Monday, September 24, 2007

Not In My Backyard.

The Border Wall
would just about
give our river
to Mexico.

The Monitor
September 24, 2007

Letter To the Editor

The government's misguided scheme to erect a border wall will cut off all American's rights to access and enjoy the Rio Grande river and effectively gives away the entire river to Mexico.

The Texas border with Mexico is unique because the Rio Grande River divides the two countries. Unlike border walls erected in other states, the wall in Texas will be constructed north of the international boundary line on the U.S. side of the river, leaving the entire river basin and, in some areas, significant swaths of land, historical landmarks, businesses, homes and other private and publicly owned facilities behind the wall.

If you have ever had the opportunity to canoe or kayak down the river, hike its wandering river banks or simply stare across the peaceful river valley into Mexico, you know the tremendous natural beauty and tranquility that will be destroyed and lost forever if this wall is erected.

Like a loving mother that selflessly nurtures her children, the river has given us sustenance and life. It is part of our proud heritage and historical connection with our land. Our country is turning its back on us. A part of our soul and our great river is being ripped away and shamelessly discarded for all the world to see.

I call on all Americans to speak-out and demand immediate cassation of the border wall's construction unless we are prepared to turn our heads in defeat and bid adios to the Rio Grande.

Mark S. Peña

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bishop Peña - Keynote Speaker


Bishop Raymundo J. Peña of the Diocese of Brownsville will be the keynote speaker at the Brownsville NO BORDER WALL PACHANGA IN THE PARK on Saturday, September 29 at 5:00 pm at Dean Porter Park in Brownsville, Texas.

Bishop Peña, whose diocese operates 107 parishes and missions for the almost 800,000 Catholics who live in the Rio Grande Valley, has been outspoken against the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Bishop’s opposition echoes the sentiment of the Vatican, where a top official has called the U.S. plan to build a border wall “inhuman.”

In this border region where many residents have ties to Mexico and where the presence of the Catholic Church predates the founding of the United States, many Catholics agree. As Mark Peña, local coordinator for Holy Spirit Peace and Justice/Pax Christi USA, a Catholic peace and justice organization, explains, “Christ calls each of us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The proposed border wall is hostile to this great call. Latin America and its peoples are our neighbors in the truest sense.”

The Brownsville NO BORDER WALL PACHANGA IN THE PARK will highlight the culture and community spirit of Brownsville and the Texas-Mexico border. Participants hope to show the nation just what is at risk if a wall is built through the city of Brownsville and along the rest of the border, including their close relationship with their Mexican neighbors.

In addition to the Bishop Peña, other community leaders, including state representatives Eddie Lucio III and Juan Escobar, will voice the concerns of their constituents, and local experts will discuss the negative impact a wall could have on our communities, historical landmarks, farms, and natural areas. The event will also feature a variety of food booths, live South Texas music, and children’s activities.


Late entry 9/22/07:
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev compared the United States' proposed 700-mile wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to the Berlin Wall during a Tuesday visit to Midland, Texas.

"You remember President Reagan standing in Berlin and saying, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall’, said the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner. "Now the United States seems to be building almost the Wall of China between itself and this other nation with which it has been associated for many decades and has had cooperation and interaction with."

-Mikhail Gorbachev

Tuesday, September 18, 2007



What: A community barbecue and rally opposing the building of a border wall on the Texas/Mexico Border.

When: Saturday, September 29, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Where: Dean Porter Park in Brownsville, Texas

Everyone is invited!

This is the latest in a series of community rallies to oppose the building of a wall along the Texas-Mexico border sponsored by the NOBORDERWALL COALITION. It will begin at 5:00 pm at Dean Porter Park in Brownsville.

This festive, family event will highlight the culture and community spirit of Brownsville. Participants hope to show the nation just what is at risk if a wall is built through the city of Brownsville and along the rest of the border.

The event will feature a variety of food booths, including that South Texas staple, fajitas. While the children fly specially-made kites and smash a wall-shaped piñata, adults can listen and dance to live South Texas music into the evening.

Community leaders, including State Representatives Eddie Lucio III and Juan Escobar will voice the concerns of their constituents and local experts will discuss the negative impact a wall would have on our communities, historical landmarks, farms, and natural areas. We have also received confirmation that Bishop Raymundo Peña will also honor us with his attendance at this event.

Building a border wall along the Rio Grande will cut a wide swath through the city of Brownsville. Maps to date have shown the proposed wall following the flood control levee that runs through the city, rather than the river itself. Parts of the downtown area, with its rich history and charming old buildings, are at risk for demolition because they lie so close to this levee.

