Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Regional Border Wall Forum

Regional Forum on the Border Wall

Confused about the Border Wall? A community forum on this contentious issue will take place this Thursday evening, June 26, at 7 p.m. in the Auditorium, Building G, at South Texas College in Weslaco. The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it intends to begin construction on the Wall in Hidalgo County in just 30 days.

Among the speakers will be Scott Nicol of the No Border Wall Coalition, who will review the legal challenges to the Wall and address the government’s latest plan to link the wall to the improvement of the levee system. A number of objections to this plan have been raised. One important objection, according to Nicol, is that linking the Wall to levee construction will be very dangerous to the Valley in case of a hurricane.

Martin Hagne, an environmental advocate and Executive director of Weslaco ’s Valley Nature Center will also speak. Hagne also will be available afterward to answer questions on how the proposed Wall will affect wildlife, water resources, etc. There has been work carried out over decades to protect the natural environment in South Texas , work many environmentalists believe will be set back by the Border Wall.

Rogelio Nunez, director of Projecto Libertad in Harlingen , who has tentatively agreed to speak, and Meredith Linskey, an immigration rights attorney in Harlingen , will address human rights issues and the cultural context of the wall. The Wall reflects a mean spiritedness to Mexico and to immigrants and is perceived by many human rights activists as another step toward militarization of the border region.

The forum is free and open to the public. “A year ago at this time, momentum against the Wall seemed sufficient to stop it, l thought,” said Bob Fowler of Weslaco , a philosophy instructor and peace and justice activist who supports the idea of a public forum. “The Mayor of McAllen, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, the President of U.T. Brownsville and all the environmental groups seemed so opposed to it that I thought the government would back off.

“Because there seemed to be so many rallies against the Wall from Del Rio to Brownsville ,” said Fowler, “it has come as a shock that now the government has announced that it is going right ahead with it in July. We need to organize a series of events right away.”

The No Border Wall Coalition, which is sponsoring the event at STC, has reached out to many Valley groupings within the last few years and has developed links nationally in opposition to the wall. The forum is intended as a wake-up call to the community. Despite the opposition from many Valley organizations and despite legal suits, the Department of Homeland Security has announced it will begin construction of the Border Wall in Hidalgo County on July 25th.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Parishioners' Newsletter 06/01//08

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Catholics of the Rio Grande Valley

June 1, 2008

A Celebration of Pentecost
The newsletter returns—much to the irritation of some, the muted delight of others, and, I am sure, the yawning indifference of the vast majority of people.

I have been gone from the Valley for over a month because of some important family responsibilities in Seattle. While in the Northwest, I celebrated the Eucharist with the community of St. Patrick’s on the north end of Capitol Hill. The parish is small, in an older neighborhood, but its joyous and moving Eucharistic celebrations, the vibrant and open community atmosphere, and the parish’s deep commitment to peace and social justice draw parishioners from the entire Seattle metropolitan area, some coming thirty or forty miles each Sunday.

The Pentecost Sunday celebration was particularly powerful and, for me, poignant because the feast of the Holy Spirit, since 2003, is always a day to reflect on the community that was so special for us in McAllen. At St. Pat’s the celebration was filled with music and dance and joy and prayerfulness that stirred everyone, from the opening procession to the brass band-led recessional.

Strong, vibrant parishes do still exist out there and can be created anywhere that the Spirit is allowed to break through.

If You Don’t Like It, …
You are a hard road, I am a seeker.
How long, old friend, can you hold out?
I can make it to the end.
from “Hard Road,” by Vince Bell, Texas singer-songwriter

In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet on the road to peace.
from “Zechariah’s Canticle,” said each day at morning prayer

When examples of parish life from other places are pointed out, a common response is, “well, if you don’t like it here, why don’t you just go to [wherever]?” That response sort of misses the point—the point being that there are parish communities that show us ideals (at least in some aspects) to strive for. It is possible to have prayerful, moving liturgies with professionally directed music and artistic expression; it is possible to have effective and competently run religious education programs for adults, youth and children; it is possible to have a transparently run parish administration with the involvement of the parishioners that church law calls for; it is possible to have real parish life that expands beyond pious practices.

These are ideals to work for and it is reassuring to see them achieved, at least somewhat, in other communities.

From Stuck Debate to New Conversation
“On a subject that has been hotly polarized for a long time, the dominant discourse often delineates the issue in a win-lose bi-polar way; it draws a line between two simple answers to a complex dilemma and induces people to take a stand on one side of that line or the other…Most people who care deeply about the issue yield to this induction.

“Being aligned with one group offers benefits. It gives one a socially validated place to stand while speaking and it offers the unswerving support of like-minded people. It also exacts costs. It portrays opponents as a single-minded and malevolent gang. In the face of such frightening and unified adversaries, one’s own group must be unified, strong, and certain. To be loyal to that group, one must suppress many uncertainties, morally complicated personal experiences, inner value conflicts, and differences between oneself and one’s allies. Complexity and authenticity are sacrificed to the demands of presenting a unified front to the opponent. A dominant discourse of antagonism is self-perpetuating. Win-lose exchanges create losers who feel they must retaliate to regain lost respect, integrity, and security, and winners who fear to lose disputed territory won at great cost.”
from Stuck Debate to New Conversation on Controversial Issues: A Report from the Public Conversations Project. Carol Becker et al.

Anybody out there ready to get unstuck?

“Everyone speaks of the loss of trust that this [clergy sex abuse] scandal has caused. But what about the loss of trust that preceded it—a loss expressed by both liberals and conservatives, across the spectrum of Catholic views. Why, in other words, had the reservoir of trust run so low?

The causes are many. Secrecy is one. Careerism another. Silent and passive acquiescence in Vatican edicts and understandings that you know to be contrary to your own pastoral experience. Another is a widespread sense of double standards. One standard for what is said publicly and officially, another standard for what is held and said privately. One standard for the baptized, another for the ordained. One standard for priests, another for bishops. One standard for men, another standard for women. One standard the ordination of heterosexuals and what now threatens to become another standard for homosexuals. One standard for justice and dialogue outside the church, another for justice and dialogue within.”
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels in a speech at the USCCB meeting in Dallas, June 13, 2002 ]

What Peggy Steinfels pointed out to the Bishops nearly six years ago remains true today, and some would say even more so. In many places in the Church there has been a retrenchment, a circling of the wagons, that instead of facing the root causes of the disaffection within the Church, has actually exacerbated the situation.

Communal Discernment
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, retired Archbishop of Milan, in his just published nocturnal colloquies in Jerusalem, has said that he has “lost his dreams for the Church and can now only pray for it.”

“A Church which fails to provide a forum for communal discernment, open discussion, of moral issues, but reduces the informed conscience to a lonely dialectic between official church teachings and the individual in her own private forum is failing to make Christian life an experience of growing in the art of conscience. We badly need a new Catholic culture where we are enabled to have adult consciences and not to remain forever oscillating between conformism and indifferentism. Also we need practice of conscience on a wide range of issues, not only pelvic ones, and a wide range of political issues, not only abortion. But we cannot expect such a culture from a Church that banished Charles Curran and a host of other competent and Catholic moral theologians to the wilderness. This is part of what Cardinal Martini refers to when he says he has lost his dreams for the Church and can now only pray for it.”
Father Joseph O’Leary in dotCommonweal, May, 2008.

Holy Spirit Parish, June 2003-June 2008
“Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.”
[They make a desert and call it peace]
Tacitus, Roman Senator and historian, ca. 100 C.E.

Prepared for all Valley Catholics and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues in the Church or have any other comments, please contact at: