Monday, October 31, 2005

Good Priests, Bad Priests, Fewer Priests

No priest at the Saturday evening mass at Holy Spirit... The very late communion service, performed by the deacon, was an understandable disaster! Seems our pastor failed to tell anyone he was not going to be there or who he had asked to take over his duties. Where our pastor was is anybody's guess!

Same situation at Our Lady of Sorrows for the 9:30 mass. Deacon Schurtz had to get up out of his sickbed to perform the communion service, which he did very amicably, after about a 30 minute delay.

Which brings us to the very timely letter in today's Monitor by Ana Hallman.

To the editor:
The Monitor Newspaper
October 31, 2005

Shortage of priests hurting Catholicism

Good priests, bad priests, fewer priests.
Certainly there are good and bad priests. Performance, compassion, humility and dedication may be in the eye of the beholder. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own truth. An objective judgment of someone’s behavior is very difficult to achieve when friendship, quid pro quo, or strong loyalty are present. At Holy Spirit Parish, facts speak for themselves for anyone who really cares to know the truth.

Confronting authority and speaking truth to power are not popular, but God is the ultimate judge. At the end, he will be the one deciding who was good or bad, regardless of whom we liked or disliked.

These are crucial times for the Catholic Church, still immersed in a devastating abuse scandal and with a priest shortage approaching catastrophic proportions in our county and around the world.

According to Vatican statistics, nearly half of the world’s parishes do not have a resident priest, so many Catholics are deprived of the Eucharist. In many places, people celebrate Eucharist once a month, once a year, or never, and many dioceses are closing parishes.

From Oct 2-29, the International Synod on the Eucharist in Rome gathered bishops from all over the world to address concerns and find solutions to the crisis affecting the Eucharist, a cornerstone of the life and faith of Roman Catholicism.

Let’s pray that, at this synod, the Church found real solutions to the shortages threatening the very fabric of our sacramental life.

The Church needs to consider returning to the early Church custom of having both celibate and married priest (not until the 12th century did celibacy became mandatory); the custom of having women deacons (there were both male and female deacons in the first century Church); and the fact that lay vocations to Church ministry are increasing and should be respected and utilized.

Ana L. Hallman,

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

WAR DEAD - 2,000

6:00 PM Today (Wednesday, 10/26/05) Spikes Corner
Business 83 & Bicentennial in McAllen

Do you see the little YELLOW BOX with the RED OUTLINE below?

Over 2,000 US Soldiers have now been killed in the IRAQ WAR.

AFP - Tue Oct 25, 7:06 AM ETBAGHDAD - The US death toll in Iraq reportedly hit 2,000 amid a sharp spike in violence that killed 14 Iraqis as the nation awaited results of a key vote on a charter aimed at curbing sectarian violence. The US network CNN, quoting Pentagon sources, reported Tuesday that the number of soldiers killed since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq had reached 2,000 with the deaths of two more soldiers, a toll likely to add pressure on the US administration over its role in the violence-wracked country...

Please join us at the VIGIL.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Newsletter of 10/16/05

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—October 16, 2005

Money Honey
If ya wanna get along with me.

Before proceeding, let it be said that any information concerning the parish’s finances is welcome. For far too long a shroud of secrecy has covered everything to do with the Pastor’s stewardship of our resources. Despite this newly minted candor, there are still some questions that are raised by the Fiscal Report presented to the parish a few Sundays ago:

1. What exactly is meant by the revenue category “Other Collections?” If this category represents the standard “second collection” money, then why aren’t there categories under expenses that reflect the parish’s having passed the money along (Hope Medical Clinic, Casa Amparo, etc.)?

It would be dishonest to call such money parish income, and then not report that it was spent outside the parish. Such a practice would tend to paint a rosier picture of the financial health of the parish (to the tune of almost $67,000) than would otherwise be true. If it isn’t second collection money, then what is it? The amount is substantial (over $1270 per week, on the average).