The University of Texas at Brownsville’s International Technology, Education and Commerce Campus could be cut off entirely by the wall, since it lies to the south of the levee. A border wall could also threaten the close economic and social ties between Brownsville and its sister city Matamoros.

Outside the city, landowners and farmers could lose land and critical access to river water for irrigation. A double-layered wall and Border Patrol road could also cut through nearby natural areas such as the Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary and the Nature Conservancy’s Lennox Foundation Southmost Preserve.

University of Texas at Brownsville Vice President of External Affairs, Dr. Tony Zavaleta said, “In my forty odd years of studying the U.S.-Mexico border, I have never seen anything suggested by either government that is so wrong headed and destructive to our communities and our people as this border wall.”

NOBORDERWALL is a grassroots coalition of groups and individuals that are united in the belief that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border will do irreparable harm to the borderlands and to the country as a whole. NOBORDERWALL is opposed to the construction of a border wall because of the devastating consequences such a wall would have on border economies, on the environment, on human rights, and on the U.S. relationship with Mexico and the rest of the world.

To get to Dean Porter Park: Exit 6th Street from Expressway 77/83. Turn right on 6th and take another right at the first light (Ringgold Street). Turn right again onto Dean Porter Park Street. The park entrance will be on the left.

For more information or to volunteer contact Stefanie at or 956-453-0754.

Also visit our Website at:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Parishioners' Newsletter 09/16/07

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

September 16, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Advice to New Pastors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Write your Congressman

A Chance to make a REAL difference!
Please write a letter TODAY .
Posted by: "Susan Thompson"

Write to Congressman Ciro Rodriguez today. This is our chance to have a real impact on what happens with the Border Wall.

The National Sierra Club is sending members to lobby on Borderlands Wilderness issues in Washington, D.C. on Monday September 17. Some of this lobbying effort will focus on discussing the Border Wall. The great thing for us is that one of our Valley congressman, Ciro Rodriguez, is an outspoken opponent of the wall and he sits on the Homeland Security
Subcommittee for Appropriations.

The Appropriations committee will be dealing with the fence issue soon. If each of us writes Congressman Rodriguez about our opposition to the fence before the end of this week, he is apt to listen more attentively when the Sierra Club reinforces our message next week.

Please fax your letter no later than 2:00pm, Friday, September 14, 2007 by to the attention of the Honorable Ciro Rodriguez at (202)225-2237 (Washington) or (210)923-8447 (San Antonio).

You may also E-mail the Representative at the following link (Click on Contact):

To make the difficult task of writing a letter easier, we have attached a sample. Use it verbatim, tailor it as you'd like, or write your very own. The main thing is to WRITE.

Imagine the impact of more than 150 individual letters from NoBorderWall supporters arriving in Congressman Rodriguez's office Thursday and Friday.

The Honorable Ciro Rodriguez
2458 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Rodriguez,

Because of your important role on the Appropriations subcommittee for Homeland Security, I am writing to ask your support for legislation that gives communities and affected landowners the legal right to be part of the decision-making process regarding 'fencing' in their communities.

As you know, according to the Secure Fence Act of 2006, hundreds of miles of fencing is to be built along the U.S. Mexico border, devastating a strong cultural and economic tie to Mexico, destroying many private ranching and farming operations, and preventing the migration of many wildlife species. With these problems in mind, many of us support using advanced technology instead of building physical barriers.

On the Texas border, where a 153-mile pedestrian fence (a wall) is being proposed at a cost of $3 million per mile, all communities are opposed. Illegal immigration is an issue of concern to all Americans but applying terrorism legislation to an immigration problem is a disingenuous use of the law. If this is a question of terrorism, why isn't the same law and the same wall being proposed on the Canadian border?

I support securing America's borders but I do not support building walls. Please encourage and support legislation that allows communities to use advanced technology in place of walls.

Thank you for all that you do for Texas.

(Your Name)

You may also wish to join the NOBORDERWALL Yahoo Group to stay abreast of everything that is happening concerning this important issue on a daily or weekly basis.
Thanks for your efforts and help,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bishop Peña on the BORDER WALL

Bishop of Brownsville sends message of support to border wall protestors
By Steve Taylor
Rio Grande Guardian

BROWNSVILLE, September 7 -
A spokeswoman for the Bishop of Brownsville, the Rev. Raymundo J. Peña, says the bishop wishes he could participate in Saturday’s border wall protest in Brownsville because he supports the cause.

