More than two years after Hurricane Harvey flooded St. Francis of Assisi parishioner Kathy Gabriel’s home, she finally celebrated the holidays this past November and December in her home that had to be demolished and rebuilt....Sherry Dunlap, [is] a fellow parishioner who took it upon her faith in action to help those families.
“Thanks to training through TMO (The Metropolitan Organization), I became the de facto Harvey Disaster Case Administrator for the church and our parishioners and others around the city,” Dunlap said.
Even St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church itself was inundated with water and the subsequent problems of mold and other issues that the Archdiocese helped to resolve.
TMO and Gulf Coast Leadership Council (GCLC) representative Gina Reynoso said the nonprofit organizations acted as a conduit to connect people in need after the hurricane with the multitude of agencies attempting to help.
With contribution from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, GCLC organized meetings with churches and their congregations impacted by the hurricane as being places of trust among the flurry of contractors and others trying to get a piece of the work. Reynoso said, “In the last two years, GCLC has held outreach sessions reaching more than 2,000 people....
[Photo Credit (left): James Ramos, Herald; (right): St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church]
A Renovated Home for the Holidays: St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners Mark Second Christmas Since Harvey, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
In advance of contested runoff election races for City Council in Houston, leaders in District H and District D organized separate accountability assemblies to secure candidate commitments and confirm internal organizational commitments to get out the vote.
District H Candidates Isabel Longoria and Karla Cisneros joined over 70 leaders at St. Patrick Catholic Church [top photo]. TMO Leaders at St. Patrick, Assumption, and St. Charles of Borromeo secured commitments around flooding, street infrastructure, Census 2020 education, illegal trash dumping, workforce development, and responsible development.
District D Candidates Carolyn Evans-Shabazz and Brad "Scarface" Jordan joined over 50 TMO leaders at Trinity United Methodist Church [bottom photo at right] where Trinity UMC and St. James Episcopal leaders raised issues of gun safety, illegal dumping, housing, workforce development, and homelessness. Following Evans-Shabazz's election to City Council District D, TMO plan to meet with her within 30 days to follow up on issues raised in the assembly.
Over 600 TMO leaders from 44 institutions convened Sunday, October 20th at Assumption Catholic Church to hold Houston mayoral candidates accountable to the organization's slate of issues. TMO leaders shared stories and asked targeted questions about gun safety, reducing fear in immigrant communities, flood recovery, flood prevention, illegal dumping, workforce development, and just wages.
All three candidates -- Mr. Tony Buzbee, Mr. Bill King, and Mr. Sylvester Turner -- committed to meeting with TMO leaders within the first 30 days in office if elected.
With early voting beginning Tuesday, TMO leaders reminded the assembly to vote and help get out the vote.
Mayoral Candidates Pressed on Guns, Harvey Recovery, Dumping, Houston Chronicle
Immigration 'Know Your Rights' civic academies organized by TMO leaders drew more than two hundred immigrant participants eager to learn their rights and responsibilities as residents in the Houston area.
At St. Theresa Catholic in Sugarland, over 100 members participated in civic academies that included an educational 'Know Your Rights' training, small group conversations and an overview of the Census. Attorney Liz Macias Mendoza led the educational presentation and held over 30 individual consultations.
At Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Rosenberg, 30 parishioners participated in a session in which attorneys Carolina Ortuzar-Diaz and Eduardo Franco led presentations and held 18 individual consultations. In Houston, 70 members of Assumption Catholic participated in small group conversations and a 'Know Your Rights' workshop led by attorney Magali Suarez Candler.
These civic academies were organized as an outgrowth of the national 'Recognizing the Stranger' immigration strategy supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Immigration Sessions: Know Your Rights, The Metropolitan Organization
As a leader with Assumption Catholic Church, George Nicholas Zuckero was a founding member of The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) in Houston. Coming from an immigrant background, George was committed to welcoming the stranger to his North Houston Catholic parish. As a successful business leader he worked to maintain the financial strength of the organization through strong dues and money campaigns.
