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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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.  


In collaboration with Catholic Bishop Daniel Flores, 500 Valley Interfaith leaders packed a hall in Las Milpas to publicly launch a parish ID strategy for the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. 

Developed in partnership with the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and three law enforcement agencies, new parish-issued identification cards will show a photo of the cardholder, name, date of birth, address and how long the cardholder has been a member of their parish.

Bishop Flores emphasized: “The ID means something more than simply its implication that you have an identification...it means something much deeper: ‘I belong to a parish, and so in this community, I am not living in the shadows.’”

On behalf of Catholic Charities, Sr. Norma Pimentel presented a $10,000 check to pay for printers for new ID cards.  

Representatives from the police departments of Pharr, McAllen and Edinburg participated in the assembly, pledging to accept these cards as a form of valid identification in the event anyone needs to identify themselves to the police -- whether on a traffic stop or when filing a report.   

“Too much of the focus is on the national and state conversation regarding immigration,” said Franciscan Father Tom Luczak, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Edinburg.  “This is a local strategy that gives my own parishioners the dignity of being able to identify themselves to a police officer. “This will positively affect them."

[Photo Credit: photo above by Francisco Jimenez, The Monitor; photo at right by Paul Binz, The Valley Catholic

IDs Give Parishioners Way to Say, 'I Belong,' Regardless of Legal StatusNational Catholic Reporter

Diocese, Valley Interfaith Team Up to Offer a New Kind of IDThe Valley Catholic

Vally Nonprofit Announces ID Strategy in Parishes, KRGTV

Valley Interfaith Clarifies Parish ID Strategy, The Monitor

Valley Interfaith to Launch Local Parish ID StrategyThe Monitor [pdf]


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Ever since participating in a DAI leadership training two years ago, Lily Rodriguez (photo top right) of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Dallas has been very motivated to bring its teachings to life, actualizing them by helping her community. 

The training sought to prepare parish leaders to support the civic development of their parish communities, particularly those from immigrant backgrounds. 

That's how the "Sunshine Committee" in which Rodriguez participates, along with 24 other volunteers, came to be.  Members of the committee disseminate flyers, make calls, organize, sign up and help in community-oriented activities.  The most popular workshops are those focusing on US citizenship and parish IDs -- created and implemented by the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and DAI for more than one year....

Comité Parroquial es Semilla de Cambio CívicoRevista Católica de Dallas   


Albuquerque Interfaith leaders reflected together on the theological foundations underpinning their spring and summer efforts in support of Central American asylum seekers at an event hosted by Monte Vista Christian Church.  Seven faith leaders shared what from their faith traditions spurred them into action and challenged participants to continue to engage with those different from themselves.


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