Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 12/23/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
December 23, 2007

A Christmas Sermon (with comments)
He brought light out of darknesse, not out of a lesser light; he can bring thy Summer out of Winter, though thou have no Spring; though in the wayes of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now, wintred and frozen, clouded and eclypsed, damped and benummed, smothered and stupefied till now, now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the Sun at noon to illustrate all shadowes, as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries, all occasions invite his mercies, and all times are his seasons.
from a sermon of John Donne (Poet and Anglican priest), preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Christmas Day, 1624.

“This [post] raises another question for me: How many of us, in church, have ever heard a sermon that is a poem? (I don’t mean quotes from Hallmark or “Footprints.”) I’m not that fond of Donne, but I do wish we had more poetry in our preaching, more sensitivity to the beauty of words, better craftsmanship in use of their rhythms, and attention to how they fall on the ear.”
from Rita Ferrone, dotCommonweal, 12/22/07

“No, I have never heard a Catholic priest make up a poem for a sermon, recite a poem for a sermon, or refer to literature in any way. References to non-Catholic traditions seem mostly limited to football. Ouch! I’m such a grouch today; I’ve now begun to annoy myself.”
from Jean Raber, dotCommonweal, 12/22/07

A Christmas Poem
Christ climbed down

from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree

this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again

where in the darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest of
Second Comings
from Christ Climbed Down, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, ca. 1955

The Dynamics of Reform
“Some people argue that we’re going to sit at a table with these people and they’re going to voluntarily give their power away. I think it is a complete fantasy; it will never happen.”
Presidential candidate, John Edwards (in reference to reforming health care)

Those who care about and are working for reform in the Catholic Church would do well to keep John Edwards’ comment in mind. The Church is a human institution, and those in authority who view that as the same as having power will never voluntarily give away what they perceive is their power. Real change can never be completely amicable. “Do you think I came to establish peace…? No, rather division….I have come to set the earth on fire and how I wish it were already blazing.”

John Edwards is talking about insurance companies, drug companies, etc. Who are those that instead of exercising authority in the Church, instead wield power? To reform the Church, the very notion of what the Church is must be re-thought so that conversations around a table will not have to be about power at all.

False Certainty
“I know what you mean about being repulsed by the church when you have only the Mechanical-Jansenist Catholic to judge it by. I think that the reason such Catholics are so repulsive is that they don’t really have faith but a kind of false certainty. They operate by the slide rule and the Church for them is not the body of Christ but the poor man’s insurance system. It’s never hard for them to believe because actually they never think about it. Faith has to take in all the other possibilities it can.” Flannery O’Connor in a letter to a friend, in the collection, The Habit of Being (1979)

Chain of Sorrow
You can gaze out the window get mad and get madder,
Throw your hands in the air, say “What does it matter?”
But it don't do no good to get angry, so help me I know.
For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter.
You become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there wrapped up in a trap of your very own chain of sorrow.
from Bruised Orange, John Prine

This is the first Christmas away from Holy Spirit in a very long time and I find myself thinking about how that makes me feel. Angry? Bitter? Sorrowful? All of those, to some extent, but none with the sharp edge of even a few months ago—I won’t be my own prisoner.

Those responsible for the dismantling of the Parish, the Bishop and the Monsignor, have much to account for, and believing as I do in “what goes around, comes around,” I am certain there will be some justice, some day, for this community. But bruises heal, at least somewhat, and new Christmases bring new kinds of Christmases. No chain of sorrow, not anymore—Merry Christmas to the Holy Spirit community, especially those in exile.
from a parishioner, Jerry Brazier

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

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMASLet us give thanks for Christ's love
and for the joy we share through Christ.
Peace on Earth.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good for you Victor Garcia, Jr.

December 19, 2007 - 4:29PM
To the Editor:

It’s our religious duty to care for ‘illegals’

I was at the “rally” last Tuesday, and a Caucasian lady sitting in front of me, educated and seemingly a good person, made the statement that she was there to voice her opinion on illegal immigration: that every person must wait in line, even if it takes 10 years. I could not believe that she had said that.

These “illegal immigrants,” all they want is to earn a decent honest living. They are hungry and poor. They risk their lives and family to get to the promised land: the United States of America.

At one time, America had open arms like a true Christian and welcomed anyone, and the hungry were fed and given the opportunity to live a decent life. Even the Cubans that were killers and thieves that were sent here by Castro during the Carter administration were given citizenship.

