ABQ Interfaith Reflects on the Theology of 'Welcoming the Stranger'

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.


PCI Organizer Ana Chavarin Wins National Recognition

Pima County Interfaith (PCI) organizer Ana Chavarin was named the 2019 National Recipient of the Cardinal Joseph Bernadin New Leadership Award by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

This honor, awarded annually to an outstanding young adult, recognizes the leadership, energy and diverse skills that young people bring to the anti-poverty work of low-income projects and Catholic parishes.

Ana was nominated by the Diocese of Tucson’s Office of Human Life & Dignity, and she will be formally presented with the Cardinal Bernadin award at the November meeting of the US Catholic Bishops to be held in Baltimore later this year.

Ana has worked with PCI for the past four years. 

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

Celebrating Hispanic Catholic Leaders for JusticeUSCCB 

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


EPISO/Border Interfaith: We Must Not Let Fear Succeed in Creating Distrust

[Excerpt below]

On Aug. 3, our El Paso community was viciously attacked, and we are experiencing deep grief. Yes, we need to take the necessary time to process this pain and publicly lament together. But soon we must also begin to channel this sense of loss to reclaim a sense of community that we will all be proud of.     

Terrorism wants to create mistrust and deep hateful fear. Such fear works to drive people away from one another. It scapegoats the immigrant, people of color, those of different faith traditions, people of a different culture and language. It twists and turns us to make others seem not human. 

That is not El Paso, and we must not let fear succeed....

[Photo Credit: Briana Sanchez, El Paso Times]

We Must Not Let Fear Succeed in Creating Distrust, Hateful FearEl Paso Times [pdf]

Standing Against Fear: Catholic Church Hosts Interfaith Gathering After Mass ShootingEl Paso Times [pdf

Multiethnic Group Holds Vigil to Remember Victims of El Paso ShootingFOX News

What Next? El Paso Faith Community Shares Stories of Fear and Anger in Shooting AftermathAmerica Magazine [pdf]


'Recognizing the Stranger Training' Reaches Oklahoma City, Prepares 104 for Parish Leadership

104 Spanish-speaking trainees from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa convened for multi-day leadership development co-sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Organizers Institute, and VOICE-OKC.  Parishioners came from 13 Catholic congregations to learn about how baptism connects to the mission of the church, how to identify new leaders and how parishes can take action to address pressures harming families. 


Sr. Christine Stephens: 12/22/40 - 07/18/19

Sister Christine Stephens, CDP entered eternal life on July 18, 2019 at the age of 78. She was the younger of two daughters born to Walter Irving and Frances Louise (Bulian) Stephens. She was born December 22, 1940 in Austin, Texas and was given the Baptismal name, Mary Christine. She entered the Congregation of Divine Providence on September 7, 1962 and professed first vows as a Sister of Divine Providence on June 22, 1964. Sister Christine graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics prior to entering Our Lady of the Lake Convent. She later earned a Master of Arts in History from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

Sister Christine attributes her faith formation to her parents who set the example of perseverance and seeking justice for one’s family and community. Her father was a member of the pipe fitters union. This foundation served Sister Christine in her first seven years as a teacher, then as a social worker for eight years, and expanded and deepened when she became an organizer 45 years ago.

Sister Christine did not choose organizing as a ministry, it chose her. She was spotted by her now close friend and mentor, Ernesto Cortés, Jr., who said it was her anger that caught his attention. That was the first time she viewed her anger in a positive light. The work of justice was at the heart of her ministry and her life. Her work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) was the vehicle to funnel her anger against injustice.

Sister Christine’s commitment to identifying, training and transforming leaders and organizers throughout the country worked to bring millions of dollars for water and waste water to the colonias along the Texas/New Mexico Border, instrumental in developing the Alliance School strategy that impacted hundreds of schools across the country, plus the creation of nationally renowned job training programs modeled after Project QUEST in San Antonio.

Her advocacy work during the past four decades in her various roles, as National IAF Co-Director and Supervisor of organizations across the IAF Network will be greatly missed. Her organizing career began with The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) in Houston where she was a founder, followed by Lead Organizer of C.O.P.S. in San Antonio and Dallas Area Interfaith.

She enjoyed seeing ordinary leaders who worked across multi faith traditions, economic lines and race to do extraordinary things in their communities. She breathed and lived the Gospel values of justice and leaves a legacy to be continued. She had an enduring faith in the values of democracy.

She is survived by her sister Sarah Howell, and all her Sisters of Divine Providence. She is also survived by her niece Angela Duhon (William), their children, Emma and Nathaniel. She was preceded in death by her parents Walter and Frances Stephens.

