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By Fr. Wilson (articles ) | Dec 06, 2003

Okay. Now, I'm not planning to conduct a whole campaign on this blog, honestly. But my email box is flooded with letters from good, faithful people especially from Dallas -- older folk for whom Blessed Sacrament Church is a joy, young parents who delight in bringing kids there.

But I especially enjoyed this letter. I promise, this is it until the Dallas diocesan authorities do something egregiously stupid (I know. You have time for a short nap):

Dear Mr. Havard & The Texas Catholic:

I am mystified by continuing news of Father Paul Weinberger being marginalized by the administration of the Bishop.  When I heard the news that he is to be removed as priest at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Oak Cliff, I was speechless.  Why would the Bishop remove one of his best and brightest?

In the polarized environment of diocesan politics, I should hasten to add that I don't have a dog in this fight.  I write to you as a non-Catholic and as a neighbor of Father Paul's parish.

As a restorer of historical buildings in Oak Cliff, I decided to meet Father Paul four years ago after noticing that the campus of Blessed Sacrament was undergoing a complete facelift in the hands of organized volunteers (as opposed to externally funded professional contractors).  Peeling walls were painted, roses planted, and litter banished.  The place looks lovely.

As I suspected, this physical transformation was the result of parishioners themselves being spiritually re-energized.  This I gathered not from Father Paul's statements -- and certainly not from the pages of The Texas Catholic -- but from conversations had with many Mexican immigrants in the neighborhood whom I employ or whose children I tutor at a nearby school. The unlikely spiritual leader adopted by the humble neighborhood (note: it was HE who was adopted) is a bookish, conservative Anglo.

I assume it is fair to judge Father Paul's success as a priest by the dramatic increase in recent years in the number of school children, day laborers, waitresses, check-out clerks, and other pedestrians to be seen with cross-shaped smudges on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday.

I am largely ignorant of Father Paul's reputation outside his parish boundaries, but I understand he has a faithful following among Dallas Catholics who crave an "old-fashioned" approach to their faith -- those to whom vestments, regular confession, and mass in Latin are more than bits of nostalgia.  Presumably, this is where the Bishop feels threatened.  But is the Bishop's diffidence so profound that he would allow it to negate the best thing that has happened to Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and the spiritual life of our neighborhood in decades?

Yours truly,

David W. Spence

The Author is the brother of Thomas Spence, publisher of Thomas Spence Publications.

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