I still believe that the United States of America has a Christian philosophy; except now, the powers that be have made us believe that the wall is the solution.

I will always help feed the poor and teach them to fish, even if they are labeled “illegal.” My creator did not make my empty stomach wait 10 years so that I could become a “legal citizen.”

If that lady was born in Mexico and had to come to America as an “illegal,” I as a Christian would be there to feed and help her, and that’s because I am a Catholic.

Victor Garcia Jr.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Would you keep your money in a Bank that only has part of a vault door?

Every Texas rancher knows that if you don't have fencing all the way around your ranch, the cows are going to get out!

I spent some time at the No Border Wall Rally last night. I also got to talk to many of the U.S Department of Homeland Security/Border Patrol personnel at the public comments gathering on the draft of the RGV Border Fence Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). I tried hard to be objectionable.

First of all, the EIS is about the size of the complete Rio Grande Valley Telephone Book. It was printed November of 2007. Like everyone else, I didn't get a copy of this publication until last night (12/11/07). The cover sheet of this publication states that our comments are due by December 31, 2007.

Folks, week after next is CHRISTMAS. Does our Government really expect us to spend our CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS reading their propaganda on why they feel a Berlin Wall should be constructed along our cherished river?

If nothing else, please do one thing right now! Click on the following link to e-mail the SBI Tactical Infrastructure Program Office to let them know that two (2) weeks (including Christmas holidays) is just not enough time to read and analyze all of their information and/or to make a comment. A more realistic time-frame would be three to six months. Tell them that!

I'll have more comments as I am able to study thir book.

Thanks for your help,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 12/09/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
December 9, 2007

Strange Bedfellows
The saying, “politics makes strange bedfellows,” is certainly applicable to the No Border Wall effort in full swing these days up and down the Valley. An uneasy coalition of immigration activists, environmentalists, business interests, and now the Diocese of Brownsville itself, is emerging to try to stop the Border Wall’s construction.

Of particular interest, for its high irony, is the invitation given to Father Jerry Frank by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce to speak at the large anti-Wall rally being organized by the Chamber (scheduled for December 11th at the McAllen Convention Center). This is the same Father Jerry who was (and continues to be) vilified by business leaders in the community for his forceful and very vocal efforts for social justice when he was pastor at Holy Spirit. “It’s a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack.”

The strong appeal that the Diocese made at every parish this week-end to have people sign petitions and to participate in the McAllen rally has the potential to have a big impact. It would be interesting to know what the dynamics were that finally brought about this effort at the grass-roots, parish level.

Imagine what the impact could be, over a whole range of issues, if the Diocese would embark on a sustained effort to bring the parishes into an organized work of educating parishioners about Catholic social teaching and providing them with the opportunities and tools in their parish communities to put those teachings into practice.

Giving Trees
The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, is a “short moral tale about a relationship between a young boy and a tree in a forest. The tree and the boy become best friends. The tree always provides the boy with what he needs: vines to swing from, shade to sit under, apples to snack on, branches to build a house. As the boy grows older and older he requires more and more of the tree. The tree loves the boy very much and gives him anything he asks for. In the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, the tree lets the boy cut her down so the boy can build a boat in which he can sail. The boy leaves the tree, now a stump.

“Many years later, the boy, now an old man, returns and the tree says ‘I have nothing left to give you’. The boy replies that all he needs is a quiet place to sit and rest as he awaits death. The tree happily obliges.” [excerpted from Wikipedia]

“The Giving Tree” at Holy Spirit is a Christmas season tradition that extends back into the deep mists of parish history. The idea is simple. There is a tree in the gathering space that has paper ornaments, each indicating some sort of gift or donation (a toy for a young girl, money for a poor family’s meal, a donation to help an impoverished Central American community, etc.) A parishioner takes an ornament and returns the associated gift to the parish in time for Christmas. This is not something elaborate that requires much of people, but is a nice gesture “in the spirit of Christmas” on the part on the parish community.

Wouldn’t you know it, this practice has been abandoned at Holy Spirit. The party line from the ever-thoughtful Monsignor is that people are already being asked to do so much at the holidays, that the parish should back off from this project. Make your own judgements, but given the abandonment of the parish Thanksgiving dinner, this is not really very surprising, is it? Like the tree in Silverstein’s story, the Holy Spirit tree has nothing left to give, but not because it has given all that it can, but because it doesn’t want to be bothered anymore.

