Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is Union Busting Catholic?

Interesting article concerning Unions and the attitude of the Catholic Church.

Naturally, Holy Spirit Parish and our own Bishop Raymundo Peña got mention for his union busting efforts relative to our church employees.

When are the leaders of our Catholic Church going to start teaching us by example?

Christ is crying!

Here is the link:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Invitation to sign a letter to the Pope

Invitation to sign a letter to the Pope

In advance of Pope Benedict's scheduled April visit to the United States, the letter below is being circulated for signatures. If you would like your name added, please send it to me in the form that you would like it to appear. Include whatever other forms of identification you deem appropriate, e.g., organization, vocation, position. Also feel free to circulate it to others who might be interested with the instruction to reply to me at by March 16.

in peace,
Stephen Kobasa

To His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI

Most Holy Father:

In your own words, "today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war'." Yet, during your upcoming visit to the United States, you are planning to meet with President George W. Bush, whose empty justifications for the violence in Iraq lead to increasing numbers of dead, injured and displaced people. Iraqi civilians still endure the "continual slaughter" which you described in your 2007 Easter Sunday address.

Shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq, you rightly declared that "there were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war." You've also called attention to the terrible new technologies which cause indiscriminate destruction. Five years later, how much more reason you have to call for an immediate end to this war, and to refuse to meet with the President of the United States until that is accomplished.

If you kneel in grief and outrage before the cross of the tortured Christ, can you offer your blessing to a head of government who excuses the most terrible abuses of human minds and bodies as "legal"? If meet with him you must, then meet as a prophet should - issuing a warning and an invitation to repentance. Courtesy cannot be used as an evasion of our biblical faith. Ezekiel was repeatedly reminded of his responsibility to admonish those doing evil if he desired to escape sharing in the responsibility for their sins. Shouldn't any of us who recognize the horror of what is happening in Iraq be condemned if we are silent?

You are scheduled to be in Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of your birth. We feel sure that you will be thinking of the countless children of Iraq who never reached their fifth birthday. In 2005 alone, 122,000 Iraqi children under age five died. There are many, both within the Church and outside of it, who long for your voice to speak for those innocent dead and - face to face with those whose policies denied all respect for their lives - demand that the killing stop.

We are, in faithful hope,

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Archdiocese of Detroit

Kathy Boylan, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker
Stephen Vincent Kobasa
Kathy Kelly

Marie Dennis, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lay Congress for Valley Catholics


Noted Scripture Scholar to Address Lay Congress for Valley Catholics

Father Roger Karban, from the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, will be the featured speaker at We Are The Church, a Lay Congress for Valley Catholics.

This second session of the Lay Congress, which has as its theme, The Parish: Living as a Gospel Community, will be held from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, February 23rd at the Echo Hotel and Conference Center in Edinburg.

Organized by interested laity in the Valley, the Lay Congress is a bringing together of people to learn about their rights as faithful, lay Catholics and so become empowered to impact the Church in the Rio Grande Valley and the world.

Father Karban will speak on the Parish as a Gospel Community and Meeting the Challenge of Discipleship. There will be small group discussions with opportunities to discuss such questions as, what sort of community is a parish? What is expected of us as parishioners? What should we expect from our parish?

Father Karban was ordained a priest in Rome in 1964. He received a licentiate in Theology from the Grgorian University in Rome and did his doctoral work in Scripture at St. Louis University. He has taught adult scripture courses from 1966 to the present at Southern Illinois University and the University of Notre Dame and he will be joining the faculty of St. Louis University in 2008.

All interested Catholics are invited to attend this Lay Congress. It is free of charge and no pre-registration is required, however, donations will be accepted to help defray costs. Lunch will not be provided, but will be available at the Echo Hotel or nearby restaurants.

For further information, see, or contact the RGV Lay Congress Committee at

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 02/17/08

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
February 17, 2008

Correspondence from the Bishop
“Thank you for your expression of concern in regard to Monsignor Louis Brum’s ministry in your parish. I have received expressions of approval of his ministry, as well. The parish is seriously divided, and we must evaluate Monsignor’s ministry as well as that of the entire staff….