2. It appears that the tax or “cathedraticum” which the parish owes to the Diocese is not listed anywhere. Since June 2003 we have not paid this money. The “Diocesan Assessment” that is referred to may be associated with that obligation, but the numbers do not match up, since the cathedraticum rate is in excess of 10% of the Sunday collections, which in our case would be greater than $75,000 for fiscal 2005.

3. With a building loan balance of approximately $35,000 and a Building Fund balance of approximately $56,000, why wasn’t the loan paid off, saving us some interest?

4. According to the provided Fiscal Report, we had $753 in the bank at the end of June. With expenses exceeding income by well over $1000 per week, how have we avoided bouncing checks in the months since June 30th of this year?

Now, some comments:
1. The numbers presented are alarming in what they say about the parish’s financial condition. Prior to June 2003 our finances were extremely sound. Since that time we have managed to create an obligation of almost $48,000 to the diocese (over and above the cathedraticum obligation, which probably exceeds $100,000 for the period), run an operating deficit in fiscal 2004 of over $115,000, and run an operating deficit of at least $63,000 (if not $130,000 if the “other collections” dispersal has been misrepresented) in fiscal 2005.

2. Each week we have been told in our bulletin that the “weekly budget” is $14,500 (which translates to a yearly budget of $754,000). Why is it then that the expenses were in excess of $900,000 for the year? A manager of a commercial enterprise who went almost 20% over budget and kept it secret from the owners would be fired for incompetence and possibly pursued criminally for the failure to disclose the situation.

3. In the letter to the Pastor from 273 parishioners, this financial crisis was pointed out and the secrecy surrounding the financial affairs of the parish was also questioned. The Pastor dismissed these as of no concern to him, but simply part of an “agenda of a few.” What fatuous nonsense! Our financially stable parish has been mismanaged into a disaster, while the Pastor fiddles around with minutiae and his petty campaign to discredit the heart and soul of Holy Spirit, circa June 2003. Shades of Nero!

4. Undoubtedly, the Parish Staff will be attacked as a drain on our finances and a dramatic reduction of the staff will be touted as a solution to our money problems. Wouldn’t it be better to look at profligate spending? For example, the addition to the staff of a Deacon (at $32,000 per year, plus benefits) which we never needed in the past, the hundreds of Masses that the parish has paid to be celebrated when the Pastor was either out of town or chose to “rest” (more such Masses in eighteen months than in the entire ten year term of our previous Pastor), the expenditures on showy liturgical items (flowers, vestments, chalices, etc.) which have been supported by special donations but represent resources of the parish community put to things previously regarded as inappropriate, delays in purchasing decisions that have resulted in increased costs, and so on.

5. The Pastor has failed to use the parish resources that are being paid for by staff salaries with his almost total mismanagement of the staff. He does not allow them to do their work, and so makes the parish operation inefficient and increasingly ineffective. He is wasting a large percentage of the $260,000 that is being spent on Parish Administration by his inability to manage the work of others.

Eye of the Beholder
One man’s house is another man’s garage
One man’s oasis is another man’s mirage
from “Tell Me What Know” by Butch Hancock

In recent weeks there have been three letters in The Monitor expressing effusive support for our Pastor—their saccharine tone makes Harriet Miers’ notes to George W. Bush look like hard-edged criticism. These letters encouraged us to “thank God we have a priest who is performing his pastoral duties,” and to consider ourselves privileged to experience his “compassion, humility, and dedication.”

Performance of duties, compassion, humility, and dedication must be, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. Many look at the current state of affairs in the parish and see a shabby garage and others, apparently, see a beautiful house.

Those who lavish praise on the Pastor never respond to the substance of the raised criticisms but instead hurl invective at the critics calling them “anti-Catholics,” and “heretics.” It must be that their vision of a beautiful house includes a financial mess (see above), mismanagement of the simplest aspects of running a parish, a “dedication” characterized by numerous absences from parish liturgies and a virtual disappearance from the parish offices during the week (time to celebrate Mass at the Shrine multiple times per week, but no time to be at the office), and a “compassion and humility” that drives the Pastor to carry out a vendetta against parishioners who dare to raise the question that maybe we need a little more Gospel witness and a little less vacuous piety.

