The following letter was sent to one of the Holy Spirit Parish Council members during the Thanksgiving holidays. As of this posting, I understand that Cathy has not even so much as been provided with the courtesy of an acknowledgement from the Council member. Please particularly note the last paragraph of Cathy’s letter.
November 26, 2006
Dear Parish Council Member,
When my son Ben returned home from college last week, he requested we attend Holy Spirit’s 8:30 mass. He wanted to see the many people who supported him while he was growing up in the parish and continue to support him while he is at college. For the last nine months, our family has not attended Holy Spirit parish on a regular basis because we no longer feel welcomed there.
My 15 year old daughter Becca was sad throughout the mass but when the offertory hymn began she started to cry. Becca sobbed deeply; the cry that mothers know comes only from the heart. Becca cried for the rest of the mass. There was no way Felipe or I could “fix” what was bothering her; we could only reassure her we loved her.
What was the hymn that caused her so much sorrow? It was these lyrics in the song, Service:
Life can be so lonely when nobody cares.
Life can be so empty when nobody shares.
I never could imagine that the first two lines of this song would describe Holy Spirit Catholic Church – a church and community I love so much. Of course as a parish council member you probably will reply that this is not true. Let me explain why I agree with my daughter that this is an accurate description of the current parish.
Everyone has noticed that many of the people who previously attended Holy Spirit are no longer there. I have had more than one long time parishioner tell me that they can go to 12:30 mass and see almost no one they know. What has happened to all those people? Are they going to another Catholic church? Are they going to any church? What happens to these missing parishioners when a family member is seriously ill? Where is the community to support them? What happens when one of these members dies? Where is Holy Spirit community to comfort them? What happens to the teenager that needs a caring community to get through a hard time in their life? Do they, too, no longer feel welcome? Does anyone care?
Jesus told the parable of the shepherd who cared enough for his sheep that when even one was missing, he would search for the missing lamb. We have hundreds missing from our flock. What are the current parish policies causing so many people to leave and what can be done to correct the problem? Could it be that they, like my family, no longer feel welcome due to current church and parish council policies?
What has happened to the parish that would continually amaze me with the generosity of its members? You could see the power of God working in people’s lives by the willingness to share with others – their talents, time, and treasure. A poignant example of the lack of willingness to share is canceling the Thanksgiving Day dinner. (Note: a turkey dinner is not the same as a Thanksgiving Day dinner.) This twenty year old parish tradition was a way for all members, regardless of income, to share with others. We had parishioners who every year would donate according to their ability. (We know from scripture that God is just as impressed with the widow’s two dozen rolls as with the cases of canned goods donated by a businessperson.)
Our Thanksgiving Day dinner gave lonely parishioners a “family” with whom to share a meal and people struggling to make ends meet were served a hot dinner where they were welcomed as family. This annual celebration gave parishioners a way to live out the faith we hear about each week in the scriptures. I know for my own family, it not only gave my children a way to learn how to share and serve others, but most importantly it gave them wonderful Catholic role models that not only pray on Sundays but have internalized the gospel and reflect it in their daily lives. Where is that spirit of sharing that once existed at Holy Spirit?
Does anyone care that parents that want to take responsibility and teach their children religious education at home are not given the books even though the books have been in the parish office for many weeks. What happens to these children? I know some parents have given up in frustration and are taking their children to protestant churches. Does anyone care?
My husband, son, and I have written numerous letters voicing our concerns to Father Louis. After more than two years, not one of us has received a reply. Does anyone care about the pain parish policies are causing my family? Unfortunately, I know the answer to this question.
Please open your eyes to the pain that is being caused by the current policies of the Holy Spirit Parish Council. The people who continue to persevere and attend mass and those you no longer see in mass are broken and in pain. Becca learned to walk at Holy Spirit. She was three weeks old when she attended her first parish Thanksgiving dinner. (This was the first year she missed one). She has wonderful memories of a loving supportive church community. She cried because things have changed.
Felipe and I would like to meet with you to discuss these issues. Please don’t close your eyes and prove to Becca and the rest of my family that no one does care at Holy Spirit.
Yours in Christ,