Monday, June 27, 2005

Parish Newsletter - 06/26/05

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—June 26, 2005

Many of us remember from our childhood the Gumby toy—you know, the figure of a little man that could be stretched, bent, and twisted into any shape we wanted. Well, this past week we were blessed by a visit from the ultimate anti-Gumby, a small, soft-spoken man who gave uncompromising answers to the question, "What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus today?"

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, basing his talk on the words of “heretical heterodox liberals” like John Paul II, Paul VI and John XXIII and those of “notorious cafeteria Catholics,” like the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, made his major point that peace is based on the twin pillars of justice and love, particularly that special form of love, forgiveness.

It was a powerful evening attended by nearly 300 people. What a shame that aside from the two priests from the hosting parish there were only two other priests from the Diocese of Brownsville—hey fellas, what gives?

Soul Food
Nutrition experts offer the following advice: your food should be able to remember where it came from. In other words, the fresher, least processed and least chemically altered, the better. Seems like the same advice can apply to church. Sure, we are a human institution and that means we need rules and laws to be able to function. But our rules and laws emanate from the Word—the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. If our rules have become too processed, if they can’t remember the Spirit or Jesus’ teachings that they come from, then they are like empty food and are unable to sustain or nourish the Body of Christ. Especially in this year of the Eucharist, we need to turn to the Bread of Life and the Word that sustains us. And, we need to be welcoming all to the table. From parishioner, Michelle Pena

Jesus Increases
It is a great tragedy that the new “theology” at Holy Spirit is encouraging different factions and that the new “spirit” is not one of joyful celebration but rather one of great disharmony, dishonesty and distrust. It’s difficult to walk through the front doors of the church on Sunday mornings with the uncertainty of what changes one will encounter. The latest is that our Fr. Louis Brum is now methodically crossing lectors off the list if that particular person is participating in anything that even “smells” of peace & justice. No matter that these individuals have been active members of Holy Spirit parish for YEARS; no matter that they, through their choice to be a true image of Christ, choose to make the church a priority in their family; no matter that they have served our parish not only as lectors but as active members in many ministries including ACTS. All this work does not seem to matter to the Reverend Father. What matters most to him, it seems, is to elevate himself over and above the people of God.

The saddest irony of all is that this new “theology” is a direct contradiction to what is proclaimed to be the true mission of the Catholic Church. And if one goes to the top, the Holy See, and examines the many encyclicals and church documents of the past twenty-five years, then the actions taken by the Reverend Father completely nulls and voids what our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II worked so long and so hard for – peace and justice. He taught this even as he approached his death. Yet the audacity of one priest to go against the teachings of one of the greatest peace-makers the church has ever seen is incomprehensible and unacceptable.

Over the span of the past two years, it has been difficult at Holy Spirit Parish to focus on the greater picture because of the trite and trivial matters that are taking up so much precious time and destroying the work that has been the hallmark of this community since its inception – to work against poverty and to work for peace and justice. Yet, during his homily yesterday, that’s exactly what Fr. Jose Salazar encouraged us to do during the 12:30 Mass. Look at the bigger picture, he said. Work, right now, for what is just so that, even if you don’t see it in your lifetime, your work will bear its fruit in the years to come. “Go out,” he said, “and be the true priests, kings and prophets Jesus called you to be.”

One of the great examples of a true prophet that Bishop Gumbleton gave last week in his presentation was that of John the Baptist. How great it is to hear that a true prophet was born in Jesus’ time, not to proclaim his own “agenda” but to proclaim that one greater than he was to come. How great to be inspired by John the Baptist’s words—May I decrease so that He, who comes, may increase. I am saddened that this is not a philosophy or a way of life that Reverend Father chooses for himself and it is not the way of life that is encouraged by the members of the groups he is compelled to endorse such as the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters. In their promenades in and out of church, in the vast numbers of members that they boast to have, why is that we never witness their actions to echo the words of St. John—“May I decrease so that Jesus can increase.” The very promenade into the sanctuary, which diminishes the presence of Christ in our midst and calls attention to them, is not reflective of these words. As Fr. Jose reminded us yesterday, we are all equal on this earth; it was not created for one of us but for all of us.

