Monday, February 28, 2005

Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta came to the 12:30 mass on Feb. 27. Together with Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the United Farm Workers, and managed to raise 11 children aswell. I had the privilege of speaking with her after mass and I was taken back because she treated me as a long lost friend. Her humility and simpleness contrast greatly with the ostentatious presentation that the Church often prefers with its fine vestments, gold chalices, and marble altars.

She found our open, utilitarian church conducive to spirituality, and spent quite a bit of time admiring the Lady of Guadalupe niche. As is often the case, our pastor was not present, but the visiting priest, good Fr. Jim, came to congratulate Huerta after mass and remarked on the standing ovation she received. He also said that Cesar Chavez would be a saint some day.

Now that would be ironic: make Chavez a saint while persecuting his people, church worker members of the United Farm Workers! One thing that she told me lifted my spirits greatly. She said that we would win our struggle, no doubt about it. That is enough for me; if Dolores Huerta, with all her experience in honest struggles against great odds says that we shall overcome, then we will, and the church of the future will be better.

From a parishioner-

Monday, February 21, 2005

Newsletter of 02/20/05

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—February 20, 2005

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:5)

The Beatitudes, Continued
“We just received a very extraordinary compliment from Jesus today. ‘You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.’ That's an extraordinary thing for Jesus to say to us especially when we remember he is the one who is called the light of the world. Now he's saying that is who we are, the light of the world. It's definitely a compliment. Jesus is saying we are like him. We are to take his place.

“And of course it's also a challenge to be salt and light for the world. To be salt means to preserve something good and wholesome, and to be light means to drive away the darkness and enable people to live in openness and joy. …

“In the second lesson, [Paul] … said that what he had come to do was to preach Christ, a crucified Christ. ‘That's the power,’ he said, ‘of my message.’ Preaching a crucified Christ. We have to get the full meaning of that. Paul was saying, I'm preaching someone who was willing to let himself be tortured, even killed rather than to torture or to kill another. That is who Jesus is. It is the greatest act of love that we see manifest anywhere at any time when Jesus is nailed to the cross, being executed, but he still reaches out in forgiveness and love. That is the whole message of Jesus, which lead Paul to say, ‘I am preaching a crucified Christ.’ We have to let that really sink in. We can never retaliate; we can never use violence, not if we're going to follow Jesus. That is so very different than what our world tells us.” from Bishop Thomas Gumbleton’s (Detroit) sermon on February 6th.

disingenuous, adj. not frank; insincere; covertly guileful; crafty.

In 1985, the Diocese of Brownsville began to require each parish to have a Parish (or Pastoral Council). In the ensuing twenty years this requirement has not always been followed; in fact, some parishes and some pastors have never had a working council. At the recently concluded Diocesan Synod, the requirement was reiterated, and a committee was established to develop guidelines for the development of pastoral councils. Would you interpret the Synod’s actions to mean that all councils currently in place, and operating under the 1985 directives, are now null and void and are to be replaced by interim councils which would operate under no guidelines? Probably not.

Yet this is exactly the public position taken by our Pastor. His remarks to the parish were disingenuous (see above), in that he implied that the Diocese was requiring an interim council be named, replacing the already established council. Given the fact that our Parish Council has been inactive for nearly six months, a more honest stance would have been to say that he is not comfortable with either the structure of the current council or the personnel serving (or both) and he wanted to start fresh.

The tactic that the Pastor chose, taken together with the many unanswered questions about the selection process and the vagueness about the council’s structure and function, have created an unease and lack of trust. This is not a good start to reestablishing the mechanism by which “Christ's faithful … give their help in fostering pastoral action.” (Canon Law Code 536.1)

Thin Ice
“Listening to my children’s Shrek soundtrack CD was an unlikely source, but there it was, a concise description of Lent:
The ice we skate, is getting pretty thin,
The water’s getting warm, so you might as well swim.
Greg Camp

“Lent is a chance to take some time to take a good honest look at our faith lives. Maybe we have just been skating along not really paying attention to what is happening underneath the surface. Lent is not just about identifying what in our lives makes us feel remorse or regret, and then to keep skating. Lent is about repentance and conversion. And repentance is about seeing the thin ice and being open to God’s invitation to change. If we let God convert us—everything changes. We can’t just skate along anymore, we have to take the plunge and swim.

“Pretty heavy stuff from a kid’s CD, but then God speaks not only through the gospels on Sunday, but also through the gospel of our lived experiences. We might not all be schooled theologians, but we all gain wisdom from the theology present in the school of life.