[Obituary excerpt below]
George’s Catholic faith was the cornerstone of his life. He believed in working tirelessly for social justice and was a founding member of The Metropolitan Organization in Houston. He attended Assumption Catholic Church for more than 50 years, where he served on the Finance Council, Pastoral Council, as Eucharistic Minister, Lector, Engaged couples’ sponsor, on the Church Renovation Committee and was Bazaar Co-chair. George was also a long-standing member and three-term President of the Sacred Heart Society of Little York, an organization which his dear grandfather, Dominick Cuccerre, and other Sicilian immigrants, founded....
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 Thursday, July 25, 2019 and 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.
Christine Stephens Worked to 'Help Others Advocate for Themselves,' Austin American Statesman [pdf]
In a budget process that "devolved into a clash of wills," according to the Houston Chronicle, TMO clergy and leaders leveraged a major wage win for workers: $14 per hour for 3,000+ of the lowest paid employees in the Houston Independent School District, employees who keep children safe, nourished, and schools clean.
In testimony to the HISD Board, Deacon Sam Dunning, Director of the Office of Peace and Justice in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston argued: "A budget is a moral document...it is time to treat all workers with dignity."
Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis of Northside Episcopal Church argued, "There is a price to be paid for allocating funds that is not equitable to all classes and that price will be paid by your hourly workers and their family members... in the form of hunger, inadequate housing, anxiety, fear and stress." Rev. Jimmy Grace of St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Rev. Darrel Lewis of New Pleasant Grove Baptist, Rev. Jacqueline Hailey of New Hope Baptist, Rev. Rhenel Johnson of St. Andrew's UMC and Chava Gal-Orr from Temple Sinai spoke at Board meetings and press conferences as well.
This spring, TMO was part of a delegation of 300 Texas IAF leaders that called on state legislators to increase spending in public education in order to retain the talent upon which public schools rely. After passage of HB3, which put millions of dollars into public schools across the state, TMO leaders worked locally to make sure Houston Independent School District used its funds for the lowest paid workers.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision]
Houston ISD Trustees Approve $1.9 Billion Budget, Houston Chronicle
Video of clergy statements [first skip to 14:33 and then to 19:05]
TMO leaders held a press conference on Tuesday, June 18th at the Houston Independent School District (HISD) Administration Building to stand with workers in HISD. With the lowest paid workers being paid $12 per hour, and with $136 million additional dollars flowing into the school district, the time to stop perpetuating poverty in the district is NOW. TMO is calling for a starting wage of $15, and we need your support. Leaders have started a petition calling for a raise in wages to $15 an hour for the lowest paid workers. Petitions are being circulated and signed in member institutions with hundreds of signatures already obtained.
Rev. Jacqueline Hailey and Rev. Darrell Lewis (bottom photos) also spoke in front of the school board at the most recent HISD budget hearing asking for starting wages to be raised to $15 per hour. Leaders are continuing to schedule meetings, call and write to board members to directly advocate for the raising of wages for workers and support staff before the Board’s vote on Thursday, June 27th.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision.]
TMO institutions assembled to discuss and celebrate outcomes from TMO’s Legislative priorities for the 86th Legislative session. Leaders participated in a training to conduct house meetings and shared stories on issues present in their communities. Leaders made public commitments to reach over 1,000 individuals through house meetings in their congregations to prepare an issue agenda for elections in the fall.
With our member congregations and institutions, we have worked to facilitate outreach sessions where we connect congregants with city, county, and non-profit staff who help to guide them through the process. So far this year, TMO has conducted 8 outreach sessions. Including outreach sessions from last year, TMO has engaged over 700 households, 80% of which did not previously have a case manager or recovery support.
Sessions were held at Christ Church Cathedral Episcopal, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic, St. Francis Cabrini Catholic, St. Gregory the Great Catholic, St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic, and Our Lady of Grace Catholic in South Houston.