“I will cancel a personal trip…, so that we can address this urgent matter. In accord with the Church’s Code of Canon Law, I will then meet with the parish priest consulters whose counsel I must seek, as a first step, in these matters. I anticipate being able to take some action relatively soon.”

This correspondence from Bishop Peña was in February of 2006. Is there any evidence that “parish priest consulters” had their counsel sought? Was the Monsignor’s ministry ever formally evaluated? Was any action taken, ever, even if not “relatively soon” to resolve what the Bishop himself then called serious divisions? The answers to those questions are obvious and reveal the disingenuousness of the administration of the diocese—they acknowledge that there are (or were) problems at Holy Spirit and express commitments to solve those problems, but do absolutely nothing to create solutions. This is leadership?

This week the Bishop celebrates his 74th birthday, which means that next year at this time the diocese will have a new bishop or will be in the process getting a new bishop.

“Unless it is legitimately established otherwise, whenever a diocesan or coadjutor bishop must be appointed, as regards what is called the ternus to be proposed to the Apostolic See, the pontifical legate is to seek individually and to communicate to the Apostolic See together with his own opinion the suggestions of the metropolitan and suffragans of the province to which the diocese to be provided for belongs or with which it is joined in some grouping, and the suggestions of the president of the conference of bishops. The pontifical legate, moreover, is to hear some members of the college of consultors and cathedral chapter and, if he judges it expedient, is also to seek individually and in secret the opinion of others from both the secular and non-secular clergy and from laity outstanding in wisdom.” from the Code of Canon Law (C. 377.3)

This canon can be read very restrictively, emphasizing phrases like “if expedient,” “in secret,” and “laity outstanding in wisdom” which could justify a closed and minimally consultative process for selecting a new bishop. That restricted reading is not required, however. Prior to John Paul II, wide consultation with priests and laity was commonplace—Bishop Matthiesen of Amarillo (in an article in the NCR) recalled that about 100 lay people in his diocese were part of the consultative process that led to his being named bishop.

No one seriously believes that an open election of bishops by the clergy and laity of a diocese is workable in this day and age, but everyone should know that such elections were the norm in the early Church (St. Augustine was chosen bishop in exactly that way). From the early Middle Ages until the nineteenth century, bishops were more often than not chosen by the secular authority and ratified by the Pope. It is only with the collapse of the close relationships between church and state that that practice changed. In fact, the first bishop of the United States, John Carroll, was named after Rome consulted with the most well-known (at least in Europe) political figure in America, Benjamin Franklin, an anti-clerical agnostic.

The faithful of the Rio Grande Valley, clerical and lay, should have an opportunity to express their opinions about what sort of bishop they want and who should be their bishop. It is an ancient prerogative and one for which the law of the Church provides.

Slain In The Spirit?
“Being slain in the Spirit is a term related to the Charismatic movement and Pentecostalism which describes a religious phenomenon in which a person enters a state with loss of all motor control over their body and falls to the floor during an event perceived as a personal encounter with God's glory power, usually associated with occasions of public prayer ministry when the laying on of hands is practiced.

“Being slain in the Spirit occurs in many contemporary Charismatic or Pentecostal church meetings. It was also extremely common in early American (late eighteenth-century) Methodism, particularly at camp meetings and love feasts. Many refer to the phenomenon as ‘falling under the Spirit's power,’ ‘falling before the Lord’ or ‘resting in the Spirit.’ ” from Wikipedia

There is persistent talk that some parishioners have been “slain in the Spirit” during adoration at Holy Spirit. It is difficult for many people to take this sort of religious phenomenon seriously. We all admit the possibility of intense personal experiences of God, but most of us also recognize the huge potential for self-delusion that exists when we begin to deal with the mystical.

Traditionally, Catholicism has been extremely skeptical of the Charismatic movement and has been particularly pointed in its criticism of the practices of Pentecostal churches. It seems that the Parish should have the same healthy skepticism about being “slain in the Spirit” and other such phenomenon, particularly if they occur as part of an organized service in the parish.

Mixed Signals
The Diocese has announced that due to poor financial support for Public Radio from local listeners (only 15% of needed donations have been received) programming may have to been drastically modified or the station may even go off the air. Monsignor Briseño chastises listeners for not contributing and surmises their dissatisfaction with the technical quality of the signal is the cause.