“Just a small reflection about our own parish:
Changes and circumstances have many of us feeling like we are on thin ice. And the desire to skate off and leave can be very powerful. Perhaps the following anonymous quote can offer a balancing voice: ‘If not us, who? If not here, where? If not now, when? If not for the kingdom, why?’” from a Parishioner.

inconsistent, adj. failing to keep to the same principles, course of action, etc.; changeable.
On the State Capitol grounds in Austin there is a stone slab with the Ten Commandments inscribed. This slab has been politically controversial for some time and is the object of a lawsuit now in federal court.

Father Louis Brum, of the Holy Spirit Church of McAllen … said the Ten Commandments were for all people, and should be able to remain on the grounds they have been located on for the past 40-plus years. “The Ten Commandments serve a tremendous purpose to remind us of the values and standards of life,” Brum said. “It does not endorse a specific religion, and is without any preference.” The UTPA Pan American, February 10th, page 12.

Leaving aside his interpretation of the establishment clause of the Constitution, our Pastor’s decision to speak publicly, identified as our pastor, on a controversial political issue is odd, given the adamancy with which he has refused parishioners the right to do the same—that is, to speak publicly, as parishioners, on issues which have political implications and are related to Church teaching. Such behavior is inconsistent (see above). The irony is that the issue the Pastor has chosen to speak about is not really related to the Gospel or to religion at all, but is about religiosity, the affectation or show of religious feeling.

It is difficult to reconcile the silencing of our parish’s “prophetic voice” on the Gospel issues of our time—war, poverty, social injustice, “the seamless garment” of life, etc.—with the Pastor’s taking to himself the right to speak publicly, as pastor, on a purely political, constitutional issue with no Gospel significance.

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

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Catholic in Good Standing?

Just what is a Catholic in good standing? Would someone please tell me?

I was wondering what qualifications were required for a layperson to participate in being a Reader at Mass. Or, for someone to be a Eucharistic Minister? How about being qualified to serve on a Parish Committee? Or, even to help tally the collection offerings?

Everybody keeps telling me that; "you should to be a Catholic in good standing".

I am VERY CONCERNED that our Reverend Pastor is forbidding parishioners from being a Eucharistic Minister, from being a Reader at Mass and from serving on a Committee that they were once a part, even though they were duly elected by the community to such committees and have faithfully served our parish in that capacity for many years.

If your local priest thinks that you don't agree with him, can he suddenly declare that you have lost your "Catholic in Good Standing" rating and remove you from participating in any of the parish ministries... elected or not?

No Catholic Priest that I know of would dare to do some of the things this priest is attempting to pull off at our parish. Just how far will he go to satisfy the vindictiveness of his superior? And does his superior think that we are so naive to think that it could be originating from anywhere else?

And he expects us to respect him as the spiritual leader of our diocese...?

Go figure...

Please Dear God,... We Pray,... Give Us Back Our Vatican-II Parish!

If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted to Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of “Holy Spirit” in your title line.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Stand, Kneel, Sit or Squat?

I think it is really sad...

Back in the old days at Holy Spirit,.. I think we were much more focused during the consecration portion of the Mass then we are today.

The Consecration has always been a very private moment for me... one where I am able to offer myself, in union with Jesus Christ,.. to my Father.

During this very precious time, I try to keep myself totally focused on my Creator. So much so, that I am usually oblivious to things happening around me,.... including what my neighbors are doing!

Isn't it a shame that during this most SACRED of times, many in our parish are busy looking around to see who is standing, kneeling or sitting.

Even our Priest seems to be looking around to see if he can catch anyone disobeying his hard-fast kneeling rules... How focused does that make him?

Maybe I'm from a younger generation, but I feel that what is truly important here is, "the posture of your heart,.. not the posture of your body".

Standing during consecration has been a long-standing tradition at Holy Spirit. Our church was originally "designed" as a standing community and it is sometimes VERY HARD to change a tradition... especially if the changes are being "imposed" by a foreign agent reflective of a hostile superior.

The GIRM is very flexible in this area and allows that posture be based on the past traditions of the community and designs of our facilities, with emphasis on uniformity within the community.

Maybe, instead of trying to "impose" changes to this long standing tradition, we could place this option before the community,... to see what they would prefer!

Wow... What an idea... Maybe we could also do the same thing concerning:

(1). Returning to our freshly baked communion bread.
(2). Re-establishment of our Peace & Justice Committee and its Chairperson.
(3). Re-establishment of a Parish Council reflective of our community.
(4). Keeping Affirmation Night at our parish.
(5). Re-establishment of our Worship Committee.
(6). Returning credibility to our Finance Committee.

(7). Reestablishment of our Small-Faith Community Chairperson.
(8). Letting the parish decide if we need a "paid" Deacon.
(9). Etc... (to numerous to mention here).

Please God,... We Pray,... Let us have our Vatican II parish back!

If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted to Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of “Holy Spirit” in your title line.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Affirmation Night.. and beyond.

