Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Newsletter of 10/15/06

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—October 15, 2006

The Blues Brothers (and Sisters)
We’re on a mission from God. Elwood Blues

Several years ago a parishioner was quoted as saying, “I’m on a mission from God to rid this parish of Father Jerry and Ann Cass.” So, in that person’s mind and maybe the minds of many others: “Mission Accomplished!” Is a banner being created and an appropriate aircraft carrier-like setting being scouted out?

This mentality - seeing the events of the past 3+ years as a power struggle that has finally been won by the “righteous ones” against the “forces of evil” - is poisonous and fundamentally flawed. Bishop Peña used the phrase “power struggle” when he spoke to us during Lent this year - both he and the Blues Brothers of the Parish are wrong when they talk that way. The Church is not about power, but about the proper exercise of authority; it is not about command and obedience, but about servant-leadership.

In the Church we have no say in who will be our leaders; therefore, those who are our leaders must serve everyone, not just those they choose to serve. Every parishioner has an absolute right to be able to practice the fullness of their Catholic faith in their own parish community. A parish exists for the parishioners; it is not a vehicle through which a pastor creates a comfortable lifestyle for himself by refusing to deal with parishioners he doesn’t like.

The only mission any parish has is the creation of a vibrant Eucharist Community that lives and witnesses the Gospel 24/7 - let’s work on accomplishing that. Together. All of us.

$$$$$ Update
A year ago (10/16/05) the Parish received, in the Sunday Bulletin, something that was described as a financial report for the fiscal year ending 6/30/05. The report was both incomplete and inconsistent. Over these last 12 months, the report of the Sunday collections in the each Sunday Bulletin, the stated budget from the 10/16/05 report, and the pattern of parish expenditures reported for the fiscal year ending 6/30/05 have been combined to produce this update each two weeks.

For that 12 month period, the Sunday collections reported in the bulletin totaled $676,682.05, which is $77,317.95 less than the $754,000 yearly budget (in those 52 weeks only 10 collections met the weekly $14,500 budget amount). There is some very real doubt about the accuracy of the collection amounts, since second collections ceased being reported separately rather early on, even though the report from the year before did report standard and second collections separately. There is no way to know how expenditures have fared relative to the budgeted amount, but the year before, the Parish exceeded budget by $100,997.52. If the spending patterns continued, then the Parish fell short by $178,315.47 in the period between 10/16/05 and 10/8/06.

There has yet to be a financial report for the fiscal year ending 6/30/06. Who is accountable here?

There is an article in a recent Time Magazine called “ When Not Seeing is Believing” by Andrew Sullivan that put in clear language thoughts that have been swirling around in my head. Mr. Sullivan writes on the rise of fundamentalism in all the major world religions and the dangers that come with it. He makes the case that doubt, questioning and seeking are essential parts of faith. If there is no doubt, then God would be captured in human certainty – and that cannot be, because God is beyond our human categories. It is the great temptation of Adam and Eve again, to know all Truth. Only God has the pure and whole Truth. It is in the uncertainty, in the doubt where we can be initiated into the mystery. “True belief is not about blind submission. It is about open-eyed acceptance, and acceptance requires persistent distance from the truth, and that distance is doubt. Doubt, in other words, can feed faith, rather than destroy it. And it forces us, even while believing, to recognize our fundamental duty with respect to God’s truth: humility. We do not know. Which is why we believe.” (Andrew Sullivan)

Maybe for some the uncertainty is too uneasy. I find it comforting that God is bigger than my own understanding, that there is an existence of a higher truth.

I also appreciate when Mr. Sullivan points out that faith must be more than a set of precisely defined external principles or dogmas, and that in a “non-fundamentalist understanding of faith, practice is more important than theory, love is more important than law, and mystery is seen as an insight into truth rather than an obstacle.” That seems more Catholic to me than the road we seem to be traveling.
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

Petty, adj., marked by narrowness or meanness (from the Fr. petit, small)

We used to have a group of folks that met every week to study the Second Vatican Council, its documents and its impact on the Church. All of a sudden, there is supposedly no room for this group to meet. Sure, it is generally a small group, but it has been meeting almost forever at the Parish - surely something could be found.

The whole process by which the request for space was handled was marked by delay and outright untruths. It is all so petty and so obvious: let’s run off some more folks—they aren’t the right kind of people, anyway.

Some activities and ministries in the Parish are a little frayed at the edges these days. Religious education with its new modus operandi and under its new management is having a tough time getting the details under control: not enough materials, no support for those choosing home schooling, no Spanish program, etc. The English music ministry hasn’t quite got everything in synch yet, either. Adult education seems to have shriveled to near nothingness.

The generosity and enthusiasm of those involved cannot be denied, but eventually the Parish will expect more that that—it will expect ministries that are well carried out. We have a parish that is in the hands of amateurs and yet we still deserve the best outcomes for the youngsters in religious education, we still deserve outstanding liturgies, and we still deserve effective adult education. Amateurs can eventually learn to function reasonably well, but they can never supply the talent and expertise that professionals can. You get the best out of volunteers when their efforts are organized, directed, and nurtured by professionals whose (paid) responsibility it is to manage activities and ministries. All of those working hard need to be cut some slack, but let’s not forget that it wouldn’t have to be this way—we all have experienced a Parish that was managed quite differently.

Let’s hope that the motivation behind these changes in Parish ministries and the criteria for judging their effectiveness will be more than the fact that they are being done differently than they used to be.

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:gbrazier@rgv.rr.com

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Anonymous said...

Boy, the devil sure fooled that gullible, self-important parishioner who fancied herself on a mission from God!

Anonymous said...

No Room at the Inn:
My morning walks are a time for meditation, quiet reflection and prayer. This morning with each step my mind echoed “No Room, “ No Room,” “No Room,” “No room.” Our Holy Spirit Parish now has “No room for adult Vatican II classes,” “No room for Children’s Literacy,” “No room for Peace and Justice,” “No room for Youth Group that does not interfere with family time,” “No room for Spanish religious education,” “No room for Family Religious Education,” and we can go on. As we come up on Advent, We remember that Mary and Joseph could find “No room” for Jesus to be born. But God found a way. What will be our way?
The controversy at Holy Spirit has consumed a lot of energy for its parishioners. Sometimes it seems like Father Louis has become the “Center of our Lives” instead of the Eucharist.
Still praying for guidance to follow the Christian message.