There are many at Holy Spirit who have worked and continue to work, albeit in a less obvious manner, to continue the work that started years ago. There are many who contribute hundreds of hours a month to the ministries that give the parish its wonderful character. There is not a defunct action simply because the priest says it can’t happen anymore. In spite of the discouragement to embrace the loving ministry of peace and justice, to embrace lovingly and wholeheartedly the ministry to the ill, the ministry to the poor, the ministry to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, in spite of all this, there are many who work to decrease so that Jesus may increase. Of these, there are not many who Reverend Father would call to be his personal advisers based on the simple reason that they are not following his “agenda” – perhaps because they are not pious enough or perhaps because they can’t bow down low enough when they see him approach.

But there is a unity there among them. There is the great belief that they will decrease so that Jesus may increase; they will do whatever they can to continue their work. Long after this lifetime is over, their work – the work for justice and peace—will bear its fruit. May God Bless us All, YSIC, Glenda (a parishioner)

The Orthodoxy Report
Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep.
Buffalo Springfield

More parishioners were removed from ministry this week, ostensibly because they placed a placard inside their own cars advertising Bishop Gumbleton’s talk. The Pastor “tracked them down” via their license plate numbers. Was it Sam Spade or was it Captain Queeg?

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

A word about last Sunday's 12:30 Mass.
What an uplifting mass that was celebrated at 12:30 this past Sunday by Fr. Jose Salazar. His prophetic message was well received and very needed by the Holy Spirit community. It earned extended applause and a standing ovation. It was wonderful to once again hear a homily based on the scripture readings that challenges us to do what Jesus calls us to do.

May God continue to bless us with priests, like Fr. Jose, who are willing to speak out on the injustices that surround us and to instill a seed of hope in each one of us that goodwill will always precede over those willing to destroy what God has given to us.
~A parishioner

More on Fr. Jose and Gumbleton.
The Newsletter continues to have excellent insight about our faith from laity. It should be in all of the parish bulletins in the Diocese. Glenda's account of Bishop Gumbleton's message is outstanding; she is a true prophetic voice. What richness we have at Holy Spirit!

Fr. Salazar mentioned several times at the 12:30 mass how he wished that we had attended Bishop Gumbleton's talk. Of course, we were prevented by Mr. Brum from advertising it at Holy Spirit, although we managed to do it to an extent. The presentation was taped. We should have a showing of it at Holy Spirit. If Mr. Brum doesn't like it, he doesn't have to attend (although he should). This is our parish!
Peace & Justice,
Guy Hallman

News Release from the Diocese on Channel-4 News
Canonical Judges’ Decision Expected in September.
The Tribunal of the Diocese of Brownsville, with a panel of three judges from outside of the diocese, held sessions last week to examine the validity of the May 23, 2002 contract between Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen and the United Farm Workers of America.

Fourteen witnesses were called. The panel of judges is now studying the testimony and evidence presented. Given the amount of testimony and documentation in the case, as well as their other duties, the judges expect to issue a formal decision by the end of September.

Scheduled Meeting with Father Bert Diaz.
Today, Wednesday, June 29, 2005, is the day that our five representatives are scheduled to meet with Fr.Bert Diaz to discuss the Letter of Concerns that was signed by over 270 members of our parish and sent to Fr. Louis Brum. This meeting is scheduled for 4:00 PM. We ask all to pray for an amicable outcome. We will keep you posted on any progress.

Inspired by Bishop Gumbleton I'd like to subbmit:
"...the U.S. bishops wrote,
'Peacemaking is not an optional commitment. It is a requirement of our faith.
We are called to be peacemakers, not by some movement of the moment, but
by our Lord Jesus.'''

A Parishioner~

Note: If you would like to contribute a posting or a comment to this site, please send it to:, with "Holy Spirit" in your title line. You may also e-mail this article to a friend, simply by clicking on the little envelope icon below!

Congratulations to our Blog.
We have now had over 10,000 visitors to our web page during the few months that we have been keeping track. The little number counter at the bottom of the page will show you exactly how many visitors we have had at any give time. Thanks to all!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

What we know about the Tribunal.

