Recognizing the Stranger

Leadership Development for Immigration Reform

'Recognizing the Stranger' is a multiyear regional approach to immigration, working with local parishes to identify, train, and mentor immigrant leaders to build connections among themselves and with nonimmigrant allies in their parishes and the broader community.  It is a collaborative effort among clergy, leaders, and organizers to develop capacity to tackle tough issues.

With support from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the Interfaith Education Fund piloted 'Recognizing the Stranger' in fall of 2016.  In 2019, it  expanded into 19 dioceses across the West and Southwest US.  

According to CCHD Director Ralph McCloud, "Recognizing the Stranger is particularly successful because it captures the connections between what happens at Mass on Sunday morning, how families live their lives throughout the week, and how parishioners interact with members of the broader community. I have been impressed that participants seek true change.  In the process, parishes are strengthened, unified, and revitalized."

Recognizing the Stranger, National Strategic Grant, CCHD

Program Trains Leaders to Put Faith into Action, Texas Catholic - Dallas

Immigrant Leaders Being TrainedCatholic Sentinel - Portland [pdf]

Milestones: Catholic Campaign, TMO Offers Leadership Training for Hispanic Parishioners, Texas Catholic Herald 


THE LATEST


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As federal officials announced that a downtown Dallas facility had been chosen to house up to 3,000 migrant teenagers starting the week of March 15, the Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Dallas sprang into action to help....

In addition to Catholic Charities Dallas, other nonprofits, churches and interfaith groups have reached out to offer support, including the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Migration and Refugees Services and Dallas Area Interfaith.

Josephine Lopez-Paul, lead organizer for the interfaith group, said volunteers from several parishes in Dallas who have received training as community leaders from Dallas Area Interfaith, will be essential volunteers, helping interview young people, making contact with their families inside the United States and knowing relevant details of each case.

“Parish leaders are vital in this situation,” Lopez-Paul said. “These are people who have followed a prior training process, who speak the native language of the teens arriving and have in order the documentation required by the Diocese of Dallas in relation to safe environment policies.”

Texas parishes such as St. Luke in Irving, Mary Immaculate in Farmers Branch and San Juan Diego in Dallas were among those mentioned by Lopez-Paul as the most helpful volunteer sources at this time.

“These are churches where the Central American community is more present,” Lopez-Paul said. “They are leaders who know the immigration dynamics because many have personally experienced it and have been trained to serve their community.”

In addition to the Catholic Church, Lopez-Paul said she is working with the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, plus Jewish communities, whose leaders also have received training from Dallas Area Interfaith in the past.

“This is a coordinated effort for the good of a community that has experienced many difficulties and deserves respect and help,” Lopez-Paul said.

[Photo Credit: Adrees Latif, Reuters/CNS Photo]

Dallas Catholics Pitch in to Help Migrant TeensCatholic Philly [pdf]


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Arreola has received some help from Voices United for Life, a pro-life organization. And in December, she joined online house meetings organized by the Valley Interfaith Project, a onetime Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded organization that now advocates for people facing eviction during the pandemic.

Valley Interfaith [Project], she said, has "given me a voice."

...

Advocacy on eviction prevention has become an important part of this work as well. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is affiliated with The Metropolitan Organization, a CCHD-fund grassroots organization that has taken on eviction prevention work since March.

Much of the effort has focused on convincing Houston and Harris County officials to quickly distribute tens of millions of dollars for rental assistance that was allocated under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, said Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer with The Metropolitan Organization.

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While some communities have allocated a significant share of CARES Act funds for rental assistance, Dallas has not. Housing advocates have criticized the city for complicating the application process for receiving aid. About 1 in 4 of the people who said they needed help were successful, according to the Dallas Morning News.

For months advocates in Dallas have pushed officials to distribute rental assistance funds and expand the Centers for Disease Control moratorium on evictions. Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly has worked with CCHD-funded Dallas Area Interfaith on the effort.