Affirmation Night...
Affirmation Night was absolutely wonderful... What an honor to have Sister Dianna Ortiz and Jennifer Harbury remove our blindfolds... And what an attendance! Not just local people... Another HUGE SUCCESS for Holy Spirit Parish! What a shame.... now gone forever!

I thought it was just deplorable that our Reverend Pastor was not present, even momentarily, to welcome this nationally recognized Ashoka Fellowship, Pax Christi National Peacemaker and 2003 U.S. Catholic Award winner to "his" parish? Does he even realize the scope of these awards?

Was this whole affirmation bit just part of his personal vendetta against Sister Moira? Or,... could he really be that un-serving? Hello,...would someone please inform our Reverend Pastor that either case is highly unbecoming of a Catholic Priest!

Also, can our Reverend Pastor really FIRE Sister Moira from VOLUNTEERING on our Peace and Justice Commission? How can you FIRE a volunteer? Do all of the clergy in this diocese have FIRE FEVER?

"If they don't agree with you,... FIRE 'EM and don't let 'em have their silly affirmation programs here again!"

What a tragic loss not having Sister Moira on our Peace and Justice Commission would be! Talk about someone who has been in the trenches and has stood up for Peace and Justice,.. at a great personal sacrifice! I think she is an outstanding example of the true teachings of Christ!

If you feel the same way, maybe it's time you made your feelings known to our Reverend Pastor... That is, if you can get an appointment with him. Many have tried for months,.. all to no avail. And don't even THINK about writing him a letter and getting a response,... HELL WILL FREEZE OVER!

The Fiasco after the Affirmation...
I am not even going to comment about what happened in our Assembly Hall after the Affirmation Night Presentation! After everything that Sister Dianna has been through, she certainly doesn't deserve more hurt... Really left her with GREAT memories of her visit to Holy Spirit! HOW SAD.

The Fiasco after the Fiasco...
Once the inconsiderate culprit was finally physically escorted from the Assembly Hall, there was a continuing confrontation outside in the Courtyard.

Seems one of our Church Elders was heard by several to say that the parishioner who physically escorted the culprit out of the Hall had no right to do so, because "she does not donate to this parish"!

First of all...
How would he know if she is donating or not? Sure, he is in charge of counting our collection offerings, but since our attempted hostile take-over, many of us do not use our
Offering Envelopes, electing only to give to the building fund or to second collection offerings... nothing that would eventually get into the hands of the bishop!

This man is supposed to hold a position of SACRED TRUST in our parish. If our Reverend Pastor wants to FIRE someone,.. this is the person that should be FIRED. If true, this man should NEVER, EVER be allowed to hold ANY OFFICE OF RESPONSIBILITY in our parish again!

Please God,.. We Pray,.. Give us our Vatican II Parish back!

If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted to Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of "Holy Spirit" in your title line.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Gold Vessels vs Real Bread

Gold Vessels...
The Diocese has put the word out that all of the vessels used to celebrate mass must be made out of a "precious metal".

I don't know who is advising the bishop on these matters. Many of the other GIRM directives also utilize strong verbiage, such as; "the meaning of the sign demands that the Eucharist should look and feel like real food"... "recently baked"... "made in such a way that the priest is able to break it into parts for distribution to the faithful". (GIRM 320-321)
Sure sounds like our old BREAD at Holy Spirit!

Gold vessels are expensive and Holy Spirit, as a parish, has never felt the need to have GOLD VESSELS... Better to use the money to feed the poor!

Remember, it is NOT the vessel that is important,... it is what is INSIDE the vessel.

More on the subject...
Because of reduced offerings since our attempted hostel take-over, Holy Spirit has not been in a position to afford these new GOLD VESSELS... Our new pastor's solution: "No problem, we will ask a select few of our parishioners to donate money so we can purchase them... in return, we will engrave their names on the vessels" ie. "Donated By"...

In our old parish, EVERYONE would have been asked to donate collectively, whatever each could afford. No names would have been engraved and no one would have been excluded,.. especially anyone who was not in a position to donate!

Besides, by making this offer in secret and only to a select few, many have been denied the opportunity to do the same!

I guess it is hard for some priests to understand how a Vatican II parish is designed to work... This one doesn't have a clue... Or, maybe our good bishop is still influencing his decisions and over-riding what he feels in his heart.

Please God,... We Pray,... Let us have our Vatican II parish back!

If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted to Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of “Holy Spirit” in your title line.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Newsletter of 02/06/05

Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—February 6, 2005

The Beatitudes
When we feed the hungry, we are saints; when we ask why they are hungry, they call us communists. Dorothy Day.

Sheila O’Keefe O’Brien died November 27, in Tallahassee, Florida. She was a gentle, smiling woman who led the formation of the local Pax Christi USA chapter, the Tallahassee Citizens Against the Death Penalty, and was an unwavering force on the Tallahassee Network for Peace and Justice. She was appointed to the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission and was involved with those who raised the awareness that led to the release of 26 innocent people from Florida’s death row.

