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

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 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]

Dallas Sunshine Parish Committee is Seed for Change


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   

Civic Academy on Community Policing Engages 100 East Austin Leaders

Over 100 East Austin congregational members and officers packed the house at Holy Cross Catholic for Austin Interfaith's Community Policing Civic Academy.  The event was jointly hosted by leaders from Holy Cross, Ebenezer Baptist, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic and Mount Olive Baptist Churches. 

In this session, congregational leaders told stories, shared a brief history of community policing and broke out into small groups for conversations rooted in local experience.

Together Baton Rouge Session on St. George Breakaway Effort Elucidates

In 2015, an effort to carve out a southeast portion of East Baton Rouge to form a new city called St. George failed to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.   

This year, proponents returned with a similar proposal to breakaway, but under significantly different conditions.  Together Baton Rouge leaders point out that figures utilized by proponents of the St. George breakaway effort don't quite add up.  In addition to a significant drop in ethnic diversity within newly drawn lines, residents would likely be faced with immediate tax hikes and public safety subsidies to make the finances work. 

Civic academies about the upcoming vote have drawn significant crowds, including one session (photo above) at St. Margaret's Episcopal which drew 150 residents and congregational leaders.  A teaching on public finance, delivered by local professors, informed small group conversations led by local leaders. 

According to Together Baton Rouge,"We heard from a variety of voices and opinions, but the one thing that was clear is there is a strong desire for more honest information about what the true cost of the breakaway would mean, both for those in St. George and the larger EBR Parish."  The vote on whether to form a breakaway city is set for October 12th.

Catholic Labor Network Credits IAF Leaders with Establishing Effective Long-Term Job Training Programs


....Quest has "the largest, sustained earnings impacts ever found in a rigorous evaluation of a workforce development program," writes Mark Elliott of Economic Mobility Corporation.  

How does Quest succeed?  It emerged as a project of two community organizations affiliated with Industrial Areas Foundation.  With skillful discipline those organizations, starting in the mid-1970s, formed extensive public relationships, including several with area businesses.  in the early 1990s the IAF leaders decided to use their social capital on behalf of the underemployed.  Job training should match the actual needs of known employers, the IAF leaders thought.  Plus the trainees deserved sustained ancillary service, including financial planning.  Quest's employer- driven model of training as been exported to other Texas communities, plus to Tucson and Monroe, LA.  Recently, another IAF group, DuPage United, launched a Quest-like job training program.

Taking the Initiative In Job TrainingInitiatives in Support of Christians in the World  

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]


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