In 2014, five years after the foreclosure crisis had wiped out immigrant homeownership in Assumption Catholic Church in Monterey County, California, a new scam threatened the parish. Targeting low-income, Spanish speaking residents in Catholic churches, an unscrupulous group signed up thousands of predatory lending victims (at the price of $1,250 a head) for a lawsuit against the banks that defrauded them. The group had no real intention of seeing the lawsuit through.
However, unbeknownst to these characters, the leaders of Assumption had undergone in-depth parish leadership development, the result of which was a strong and vibrant team of new leaders who, from COPA, had learned to secure lighting in the parish neighborhood, sign up residents for expanded Medicaid and expand healthcare access for undocumented residents of Monterey. Having developed confidence in their own competence, upon hearing an announcement about the lawsuit at mass, these COPA-trained leaders immediately moved into action.
They stopped the predators from recruiting at their parish, alerted the Diocese of the danger to other Monterey County parishes and went on to persuade the County District Attorney to assign an investigator to the case. Through their training and experience, the parish leadership of Assumption was able to protect fellow parishioners and save thousands more families from being re-victimized.
During the onset of the Great Recession, Valley Interfaith Project Education Fund in Arizona worked with two central Phoenix parishes, St. Agnes and Most Holy Trinity, on parish leadership development and training. At both parishes, sizable influxes of immigrant families were challenging the pastors and parish leaders with how to deal with two quite distinct communities under one roof.
Through a patient series of training sessions which examined the relationship of the church and its leaders to the parish community, key members of the Latino and Anglo communities began to build relationships, evaluate their collective responsibilities to the parish, and initiate parish wide conversations around stewardship and the importance of parish membership and registration. Both parishes saw important gains in registered membership, participation in stewardship, and an appreciation among parishioners of the public role of the parish, particularly in defending the rights of the immigrant community. St. Agnes, an inner city parish, doubled its registered membership and added thousands to its weekly collections.