the label elitest on any school (even on a parish, as some have dubbed Holy Spirit over the years--wherever there is the perception of wealth). Give the school and its development a chance. We're all on the same team: forming young people (as well as adults) in the faith.

Anonymous said...

Re: A Letter that Reveals.
It is downright shameful that we have exposed the leaders of our Catholic Diocese in such a bold face deception. It just gets my goat that our Bishop and Vicar General can say one thing in public, then under the cover of a 'CONFIDENTIAL' memo, their real intensions are revealed. And we trust these people as the spiritual leaders of our church? God help us!

Anonymous said...

Re: Religious Education.
The trouble with a Catholic High School at $6,000/student/year is that it will quickly become an outlet for rich Mexican Nationals that will end up sending their kids there just to be educated in the United States. Why should we invest our money to provide that? Besides, if I have 2 kids in Catholic High School, I’ll be spending $12,000/year just for high school... Then collage? Who the hell can afford that? Somewhere along the line, we have to be realistic…

Anonymous said...

For sure the point is that a Catholic high school is not a priority when you look at the needs of high school age youth in Hidalgo County. And, I understand Bob's point, but it doesn't fit here in the Valley like it does up north. Catholic schools here are more private than parochial. But, no one is criticizing Catholic schools. They are fine, but here they are not a priority, unless every youth here could go and not just the rich and the famous.

Ann Cass said...

Good letter, Mr. Brazier.

And, would someone please tell the Catholic Daughters that the blessing of animals on St. Francis's feast day is NOT the FIRST at Holy Spirit Parish!!! That's the problem with people who think they have a history of the parish and have only been involved for less than 5 years, if that.

We have had blessings of the animals at Holy Spirit many times over the last 25 years, and when October 4th has fallen on religious education night, St. Francis has even visited the classrooms and talked to the children.

And don't forget, St. Francis was about more than blessing the animals. He was a man of peace, and we have had art contests in the parish for the youth before to celebrate St Francis.

St. Francis also cared for the environment, which means we are to be involved in recycling and taking care of Mother Earth. We used to uphold parish policies about not using styrofoam cups, recycling office paper, etc.

And, St. Francis certainly had a passion about taking care of the poor and outcast and welcomed all at the Table of the Eucharist. He was a reformer of the liturgy and called the institutional church to accountability. One thing for sure, he was not blindly obedient.

So, don't forget, he was so much more than holding bunny rabbits and birds! Sorry Catholic Daughters, this is not a first and not the only way to celebrate this great man in our faith tradition.

Pace Bene!
-ann williams cass

Anonymous said...

Oh oh; Ann Cass is free to speak her mind now! There will be hell to pay, bishop! You reap what you inseminate, er, sow.

Anonymous said...

INSEMINATE... Priceless choice of words. Credits to our Vicar General! And YES, it is GREAT to hear from Ann!

MIchelle Peña said...

Thanks to Ann for providing more information about St. Francis.

In my house, the feast day of St. Francis has always been a special day since my father, following catholic Czech tradition, was named for the saint on whose day he was born.

Since my father's death a few years ago, the day always brings tears and smiles as we remember my father and the many ways he lived in the spirit of St. Francis.

My father was a gentle giant - a strong carpenter who built up things and people with a compassionate and cheerful heart.

My father, like St. Francis, found special joy in creating nativity sets. He had a special workshop, just like St. Francis had a special chapel, but like St. Francis - his workshop was in the hearts of the people around him.

My father had a gift for always wondering "how can we make it better?" and like St. Francis was not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get to work. He found great joy in simple things and in the beauty of God's creation.

So besides pet blessings, maybe on this feast of St. Francis we can all stop and be grateful for and even thank the people in our lives that bring the spirit of St. Francis to us.

Like Francis, maybe we can stop for a little bit today and find joy in God's creation and pledge to take a little bit better care of the world around us. In this time of conflict and violence, maybe we can find time today to stop and pray one of my father's favorite prayers.

In the words of St. Francis "pace e bene!" (peace and all good)

A Simple Prayer
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is injury, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
Where there is darkness, let me bring light.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Kanickers said...