What we know about the tribunal:
The judges requested that Ann Williams Cass give testimony, which she did on Wednesday. So we know that she, Fr. Jerry Frank, Rebecca Flores, Hilda Wedgworth, Toni Espinoza, Angie Peña, Fr. Alfonso Guevara, Fr. Sam Arizpe, Dcn. Alvin Geberman and of course Fr. Louis Brum, the petitioner, were among those who gave testimony. They were all sworn to confidentiality until the decision is announced. This includes confidentiality regarding the issue of process and when the issue will be decided. So, please help out by not asking them questions regarding the Tribunal. Ann did report that the judges were friendly and she felt they listened. We've done all we can do; now we must just wait and pray.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Bishop Gumbleton - An Experience!

What an experience!

Bishop Gumbleton - St. John the Baptist

Bishop Gumbleton at St John the Baptist

Wow... Up Close and Personal with a REAL Bishop of the Catholic Church!

Where have all the REAL Bishops of the Catholic Church gone? The ones that don't need the fancy vestments to convince us that they are true disciples of Christ. The ones that show by word, deeds and compassion that they are here to SERVE their community and to preach Christ's message by example, as He so vividly instructed. Dear Lord, where have they all gone?

Meeting and hearing Bishop Gumbleton was a wonderful personal experience for me. Renewed my faith and hope in the Catholic Church. But, it also left me a bit saddened ... praying for what could be,.. should be,.. but isn't. How sad.


Bishop Gumbleton's Weekly Homilie E-Mail Link.

Many of us read and enjoy Bishop Gumbleton's homilies each week through a service provided by The National Catholic Reporter. Many of you have asked for a link where you can sign up for this service.
Click here and enjoy:

Friday, June 17, 2005

Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton + Updates.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Please Join Us for an Evening with Bishop Gumbleton.
"What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus today?"

You have seen him on TV, heard him on the radio and have enjoyed reading his weekly homilies! NOW,... YOU CAN SEE, HEAR AND MEET HIM IN PERSON!


St. John the Baptist Catholic Church
216 W. 1st Street, San Juan, TX
(On the Southeast grounds of the Basilica)

Bilingual Mass with Bishop Gumbleton at 6:00 PM
Presentation (in English) by Bishop Gumbleton at 7:00 PM
Followed by a social in the Parish Hall.

Sponsored by St. John the Baptist Parish and the now
unsanctioned Holy Spirit Peace and Justice Commission.*

*Credit for scheduling Bishop Gumbleton to the Valley was the work of members of the old Holy Spirit Peace and Justice Commission. This Commission has now been "unsanctioned" by Father Louis Brum and in spite of Bishop Gumbleton's visit to the Valley being fully blessed and approved by Bishop Pena and announced within the Diocesan Newsletter, Father Brum has refused to allow the use of Holy Spirit facilities and/or to even make mention of this event within the Holy Spirit Sunday Bulletin. Our sincere thanks to St. John the Baptist Parish for providing use of their facilities for this very memorable event.

Sunday Night Vigil ~ Extended!
We will be continuing our Candlelight Vigil Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week in order to pray for a righteous outcome to the Collegiate Tribunal that has been requested by our pastor to contest the validity of the union contract between our church employees and the Diocese (see our previous underground newsletter). This Tribunal is scheduled to be conducted all this week... How would Jesus rule?

Sunday Vigil

Report on Last Night's Vigil (picture Above):
Fifty faithful and hopeful participated. It was very spiritual and uplifting; my thanks to the organizers. A participant who wasn't a regular asked if any of the fired church workers were present and we had to explain about Fr. Brum's ban on church workers praying on church property on their own time. To us the lunatic workings of Fr. Brum seem routine; sometimes we fail to anticipate the shock others have when they are first confronted with his tactics. Hard to understand how he has been allowed to continue as a pastor of a Catholic parish.