Ina Perez, Peña’s secretary, said the bishop has two prior commitments on the same day that will prevent him from joining the grassroots Hands Across el Rio event.

“Unfortunately, Bishop will not be able to attend the event on Saturday,” said Peña’s secretary, Ina L. Perez. “He asked me to convey his sincere regret and to advise you of his prayers for a good turnout and for the success of this event.”

Peña has made his views on the immigration and border security issue very clear over the past few years. He spoke strongly against a border wall when addressing Diocesan Teachers at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, in McAllen last week.

The Brownsville protest starts at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Gateway International Bridge. Among the elected officials due to attend are Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos, Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada, and state Rep. Juan Escobar, D-Kingsville.

Meanwhile, Mid Valley residents opposed to the border wall have also organized a protest on Saturday. The event starts at 9 a.m. at the Progreso International Bridge. At 10 a.m. there will be a “Hands Across the River” ceremony, said organizer Juan Torres.

Excerpt from Bishop Peña's homily at OLS Teachers In-Service on August 31, 2007:

... I pray that the Holy Spirit enable the Legislature to design, and the President to sign, a legislative bill on immigration that contains a reasonable and orderly path to citizenship, a temporary worker program, and family-based immigration reform; a bill that reduces backlogs, restores basic due process protections for immigrants and avoids criminalizing them and those who assist them with their basic needs. Only a comprehensive approach to immigration will serve the best interests of our nation and protect the basic human dignity and life of the migrant. The construction of a wall that will tax the financial resources of the United States and destroy the good neighbor relationship that has existed between the United States and Mexico will not achieve our goal.

Needless to say, Reflections of the Spirit applauds Bishop Peña for his support in protest of this SENSELESS BORDER WALL that has the potential to cripple our Valley economy, devastate our environment and blight our communities.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 09/02/07

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

September 2, 2007

Stripped Down—Diminished
In June, Catholics in the Northern California area gathered in a Lay Convocation ( A young person in the Bay Area wrote the following (excerpted) in response to the observation that not many young people attended:

“…As a young adult who returned to the Church in my late 20s, I can affirm that a great many of us see the way forward in personal conversion to Christ, in sacramental renewal, and in deeper catechetical formation that inspires people to spread the Good News and the beauty of the Catholic faith in its fullness, not in a stripping down of Catholic doctrine or opposition to Church authority. We should not be striving to make the Church look more like the world around us.

“…Perhaps younger Catholics are unwilling to assume that they know better than the Church, or perhaps many have found, as I have, that the Church’s traditional teachings [on issues discussed at the Convocation] are profoundly beautiful and liberating, the stuff of true conversion in Christ.” John Knutser in the Oakland diocesan paper

If you read the Convocation’s report, you might scratch your head at the young man’s characterization of its efforts, or you might whole-heartedly agree with his analysis. One person’s desire to concentrate on the core of Christianity and the Church might strike another as “stripping down.” It is difficult to see how dictatorial governance structures, secretive financial practices, institutional misogyny, moral teachings developed in a clerical background, unwillingness to apply the Church’s teachings on justice to the Church itself, etc. are “beautiful and liberating,” but to each his own.

The young man’s vision of Catholicism, which he seems to imply is shared by many of his generation, is really a stripped down and diminished one that looks towards the past, a past essentially repudiated by Vatican II. We do need a “deeper catechetical formation,” that is correct, but one that based on the Church in the Modern World, not one based on the Church withdrawing from the Modern World.

You might want to check out:

Immigration, the Border Wall, and the Death Penalty
Featured prominently at Reflections of the Spirit in recent days have been the issues of immigration, the border wall and the death penalty. It was heartening to hear that Bishop Peña wrote publicly about his opposition to the wall. These words follow those he has spoken in the past on immigration and the death penalty.

Two things are important here. First, the Church has strong positions on these issues which are put forward in policy statements and even educational materials for parish use by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Second, the involvement of the Bishop, the Diocese, its parishes and its priests cannot be limited to fine words, no matter how fine. The official Church in our Valley should take advantage of the resources the USCCB provides to put in place programs in each parish to educate parishioners and organize grassroots efforts to influence the politicians who hold the keys to resolving these issues. The implementation of Catholic social teaching must be vigorously supported at the level of each parish, not simply exhorted in the occasional newspaper column.


Clergy Sex Abuse in Los Angeles
The sheer enormity of the clergy sex abuse settlement in Los Angeles ($660 million) was probably what brought the story to the front of the nation’s newspapers a few weeks ago. As sobering as that number is, the real shocking aspects of the history of this case and what has been revealed by it have been pretty much buried in later paragraphs on the inside pages.