At her funeral, in the packed cathedral of 500 people, her pastor said that when Jesus created the Beatitudes he looked down through the ages to his disciples of future generations. In the 20th and 21st centuries, "He saw Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Sheila O’Brien among those living the Beatitudes". National Catholic Reporter, January 7, 2005.

“Just weeks before the scheduled execution of serial killer Michael Ross, Connecticut’s Catholic bishops urged the state’s more than one million Catholics 'to make their voices heard’ by calling for repeal of the death penalty….The Connecticut bishops each issued letters outlining the Catholic church’s opposition to capital punishment that were to be read at all Masses January 8th and 9th”. National Catholic Reporter, January 26, 2005.

The contrast between the Catholicism that is preached from the pulpits and being exhorted to practice in the parishes of Tallahassee and Connecticut, and the Catholicism being presented in our parish is not only sharp, but is deeply disturbing to anyone who has listened to the Scripture readings of the last few Sundays.

Peace and Justice Commission Meeting.
At the Peace and Justice Commission meeting on January 31st, our Pastor refused to provide any justification to the gathered Commission for his limiting its activities. He told the group that he had made a decision and owed the group no explanations—even though he indicated he was willing to meet individually to discuss the matter.

After some unruly time, the Commission began to work its way through the agenda, with the discussions punctuated by comments from the group reminding the Pastor that simple charity is never enough—the Gospel compels us to seek changes in society so that social injustice is corrected; we must do more than bind those wounded by it.

Throughout the evening, our Pastor voiced, again and again, the sentiment that systemic change is impossible and we must content ourselves with direct help to those closest to us.

The defeat of slavery began with the voices of a few Christian abolitionists, the British were driven from India by the insistent voice of one man inspired by Christ’s Beatitudes, civil rights were won for Black Americans by a few voices speaking out, guided by their understanding of the Gospel, and a whole world was changed by twelve people who believed in the message they heard that day on the Mount.

The Parish Council
"…In this council, which is presided over by the parish priest, Christ's faithful, together with those who by virtue of their office are engaged in pastoral care in the parish, give their help in fostering pastoral action." (Canon Code 536.1)

On the weekend of February 12-13, we will have an opportunity to nominate people to serve on an interim Parish Council (why the current Council cannot serve until the Diocese “develops its guidelines” is not at all clear).

What will happen with these nominations?
What qualifications should members of the Council have?
How will the Council function?
What are to be its responsibilities?

These are only a few of the questions that should be answered before we are asked to put people’s names forward.

Letters, We Get Letters…
What follows is from a letter sent to our Pastor in December:

“It is with great sadness that we are writing this letter. After more than 8 years of growing and celebrating our faith as members of Holy Spirit Parish, we find it necessary to terminate our membership and move on.

“…We have appreciated greatly the challenge to growth that it has provided with the continuous invitation to serve the poor, reach out to the needy, struggle for social justice, develop a mission consciousness, serve the youth and the elderly and celebrate the faith that unites us in meaningful and Spirit-filled liturgical celebrations.

“All of that has changed since you have become the pastor of Holy Spirit. You have quenched the Spirit in Holy Spirit and have substituted external symbols and meaningless, outdated ritual in its place. You have closed yourself to the involvement and input of us as parishioners and have set yourself up as the sole authority and only instrument of God’s action in the parish.

This ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’ (cf Mt 12:31) cries out to heaven as the parish itself is dying… .”

“…Therefore we pray that God will have mercy on you, on Bishop Pena for what you have done to this formerly alive, vibrant community of faith. And once again, Jesus wept.”

Ron and Janella Frankl Reicks, former Parishioners.

The Church in the Desert, Part Two
Along with the rights we have as members of the Church, comes responsibility. We have the responsibility to actively claim and live out our rights and our faith. Yes, we have a right to be a Vatican II Church – but just as Vatican II gave voice and a place for laity, it also asks the laity to step up to the plate. As Ghandi has said, we have to “be the change.”

Yes, our Church is in a desert time, but that does not necessarily mean a barren time. Jesus actively went to the desert to spend time in prayer, to seek clarity, to gain wisdom and courage. Jesus sought His Father in the desert and then renewed in strength went out in compassion to “be the change.” And so it should be with our Lent in our desert.

The desert can seem harsh, but it is also a place full of life and growth if we search and listen. We must keep in mind the words of Margaret Mead as we journey: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” From a Parishioner

A Brief Note
The Pastor has asked the Choir Director to tell a parishioner that she is no longer welcome to sing in the choir because "she does not support me 100% and has been defiant." Not singing out of tune, you understand, but just hearing a different drummer.

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. 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 If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted to Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of “Holy Spirit” in your title line.