Monday, September 17, 2007

Parishioners' Newsletter 09/16/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit

September 16, 2007

Night Moves
The whole Night Prayer Fiasco in the Parish is just another example of how divisiveness has been created and exacerbated by those in authority. What has happened is a display of pettiness and vindictiveness. What a shame and a diminishment of rich parish life—just for an exercise of power for its own sake.

People of God
I recently heard a presentation given by a theologian on our perspectives as a Church and how this shapes us. His remarks focused on how our church embraced itself as a “People of God” through the prayers, discussion and outcome of the Second Vatican Council.

This was really a remarkable shift from our pre-council notions grounded in the idea of our human condition—a view that leaves us somewhat separated from God and seems to spend more energy on how “un-godlike” we are and creating methods like indulgences to make up for our failings, always striving to define our relationship with our God in concrete terms and steps.

With the Second Vatican Council, we as a church embraced more fully the mystery of faith. We embraced the idea that a people of God means that God is with us and working through us. So far so good—the hard part is how that fundamental understanding re-shapes everything we do as church. We, as a church, should be much more like the church described in Corinthians—a church of many parts each valued and celebrated for its own gifts.

As a church we have declared that “brothers and sisters in Christ” is not a sound bite but a reality, we just haven’t backed up that reality with our lives or how our church functions. I find it funny that we have heard the phrase “a Post-Vatican II Church” when we are still just beginning to wrestle with being a “People of God.” Somehow, we still want to cling to the small certainty of our human condition instead of trusting in the great mystery of God in us. As a church, we are hesitant to make that leap of faith and let God mold us into a new creation. from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

Advice to New Pastors

  • “[An important skill] is the capacity to actively listen. Listening means inviting individuals and groups to express themselves about parish life with open-ended questions. What do you like about this parish? What programs are sources of life for you and others? What turns you on to this community?
  • “Listen! – Make sure that you have heard what parishioners are saying; make sure they know you have listened.
  • “Solicit a broad base of input from the community – across age lines, demographic lines, etc.
  • “Be able to leave the parish at any time in better administrative and financial condition than you found it when you arrived.
  • “Try to make individual appointments with staff members and listen to any hurts and concerns they may have.
  • “Make an honest attempt to spend time to know your staff well especially the first two months.
  • “Return your phone calls.
  • “Have a series of neighborhood meetings in the first few months to get to know the people.
  • “Be humble and ready to learn from your new parishioners.
  • “[have] Concern for the Body of Christ, broken and wounded. The administrative leader must be attentive to the community as a whole, not just a part of it or certain individual members in it.
  • “Reverence the traditions and customs of the community.
  • “Don’t use your power to control others in order to make your own life comfortable”.
    Excerpted from Book IV, Chapter 5, of the Brownsville Diocesan Manual—Parish Edition (6/4/07)

These quotations serve as an interesting complement to the Bishop’s exhortation to new parishioners that appeared in the Monitor a little over a week ago. Even though the Manual’s advice (at least what is quoted above) seems on target and many of us wish it had been followed at Holy Spirit, there is an undertone of paternalism that is consistent with the Bishop’s remarks in the newspaper.

The words to both the parishioners and the pastors treat the parish and its parishioners as subjects to be manipulated and handled, rather than part of the People of God, whom the pastor is supposed to serve. Telling is another quote from the Manual: “Know you have power—use it. Power is the ability to affect [sic] change.” There is no power in the Church, power to be wielded over others, but only authority to be exercised for the good of the ekklesia (the assembly).

View from the Road
In the spirit of realizing that we can all learn from each other, we wanted to share our observations from attending mass recently at the parish of St. Francis of Assisi in San Antonio, Texas. What we noticed immediately was the sense of community.

The pastor and deacon plus a full group of ushers and greeters were engaged in welcoming everyone into the rapidly filling church. The whole liturgy had the feel of a large family gathering—nothing forced, just a natural flow of music, words, rites and breaking of bread together. The number of people participating in ministries was very large and diverse—as an example, we counted 22 members in the choir plus 7 instrumentalists.