We invite everyone to join us again on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights of this week, at 8 PM in front of the church.
-Guy Hallman

What A Nice E-Mail:
We want everyone at Holy Spirit to know that our prayers are with you all this week for a just and peaceful resolution from the tribunal. Even though we are far away from you now here in Salina Kansas, it is only in body, not in spirit. We dearly miss Holy Spirit parish.
Nancy and Tony ~ Winter Parishioners

A Little Chuckle:
It seems not being granted permission to promote Bishop Gumbleton’s scheduled appearance in the Valley within Holy Spirit’s Sunday Bulletin has spurred some Guerrilla Marketing tactics by many of our parishioners.
Last Sunday, the parking lot at every mass was filled with cars that had GIANT POSTERS announcing the Gumbleton event. All of these posters were taped to the inside of the car windows, so they could not be removed. When asked by Father Louis what could be done, the security guard replied that they were all cars of people who were attending mass and since the posters were on the inside of the vehicles, there was really nothing that he could do. He was then asked to take down all the license numbers (for possible later retaliation?).
Too funny!

Bishop Gumbleton's Weekly Homilie E-Mail Link.
Many of us read and enjoy Bishop Gumbleton's homilies each week through a service provided by The National Catholic Reporter. Many of you have asked for a link where you can sign up for this service.

Note: If you would like to contribute a posting or a comment to this site, please send it to: with "Holy Spirit" in your title line. You may also e-mail this posting by clicking on the envelope icon below.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Newsletter of 6/12/05 + Other News.

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—June 12, 2005

Canon Law and Disorder
I am not a Canon lawyer, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t even stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but the circumstances surrounding the Collegiate Tribunal that has been called by the Diocese to rule on the validity of the contract between Holy Spirit and the UFW strikes me as odd at best

In the relevant Canon Law (c.1400-c.1670), it is clear that a tribunal is called to settle “a controversy between persons” (a parish is considered a person). Who are the persons in this dispute? To date, none of the workers, their union representatives, no parishioners, Father Jerry or any of the other priests who signed union contracts have been informed that they are parties to the dispute. A dispute must have two sides and both sides must be represented as the issues are presented to a deciding court. Or so it seems (again, I am not …).

“Whatever general and specific regulations on contracts and payments are determined in civil law for a given territory are to be observed in canon law with the same effects in a matter which is subject to the governing power of the Church, unless the civil regulations are contrary to divine law or canon law makes some other provision.” Code of Canon Law, Book V

Is it the contention of the complainant (whoever that may be) that a pastor cannot sign a contract that binds the parish, even beyond his tenure as pastor? This cannot be true, because pastors sign contracts that survive their tenure all the time. Is it the contention of the complainant that no labor contracts can be signed, since church workers cannot belong to a union? This is simply false, as many teachers and cemetery workers in the U.S. and even all the Vatican workers are unionized. Is it the contention of the complainant that this particular contract is improper since the pastors of the Diocese had been specifically told not to sign union contracts? Even though now prohibited, there was at the time, no directive from the Diocese about such contracts. In fact when the workers inquired of the Diocese about the contract, they were told “that is an issue between you and your pastor.”
~From Jerry Brazier, a parishioner.

Romero and El Salvador, Part II
There is so much to say about Archbishop Romero that I think it might be best to suggest some books and articles you might wish to read. I have read them all and they are all quite wonderful.

Oscar Romero. Voice of the Voiceless. The Four Pastoral Letters and Other Statements. Orbis Books. Maryknoll, NY. 1985.
The Introductory Essays by Jon Sobrino and Ignacio Martin-Baro are truly excellent. (Martin-Baro was one of the Jesuits killed at the University of Central America (UCA) in 1989). These pastoral letters show the growth of understanding of God’s work in a suffering people, especially in Romero.

Oscar Romero. The Violence of Love. Orbis Books. Maryknoll,NY. 1988.
“The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.” The excerpts of many of Romero’s homilies, and other writings, are gathered here for a deep look into the heart of a pastor, willing to give his life for his flock

James R. Brockman. Romero: A Life. Orbis Books. Maryknoll, NY. 1989 and 2005.
This volume is an updated version of The Word Remains by Jesuit James Brockman, done for the 25th anniversary of Romero’s assassination. “The essential biography of a modern martyr and Christian hero.” A must if you want to understand the context of Monseñor’s life and death.
Dennis, Golden, Wright.

Oscar Romero. Reflections on His Life and Writings. Orbis Books. Maryknoll, NY. 2000.
This is a small but mighty book on the growth of the stature of the centrality of the poor in Romero’s spirituality. It includes, also, the growth of the stature of Romero in the thought of many theologians in El Salvador and around the world. Romero has become the universal prophet of our times, by including the poor and oppressed, as one of the Jesuits says, “Long before the church made an option for the poor, the poor made an option for the church.” Food for deep prayer and conversion for all of us who are complacent about the life of the church in the world today.

