Monday, August 06, 2007

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter of 08/05/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—August 5, 2007

Orthopraxy and Orthodoxy
A few Sundays ago we had the Good Samaritan parable as the Gospel reading. The Samaritan, the outcast, not even an orthodox believer, was presented by Jesus as the one who loved his neighbor and so fulfilled the law. The others, a priest and a Levite, put their obligations to the orthodoxy of the time, the Temple cult, above helping the injured man.

Right practice (orthopraxy) or right belief (orthodoxy)—which takes precedence when there is a conflict in a real world situation (like that presented by Jesus)? The answer in the Gospel is clear: it is right practice. It is not enough to believe and profess the right things or even to engage in religiosity, the show of right belief—you have to walk the walk by fulfilling the law of loving your neighbor. The only presentation of judgment in the Gospels is in Matthew (25:31-46): “When I was hungry … when I was naked…” There is no mention of faithfulness to pious routines, no accounting of novenas said, etc. Many of these things can help us to live our lives better (right practice) and so have merit, but not merit in and of themselves.

There is a lot of controversy about the relationship between orthopraxy and orthodoxy (love that Greek, don’t you) in the writings of the liberation theologians (Jon Sobrino, Leonardo Boff, e.g.), particularly about whether right practice is enough to unite us to Christ. That’s a whole other train of thought for a whole other time.

Religious Education
From a classified ad in the 6/18/07 issue of America magazine:

Director of Religious Formation. Diocese of Buffalo, NY.
Very well-organized program currently serving about 1,100 young Christians.

The Director is a professional, salaried, full-time member of the parish staff who has knowledge and skills in administration, education, and theology. The Director is responsible for the general administration of the total religious formation program for grades K-10 and the sacraments of first reconciliation, first Communion, and confirmation. The parish very much wants to move in the direction of whole community catechesis….

This parish in Buffalo seems to have about the same number of youngsters in religious education as Holy Spirit and is going to a lot of effort and expense to try to bring a qualified person onto its staff to direct the religious education program.

As most people know, Holy Spirit has not had a professional, certified person in charge of religious education for quite some time now. Well meaning and hard working amateurs have been filling the void, but you would think that the time has come to put this extremely important ministry in the hands of a professional in the field.

It may be true that the Parish is in the process of conducting a search for just such a person, but a perusal of the diocesan website, local newspapers, etc. doesn’t show any evidence that that is true. We probably don’t have the resources to advertise nationally, like the parish in Buffalo, but how is our Parish going about trying to fill this position? Even Our Lady of Mercy in Mercedes, with all of its difficulties and a pastor who has stated that religious education isn’t very important, is advertising on the diocesan website for a Director of Religious Education. It’s August, after all.

Note that the Buffalo parish wants to “move in the direction of whole community catechesis”—what a daring concept!

Quotes from two e-mails from Bishop Peña:

“I suggested for him [Monsignor Brum] to re-evaluate his policies and re-define the requirements regarding lay participation in various ministries of the parish.” (June 6, 2006)

“I did receive copy of your correspondence to Msgr. Brum and I have discussed the matter with him and encouraged him to resolve the matter amicably, as soon as possible. It is now up to him to respond to your needs.” (June 20, 2006)

Quote from a letter from the Monsignor to the Parish:

“…all who are to serve in these ministries [lector and Eucharistic minister] MUST participate in the two-year special formation provided by the San Juan Diego Ministry Institute. Those already serving MUST make a written commitment that they will participate in such a program…Besides making a profession of faith and an oath of fidelity, in writing, according to the norm of law, they must express in writing their firm belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist.” (August 24, 2006)

It may very well be true that all the parishioners currently serving the parish community in these liturgical ministries (lector and Eucharistic minister) meet the criteria that the Monsignor laid out last August, i.e., they are enrolled or committed to enroll in classes, and have written professions, oaths, and statement of beliefs on file with the Parish. But, in a very real sense, you would hope that that is not the case, and that such inappropriate criteria have simply faded away. If they have faded away, then the Parish needs to be told about it, so folks can put themselves forward to serve without being burdened by the prospect of irrelevant and time-consuming formation classes and the giving of professions, oaths, and statements of belief that are not required in the “norm of law” for such service.

The language of the Monsignor’s letter to Parish does not admit any exceptions to the criteria (note the capital letters), but it still may be true that these criteria are selectively in force to put barriers to participation in these ministries by particular parishioners. This would seem to contradict the Bishop’s encouraging the Monsignor “to resolve the matter amicably, as soon as possible” and “to respond to your needs.”

It has been almost year—the expiration date on “as soon as possible” has come and gone.

Word and Wall
The Living Word—it isn’t just a pretty phrase, although at times the way the readings address our life situations is almost eerie. These last few Sundays we have heard stories about Abraham, his visitors and reminders that earthly treasures do not last. The poignant relevance of these stories to the Body of Christ that lives on the border is striking. In the story of Abraham, God comes to visit Abraham through the strangers. And how does Abraham react to the strangers traveling through his land and by his home? He respects the presence of God in a stranger, offers welcome and in a spirit of generous hospitality tends to their needs. How very different from the reality of our present border situation marked by suspicion and fear.

And then there is “the wall.” This past Sunday’s readings offer some strong words about building up walls to protect material goods—some food for thought and prayer. Is there a place for a wall between God’s children? As a people, do we want to be rich in what we can keep for ourselves behind a wall, or do we want to be rich in what matters to God?
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $63,360.75 (last year same date: $63,753.76)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $144,935.67
Projected yearly shortfall: $179,444.16

Since January 1st (30 weekends) there have been four (4) weeks when the collection met or exceeded the budget of $14,500—that’s just 13% of the Sundays.

Part of our summer took us to Seattle—check out an interesting parish: St. Patrick’s; particularly the detailed financial report. St. Pat’s has about 300 families, one-tenth the size of Holy Spirit in 2003.
from fellow parishioner, Jerry Brazier

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


Anonymous said...

There is that 'evil' Jerry Brazier again! In all seriousness, as he says, that is a topic for another discussion. But sadly there is no discussion within the walls of HSP. This blog is the closest thing to a discussion at HSP. No wonder the 'official' Church is stagnant putrid.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this parish wants to move to whole parish catechesis, otherwise known as Family Religious Education. It is happening all over the country! Just wish some people would get out of the Valley. Of course, if they were attending RE conferences at the national level they would know that we had a model program going for 26 years! And, Brum was wrong when he said we were the only parish in the country with Family Religious Education. How unfortunate he does not do his homework as well. What a shame.-awc