What is Preaching?
“Preaching is a high and awesome responsibility. It is not to be equated with teaching, for in teaching the subject matter is outside of oneself and capable of being controlled. In preaching, the subject matter is very much part of the preacher and calls the one who speaks also into question. It is certainly not to be identified with the delivering of bromides, or of nosegays of pleasant thoughts. Preaching is not raconteurship, or the recital of charming anecdotes. It is not even the exposition of Scriptures. It is, instead, a matter of both the preacher and people being brought into question.” from Luke Timothy Johnson, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University in Scripture and Discernment, Decision Making in the Church (pp. 153-154)

Mi Casa es Su Casa
The word is that the parish is going to embark on two building projects. One is a retreat center/youth building and the other is a new home for the pastor (in older parlance, a rectory).

Let’s think about the retreat center /youth building first. It is very problematic that parish capital funds should be used as the primary source of building space for what is, in effect, a diocesan-wide ministry. Building funds have been collected over the years from parishioners with the assurance that they would be spent for capital improvement of the parish facilities—it is doubtful that the parish at large views the retreat movement as a Holy Spirit parish ministry, at least to the extent of this level of investment. What assurance does the parish have that there will be a sufficient income stream to staff and maintain such a facility? A building to support the parish’s youth ministry was part of the long-range plan established well prior to June, 2003, but given the dramatic decrease in financial support of religious education in the parish in the last two years, it seems unlikely that youth ministry will really play much part in this planned facility’s use.

What about the new rectory? What in heaven’s name is motivating such an expenditure at this time? You would hope it is something more than, “Father wants a nicer house to live in.” Wouldn’t we all like someone else to pay for us to have a nicer home? The current house that the parish provides for its pastor is in a subdivision a few blocks south of the church property and is very much like the homes of many of the parishioners.

Is it reasonable or even proper for a pastor live in a home that is markedly different from those of the parishioners he is called to serve? Bishop Fitzpatrick lived in a two-bedroom apartment, which he shared with another priest, not in a residence that cost $300,000 to remodel (as our current Bishop does). The argument that has been heard is that the Monsignor needs to be closer to the parish property to be able to serve the community better. That is truly laughable, given the fact the Monsignor is virtually never in the parish offices—is it truly the rectory’s current four block distance from the parish that is interfering with his putting in time there?

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

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


December 5, 2007

Hidalgo Communities and Businesses link arms in Fight against Border Wall

The Chambers of Commerce of Hidalgo County are joining forces in a fight against the proposed Border Wall. A No Border Wall Rally is scheduled for Tuesday, December 11th from 5:30pm to 6:15pm at the new McAllen Convention Center.

The No Border Wall Rally is an effort by the Chambers, environmental groups, community activists, faith based groups, land owners and ranchers to enlighten the government on the issues that gravely effect on the economy and the environment.

“After seeing the proposed wall and its locations, I am more convinced than ever this is a total waste of taxpayers’ money and will not secure our country,” said Steve Ahlenius, President and CEO of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. “We are for secure borders, but there are better ways,” he said.

Here are some of the main points for the rally:

· We oppose the wall because it divides our communities, provides a false sense of security, betrays our region’s history, usurps private property rights and gives away part of Texas to Mexico.

· We support the use of natural barriers and the clearing of Carrizo Cane at the Brownsville Weir and reservoir projects and other sites along the Rio Grade River.

· We oppose the Draft Environmental Impact Statement’s arbitrary dismissal of alternatives to the Border Wall suggested by border communities.

· We support development and use of technology such as radar, ground sensor, unmanned aerial drones, intelligence networks to stem smugglers’ networks, more Border Patrol agents and increased funding and staffing at the ports-of-entry.

· Enforcement of existing immigration laws.

· The proposed wall will in the long-term reduce the natural habitats found in the region. Currently, the region has over 500 recorded species of birds, 39 which are seen no where else in the United States. This region is the funnel for the major migratory flyway in the Western Hemisphere and is home to 340 endemic species.

· Nature tourism in Valley has an economic impact of $125 million dollars and produces 2,500 jobs.

· Mexico has recently requested the United States to pursue other alternatives to building the Wall.

· Currently over $3 billion in retail trade occurs between Northern Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. The wall sends the wrong message to tourists and legal visitors from Mexico.

