[en español abajo]
Our network had the rare opportunity to visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
An interfaith delegation of 20 leaders and organizers from the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation met with him to share our collective work of broad based organizing at a time when the Pope is guiding the global church in a historic Synod listening process.
The Holy Father sat side by side with us in his residence, thanking us for inconveniencing ourselves to come see him. What ensued was a true dialogue, a 90-minute conversation in Spanish with lots of back and forth engagement. The encounter was filled with many graced moments about both the joys and the struggles of our work, and the work of the Church, past, present, and to come.
This invitation to meet was in large part due to the recognition of our work by local Bishops, particularly those involved with the 'Recognizing the Stranger' strategy, which is dedicated to formation and leadership development of immigrant parishioners. As well, our involvement to support the Synod process in multiple dioceses has helped to bring those in the margins to the center of the synodal dialogue.
As we shared our experiences of organizing, we were struck by how carefully he listened, asked questions, and engaged with lots of humor. Early on, he reflected back to us, “Usaron mucho las palabras ‘ver’ y ‘escuchar,’... Me impresiona que ninguno de ustedes es parte de alguna teoría. Ninguno dice ‘leí un libro y me interesó eso.’” (You constantly use the words “to see” and “to listen.. I am impressed that none of you start with any theory. No one says ‘I read a book and that interested me.’) “El peligro es intelectualizar el problema” (The danger is when you intellectualize a problem).
He stressed the importance of being with people and paying attention to their reality, emphasizing Amor Concreto, love concretely in action, saying that he understood our work as seeing and hearing of injustice in the real lives of our people, acting to change the situation, and being changed ourselves as a result. He expressed his appreciation for our focus on what we are doing, rather than to complain about what is not being done or to disparage anyone. “Ustedes no menospreciaron a nadie.”
Before concluding, he thanked us for our visit, saying that although he had never known of IAF before, he was glad that he knew us now, and he welcomed further conversation around our continuing work with the Synod process.
We teach that power recognizes power. For Pope Francis, “el verdadero poder es el servicio,” (“true power is service”). Recounting the Good Samaritan, he clearly stated that the Gospel cannot be understood without acting with those who are suffering. He recognized the leaders and organizations of the IAF and the powerful work that is happening every day at the margins. He referred to the IAF as “Good News for the United States.”
We are humbled to represent the many decades of work from those who preceded us, and we are encouraged in the continuation of our work into the future.
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El pasado 14 de octubre, nuestra red de la Fundación de Áreas Industriales, Oeste/Suroeste, (W/SW IAF) tuvo la rara oportunidad de visitar al Papa Francisco en el Vaticano.
Una delegación interreligiosa de 20 líderes y organizadores se reunió con él para compartir nuestro trabajo colectivo de organización de base amplia en un momento en que el Papa está guiando a la iglesia mundial en un histórico proceso de escucha del Sínodo.
El Santo Padre se sentó junto a nosotros en su residencia, y nos agradeció la molestia de venir a verlo. Lo que siguió fue un verdadero diálogo; una conversación de 90 minutos en español con mucha participación de las dos partes. El encuentro estuvo lleno de momentos de gracia sobre el gozo y la lucha de nuestro trabajo y el trabajo de la Iglesia, pasado, presente y futuro.
Esta invitación a reunirnos se debió en gran parte al reconocimiento de nuestro trabajo por parte de los obispos locales, en particular aquellos involucrados en la estrategia Reconociendo al Extranjero, que está dedicada a la formación y desarrollo de liderazgo de feligreses inmigrantes. Además, nuestra participación para apoyar el proceso del Sínodo en múltiples diócesis ha ayudado a traer a los marginados al centro del diálogo sinodal.
Al compartir nuestras experiencias de organización, nos sorprendió lo atentamente que escuchó, hizo preguntas y respondió con humor. Entre sus primeras reacciones, nos dijo: “Usaron mucho las palabras ‘ver’ y ‘escuchar’... Me impresiona que ninguno de ustedes parte de alguna teoría. Ninguno dice 'leí un libro y me interesó eso' [...] El peligro es intelectualizar el problema.”
El Santo Padre recalcó la importancia de estar presente con las personas y estar atentos a su realidad, enfatizando “Amor Concreto” en acción, diciendo que él entendía nuestro trabajo como ver y escuchar la injusticia en la vida real de nuestro pueblo, actuando para cambiar la situación, y ser cambiados nosotros mismos como resultado. Expresó su agradecimiento por nuestro enfoque en lo que estamos haciendo, en vez de quejarnos de lo que no se está haciendo, “ustedes no menospreciaron a nadie.”
