Over 300 leaders, clergy, religious, and bishops from 20 organizations gathered last week in San Antonio to celebrate five years of Recognizing the Stranger, a West/Southwest IAF training, leadership formation, and parish organizing strategy.
The Convocation was highlighted by a video message from Pope Francis, who offered his “closeness and support” to the IAF network and its work to organize with immigrants and with those at the margins to encourage “participation of the Christian in public life.”
"In December, legislators killed a controversial tax abatement program known as Chapter 313, but its effects will last decades....
“There’s no accountability at the statewide level; nobody administers it,” said Bob Fleming, an organizer with [T]he Metropolitan Organization of Houston who campaigned against Chapter 313 reauthorization back in 2021. “A bunch of local school districts make singular decisions based on what they think is in their interest. Nobody is looking out for the statewide interest. Local school districts are overmatched when the $2,000 suits walk into the room.” ....
“It’s a perverse incentive,” said Doug Greco, lead organizer at Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations that helped shut down reauthorization of Chapter 313 in the 2021 legislative session.
“We approach it on a school funding basis,” said Greco, who is already gearing up to fight any Chapter 313 renewal efforts in 2023. “It’s corporate welfare and the people who pay over time are Texas school districts.” ....
At a national gathering of Catholic Social Ministers organized by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), COPS/Metro's work with San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller was featured prominently in plenary sessions and a workshop around local organizing for gun safety reform.
During a panel discussion with the Archbishop, Josephine Lopez-Paul shared how COPS/Metro worked with the San Antonio Archdiocese in the aftermath of the massacre at Uvalde in 2022. The Archbishop made an impassioned plea to infuse love into a "culture of death" through faithful participation in the political process around issues impacting life, including gun safety reforms.
During the discussion, Archbishop García-Siller asserted that synodality could be renewed path for the Church to address the new realities people are living.
"The Eucharist that brings solidarity, through synodality, might be the new way of being Church."
According to the Catholic Review, members in the audience were visibly moved. COPS/Metro organizers and leaders also shared stories of local organizing efforts around gun safety including conversation campaigns leading to an initiative to restrict access to firearms for perpetrators of domestic violence in San Antonio.
We were an interfaith group of 20 lay leaders, clergy and professional organizers from the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation, a representation of a decades-long tradition of community organizing in the United States, of which Catholic communities and parishes have played a major role. Parish-based organizing began in earnest with the founding of Communities Organized for Public Service [COPS/Metro] in San Antonio 50 years ago.
When Pope Francis launched his newly invigorated process for the Synod of Bishops in 2021, he challenged Catholics worldwide to "become experts in the art of encounter," saying it was "time to look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say, to build rapport, to be sensitive to the questions of our sisters and brothers."
For decades, members of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a network of local faith and community-based organizations, have in many ways been experts in such an art, most often to empower marginalized communities.
More than 400 St. Thomas More parishioners and community members participated in the St. Thomas More Parish Assembly on December 4 to grow parish leadership and respond to the needs of the community.
A delegation of 20 leaders and organizers from the West Southwest IAF, including COPS/Metro Leaders Rose Garcia, of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sr. Pearl Cesar, CDP and Lead Organizer Josephine Lopez Paul, met with His Holiness to share our collective work of broad based organizing.
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 organizing work, and the work of the Church, past, present, and future.
[Excerpt from San Antonio Report]
U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh heaped praise on San Antonio’s city government for its expansive workforce development program, often called the largest of its kind in the country. He said he wishes the federal government could do more.
At a roundtable discussion with local industry leaders and city officials Monday, Walsh called SA Ready to Work — the city’s $230 million program aiming to train thousands of low-wage workers for middle-class careers over the next five years — innovative and exemplary for its heavy collaboration with industry leaders.....
SA Ready to Work opened for enrollment in May, though many pre-registered. In the nearly four months since then, slightly more than 5,400 applicants have signed up — nearly fulfilling what the city anticipated to be enrollment through its entire first year.
[Photo Credit: Alamo Colleges]
San Antonio’s Ready to Work Jobs Training Program Gets the National Attention Leaders Have Sought, San Antonio Express News [pdf]
Labor Secretary Would Like to See Bigger Federal Investments in Ready to Work, San Antonio Report [pdf]
U.S. Secretary of Labor visits the Alamo Colleges District, Alamo Colleges District [pdf]
Virginia Mata, Sonia Rodriguez and Mike Phillips -- all key leaders with COPS/Metro -- make their argument:
In 2020, COPS/Metro proposed the concept to city of San Antonio officials of a locally funded workforce development program using redirected existing dedicated taxes, then conducted a massive get-out-the-vote campaign in support. The residents of San Antonio responded with a resounding 77 percent voter approval. With the passage of this initiative, our city officials were given a golden opportunity to change the decades-long economic narrative from that of a low-wage town to a high-skill, high-wage city.
[Photo Credit: Josie Norris, San Antonio Express News]
Commentary: SA Ready to Work Should be Guaranteeing $20 Per Hour, San Antonio Express News [pdf]