Dear Bishop Dewane:
I wanted to write to you today to let you know of a serious concern that I have for our Parish of St. Isabel. While myself, and others like me, will continue to seek justice for our Pastor Fr. Chris, I would also like to seek justice for our Parish of St. Isabel. Our Parish has been so needlessly torn apart by the family of Marion McIntyre, you, the “Pastor in Residence”; and the Parish Staff.
The majority of the Parishioners would like to continue to worship and socialize at St. Isabel, but you and Fr Gates along with the office staff are making that virtually impossible. While some have harsh words for Fr. Gates, there are no “haters” here. We dislike the situation, but it is largely inaccurate to say that we dislike Fr. Gates. It is, however, difficult to give any example of how Fr. Gates has done anything to make parishioners like him. Instead of offering words of comfort and an ear to listen to us, from day one he arbitrarily changed things as if he had been placed here permanently, he berated us from the pulpit, he suggested we leave our church and threatened that our church could be closed, and has told us what to do and how to do it.
Even our faith has been called into question. Ms. Scheer has questioned our faith, at group meetings and on an individual basis. Our worship used to be a time of joy and fellowship, a time when we truly were brought closer to God and to one another, but now we are made to feel uncomfortable as if we are being watched over by an office staff that makes us fearful of doing something wrong. Sadly, it is not Fr. Gates’ fault that all this has happened. It is the fault of a Bishop who placed this inexperienced, totally unequipped young priest in this situation to begin with. Our frustration is not with Fr Gate, but with you, not only for your attack on Fr. Christopher, but for your calculated placement of substitute priest that would do your bidding without question. Fr Gates himself should be angry with you for putting him in a position that he had little or no hope in which to succeed.
Unfortunately, the diocese that put Fr. Gates in this impossible predicament was not there to prepare him for it, nor were they there to help him survive it. Ms. Scheer has been the catalyst in a majority of the changes at St. Isabel since Fr. Gates’ arrival.
Staff members hover over us as we come to get our own supplies (supplies that we paid for). We are not allowed to be in the pantry or supply rooms without supervision.
Why are pictures being taken of the Parishioner’s cars while they are at a prayer service?
We had three functions at the Church this year – the Orchid Ball, the Men’s Society end-of-the-year BBQ, and the Appreciation Soirée. We used to have triple that amount, and by having these activities we not only raised a lot of money for charity but we strengthened our parochial friendships, and shared our joys and sorrows with one another. Fr. Chris cultivated an environment that was welcoming, friendly and reflected the love of Christ. What we have now at St. Isabel is just the opposite, and it is hard to imagine how you, Fr Gates or the Parish Staff could possibly want it to continue in this manner. It is as if you want to destroy everything that Fr. Chris has built up at St. Isabel over the last fourteen years.
We keep hearing about a “parish division” and bringing peace and healing to the St Isabel Parish, but actions speak louder than words and we are not seeing any actions to bring healing by Fr. Gates, you or the Parish Staff. We are not a divided Parish. We all care about each other, and we all care about getting justice for Fr. Chris (we may go about it in different ways, but we all want the same thing). We are only divided when it comes to the parishioners and the office staff and Fr Gates. We are a well-educated, senior parish and we do not need baby-sitting or being spied on. We have done our ministries well and run our organizations for years now without being micro-managed. We do not steal, we do not lie, we know how to turn off the oven, we know how to clean up a kitchen; and we know how to wash altar linens. In essence we are very self-sufficient and we do not need a watchdog.
We would like to have more opportunities and enjoyment for fellowship with our parish family, but we have been told we have to fill out forms for use of the hall, and, if approved, we are only allowed to use the kitchen to warm up food items. We had a Women’s Guild luncheon and because we could not cook in the kitchen we had to grill the chicken breasts at someone’s home. We had a Potluck on the Causeway because it was inconvenient for someone to be at the hall the night we had planned, and we had our annual St Joseph Festa at a Yacht Club because we cannot prepare food in our kitchen. Lately we just found out that we can no longer use items from the church hall pantry. We have been informed that the Women’s Guild and Men’s Society need to buy their own Coffee, Tea, Plates, silverware, napkins, etc. Further, we are not allowed in our Guild storage closet to retrieve the things that we have purchased without someone from the staff present watching us, and so now we choose to store our supplies somewhere other than the church hall.
When the “Authorities” were asked why we had all these new rules and regulations we were told that all the Parishes in the Diocese do this. Well I checked around and that is not the case. St. Columbkill is now expanding their kitchen to enable its parishioners to have more and larger activities in their halls. Another excuse that they give us for not “allowing” us access to “OUR” church is that the collections are down. I am sure that they are, and they will continue to be down because who wants to give to a church that treats us in the way that we have been treated, where we feel like big brother is watching our every move, and where we are not even trusted to go into a closet or pantry? No one wants to support or be part of a church like that!
If you are so concerned with the financial status of the church, maybe you should take a look at the salaries of the full time staff. Do they really work a full work week? We have an office manager who for years took the three summer months off. We have a full time nurse who does not, to my knowledge, go out of her way to visit the elderly, and who also only works 28 hours a week (maybe she gets paid extra to take pictures of license plates on her day off). We have a receptionist who I am not sure does what, but does not put in a forty-hour work week.
Bishop Dewane, tell me who it is that is tearing St. Isabel apart? It is not the parishioners. The parishioners want to be a part of the St. Isabel parish that used to be, but the staff and the “priest in residence” don’t really seem to want us there. Or perhaps Bishop, with all due respect, it is you that are pulling all their strings, and you not only want to ruin Fr. Chris, but the parish of St. Isabel as well?