If people want a vaporous mirage of Christianity rather than an oasis with substance and nourishment for the desert pilgrim life, then that is their choice. But those who think differently have no choice but to point out that the current state of the parish’s administration falls far short of not only the spirit of what we have come to expect, but even our expectation of simple competence.

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

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 below.

Monday, October 10, 2005

More Letters + Financial Info?

Dear Post Submitters:
As you know, this week's Sunday Bulletin contained long over-due Holy Spirit financial information. For too long, a shroud of secrecy has covered anything to do with our Pastor's stewardship of the financial dealings of our parish.

Because the published information was so vague and inconclusive, we have reserved commenting on any of your immediate concerns and questions! We are now compiling a summary of those being submitted and will continue to accept more during this period. We invite your participation.

I do not know how much good all of this will do as we must all surely realize that we no longer have a viable Finance Committee in our parish. There is just no one that I am aware of that is in a responsible or knowledgeable position that can provide answers to our financial questions, except maybe for Fr. Brum himself and, as we all know, it is next to impossible to schedule a meeting with him, especially if you represent anyone more than just yourself, as a single individual.

This would truly be an occasion for one of our old "parish meetings", where everyone was always allowed to ask questions, make recommendations, provide suggestions and even get answers directly from their priest, committee members, staff, etc... Oh, for the "good old days"!

I have serious doubts that a "town meeting" like this will ever happen under Fr. Louie's tenure, in spite of our right to know exactly how our weekly donations are being spent, but maybe if enough parishioners were to ask (demand) it. But please, lets make sure it's not just another one of those, "we say exactly who is invited, no questions are allowed and violent participational shouting is encouraged", like our most recent Eucharistic Minister's meeting.

Thanks for your patience.


Re: Special Thanks To Rev. Louis Brum
To The Editor - The Monitor - Sunday October 9, 2005
By: Loretta Michelena, R.N., McAllen

Another case of an "outsider looking in"?

I guess it's easy to misjudge the "philosophies" of the Rev. Louis Brum if you are only observing from afar. His accomplishments are too numerous to mention, so she didn't even mention one.

One thing she did get correct, he obediently accepted his appointment to "get rid of all those Union people at Holy Spirit Parish" from his Bishop. Based on how badly he has embarrassed himself at the task so far, maybe this is more than just blind obedience. Remember the sacrifices of Fr. Delgado.

Please Lord, we pray, let us all not be as blinded as Loretta!
~A Parishioner

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Let's Follow Christ's Example

Just in case you missed this...

October 06,2005
The Monitor

Let’s Follow Christ’s Example.

To the editor:
A Sept. 29 Readers’ Forum letter was so full of misinformation, I feel compelled to respond.

I refer to the letter signed by Lois Geneser and Toshie Rodriguez, who made clear their disenchantment with Holy Spirit Parish but neglected to mention whether they are parishioners or just observers.

I’m not sure which side of their "majority" I’m on, but I am a practicing Roman Catholic Christian, a proud and active member of the Holy Spirit family.

Regarding genuflecting before the Eucharist: For Catholics, it is always proper to genuflect before the tabernacle housing the body and blood of our Lord. It is equally proper to enter a Catholic church without genuflecting, if the Eucharist is not present.

Regarding the rose on the altar and grave markers in front of the church: Each of these symbols honors life, but one is contrary to Church teaching. (See the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Chapter V.II.306, which specifically prohibits the placing of flower(s) on the altar.)

Regarding the "Sister Kenny" group: I was a member of the Peace and Justice Commission, until it was disbanded by the Rev. Brum. Led by Sister Moira, our work focused on the poor and marginalized, USCCB directives on Environment, Sanctity of Life, Bread For The World — all peace and nonviolence issues. None of these is contrary to Catholic dogma.

