In the only public testimony at today’s Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) meeting, Texas IAF Rev. Miles Brandon of Central Texas Interfaith called on the PUC to create assistance programs and halt cutoffs for customers impacted by the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. At the meeting the PUC voted to create the “COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program” providing financial assistance and halting service disconnections for low-income and unemployed customers in deregulated markets such as Dallas, Houston, and Round Rock
In a letter submitted prior to the meeting [linked below], TMO leader Bryan Lopez of Assumption Catholic Church wrote, "We have heard from many families and business owners who are part of our member congregations that due to the economic slowdown they are struggling to pay their regular bills including their rent and utility bills."
PUC Chair DeAnn T. Walker recognized Fr. Brandon and the work of the Texas IAF organizations in advocating for families across the state.
6 million Texans live in the areas impact by the measures enacted by PUC. Texas IAF leaders plan to work with PUC leaders to extend and potentially expand these protections and assistance programs as long as the COVID-19 crisis continues.
Statement by Rev. Miles Brandon, St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church, Central TX Interfaith
Statement by Bryan Lopez, Assumption Catholic Church in Houston, TMO
Nearly 1 in 5 households are experiencing a layoff or a reduction in work hours, during this pandemic according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
Texas has 5 million uninsured people who might need testing and treatment for this virus. Average costs for pneumonia treatments, a comparable illness, are $24,000 per the The Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Foundation.
Sign on to add your name to send a message to U.S. Congressional Members, Governor Greg Abbott, Texas State Legislators, and other state officials to ACT NOW for families!
Agenda de TMO pide “ Apoyo Económico para Familias COVID-19”
Casi 1 de cada 5 hogares está experimentando un despido o una reducción en las horas de trabajo, durante esta pandemia según una nueva encuesta NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist poll.
Texas tiene 5 millones de personas sin seguro medico que podrían necesitar pruebas y tratamiento para este virus. El costo promedio de los tratamientos para la neumonía, una enfermedad comparable, es de $ 24,000 esto por el Centro Peterson de Atención Médica y la Fundación Kaiser.
¡Inicie sesión para agregar su nombre y enviar un mensaje a los miembros del Congreso de EE. UU., Al gobernador Greg Abbott, a los legisladores estatales de Texas y a otros funcionarios estatales para que ACTUEN AHORA por las familias!
|FIRMA AQUÍ LA PETICIÓN PARA EL APOYO ECONÓMICO FAMILIAR|
Twice this week, TMO leaders called on local, state and federal elected officials to adopt legislation and policies to help working families facing economic disaster due to lost wages and jobs. You can watch the press conference here.
On Wednesday, TMO leaders called on Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Governor Abbott to impose a 60-day moratorium on all evictions so that families are not forced onto the street or into homes of others. By Thursday, Judge Hidalgo responded, putting a moratorium in place until the end of March, with the possibility of “ending them as long as necessary.”
With nearly 1 in 5 households experiencing a layoff or a reduction in work hours during this pandemic (according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll) and 5 million uninsured people who might need testing and treatment for this virus, TMO is still calling on US Congress, Governor Greg Abbott, Texas State Legislators, and other state officials to ACT NOW for families!
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]