Sunday, December 26, 2004

Newsletter of 12/26/04

Thoughts from Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit/

Peace and Justice, Decommissioned:
Within a week of being honored with a national award by her religious community, the Sisters of Mercy, for her work for peace and justice, Sister Moira Kenney was informed by our pastor that "her services as Coordinator of the Peace and Justice Commission were no longer required."

In addition, "after much prayerful thought and consideration," he made other changes to the Commission, with no consultation with any of the members. In fact, our Pastor has never attended a meeting of the Commission, even though repeatedly invited.

These changes, as originally announced, eliminated (among others) the following activities:

Affirmation Night, that honored those in the community working for peace and justice and has brought major speakers to the parish, including Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking and noted critic of the death penalty.

Downtown Good Friday Stations of the Cross. A part of our parish for years.

Labor Issues. Where attention has been drawn to Catholic social teaching, including advocacy for justice in the workplace (maquiladoras and for the farm workers in the field).

Peace and Non-violence Issues. Where information is provided about the Church's teachings on discrimination, hate crimes, capital punishment, war, etc. This has included protesting the Afghan and Iraqi wars (wars condemned by the Church), and protesting the atrocities committed against religious workers and the oppressed of Latin America by graduates of the School of the Americas.

Housing Issues. Parish participation in the Homeless Coalition, the Community Hope Project's Housing Division, and efforts to establish a Catholic Worker House.

Hunger Issues. Parish participation in the Crop Walk to alleviate hunger, our membership in Bread for the World, and plans to establish, in conjunction with other parishes, a soup kitchen.

In his discussion about these changes with Sister Moira, our Pastor indicated that he was unhappy with the people currently involved with Peace and Justice Commission, calling them "divisive."

The inference could be drawn that removing Sister Moira and curtailing the activities of the Commission were not necessarily motivated by principled differences about the implications of Catholic social teaching, but instead, were motivated by personality conflicts that our Pastor has with people active in the Commission who are among those who have been critical of his work in the parish.

On other occasions, our Pastor has characterized some of those who are critical as "evil." A divisive person is one who brings divisions, not one who points them out; an evil person is one who causes distress and harm, not one who seeks to heal and restore.

Charity and Justice:
There is a distinction between the call we have as Christians to be charitable (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc.) and the call we have as Christians to hunger and thirst for justice.
Anyone who has spent time working face to face with those in need eventually comes to the realization that those important efforts, though never to be abandoned, are not sufficient.

In many situations, the suffering of people is the direct result of malformed or malfunctioning social systems that violate the principles of justice laid down in the Gospel. In those cases, the Church teaches that we must work to reform the systems—we cannot stand silent and deal only with the results of the injustice.

Such a mandate requires public action; it may even require action in the political arena. Concern for life issues eventually leads to working for abolishing the death penalty and trying to end American involvement in war. Concern for health, housing, and immigration issues eventually leads to political action to reform our government policies that lead to the unjust treatment of people.

These (and others) are Catholic issues, they are not separated from our faith in some other domain. The Vatican and the Bishops of the United States have been very clear on this point, many times risking controversy to call us to action (see Faithful Citizenship at:

It appears, however, that our parish will no longer be allowed to be a voice for issues like these and we of Holy Spirit will no longer be allowed to carry out the Gospel mandate for peace and justice as part of our parish life. Someone may be made uncomfortable by the Gospel message—therefore we must be silent?

What has for long years been considered “dissent” in the churches by those who want more answers than questions, more clerical authority than spiritual investment, may not be real dissent at all.

People are not challenging Christianity and leaving the Church. They are not arguing against the need for a spiritual life. They are not denying God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. They are not ridiculing religion and going away. On the contrary. People currently considered “excommunicated” or “suspect” or “heretical” or “smorgasbord” believers, are in many ways, among the most intense Christians of our time.

They do more than sing in the choir or raise money for the parish center or fix flowers for the church. They care about it and call it to be its truest self. They question it, not to undermine it, but to strengthen it. They call for new ways of being church together. They do not dismiss the need for the spiritual life. They crave it. What’s more, they look for it in their churches. But, they crave more than ritual. They crave meaning. They look for more than salvation. They look for authenticity and the integrity of the faith. Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, In Search of Belief, page 9

The Sanctity of Life:
A rose has been placed on our altar to remind us of our church’s teaching on the sanctity of life—that life is a gift and should be respected from “womb to tomb”. Certainly at this time of year, we remember especially the miracle of the womb as we hear stories of the infant Jesus. But just as the coming of the Christ child into our hearts should make a tremendous difference in how we live, the teaching of the sanctity of life dictates a fundamental change in our actions as well.

If we truly accept that all life is sacred, we must not only protect the unborn and the elderly. We must treat every person we encounter with the dignity due one of God’s own. We must even treat with dignity and respect those who disagree with us or those who don’t do things our way.

God’s creation is diverse, unique and infinite - and there is room for all at God’s table. If we cannot gather to celebrate in all our God-given diversity, then the rose on our altar is just a rose. In this season, we muct remember that Christ came for all, to love all. We are called to do the same. From a Parishioner.