Antes de concluir, nos agradeció nuestra visita y dijo que aunque nunca antes había sabido de la IAF, estaba contento de conocernos ahora y expresó interés en más conversaciones sobre nuestro trabajo en el proceso del Sínodo.
Algunos de nuestra delegación pudieron reunirse también con otros en el Vaticano, incluyendo líderes del Dicasterio para el Desarrollo Humano Integral, la Secretaría General del Sínodo y la Comisión Pontificia para América Latina. Fue un viaje que abrió muchas puertas.
Agradecemos a todos ustedes por su apoyo en esta visita histórica. Muchos de ustedes contribuyeron con sus oraciones, consejos, aliento e inversión financiera. Pasamos un día completo antes de la reunión con el Papa Francisco realizando nuestro propio proceso sinodal. Todos sentimos nuestra obligación hacia ustedes y aquellos que nos precedieron para hacer posible esta peregrinación.
Enseñamos en la IAF que “el poder reconoce al poder.” Para el Papa Francisco, “el verdadero poder es el servicio.” Relatando la historia del Buen Samaritano, afirmó claramente que el Evangelio no se puede comprender sin actuar en solidaridad con los que sufren. Reconoció a los líderes y organizaciones de la IAF y el poderoso trabajo que se realiza todos los días en los márgenes. Se refirió a la IAF como “Buenas noticias para los Estados Unidos”.
Nos sentimos honrados de representar las muchas décadas de trabajo de aquellos que nos precedieron, y nos alienta la continuación de nuestro trabajo en el futuro. Los alentamos a compartir este anuncio con los líderes y amigos de la IAF. Reflexionaremos más sobre este encuentro en las próximas semanas.
"Most Reverend Joseph Anthony Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston, died in Houston on Sept. 19. He was 91 years old....
Archbishop Fiorenza lived a commitment to social justice and care for the most vulnerable in our communities throughout his life. As he once said, “to separate faith from action essentially is not biblical, nor is it Catholic.” In the 1960s, he attended civil rights marches and gatherings in Houston. With two fellow priests of the Diocese, he drove to Alabama in 1965 to join the March on Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At Houston events, he met and became friends with Rev. William Lawson (now Pastor Emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church)....
In 1993, Bishop Fiorenza and Rev. Lawson received the first NAACP Unity Awards, recognizing their work on behalf of the homeless and poor. The child of immigrants, he would be a voice for the rights of immigrants and migrants all his life. In 1988, he established a ministry to those affected by AIDS, regardless of their faith background, which included educational programs about HIV/AIDS for parishes and schools. He supported the work of The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) from its founding in 1984 and was a member of the Board of Directors of United Way. As a priest, he directed the diocesan Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the domestic anti-poverty and social justice program of the American bishops, and as a bishop he chaired the national campaign."
[Photo Credit: Texas Catholic Herald]
Remembering Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza, The Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston [pdf]
TMO Reaches Thousands of Families in Neighborhoods with Lowest Vaccination Rates in Harris, Jefferson and Brazoria Counties
In Harris County, canvassers and leaders have knocked on close to 9,000 doors and spoken with over 2,000 households about the benefits and risks of Covid-18 vaccines in two areas with high percentages of low-income Latino and African American families and very low rates of vaccination.
In Jefferson County, leaders organized 12 different vaccination events at Beaumont ISD schools, Baptist and Catholic churches, Port Arthur libraries and a museum. Over 450 children and another 200 adults have been vaccinated in four zip codes with the lowest vaccination rates in the state.
In Brazoria County, TMO partnered with Hispanic congregations in Manvel, Alvin and Clute to work with local clinics and pharmacies to provide over 100 vaccinations to adults and children. Both Alvin and Brazos Port ISDs agreed to educate parents about the need for vaccination through their school district newsletter and flyers distributed to parents through schools.
Over 100 TMO clergy and Leaders from institutions at Our Lady of St. John Catholic Church in Northeast Houston gathered for house meetings to discuss issues around safety and crime in their community. Houston Police Department officers joined the conversation and committed to working with TMO to build a better relationship with the community.
Executive Director Michelle Paul explains how Capital IDEA Houston transforms lives. Capital IDEA Houston is a long-term job training program established by TMO.