Maria Lopez Vigil. Memories in Mosaic. EPICA. Washington, DC, 1993.
Republished in 2000 for the 20th anniversary. I found this book took me into the heart of Romero, with its stories and anecdotes by people who knew and worked with him, as well as some who hated him enough to have a party on hearing of his death. You’ll find many intimate details of his relationships with his priests, and his growing understanding of the struggles of his people. Romero was highly energetic his entire life. Yet, he spent hours on his knees in prayer, especially as he wrote his homilies and pastoral letters. You’ll hear Romero telling the cook how wonderful her beans are, as well as holding the body of the first priest he ordained as a bishop, and covered with blood, weeping as he cried, “Octavio, my son, what have they done to you?” They had run a tank over his body and crushed his face. Heavy stuff. No?

Oscar Romero. A Shepherd’s Diary. St. Anthony Messenger Press. Cincinnati, OH. 1993.
In his second year, of only three, as archbishop, he began recording each day’s happenings. Very detailed. Very enlightening. Very worthwhile. It reveals the complexity of the country, the archdiocese and the church and how Romero traversed this complex world and insight into Romero’s relationships with three popes and a very unsympathetic Vatican Curia, which was the cause of great personal suffering for Romero. Amazing!

These are all great books. I hope you come to revere Archbishop Romero as I do, and millions of others in this world. ~From Sister Marian Strohmeyer, a parishioner.

More parishioners have been barred from ministry in our parish. The stated reason, in at least one case, is that this person “doesn’t follow Church teaching.” Will our Pastor now bar visiting priests who have preached (in our parish) contrary to Church teaching from saying Mass here? We are not obliged to go to confession each year (only if we are aware of serious sin), Mary is not the “Co-Redeemer,” etc.

See you at the Sunday night vigil—8:00 pm in front of church.

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

Also, This from Rebecca Flores at The United Farm Workers, AFL-CIO.

June 13, 2005


Brownsville Bishop Pena breaks Court Agreement

The United Farm Workers, AFL CIO will hold a press conference Friday, June 17, 2005 to denounce the bad faith negotiations by Representatives and lawyers of Bishop Pena in the agreement of August 18, 2003.

On issues of major importance to lay employees and parishioners, Bishop Pena broke the agreement he made before Judge Mario Ramirez. The issues he has broken are those specific to the grievance procedure for lay employees, and the process he has instituted in preparing for a Tribunal to determine the validity of the union contract. Further neither Bishop Pena nor the pastor of Holy Spirit Parish has met to discuss a process for healing and reconciliation within Holy Spirit parish.

Because Bishop Pena has broken this court agreement, the UFW is considering future legal action.

TIME: 12 noon, Friday, June 17, 2005

WHERE: The entrance to the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan, on Nebraska Street in San Juan, Texas.


For further information contact Rebecca Flores, cell: 210 842 9502.

Do Not Fear to Hope.

Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. St. Paul to the Romans, 5:5

You the parishioners of Holy Spirit Parish “have built a dynamic, progressive Vatican II parish in every respect—spiritually vibrant, financially solvent and generous with many outstanding charitable endeavors, many active volunteers in a wide variety of programs, extensive participation of members in educational and renewal programs, a large number of small church communities…and a strong, prophetic voice in the larger community." ~Bishop Peña to the parishioners of Holy Spirit in February 2003

We recognize the parish described in those words, and we are concerned that the character of that parish is being changed so fundamentally that it is becoming unrecognizable to those who lived in and built it over a period of 23 years.

The events of June 18, 2003 when a priest who had not been here for 45 minutes began to fire the entire staff profoundly shook the parish. The events since that day have done nothing to heal the parish, but instead have made the situation worse. "I feel I have lost my family."…"I come to Mass on Sunday and the spirit that was once there is gone, and I feel that something very valuable has been taken away"… "It feels as if we are being told that our experience of Church at Holy Spirit has been inauthentic and wrong, and so must be changed." ~A quote from a parishioner.