Regarding "the teachings of Christ," when he said, "Never castigate a priest": A search of the RSV, NAB, Douay-Rheims and KJV Bibles found no such quotation. Perhaps they heard the phrase in reference to clergy sexual abuse and the "silk curtain of silence" the church imposes.

I believe we can accomplish reconciliation in our parish by following Christ’s example. As Jesus made room for everyone at his table, we can make room for each other at our parish table. We must learn to acknowledge the validity of differing points of view, while remaining faithful to Church teaching.

Is there room at your table for me?
Janet Miller, McAllen

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Newsletter of 10/03/05

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—October 2, 2005

A Retrospective
These bi-weekly thoughts, Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo, are a year old this week. Here is a quote from the very first issue (10/3/04):

"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."

Those are examples of sentiments expressed a week or so ago in a meeting of some parishioners with the Pastor. We do not want to lose that special character that has made Holy Spirit such a strong and powerful experience in our lives.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Take Care, T-C-B
The Aretha Franklin song (we all know it was really Otis Redding’s, but let’s not quibble) has nothing to do with last weekend’s Respect Life Sunday, but then again the ideas put forth for consideration by the Pastor had only a glancing resemblance to the full teachings of the Church about what it means to respect life “from conception to natural death.”

Not one word from the Pastor’s mouth about the vast array of “life issues” that Pope John Paul II and the US Catholic Bishops have presented to us time and time again: war (in particular the Iraq war), capital punishment, poverty, racism, etc. There is a “consistent ethic of life” that derives from the heart of Catholic social teaching and forms the foundation of the “seamless garment of life” image that the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, Joseph Bernadin, presented to us a decade or more ago. It was stunning that the Pastor could invoke Cardinal Bernadin in Sunday’s sermon but completely miss the Cardinal’s point.

The Pastor even struck from the prayers of the faithful a specific reference to the “life issue” of capital punishment—a practice of our government specifically condemned by Pope John Paul II and eloquently commented on by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver (hardly a darling of progressive/liberal Catholics) in Justice, Mercy, and Capital Punishment: “As citizens, our choices and our actions matter, because they create the kind of future our families and our nation will inhabit. What we choose, what we do, becomes who we are. In God’s own words in Deuteronomy: I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live (30:19). Choosing against the death penalty is choosing in favor of life. We need to end the death penalty now.” (see the entire article at

Aretha (and Otis) tell us to “Take Care, T-C-B,” meaning “Take Care of Business.” The business of respecting life cannot stop at the delivery room and pick up again at the hospice—it is the business of all of us, for all of us, all of the time. Our country has the highest infant mortality rate of any industrialized nation—that’s a life issue, isn’t it? Our nation stands virtually alone in the world in carrying out capital punishment—that’s a life issue, isn’t it? Let’s take care of business, let’s give some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

The Personal God in the Public Arena
In his recent book, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis makes an important point:

“God is personal, but never private. If God is not personal, there is little meaning to faith. It becomes merely a philosophy or a set of teachings from religious figures who died long ago.

Without a personal God, there is no personal dimension to belief. There is no relationship to God, no redemption, salvation, grace, or forgiveness. There is no spiritual transformation without a personal God, and no power that can really change our lives beyond mere self-improvement. … However, that personal God is never private.

Restricting God to private space was the great heresy of the twentieth-century American evangelicalism. Denying the public God is a denial of biblical faith itself, a rejection of the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself. Exclusively private faith degenerates into a narrow religion, excessively preoccupied with individual and sexual morality while almost oblivious to the biblical demands for public justice.

In the end, private faith becomes a merely cultural religion providing the assurances of righteousness for people just like us. … Our private religions have failed, but we must not lose a personal God. Instead of trying to strike an elusive ‘balance’ between private piety and the social gospel, we must go to the heart of prophetic religion itself in which a personal God demands public justice as an act of worship.