To its great discredit, the archdiocese fought to keep priest-personnel files from both plaintiffs and prosecutors, arguing such information was protected by the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court (with a Catholic majority) disagreed, but in some cases the statutes of limitation ran out during the protracted appeals, meaning several suits had to be dismissed.

Two priests whose files were protected, but then released after the court ruling, were known by the archdiocese to be molesting children but were never reported to police. They were instead assigned to other parishes, which were not informed of the priests’ pasts. Both of these priests have now been arrested and are awaiting trial because of the released information that the archdiocese fought to keep secret.

“As these cases make clear, it is in both the public’s and the Church’s best interests that as much information as possible come to light about the way the archdiocese mishandled the situation.” [from Commonweal, 8/17/07]

The Diocese of Brownsville continues to refuse to release the names of its priests who are or have been sex abusers, much less to release any information about how it handled the disposition of each of the cases. Maybe the Diocese will look at the Los Angeles situation and come to the conclusion that transparency and honesty will best serve the interests of the Catholics of the Rio Grande Valley.

I am reading a wonderful book my husband found called Planetwalker, the story of a man named John Francis who starts walking after witnessing the terrible destruction caused by an oil spill. For 22 years walking is his only means of transportation. He also decides for his birthday to give all of his friends the gift of his silence—he stops talking so he can give them the gift of just being able to listen to them. He gains so much from that day, that he continues a vow of silence for 17 years until he feels that he has learned how to balance his ability to communicate, that he can both listen and talk without silencing someone else.

His story is a breath of fresh air and a witness that life does not have to be an overwhelming swirl of activity and noise. One of the great lessons he learns on his walking pilgrimage for peace with our natural environment is the reminder that we are only responsible for changing ourselves. But, in the act of changing ourselves we become a ripple in the pond that keeps moving outward until it touches the whole pond. The world will be touched by our life and will be changed simply by the way it responds to our touch. What kind of ripple do we want to send out into the world?
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

Diocesan Financial Policies
Word is that the Diocese is putting in place regulations concerning the handling of finances in each of the parishes. One of these is that parishes that are in arrears with their “collection tax” and/or their payments to the diocesan health plan will have the money they owe (plus interest) taken from any funds the parish has, even special designated funds. Another of these regulations is that in the fall of each year, a pastor must present a financial report to his parish. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in our own Parish.

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $68,549.10 (last year same date: $68,069.82)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $157,893.06
Projected yearly shortfall: $178,487.81

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

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bishop Peña Vocal On Border Wall.

Bishop Peña Vocal on Proposed Border Wall.

Bishop Peña continues to express his OPPOSITION to the proposed Border Wall between the United States and Mexico. I applaud him for taking a stand on this!

Folks, our Government is building a wall around our community without our approval or input. It is necessary that we all TAKE A STAND to prevent this horrible nightmare from becoming a reality.

Everyone is against illegal immigration and I think we can all agree that our immigration problems need to be fixed, but building a wall around our country is NOT THE ANSWER!

This WALL is just an "easy way out" for our Representatives in Washington to claim that they are doing something about our immigration problems. Solving our immigration problem is going to take rolling up their sleeves and doing some WORK. Let them know that you will accept NOTHING LESS!

Please, go to NOTEXASBORDERWALL.COM to read what is happening without your permission and why we should all be DEMANDING that construction of this wall is STOPPED IMMEDIATELY!

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 requires “at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing... extending 15 miles Northwest of the Laredo Port of Entry, then all the way to the Brownsville Port of Entry”, extending beyond to Boca Chica Beach.

Above are pictures of border fencing that is now in place along the Mexico border. This existing fencing consists of a primary 7 to 15 foot fence made of steel slabs and a secondary steel mesh fence. Between these two fences is a cleared area that is about 100’ wide that serves as a graded patrol road. Included is a lighting system, a series of closed-circuit TV camera towers, a "blaster" sound system and a network of intrusion detection sensors.

I think we can all agree that a wall like this along our Texas-Mexican border will result in an enormous swat of needless devastation that will traumatize our environment, our wildlife, our economy, our communities and our ongoing relationships with our friends and relatives to the South.

Our Government’s methods of FORCING this wall upon our communities is also seriously jeopardizing every American’s rights:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive all legal requirements such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.”

PLEASE... think about what your Government is doing and JOIN US!!

We need your help and support NOW! Join our group and ask what you can do!