We do not want to lose that special character that has made Holy Spirit such a strong and powerful experience in our lives.

During this two-year period, we have seen the following:

  • Parishioners have been removed and prohibited from participating in parish ministries with no reason given.
  • The Finance Council has become secretive and ineffectual. There is now no transparency in reporting revenues and expenditures.
  • The Parish Council has been dissolved.
  • The Worship Committee was disbanded and numerous liturgical changes have been made which are contrary to the traditions of our Parish and Church directives.
  • Sister Moira was removed as head of the Peace and Justice Commission and the scope of the Commission's activities has been severely limited to works of charity.
  • Affirmation Night, at which those in the larger community were recognized for their Christian acts of peace and justice, was banned with no reason given.
  • The underlying hurt and resentment created by the events of June 18, 2003, when the employees were fired and the parish was thrown into turmoil are being ignored.

In spite of this, we, the Holy Spirit community, do not fear to hope. We do not fear to hope for the return to our dynamic Vatican II parish and healing of our community. We do not fear to hope because we see that our staff still has their jobs, because we observe the very strong bonds that have grown amongst groups of parishioners who have been tested and strengthened in the fire of their experiences in these two years, and we do not fear to hope because we believe that the Holy Spirit continues to watch over and guide this very special community.

Let’s all come together on Sunday evening, June 19th at 8 p.m. for a special Candlelight Vigil commemorating the second anniversary of the events that so shook our parish. See you in front of the church!



Just in case everyone hasn't noticed...
In the short few months that our BLOG has been in existance and that we started counting, we are now reaching the milestone of having over 10,000 visitors to our "Reflections of the Spirit". I guess we should keep doing what we are doing. Thanks to everyone for your participation.

Note: If you would like to contribute a posting or a comment to this site, please send it to:
, with "Holy Spirit" in your title line. You may also e-mail this article to a friend, simply by clicking on the little envelope icon below!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Response to Letter to Bishop Pena.

Response from Bishop Pena.

Response from Bishop Pena to the Letter of Patition concerning Father Brum.
As per the above, response to the Letter of Patition that was sent to Bishop Pena that was signed by over 270 parishioners at Holy Spirit Parish has been assigned to Father Heberto Diaz, Chancellor of the Diocese of Brownsville, because Bishop Pena will be out of town between June 13th to July 2nd.

Also, this news from the Diocese...

Canonical Judges to Assess Contract Validity
Three ecclesiastical judges with doctorates in Canon Law are scheduled to be in the Diocese of Brownsville the week of June 19th, to assess an internal matter of the Church, the canonical validity of a contract entered into in 2002, between Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen and the United Farm Workers of America. These judges will be here as part of a Diocesan Collegiate Court to review the case. All of these ecclesiastical judges have written and lectured extensively on matters of Canon Law issues.

I understand this assessment of canonical validity has been requested by Father Brum.

Note: If you would like to contribute a posting or a comment to this site, please send it to:, with "Holy Spirit" in your title line. You may also e-mail this article to a friend, simply by clicking on the little envelope icon below!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Letter to the Most Reverend Bishop Raymundo J. Peña.

Parishioners Update

The Following Letter was sent to our Bishop relative to the letter of concern that was signed by 273 Holy Spirit parishioners. We will keep you posted on any progress.

May 27, 2005


Most Reverend Bishop Raymundo J. Peña
Catholic Diocese of Brownsville
700 N. Virgen De San Juan Blvd.
San Juan, Texas 78589

Dear Bishop Peña,

It is with deep sadness and disappointment that we write this letter to you. As you are aware, on April 11, 2005, 273 parishioners of Holy Spirit Church in McAllen shared a number of concerns regarding the parish with the Pastor, Father Louis Brum. Our letter was addressed to Father Louis out of respect for his role as our Pastor and the leader of our parish community, in hopes that he would accept our invitation to work together towards a cooperative resolution of the identified concerns to bring peace and healing to our parish. In this spirit of respect and cooperation, Mark and Michelle Peña, as representatives for the 273 parishioners, contacted Father Louis and requested a meeting between Father Louis and the group of 5 designated representatives. As you know, after considerable time, effort and needed intervention by your office, Father Louis Brum finally agreed to meet with the Peñas.