The Rosary and Wake were on Thursday, July 25, 2019 and a Mass of Resurrection on Friday, July 26, 2019.  All services were held in Sacred Heart Chapel, next to Our Lady of the Lake Convent Center in San Antonio, Texas.

In lieu of flowers, you may make a memorial contribution to the Sisters of Divine Providence, 515 S.W. 24th Street, San Antonio, TX 78207-4619.

Stephens was an Early COPS OrganizerSan Antonio Express-News [pdf]

Christine Stephens, COPS/Metro Alliance Leader, Remembered for her Faith, Sense of JusticeRivard Report

Christine Stephens Worked to 'Help Others Advocate for Themselves,' Austin American Statesman [pdf]

Sister Christine Passes AwayRio Grande Guardian [pdf]

Obituaries: 


With Blessing from the Archbishop, 'Recognizing the Stranger' Prepares 173 for Parish Leadership in San Antonio

With the blessing of Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller and support from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Mission and Ministry, Inc. (MMI), the Organizers Institute of the West/Southwest IAF, and COPS/Metro, Spanish-language 'Recognizing the Stranger' training prepared 173 for parish leadership in San Antonio and surrounding areas. 

Parish leaders participated in leadership development workshops and engaged with scripture and their religious traditions as they reflected on their roles in public life. 


80 Trainees in Omaha are Prepared for Parish Leadership through 'Recognizing the Stranger' Initiative

With the support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Organizers' Institute of the West/Southwest IAF, and Omaha Together One Community (OTOC), 80 Omaha and Western Iowa parish leaders participated in leadership development training, made available in Spanish through the 'Recognizing the Stranger' initiative.  

The Omaha Archdiocesan Director of Latino Ministry, Deacon Gregorio Elizalde, helped organize the training.  Fr. Scott Hastings, Vicar for Clergy for the Archdiocese, blessed the effort and attended some sessions. 

Spanish Leadership Formation (including list of participating institutions), OTOC 


'Recognizing the Stranger' Reaches San Gabriel Valley of LA

With support from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the Organizers Institute of the West/Southwest IAF, and One LA, Spanish-language training reached 54 parish leaders from six Catholic institutions in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County.

Parish leaders participated in leadership development workshops and engaged with scripture and their religious traditions as they reflected on their roles in public life.  This is the first of multiple local trainings planned for the duration of the coming year.


CCHD Recognizes W/SWIAF's Innovative Work with Parish Leaders in Western Dioceses:

"...parishes are strengthened, unified, and revitalized."

With a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the Interfaith Education Fund piloted a program in fall of 2016 called Recognizing the Stranger, a multiyear regional approach to the immigration issue, in seven southwestern dioceses.

This year, it is expanding into 19 dioceses across the west and southwest US.  Says Senior IAF Organizer Joe Rubio, "The Recognizing the Stranger strategy works 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’s a collaborative effort among clergy, leaders, and organizers to develop capacity to tackle tough issues."

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."

Click links below for local stories of parish work and additional details about the strategy.

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 - Houston

Parish IDs Bring Relief to Immigrant CommunityDallas Catholic Magazine

ID Parroquiales Traen Alivio a Comunidad InmigranteRevista Católica de Dallas


Church Divinity School of the Pacific Roots Community Organizing in Curriculum, Honors Ernesto Cortes Jr. with Degree

When CDSP sought to strengthen its formation, emphasize the importance of relational skills and develop an understanding of public life, it began a relationship with the West / Southwest IAF to incorporate community organizing in its curriculum

The organizing class -- taught as weeklong intensive in partnership with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) -- soon became a draw for students eager to establish a theological foundation under their organizing efforts.

The partnership began in 2013 as a collaboration between the Bay Area IAF and CDSP.   The course is taught by senior organizers with the IAF network who induct seminarians in the skills and practices that help communities build relational power and a common agenda for collaborative work.  A CDSP faculty member teaches the theological portion of the course for those seeking a Masters of Divinity, which is designed to embed the training in a theological and ethical framework.  

Says Dr. Jennifer Snow, associate professor of practical theology and director of extended learning, the course requires "thinking differently about power: building relationships with people, inviting people in to share the power with you as a leader.  It's a very specific strategy about trying to reach a more just society in our particular context."

At its May commencement ceremony, CDSP recognized Ernesto Cortes with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

Commencement Ceremony Video [skip to 1:16:38 for intro of Cortes]

Commencement Ceremony Bulletin

Church Meets Community and Vice VersaCrossings [pdf]

Blessed Are the OrganizersCrossings

CDSP Prepares Seminarians for Public LifeEpiscopal News Service

Public Ministry in PracticeEpiscopal News Service



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