The No Border Wall Rally serves to coordinate and to encourage every citizen to testify against the current proposal. “This may be our last opportunity to get the attention of the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol about the wall,” said Ahlenius. “It is time for the all citizen to speak-up.”

For more information pertaining to the rally or environmental concerns due to the Border Wall, contact the McAllen Chamber of Commerce at 956-682-2871.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Urgent Action Request

Please help us distribute the following action request far and wide as it contains extremely important information about the Border Wall Environmental Impact Statement and environmental justice.

Thank you for your help.


November 29, 2007

Dear Community Leaders and Activists:

We are gearing up for the Department of Homeland Security public meetings December 11and 12 in McAllen and Brownsville regarding the Rio Grande Valley border wall. At these meetings DHS will be soliciting public comments about the Draft RGV Border Fence Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). We need your help to get the word out that the EIS is not just an environmental issue. By law, environmental impact statements are supposed to cover issues of the human environment as well. Unfortunately, the Rio Grande Valley Border Fence EIS (copy available at does not adequately address these issues, and the most vulnerable people of the Rio Grande Valley are being left unprotected from the damage a border wall is certain to cause. We want to raise this concern among religious leaders and humanitarian organizations, so they’ll be better armed to challenge the EIS during the public comment period.

Environmental Justice means that “no group of people, including racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic groups, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal environmental programs and policies” (EPA Fact Sheet). This sentiment was codified by President Clinton in executive order 12898 (Federal Action to Address Environmental Justice [EJ] in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations), which provides that “each Federal agency must identify and address, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the U.S.”

In 2004, the Operation Rio Grande Environmental Impact Statement found that environmental justice was indeed an issue for projects in the Rio Grande Valley:
Approximately 85% of the population in the area can be classified as minority (well above the state average of 39.4%). The median annual household incomes for the counties in the project area (Starr, $10,182; Hidalgo, $16,703; and Cameron, $17,336) are well below the state average of $27,016 and, in the case of Starr County, below the $15,000 established by the EPA for defining the economic status risk group. Therefore, many of the households in the project area doubtless have a high potential EJ index. (Operation Rio Grande EIS, Section 3.12.6, emphasis added) However, in the 2007 Draft Rio Grande Valley Border Fence EIS, it is claimed that the protections of environmental justice do not apply. This questionable judgment is achieved by sleight of hand and is revealed in the following quote:

Of the 21 fence sections, 11 are within census bureau tracts in which portions of the tracts have a higher proportion of minority or low-income residents. Of the proposed 70 miles of tactical infrastructure, substantially less than half is within census bureau tracts that have a higher proportion of minority or low-income residents—therefore the overall impacts of the proposed tactical infrastructure would not fall disproportionately on minority or low-income populations. (Section 5. 5.11)

Rather than stating that the majority of people who will be negatively impacted by the border wall are poor and/or minorities, which is what environmental justice is all about. The EIS counts miles. Miles that fall within US Fish and Wildlife refuge tracts, where no people live, are counted along with the miles that pass through poor communities, allowing them to dilute, at least on paper, the wall’s impact on minority and low-income populations. Mileage is irrelevant to the question of environmental justice. The question is whether a disproportionately high number of the people who will be negatively affected are members of minority and/or low-income populations.

We must not allow the Department of Homeland Security to paper over the real human hardships that a border wall tearing through our communities will cause. We must force them to acknowledge that here in the Rio Grande Valley it is minorities and the poor who will bear the brunt of the damage of this misguided and politically-motivated project. Please urge your group members or congregation to attend one of the public meetings in McAllen or Brownsville and to comment on the border wall. Please also submit official comments from your organization or church. See below for details on meeting times and comment submission.

Thank you,
Stefanie Herweck
No Border Wall Steering Committee

Public “Open House” Meetings
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
4:30-8:00 pm
McAllen Convention Center
(956) 681-3800

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
4:30-8:00 pm
Brownsville Events Center
(956) 554-0700

Written comments will also be accepted until December 31, 2007.

You may submit comments in the following ways:
a) Electronically through the web site at
b) By email to:
c) By mail to: Rio Grande Valley Tactical Infrastructure EIS, c/o e²M, 2751 Prosperity Avenue, Suite 200, Fairfax, Virginia 22031
d) By fax to: (757) 282-7697