"It's very harmful," Bishop Kelly said of the restrictions on accessing the money. "There's no need for it either. The funds are there."

Josephine Lopez Paul, lead organizer of Dallas Area Interfaith, said work continues on empowering and educating people about eviction prevention in the hope their voices will influence policymakers to better respond to their needs.

[Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]

With Evictions Looming, Agencies Work Furiously to Keep Families Housed, Angelus News [pdf]


[Excerpts]

Arenas de Ruiz, formerly of Venezuela, had been among parishioners in Harris County, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties who took the three-day leadership training offered [by the Gulf Coast Leadership Council with the support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Mission & Ministry Impact to leaders of] The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), a nonprofit grassroots group. In mid-summer, more than 1,250 TMO leaders from 30 churches and other institutions convened on Zoom and Facebook watch parties for a virtual “Get out the Vote Rally” and made thousands of phone calls to 16 Harris County precincts that traditionally had low voter turnout.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has offered a teaching document on the political responsibilities of Catholics called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The document urges all pastors, lay and religious faithful and all people of good will “to help form consciences, teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue and to shape politics.”

Father Rodney Armstrong of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Fifth Ward and his parishioners set up a voter registration table at a nearby McDonald’s fast-food restaurant with owner approval. The pastor also made a video that TMO placed on its Facebook to encourage voters.

Dr. Fernando Scaglia, a parishioner at Assumption Catholic Church off Airline Drive, said he participated in the church’s phone bank as well despite his busy schedule as a researcher and professor of genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.

He also participated in “Virtual Accountability Sessions,” where TMO invited candidates from Democratic and Republican parties to discuss how they stood on a variety of issues.

“There are so many important issues that impact all of us — health and the pandemic; economic issues like evictions and even the DACA issue for dreamers,” Dr. Scaglia said.

[Photo Credit: St. Leo the Great Catholic Church]

Faithful Citizenship Sparks Nonpartisan Voter Rallies at Houston Parishes, The Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]


[Excerpt]

TMO is among the coalition of nonprofits that have approached the city and county to urge the equitable distribution of those funds.

“We asked City Council to commit $100 million of the $404 million in the Coronavirus Relief Fund to rental assistance. But the next day, they committed $15 million that was distributed online in a matter of minutes to about 12,000 families,” Higgs said.

“A survey shows of the 700,000 rental units in the area, up to 85,000 cannot pay rent at this time. A huge number of the people are service workers, men and women of color, hourly workers who lost their jobs with little if any savings. The need is so immense,” he said.

With any moratoriums on evictions ending, justices of the peace may resume processing eviction notices by mid-June and constables will start showing up at apartments, he said.

“It doesn’t make sense to evict someone who has paid regularly but is not able to currently pay during this crisis. Plus, when someone in uniform shows up to evict, it’s scary as heck, especially for those who may be undocumented,” Higgs said.

[Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church]

Facing Eviction, Single Mothers With Kids Hit Hardest By Need For Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]


Special two-day training to prepare ministry leaders to deliver 'Recognizing the Stranger' sessions to Spanish-speaking leaders across the West and Southwest US reached Colorado.  Fifteen leaders from Colorado and neighboring states received this preparation with support from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and the Organizers Institute (OI).     

The training was hosted by the Colorado Institute for Public Life (CIPL) in Denver, Colorado.  


With support from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), and as part of the second phase of the Recognizing the Stranger strategy, parish leaders from California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington participated in a two-day meeting to prepare to lead training sessions for Spanish-Speaking immigrants.  

The training focused on the "Eucharist at Corinth," a fundamental component of the leadership development curriculum. The training was hosted by the Souther California Education FUnd (SCEF) in Los Angeles, California.   


Almost three dozen clergy, religious and lay leaders from Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Mississippi convened at Holy Trinity Catholic to learn how to teach key pieces of the Recognizing the Stranger curriculum.  

Sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), 'Train the Trainer' sessions like these are designed to expand the training capacity of the effort as the strategy reaches into nineteen dioceses across the US. 