Moments that touched us included a child leading the congregation in song as the rest of the children moved to another area of the church for children’s liturgy, a father and daughter preparing the table, and handmade bread. The pastor was a dynamic speaker unafraid to speak about peace and justice; he gave a very real and challenging homily. We also enjoyed using community postures throughout the rites—lots of standing and only kneeling for part of the Eucharistic Prayer. Even the celebration of an infant’s baptism was woven into the liturgy in a way that included everyone. It was a real blessing to be inspired by the words shared and to be at a mass where the Eucharist was the center—no dramatic effects to distract—and where the table and ministry seemed very open to all.

If you are in San Antonio, we would encourage you to visit St. Francis of Assisi. from parishioners, Mark and Michelle Peña

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $71,165.72 (last year same date: $70,877.80)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $164,394.10
Projected yearly shortfall: $178,093.61

Request for Ideas
Two phrases are repeated frequently from the pulpit in our parish: “the true meaning of peace,” and “the Eucharist is the center of our lives.” Neither is ever explained (maybe there is a presumption that we surely already know the meanings). I am curious what others take those phrases to mean. So, in twenty-five words or less, let’s hear from you (Blog or e-mail). Here is part of my take on these: “peace is the fruit of a just society” (stolen from Thomas Aquinas) and “the Eucharist is a celebratory, ritual meal the sharing of which unites us to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and unites us, the community, to each other—the Eucharist is an action, not an object.”

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


Chayo said...

Thank you Mark and Michelle for sharing your experience of what church should really be all about.

St Frances sounds just like what our parish, Holy Spirit, used to be. How could we have lost that spirit of God's love in this community? How is it possible to have only a few of us remember what a truly alive parish this once was.

I remember when families, fathers, mothers and their children would also set out table. How beautiful that was. To see our table being set to welcome our Lord Jesus Christ. How could we have allowed that to be changed? To see the bread that was so much a part of this community for so many years (23 years) just done away with. Our children’s liturgy, how I loved seeing all the children walk or even run to break open the word of God with the rest of the children who then would come back to our community. How could everything that was so much a part of this parish for so many years be done away with? Who is responsible? Bishop Pena? Father Louie? Or, was it those who did nothing to stop it?

I miss that parish and everyone who was a part of that spirit, all the families that have left and are still so missed. We have lost a treasure. I pray that one day we will find it again.

I for one will never forget Holy Spirit Parish as it was and hope that one day we can all remember that God’s love and our faith in that love gives us life.

So until then, may the God who created us all continue to work in each one of us with love, compassion and forgiveness.

Anonymous said...


Can anyone just imagine how different things could have been at Holy Spirit had our pastor just been experienced and caring enough to apply even a few of those recommendations suggested in the Diocesan Parish Manual for new pastors.

Looking them over again, I can’t find even one that our Monsignor didn’t totally ignore! I agree with Chayo, what senseless destruction of a once wonderful parish… all done under a sinful act of revenge against four female church workers for joining a union.

And we keep trying to convince everyone that we are the “One True Church”! Yea, right!

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of going to St. Ann's this week-end. I have been going to St. Ann's off and on for some time now.

Fr. Richard has a true gift of bring God's words to life and his good works shows in his community.

This week-end they welcomed a new pastor. Fr. Genero. He assured them that nothing would change in their community. Here is a prisit who wants to become a part of this parish not the other way around. All I can say to him, is well done. Learn from this community and let them learn about you too Fr. Genero. May God continue to bless you in your ministry.

Anonymous said...

Well, to all of you, I enjoyed my Mass at HS this weekend. I enjoy our pastor and enjoy the people who sit around me.

Anonymous said...

To anony:
Fr. Genero????
If he is the same as the one at HS, you can enjoy him all you want. We were so glad he left HS, did not do a darn thing for us. Just rode around in his new vehicle and found him at all the hockey games and fine restaurants.
Hope he is much better as a pastor.

Anonymous said...

We enjoy HS now that the change has taken place. It is peaceful and fullfilling to go and not have to worry about papers being handed out after Mass that have nothing to do with the parish, or signs posted as you leave and enter the church and mocky remarks being said about our pastor or bishop. It is a joy to go and celebrate and feel good with all that added burdens put on people who don't want to be part of it.
Thanks be to God for his good graces.

Anonymous said...

Father Genero was once at Holy Spirit under Father Louie. Then Father Louie requested that the Bishop have him removed. He was there one day and gone the next! I don't know what he did but no one was even allowed to tell him good-bye. Strange!