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these or other issues concerning our parish, please contact us at If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted on Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of "Holy Spirit" in your title line.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Newsletter of 12/12/04

Thoughts from Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit.

Some Thoughts for Advent.
We all know that our culture has commercialized Christmas, but has the commercial spirit also crept into our faith life? Is our advent wreath just another decoration? Are we more concerned with making sure all the gestures, candles and vessels look correct, than what they mean?

Two thousand years ago, the Christ child came—but not to a perfectly appointed temple. He came to a humble manger. He came to a man and woman who had nothing but hearts full of love and trust in the will of God.

After our advent season of preparation, the Christ child will come again. This Christmas the Christ child will come once again to the manger of humble hearts—hearts with love and trust in God: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. From a parishioner.

If You Want Peach, Work for Just Ice.
The foolishness of relying on the spell checker to do proofreading was brought home a few weeks ago, as the phrase heading up this section managed to slip into a draft of some comments on "peace and justice". The word processing software didn't know what was supposed to be there, and so allowed the properly spelled, but meaningless, phrase to past muster.

But even if the words are spelled right, the phrase from Pope Paul VI, "If you want peace, work for justice," still passes through the minds of many, even Catholics, as a misunderstood or consciously rejected proposition, and ends up garbled in our conversations within the Church and when we present ourselves to the world at large.

The sermon offered to the parish on the weekend of December 5th, presented a view of peace, justice, and the relation between the two, that is not only at odds with Paul VI's, but appears to be at odds with that familiar ''job description of a Christian," the Sermon on the Mount.

Peace is not the same as tranquility and tranquility is not the goal we seek—we seek the peace that is the fruit of a just society. The Apostle Paul, Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, the Prophets of Israel, even Jesus Himself were harsh, public critics of the established religious institutions—they did not stand by in quiescent tranquility, valuing unity with authority above all else, but spoke out against what they thought was wrong. Their comments were not complaining or whining.

Sometimes philosophical and theological differences have little significance on our day to day lives as Christians, but other times, such differences matter. When the very nature of the parish community, its ministries, and its liturgy are impacted, then the differences matter.

An Advent Parable
This Advent, just learn to wait. It's one of life's greatest lessons.

The ancients tell the story of a greathearted soul who ran through the streets of the city crying, "Power, greed and corruption. Power, greed and corruption." For a time at least, the attention of the people seemed to be riveted on this single-minded openhearted person for whom all of life had become focused in one great question.

But then everyone went back to work, only slightly hearing, some downright annoyed. Still, however, the cries continued. Finally, one day, a child stepped in front of the wailing figure on a cold and stormy night. "Elder," the child said, "don't you realize that no one is listening to you?"
"Of course I do, my child," the elder answered. "Then why do you shout?" the child insisted, incredulous. "If nothing is changing, your efforts are useless." "Oh no, dear child, these efforts are never useless," the elder said. "You see, I do not shout simply to change them. I shout so they cannot change me."

That is the fruit of Advent. That is the secret of waiting. It is ourselves we must teach to listen. It is we who must wait again for new life, like all of those before us who waited for the "fullness of time." Sister Joan Chittister , OSB, contemporary spiritual writer.

Congratulations to Sister Moira.
A distinguished national award was presented at Mass on December 12th to Moira Kenny, RSM, who was honored by her community, the Sisters of Mercy, for her work in peace and justice. Sister Moira, among many other things, is the Chair of the Holy Spirit Peace and Justice Commission. Scores of people joined in a social after the ceremony—the Pastor couldn't make it.

An Update.
From a fax sent by the Diocese as a weekly update:

Canonical Judges to Assess Contract Validity.
Three ecclesiastical judges with doctorates in Canon Law were scheduled to be in the Diocese of Brownsville next week to assess an internal matter of the Church, the canonical validity of a contract entered into on May 23, 2002 between Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen and the United Farm Workers Union. However, one of the judges has taken ill and the process will be rescheduled.

The judges will be here as part of a Diocesan Collegiate Court [Tribunal] to review the case. All have written and lectured extensively on matters of Canon Law issues.

What is not part of this weekly update is that the Bishop has failed to inform the litigants in the Holy Spirit workers case of the existence of this Tribunal, much less its scheduling, as required by the mediation settlement. This weekly update appeared only a few hours after questions about such a Tribunal were raised with the Pastor.

In answering these questions, our Pastor indicated that it was at his instigation that the validity of the contract is being reviewed. Additionally, he stated that he dislikes the UFW and agrees with our Vicar General that parish employees don't need unions. His solution: have priests take courses in administration.

So, even though the long established teaching of the Church supports the right of workers to organize, such a teaching does not apply to the Church itself! It is clear that the diocese doesn't want unions or see a need for them, but shouldn't the parish employees be able to decide for themselves whether they do or not? This is the teaching of the Church and is the heart of American labor law.

Some Suggestions.
Everybody have a wonderful Christmas—deeply spiritual and loads of fun. Remember, in your prayers and in your generosity, the poor and needy or our community.

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these or other issues concerning our parish, please contact us at If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted on Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of "Holy Spirit" in your title line.