Amen. Welcome Ann Cass!
YES, It is nice to hear from Ann Cass again. Looking back, I think this is only like her 2nd or 3rd comment on Reflections.
Thanks for the comment, Ann. You are FREE to voice your opinions here on Reflections any time.

Anonymous said...

Re: Revealing Letter.
I wonder if the Bishop and his Vicar General now realize how much money their little 'union bashing' adventure has cost our Catholic Dioceses? Those amounts will never be known and it is shameful to think that all of this could very easily have been avoided if our Bishop or his Vicar General would have just had enough management smarts to sit down and face the issue head-on. The lack of management ability on their part has really cost this diocese a lot of money! Maybe it’s time that us Catholics start demanding that we be provided with an accounting of how our money is being spent. A good example would be the accounting report that Fr. Guss provides to all of his parishioners every year showing EVERYTHING that was collected and EVERYTHING that was paid-out. Why wouldn’t the Diocese be pleased to inform us of exactly where our donated money is being spent? I am absolutely sure they have nothing to hide!

Richard said...

Great letter, Ann. Maybe we will all start learning about our saints, 'cause we sure ain't gettin' nothing from the pulpit.

Anonymous said...

We can't even get an accounting from our own parish, much less from the Diocese. Got any more good jokes?

Pearl Brazier said...

This is one of my favorite prayers and songs as well. Thanks for reminding us to keep a positive attitude and maintain hope. After talking to the reporter from the Monitor and then listening to Ann’s farewell speech, I am sorry I did not take the opportunity to state that God’s ways are not our ways and we don’t always understand, but there is always hope, and good comes in ways we least expect it. For many of us, our faith has been strengthened by the fight against the injustice in the Parish. I am also inspired by the parents of the victims of the school shootings and their ability to forgive and look for the good coming out of such tragic situations.

On another note: Considering the readings from the last few Sunday’s, we need to continue to pray for our leaders that their ears and hearts will be open to hear the words that they speak in explaining the Word of the Lord to us all. And pray for ourselves that we see the mote in our own eyes as well.

And yet another note: On religious education. I would hope it would go beyond learning our prayers and teaching unquestioning obedience to the priests and bishop. I believe that God has given us a brain and a heart that can reason and love and sent us his Son and the apostles to show us the way. It is our duty to help our children to learn to reason about their faith, recognize injustice where it exists, and learn to love and forgive each other. It is only through such a process, that one reaches a mature faith that is one’s own and empowers one to live out their faith, working for peace and justice in this world.
Pearl Brazier

Ann Williams Cass said...

Well, here I am going to celebrate my 3rd Sunday NOT at the piano. It is hard, but I am managing. But I have one question. I am curious what you all think the answer is... in the 3 years that LB has been our Pastor, he came to the piano ONCE during the Sign of Peace. Foolish Ann, I thought he wanted to give me the Sign of Peace. Instead, he wanted to know if there were any birthdays to announce. Ok.... now, after all that time, last Sunday he came and actually shook my hand and offered me the Sign of Peace. It was like maybe someone directed him to do that. It was very strange. I certainly had a difficult time as he said the words, like after he ignored me for three years now he is going to offer me the peace of Christ? I don't think so. The ritual itself is more than saying the words; it is almost like a reconciliation ritual. And I have never heard him say he was sorry for what happened to us... all he did was blame me for people not being inside for Mass during the first three weeks in 2003 and for people not putting money in the collection basket. Again, he thinks we had power and used it the way he and the Bishop use it. At any rate, why now is LB giving us the Sign of Peace? Why now?
- ann williams cass

Anonymous said...

You are no longer in a position to intimidate him.
I think we can all agree that you are much more knowledgeable about the Catholic Church and are 100 times more qualified to run a Catholic Parish than Father Louie will ever dream of being.
It is a shame that our bishop didn’t have the honesty to admit that there was a WOMAN out there who was MUCH MORE QUALIFIED to run a Catholic parish than most of his poorly qualified priests.
But don’t worry, Ann, you have proven that fact over the years and EVERYBODY KNOWS BETTER. Just look at how a highly un-qualified priest is now destroying our once very vibrant parish. The bishop and his vicar general have both been totally exposed by all of this… and it serves them right!
Hold your head high and be PROUD of the job you did for the parishioners of Holy Spirit! Everyone at Holy Spirit knows the TRUTH.