Sessions were led by senior organizers of the Organizers Institute of the South and West IAF and included in-depth discussion of theological reflections on the Eucharist at Corinth and the Beatitudes.


At the 2019 General Assembly of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Baltimore, the outgoing chair of the Committee on Migration (and Catholic Bishop of Austin), Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, concluded his report with "good practices for helping immigrants."  Topping the list was the IAF parish identification strategy.

Parish identification emerged as a strategy in Dallas after passage of Texas Senate Bill 4, which allows law enforcement officers to ask residents about their immigration status.  With no access to state drivers licenses, undocumented immigrants were concerned that otherwise benign traffic stops could result in deportation.  Police departments were worried their officers would not be trusted in immigrant communities.  As a way to address both concerns, 1,500 Dallas Area Interfaith leaders and their Bishops negotiated acceptance of parish ID cards with five North Texas police departments. 

The parish ID strategy soon spread to Baltimore in collaboration with IAF sister affiliate Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) and, most recently, to the Diocese of Brownsville (along the US-Mexico border) in partnership with Valley Interfaith, Catholic Charities and the police departments of Brownsville, McAllen and Edinburg.

Bishop Vasquez recognized the Catholic (Arch)dioceses of Baltimore, Dallas and Brownsville for "fostering a sense of belonging & security."  So far in Dallas, 12,000 identification cards have been issued through DAI member congregations, fortifying family connections to congregations and strengthening parish collections in the process.

Remarks by Bishop Jose S. VásquezUS Conference of Catholic Bishops General Assembly Remarks

How Parish IDs Can Help Foster Communities of WelcomeJustice for Immigrants [Notes]

How Parish IDs Can Help Foster Communities of WelcomeJustice for Immigrants [Webinar]

Catholic Diocese of Brownsville and Valley Interfaith Team Up to Offer Parish ID

Parish IDs Bring Relief to Immigrant Communities in North Texas 

Additional news on Parish IDs


At a US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) General Assembly reception in Baltimore, Pima County Interfaith (PCI) organizer Ana Chavarin was awarded the Cardinal Joseph Bernadin New Leadership Award.  Each year, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) honors individuals, like Ana, who "demonstrate leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions."

Having worked with PCI for the past four years, Ana was originally nominated by the Diocese of Tucson’s Office of Human Life & Dignity.  Said Sr. Leonette Kochan, the department's former director:  “Ana's Catholic faith motivates and inspires her role as a parent, faith community member, and leader in the wide range of social outreach initiatives in which she participates.  Her courageous determination and the support of others found expression in her life of service to others, especially in programs that empower the lives of others. As a person who faces economic struggles as a single parent of four children, Ana also leads by example in balancing family life with work, while pursuing a college degree.” 

In 2018 she won a US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) award for Hispanic Catholic Leaders and was also recognized by the Arizona Daily Star for her community achievements (see links further below).  

[In photo, Ana Chavarin prepares Spanish-speaking parish ministers for leadership. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Alliance for the Common Good.]

Ana Chavarin is Winner of 2019 CCHD Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership AwardUSCCB [pdf]

Remarks from Ana Chavarin, the 2019 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award WinnerUSCCB [pdf]

Once Cheated, Community Leader Now Helps Others Speak with United VoiceCatholic News Service [pdf]

Celebrating Hispanic Catholic Leaders for JusticeUSCCB [pdf]

Neto's Tucson: Ana Chavarin is a Single Mom, an Immigrant and a SuccessArizona Daily Star [pdf]


116 leaders, mostly from the Catholic Dioceses of Shreveport and Alexandria, participated in CCHD- and Organizers Institute- sponsored leadership training in Woodworth, Louisiana.  Leaders representing 42 congregations from 25 cities or towns learned how to put their faith in action through institutional organizing practices designed to strengthen their parishes and fortify their communities.  The sessions covered themes including the eucharist and what it means to be the body of the Christ, baptism and the mission of the church and building a team to do the work of the Church.  


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