The Good Monsignor might also consider the possibility that the small group of traditional supporters may be unhappy with more than the signal; they may be unhappy with the management of both operations (radio and television). The Hand of God fiasco, the purging of the board of directors, and rumblings of other personnel issues may the cause of disenchantment. Maybe it is time for the University of Texas, through its Pan American and Brownsville campuses, to buy the radio and television stations and operate them in the public interest, with proper oversight from the entire local community.

Cast Iron Beauty
There is a simple and elegant beauty when an object fully serves its purpose. We can sense this especially in handmade objects. We have a quilt that was made for us by my aunt. It is beautiful not just because of her sewing skills or because of the material. It is beautiful because it wraps us in warmth—physical warmth and her warmth.

I just recently learned how to cook with cast iron pans. There is a certain amount of respect and care you must treat a cast iron pan with—you can’t let it sit in water, it must be oiled and it must be preheated. But in learning to treat the pan correctly I was reminded that we all need to be treated with care and respect. And when that happens, we can beautifully fill our purpose. My cast iron pan is no longer a clunky mystery. It is beginning to take on the role of a cast iron pan from my husband’s memory. A pan his aunt would cook for them with, a pan whose appearance in her hand and headed for the stove immediately reassured you that something good was being prepared.

Scraps of material and simple cast iron that become beautiful as they serve their purpose. We are the same. As we treat each other with care and respect we can all discover our purpose. And in filling that purpose we can be transfigured, and the beauty our Creator crafted in us can be revealed. from Michelle Pena

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

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 02/03/08

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
February 3, 2008

Broken, Isolated, Adrift
“Our parish has become for us a place of anger and artifice, of division and dysfunction. …

“It is hard to describe the parish situation without appearing to cast stones. Every priest is unique in his gifts and his shortcomings, and living in and contributing to an authentic faith community is never simple or easy. Of course there will be differences of opinion, and differing commitments and callings, among parishioners. But the Gospel is the Gospel. To be a dwelling place for the Gospel, a healthy parish requires cooperation, compassion, listening, honesty, respect, trust and shared goals, just for starters. But when all of those things go missing, the community has no foundation on which to rest as it weathers storms. The storms take over. The structure is lost.

“We are, I believe, a broken parish. We do not really know what to do, other than pray. The priest shortage is partly to blame, as is our own surrender to frustration. Our pastor has accused some of us of a conspiracy to bring him down, but really, we are just broken in our own little ways, isolated and adrift. Some of us who can afford the gas commute to other parishes. Some of us skip Mass. Some of us have begun to give our offerings to other charities, where our dollars will be put to responsible and life-affirming use. We realize, when we are berated for the dwindling collection plate, that we have perhaps hit upon the only vote that counts: our money. This makes us even sadder….

“If Jesus himself, disguised as a layperson, visited some of our parishes, if he sat somewhere in the middle and did not sing very loudly and forgot his envelope, would he feel welcomed, loved and necessary?”

This quote sounds like it could have come from a Holy Spirit parishioner, but instead comes from an anonymous contributor to the Jesuit magazine, America (2/11/08—for the entire article, see ). It seems that the dismantling and breaking of parishes is not limited to the Rio Grande Valley—is that somehow comforting? No, it is just deeply saddening. Pray for the unnamed parish and all those parishes suffering because they have ceased to be “a dwelling place for the Gospel.”

Whither Church Reform?
“In addition to the anger, distrust, frustration, disillusionment and spiritual aridity the institutional Church has caused because of its totally inept response to the evil of clergy abuse, there has been another equally toxic reaction and that is the profound feeling of nausea in reaction to the self-serving public relations campaign of the U.S. hierarchy by which they continue to try to flip the whole mess around, make themselves look like victims and demonize anyone who has ever challenged their collective stupidity, cruelty and total lack of compassion.…

“`It’s a long, excruciatingly painful process to grow up in the Catholic Church. Most chronological adults never make it. No matter how liberated and avant-garde they believe themselves to be, there is still a very powerful core, deep down inside, that causes dependency feelings to take over whenever one is faced with the challenge of taking the risk of not only thinking but acting like an adult when in the realm of the Church world. To do so means to challenge the clerical office holders and to express opinions that they do not want to hear. To do so means taking the risk that some of them might try to capitalize on the magical thinking that has supported their power by threatening canonical penalties or equating disobedience to them with disobedi-ence to Christ. …

“I don’t want to expend much more energy tilting at windmills in the world of Catholic Church reform. I have no hope that it will happen. I don’t want to spend any more time trudging through what can best be described as a swamp of toxic waste. I believe change will happen because it has happened over the past few years. It has not taken place through dialogue with the hierarchy however. It’s happened when the Church office holders (I intentionally don’t use the word leaders) have found themselves face to face with powers greater than themselves like the law enforcement agencies or the civil court system. That’s where the change will take place...”