Just Wondering??? said...

To Juanita,

I guess we know where you spent your time. At all the hockey games and all the fine restaurants.

Be careful who you judge. I can tell you for a fact that Fr. Genero always returned his phone calls and kept all his appointments. He also spent most of his time at the office meeting with people who needed his help.

Fr. Louie on the other hand was never in the office. He would never return his phone calls and missed more appointments then anyone has the right too and still call himself a priest.

So I wonder where was FR. Louie???? Maybe in Europe at the World Soccer game????? Who knows? Only the Shadow knows for sure.

Anonymous said...

I do spend time at the hockey games because of my boys. My husband died 10 years ago and so I have taken up the role as both mother and father. So yes, with the grace of God I am able to purchase tickets for the hockey games and bring my boys to watch them. In this way, I can allow them to enjoy something their father would have enjoyed with them.
Also, as far as the fine restaurants, I am a waitress in one of them because the pay is good and the tips are great. And in this way, I can make some decent money without leaving my boys with other relatives. I work according to their schedule and sometimes it is very difficult.

Anonymous said...

As for me, I like attending the parish prayer night. Sorry you feel differently.
Peaceful and loving it.

Anonymous said...

"the true meaning of peace" and "the Eucharist is the center of our lives"
The true meaning of peace is when a person is at peace with themselves. It is the joy that one feels knowing that all he or she does is for peace without any disturbances on others.
The Eucharist is the center of our lives is when we see Christ in all things. Our actions, our feelings and our whole being reflects the Christ in our lives.
I am sorry that you see beyond the simple meaning of the words.
Peace to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Night prayer at the parish has been a blessing for me. I welcome it very much.
Thank you HS for calling us to prayer.

Anonymous said...

Maybe HS has saved some money with the high salaries that were being paid out. I would like to know what was going out on salaries before this all started. Maybe now we can use some of that money on the things that are needed.

Anonymous said...


Funny you should mention money. Where has all the money gone to?

There has been no accounting of the parish money for the last 5 years. Fr. Jerry use to give us a penny by penny account.

Wonder why Fr. Louie does not do the same?

As for the large salaries being paid out? Who told you they were large?

But it would be good to know where all the money from this parish is now being spend on. Maybe you should ask Fr. Louie.

Anonymous said...


It isn't enough to talk about peace, one must believe it.
And it isn't enough to believe in it, one must work for it!

Eleanor Roosevelt

"All works of love are works of peace."

Mother Teresa

Anonymous said...

J.J.R., I find it funny that you think the employees of Holy Spirit made "high salaries". We use to have access to the budget and could see how much was being paid in saleries. I can tell you I looked and for the years of serviice and hours worked, the employees were not as highly paid as you think. That was then. Now we have no idea what the budget is or what the expenditures are. I just wonder how close the newsletter estimates really are. Sign Me, A Wondering Catholic.

Gerald Brazier said...

To refresh everyone's memory as to where the "financials" that appear in the newsletter every two weeks come from:

In October of 2005 we had our last financial report to the parish. It covered the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2005. In that report, the yearly budget was stated to have been $754,000 and the expenses for that year were stated to have exceeded that amount by $100,997.52.

The assumptions that guide the newsletter entries are that the budget has stayed the same ($14,500 per week) and that the expenditures over budget ($1,942.26 per week) have stayed the same--these are probably not valid assumptions, but they are based on the only data that is available to parishioners.

The income data is what is printed in the bulletin each week. Early on in our current pastor's tenure collection amounts were reported separately (main collection vs. building fund, St. Vincent de Paul, etc.) but that practice stopped about a year ago. There is no way to know whether first and second collection amounts are now being bundled into one figure or if only the main collection is being reported. It is the main collection that is meant to cover the budget--the other collections are designated for specific, non-operating, purposes.

A yearly financial report to the parish is required in this diocese (see the Diocesan Manual). When we see such a report, then estimates wouldn't be necessary and veiled insinuations that money was wasted in the past could be looked at objectively.

Anonymous said...

So, Mr. know it all Brazier, if we have not had a financial report in 2 years and we must have one each year, what can we do to make that happen? Does the bishop not know that Brum is ignoring his rules?