We meet the personal God in the public arena and are invited to take our relationship to that God right into the struggle for justice. Indeed, without that personal relationship we will lose the political struggle. That shift—bringing the personal God into the public arena—is at the heart of the prophet’s message and will transform both our religion and our politics.” From a fellow parishioner, Mark Peña

Only a Pawn in Their Game
The genesis of the crisis in our parish was a labor dispute and that labor dispute arose because the Diocesan administration saw the unionization of workers as an erosion of its power over people. Also, this parish was singled out amongst the unionized ones because its strong, prophetic voice in the public arena had irritated some Catholics of power and influence who felt that their actions and interests were being criticized and threatened.

Those who view the divisions in the parish to be about liturgy, doctrinal interpretations, Vatican II, devotional practices, or the culture wars between liberal and conservative are allowing themselves to be drawn into proxy battles that generate a lot of emotion, diatribe and very unpleasant name-calling, while the master manipulators at the Diocesan level go about their cynical game of solidifying power. There is no Gospel being preached here; there is only a no-holds-barred, take no prisoners, naked exercise of power for its own sake. Again, “Servant Leadership, indeed!”

What’s It All About?
We were reminded again on Sunday from the pulpit that “It’s not about me and it’s not about you, but it is about Him. And the Eucharist is the center of our lives.”

The thought came to me this morning that it really is about me and about you AND about Him. The Eucharist is the center of our lives only in the sense that it provides us with nourishment to go and carry out His gospel. It is not enough to think of Jesus being only the Savior of our lives. To be truly Christian we must allow Him to also be the Lord of our lives as well. Therefore it is about me and about you and how we work as a family and minister to each other and to the world around us.
From Pearl Brazier, a parishioner

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

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 below.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Synod of Bishops

Synod of Bishops
Today begins a three week Synod of Bishops. Let us keep the bishops and our Church in our prayers especially as our bishops discuss the Eucharist, who can receive the Eucharist, our clergy shortage - which includes the celibacy issue - and so much more.

Perhaps we can all make a personal commitment to add a prayer at noon each day for the Synod and pray that the bishops remain grounded in the Gospel and that the Holy Spirit will bring to the bishops the gifts of wisdom, courage and strength.
~a fellow parishioner

Respect Life Sunday
I was glancing through this week's Holy Spirit Parish bulletin and remembering how it used to be. It used to be quite varied, with notices of the 100+ ministries that we used to have, diverse parish activities, a Peace & Justice thought for the week, and Fr. Jerry's excellent reflections on the Bible readings for Sunday, among other jewels. I looked forward to reading the bulletin.

Now the bulletin is so banal and homogeneous, which is understandable because every word must be approved by our thoroughly banal pastor. It is now basically about trite prayers and not much else, as if rote prayer is all that Jesus did and wants us to do. Make no mistake about it, if Jesus had only prayed and not acted we would not be saved.

One thing caught my eye this week, and I wish to comment on it. We are asked to collect items for soldiers overseas. The items are quite basic: food, soap, toothpaste, and insect repellant. In the gathering space are set up two baskets for these items. There is also a basket for the poor, but it is not mentioned in the bulletin. When I saw it, the military baskets contained about twice as much as the poor basket.

I am all for supporting the troops, having a son who was in Iraq for the better part of a year, but I wonder why the military cannot provide these items? Over half of our income taxes go to the military; why must we beg on their behalf? I would much rather see a petition in the gathering space addressed to the president and signed by all parishioners demanding that our troops come home now, and collect more food and other items for the poor who are being neglected by our government!

As Fr. Rene said today at the 12:30 mass, the Church does not support the war in Iraq and good Catholics must oppose it. It is a violation of the right to life that we are concentrating on today, "Respect Life Sunday." But what are we doing about it? Hail Marys are great, but God wants us to act also and demand an end to this war!
-A good Catholic parishioner who prays and supports all Right to Life efforts in the Catholic Church and supports the troops by wanting them home now!

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