In advance of May primary runoff elections, TMO organized two nonpartisan accountability sessions with over 300 leaders in West Houston (with candidates for Texas House District 133; US House District 34 and five Spring Branch ISD Board positions) and in the Third Ward (with run-off candidates for Texas House District 147 and the State Board of Education seat representing the Eastern half of Harris County).
Leaders committed to encouraging voter participation by through phone calls, neighborhood walks and institutional announcements.
Organized by The Metropolitan Organization of Houston (TMO), 123 participants were joined by Bishop Italo Dell'Oro of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for a two-day 'Recognizing the Stranger' training. Ministry leaders from 21 parishes of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston participated, as did leaders from the Diocese of Beaumont.
Recognizing the Stranger training equips immigrant parish leaders with the skills needed to make connections within immigrant communities and with non-immigrant allies, applying the tools of organizing to address issues facing their congregations and communities.
Training sponsors include the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Mission & Ministry Impact, Gulf Coast Leadership Council and the Organizers Institute.
In photo at right, Bishop Italo Dell-Oro recognizes TMO for teaching ministry leaders listening skills through house meetings, particularly with people on the periphery.
Following an opposition campaign by Texas IAF organizations, Comptroller Glenn Hegar is backing away from his proposal to gut Chapter 313 reporting and accountability requirements in the program’s final year of existence. Hegar signaled the change Friday after significant pushback by Chapter 313 critics, including a press conference held by Texas IAF organizations in December, and a barrage of public comments submitted to his office against the proposal, with the largest portion coming from Texas IAF leaders.
During the 2021 Legislative Session, the Texas IAF, along with allies, stopped the reauthorization of Chapter 313, the State’s largest corporate tax subsidy program. Though the current program, which costs taxpayers $1-2 Billion per year, is set to expire in December of 2022, Comptroller Hegar had proposed in November to reduce the reporting requirements on jobs, wages, and overall costs to taxpayers.
“Comptroller Hegar has recognized the voices of voters from across the political spectrum, including our organizations, and now says the data we are concerned will continue to be available,” said Bob Fleming, a leader with The Metropolitan Organization, the IAF affiliate in Houston. “However, we remain vigilant because he says the rules will still be revised and made ‘more efficient’. Given the history of this failed and discontinued program, we need even more transparency and accountability, not less.”
[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle]
Network of Texas IAF Organizations, Press Release
Texas IAF Calls On State Comptroller to Abandon Plan to Gut Chapter 313 Subsidy Accountability Requirements
"Lawmakers have ordered Comptroller Glenn Hegar to wrap up Texas’s biggest corporate tax break program, but he wants to give companies one last gift: an end to public accountability.
Activists, corporate relocation specialists and lawmakers are scrambling to comment on Hegar’s proposal that companies no longer report key data about their progress toward meeting the terms of their property tax abatement agreements.
Interfaith groups that fought the corporate giveaway that hurts Texas children demanded Hegar roll back his plan on Wednesday.
“What is the benefit of less accountability and less transparency?” San Antonio state Senator José Menéndez asked at a Texas Industrial Areas Foundation press conference. “The taxpayer should know how their money is going to be used and what they are getting in exchange.”
[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, San Antonio Express News]
Texas Comptroller Proposes Covering Up Corporate Welfare Program, The Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Network of Texas IAF Organizations, along with Public Officials, Hold Press Conference to Call on Comptroller Hegar to Abandon Attempt to Gut Chapter 313 Transparency and Accountability, Texas IAF, Texas IAF
Taylor: The Chapter 313 Monster — the Mother of All Corporate Welfare — Revives?, San Antonio Express News [pdf]
In collaboration the Harris County Pubic Health Department and leaders from St. Leo the Great and Our Lady of Grace Catholic Churches, TMO brought over 790 vaccines to overlooked neighborhoods in unincorporated and low-income areas of Harris County.
In Aldine, within the county borders, this collaboration was particularly important for parishioners and neighbors of St. Leo the Great Catholic parish, where over 690 people received their first vaccine dose over two events in August.
In South Houston, leaders from Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church encouraged parishioners to get vaccinated through a combination of pulpit announcements, flyers and after-mass signups.
Said Sylvia Soria, the church secretary of Our Lady of Grace:
“Our parish membership is 99% Latino. Many of our families are working families that can not take time off during the week to get the vaccine across the other side of town. We’re glad to work with TMO, GCLC, and Harris County Health Department to bring the COVID-19 vaccine on a Saturday to our community.”
Jornada de Vacunación en Ciudad con Gran Población Hispana, Telemundo [en español]