Chayo said...

WHY NOW, Ann asks?? Because Fr. Louis thinks he has won. The real truth is that we have all lost. We have lost the gifts of the many wonderful parishioners who are no longer at HOLY SPIRIT; we have lost the gifts of wonderful readers, Eucharistic ministers, altar servers, teachers and the wonderful music that Ann and Edward spent so many hours to make sure was life giving. I pray that our music will continue somehow. As we all know, it is said that when one sings, they pray twice.

Sign of Peace?? It is just a symbol to our pastor. He does not understand the real peace that Christ can bring to you. I will continue to pray for peace in our parish. I will continue to try to see Christ in everyone at Holy Spirit. May the God who created us all give us his peace. Amen.

Anonymous said...

It's sad going to church every Sunday. Every week is like a new funeral. The more the weeks progress, the more dark and mournful it becomes.

I don't know how people can stand to see these masses go on like nothing is happening...or pretend that none of it has happened.

I don't know whether to be angry or sad.

~The Saddened Parishioner

Ann Cass said...

What a surprise to walk into the church building today and see the pictures of loved ones serving in the military moved from the niche of St. Francis to the Gathering Space by the American flag. First of all, the directives of the church are quite clear, not that anyone at Holy Spirit Parish pays any attention to liturgical directives anymore, that a flag does not belong in the church building (OCF). I am sure those making the changes will say the same thing they said about the Christmas crèche being in the sanctuary: "Everyone else does it!"

But, why would they move the pictures from the niche of St.Francis, the patron of peacemakers, to the flag? Maybe again they think Francis is only about bunny rabbits and birdbaths! And, what is the religious significance of having them by the American flag? Hello? Do they think Bush and congress are going to protect the soldiers? My goodness, to begin with they were sent over to a war torn area without adequate equipment by the president. Just more questions I have.

I am so pleased, however, to see the insert in the bulletin about the speaker against the death penalty. I hope people realize that the American bishops launched a campaign to end the death penalty in January. I know Alvin did not know that when I talked with him in April. Even after I gave him the flier he refused, he said at the Pastor's request, to pray for those on death row, their victims, and an end to the death penalty. He said he wasn't sure how he felt about the death penalty. And I thought we were the only ones that didn't agree with everything the Church taught.

Anyway, congratulations peace and justice people, for getting this speaker here in the Valley. I hope people attend it. And thanks to St. Anne's for hosting it! –
ann williams cass

Anonymous said...

Since when did the Hail Mary become a part of the Mass? Did I miss something during my formation classes? Or is this another one of Father Louis' ways to tell us that he can add to the mass regardless of what the GIRM says?

Anonymous said...

Oh, boy, Ann is really laying into the foolish clergy. What a fool the bishop was to free her from the bonds of church "loyalty". He and Louey are going to pay big time.

Anonymous said...

To Saddened Parishioner,
While speaking to one of Father Louis's loyal supporters, he indicated that the devisions of the Parish were due primarily to one person. He declined to name the person and said that everyone knows who he was speaking of. I for one do not know, but can only conjecture that it was someone who has been with the Parish a long time. Now that all the longtime workers and many longtime parishioners have been removed from thier ministeries or have gone somewhere else, we should soon see the Parish returning to a vital alive cohesive Parish???? In the Bishop's mind, Father Louis, and all his supporters, the problems should have been solved and we can now "move forward and leave the past behind us"!!! Of course there is still a group that have refused to give up and still come to mass and try to participate despite attempts to thwart their efforts. So maybe the new Parish will have to wait a little while longer until they too give up and go away!

I too am saddened and sometimes angry and truly amazed that our spirtual family could get into this situation. Will the outside world know that we are Christians by our love?
I continue to pray for help to forgive.

Guy Hallman said...

Dear Anon #21. Don't be too dismissive of one of Brum's sycophants. He said one person is primarily responsible, and that is true. That one person, of course, is Brum himself. He has the power and has chosen to misuse it gravely. May God have mercy on his soul!