This is a quote from Father Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and a Dominican priest, who was commissioned by the USCCB, following the sex abuse scandal in Lafayette, LA, in 1984, to prepare a report and recommendations to the nation’s bishops. This report, which reads today as if he had access to a crystal ball, was heavily criticized by the bishops and completely ignored. After the serious problems that arose in Dallas and then in Boston and then, it seems, almost everywhere, it is no wonder that Father Doyle has little confidence in the bishops’ willingness to do the right thing, related to this and other issues, without being forced to do so.

Father Doyle has spent the last twenty-five years working for the victims of clergy sex abuse (along with serving, until recently, as a military chaplain), and his take on Church reform is food for thought for all those expending time, energy, and emotion on the cause of reform and renewal in the Church. Is this institutional Church really an irredeemable “swamp of toxic waste”?

It’s funny how certain words or ideas seem to keep appearing. As we get ready for this season of Lent, “transformation” seems to be that word. We will be using a Pax Christi USA booklet called “Invited to Transformation” at my house this year. (We will be meeting at 7:30pm on Fridays at our house if anyone is interested in joining us.) But it has been watching the transformation of my mom that has really blessed me with a renewed perspective for Lent. My father died a little over 5 years ago from kidney cancer at age 63. He and my mother handled his cancer and death with grace and strength, but it was definitely not what they had planned for their lives. My mother went from being part of a couple that had always done so much together to being alone. She kept herself involved in many volunteer activities but always felt like she was still trying to find her path. Recently one of her closest friends lost her husband as well. As the two have kept each other company, an idea was born – maybe we should start a group that can offer the same kind of support we have been for one another to others. And so the transformation began. My mother writes me excited emails of how the planning is going and the unex-pected ways she receives encouragement and knows that she is an-swering a call. She has been transformed into an inspired leader, and the grief of my father’s death has been transformed into new life. What a beautiful picture of Lent and Easter—if we can be open to transformation, then resurrection will follow. from Michelle Peña

Let’s All Gather At The River
In the Brownsville Diocesan Manual it states that the Sacrament of Baptism is to be celebrated as part of a Sunday Mass in the parish—there are to be no “private baptisms.” Private baptisms continue to be celebrated at Holy Spirit parish in direct defiance of diocesan policy. What do they call those who pick and choose what directives of the Church they will follow? It must be “cafeteria Monsignors.”

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 oppor-tunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at

Peace & Justice Event

3rd Annual Peace and Justice Gathering


10 AM – 2 PM

400 N. Border

The event starts 10 a.m. sharp
Child Care and Peace-making Program for All Kids Will be Available

DIANE WILSON – Co-Founder of Code Pink
JAY JOHNSON-CASTRO – Co-founder of Border Ambassadors
See you there!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Pax Christi - RGV

Lent 2008

Pax Christi Rio Grande Valley invites you to join us on Friday evenings during Lent for prayer and reflection based on Pax Christi USA’s “Invited to Transformation

7:30pm, fridays during Lent
Home of Mark & Michelle Peña
164 Austin Blvd.
Edinburg, TX
Call 956-380-3731 for directions
or email

About the program:
Invited to Transformation: Reflections for Lent 2008

Like our faith communities, this year’s Lenten reflections are from many different and unique voices joined together as one in the Body of Christ. These reflections invite us to transformation and to experience God more fully in our midst. We are invited to examine our hearts, to watch for and name the temptations of our world and lives, and to plumb the depths of God’s transforming grace. Together we journey from the repentance of ashes to the sorrow of Christ crucified to the joy of resurrection. Authors include many Pax Christi USA Ambassadors of Peace.