The Peñas met with Father Louis at their home on May 6, 2005 to explore Father Louis’ willingness to resolve the identified concerns and hopefully begin a process of cooperative resolution for the parish. At the meeting, Father Brum expressed his continued refusal to meet with the five designated representatives, and stated that he would not commit himself to addressing the concerns with any group of people. Father Louis expressed his belief that the letter’s contents consisted of what he described as the “agenda of a few people” and that the problems in the parish were the result of people who were unwilling to let go of the past. Although Father Louis acknowledged that what happened at the parish in June of 2003 regarding the firing of parish staff was “wrong and should never have happened,” he did not express any willingness to reconcile these matters with the parish. Father Louis also shared his personal philosophy that “one must let go of the past” and that “time takes care of things.” He stated that as Catholics, we should take a more obedient role and defer to those in authority. Father Louis espoused embracing a more passive approach to addressing problems and leaving solutions in the hands of those in charge. At the conclusion of the meeting, Father Louis agreed to meet with the Peñas a second time to address these matters. Unfortunately, efforts by the Peñas to schedule a second meeting have been rebuffed by Father Louis, and he has stated that this matter “is not a priority” for him.

The meeting and communications with Father Louis have clearly established that Father Louis chooses to ignore the problems in our parish and refuses to embrace the humility and courage needed by our Pastor to address the concerns of his parishioners. It is with this unfortunate reality that we remember your own message to the parish in June 2003 in which you stated, “As your shepherd in the Valley, I am also very concerned about your welfare and the welfare of the parish. I have asked [the Pastor] to design a plan whereby we can both reach out to all the parishioners to help heal the wound that …the entire community at Holy Spirit [has]… endured. I have also offered to help in any way that I can to bring about harmony and peace to which the Kingdom of God calls us.” Bishop Peña, we now call upon your help.

We understand you have asked Father Maher to assist in resolving this matter. In this regard, we must express our strong reservations about Father Maher’s ability to be an effective and fair mediator in this matter. Specifically, Father Maher has a history with Holy Spirit Parish that had its acrimonious moments, particularly with some of the staff. Also, we understand he has spoken harshly and openly, from his pulpit at St. Joseph’s in Edinburg, about Holy Spirit Parish, its parishioners and staff. These comments include such things as referring to the parishioners as “sinners.” Lastly, Father Maher is perceived to have played a significant role in the disagreements regarding the labor union contract with the parish workers, and he is believed to have written a letter to Bishops in other dioceses concerning his opposition to the Farm Workers Union and provided suggestions on opposing the Union’s efforts. Because of the tremendous hurt and emotions surrounding the events which occurred at the parish, we strongly recommend that any mediator you assign to assist with the resolution of this matter be someone that is not only entrusted with your authority to bring positive change to our parish, but also someone who has no connection or perceived connection with the events of June 18, 2003.

The expediency of this matter cannot be over emphasized. Since the letter was sent to Father Louis in April, hostility by Father Louis towards the parish staff and some parishioners has mounted. Most recently, it has come to our attention that Father Louis has forbidden any parish employees from participating in regular Sunday evening prayer vigils outside the church, because according to Father Louis, “this time is used by people to conspire against him.” Also, Father Louis continues to forbid parishioners from participating in parish ministries because of his perception that they oppose him regarding decisions on parish matters. It is clear Father Louis unreasonably and unjustifiably blames some of the parish staff for the problems at the parish. In essence, the victims of a great injustice continue to be persecuted at the hands of our clergy. This is unacceptable and must end. Our parish must have the support of its Pastor in finding reconciliation and peace. This peace cannot be achieved through hostility and oppression, but is possible only through open communication and mutual respect.

For these reasons, we ask that you please meet with the five of us, representatives of the concerned parishioners, as soon as possible, to set in motion a process by which the concerns raised in the April 11, 2005 Letter from Parishioners of Holy Spirit Church can be properly addressed to bring healing to our parish community. To schedule a meeting, please contact Ana Hallman at 584-3477(home) or
457-8059 (cell).

Yours In Christ,

Mark and Michelle Peña
Mirtala Rodriguez
Gerald Brazier
Ana Hallman

cc: Father Bob Maher and Father Louis Brum

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