Arenas de Ruiz, formerly of Venezuela, had been among parishioners in Harris County, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties who took the three-day leadership training offered [by the Gulf Coast Leadership Council with the support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Mission & Ministry Impact to leaders of] The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), a nonprofit grassroots group. In mid-summer, more than 1,250 TMO leaders from 30 churches and other institutions convened on Zoom and Facebook watch parties for a virtual “Get out the Vote Rally” and made thousands of phone calls to 16 Harris County precincts that traditionally had low voter turnout.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has offered a teaching document on the political responsibilities of Catholics called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The document urges all pastors, lay and religious faithful and all people of good will “to help form consciences, teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue and to shape politics.”
Father Rodney Armstrong of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Fifth Ward and his parishioners set up a voter registration table at a nearby McDonald’s fast-food restaurant with owner approval. The pastor also made a video that TMO placed on its Facebook to encourage voters.
Dr. Fernando Scaglia, a parishioner at Assumption Catholic Church off Airline Drive, said he participated in the church’s phone bank as well despite his busy schedule as a researcher and professor of genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.
He also participated in “Virtual Accountability Sessions,” where TMO invited candidates from Democratic and Republican parties to discuss how they stood on a variety of issues.
“There are so many important issues that impact all of us — health and the pandemic; economic issues like evictions and even the DACA issue for dreamers,” Dr. Scaglia said.
[Photo Credit: St. Leo the Great Catholic Church]
Faithful Citizenship Sparks Nonpartisan Voter Rallies at Houston Parishes, The Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
Gulf Coast Leadership Council prepared TMO leaders to convene over 1000 community members from across the country at Justice Summit
GCLC--trained TMO leaders brought together over 300 people on a Zoom call for a Justice Summit on Police reform, with over 800 viewers watching online. Academics Danielle Allen from Harvard University and Charles Payne from Rutgers University delivered educational presentations on approaches to community safety and preparing youth of color to thrive.
TMO is among the coalition of nonprofits that have approached the city and county to urge the equitable distribution of those funds.
“We asked City Council to commit $100 million of the $404 million in the Coronavirus Relief Fund to rental assistance. But the next day, they committed $15 million that was distributed online in a matter of minutes to about 12,000 families,” Higgs said.
“A survey shows of the 700,000 rental units in the area, up to 85,000 cannot pay rent at this time. A huge number of the people are service workers, men and women of color, hourly workers who lost their jobs with little if any savings. The need is so immense,” he said.
With any moratoriums on evictions ending, justices of the peace may resume processing eviction notices by mid-June and constables will start showing up at apartments, he said.
“It doesn’t make sense to evict someone who has paid regularly but is not able to currently pay during this crisis. Plus, when someone in uniform shows up to evict, it’s scary as heck, especially for those who may be undocumented,” Higgs said.
[Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church]
Facing Eviction, Single Mothers With Kids Hit Hardest By Need For Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
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]
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
Tapping into TMO member congregations and institutions, Gulf Coast Leadership Council has facilitated outreach sessions to connect congregants with city, county, and non-profit staff to help to guide them through post-Harvey recovery. So far this year, GCLC conducted 8 outreach sessions. Including outreach sessions from last year, GCLC 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.
In a multi-day training co-sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the Organizers Institute of the West/Southwest IAF, and Gulf Coast Leadership Council (GCLC), 111 predominantly Spanish-speaking leaders from 25 Houston-area congregations convened to learn how to be effective leaders in their communities. Most the leaders came from Spanish-speaking Catholic and Episcopal congregations.
Trainees participated in nine leadership workshops that included topics like the Eucharistic Community as envisioned by St. Paul and leadership practices promoted by Jethro. All the sessions incorporated reflections on Scripture, religious traditions and effective institutional organizing practices. Groups from each parish were encouraged to engage with their pastor and parish leadership to explore opportunities for local training and the development of a listening campaign this year for their parishes and communities.
Leadership Development at Assumption Catholic Church, The Metropolitan Organization
GCLC has hosted numerous Harvey Intake sessions at churches in North, Northeast and Southeast Houston/Pasadena to connect agencies with victims of Hurricane Harvey who are still in desperate need of assistance.
“The purpose of these intake sessions is to bring recovery resources to a targeted neighborhood and community,” Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer with TMO, said. “While many Harvey survivors have become distrustful and disheartened by the recovery process, these sessions have offered a more hopeful approach by meeting survivors in their congregations. Over 300 families visited the sessions and approximately 80 percent did not have a case manager prior to these sessions. For many, this was their first face-to-face interaction with an agency.”
GCLC leaders organized the sessions and conducted neighborhood walks to bring in clients from surrounding neighborhoods. The host congregations included Assumption Catholic Church, St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, New Pleasant Grove Baptist, Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, St. Pius V Catholic Church in Pasadena and St. Leo the Great Catholic Church.
Sherry Dunlap, leader with TMO, said the organization hosts sessions at various churches and brings agencies to the people who are in need of home repairs. “Phones calls are made to seek churches who have people who have not received any assistance or did not receive enough support to get back in their homes,” she said. “Some of the people we meet with have unmet needs, therefore, we connect them with agencies who provide support.”
Dunlap said the organization also works to be advocates for the people they are serving. They have met before city council to seek more disaster case managers, with Mayor Sylvester Turner about disaster relief funding, and with Judge Ed Emmett about the bayous that would be included in the bond.
“Meetings are conducted to check on the progress of people we have connected with the agencies, and to prepare for our sessions with the agencies,” she said. “Phone calls are made and received from Harvey victims daily to check on them and advise them as to their next steps.”
The organization plans to continue hosting sessions, which are coordinated in partnership with the Alliance for Multicultural Services, SBP, Wesley Community Center, Avenue CDC, Fifth Ward CDC, and other LISC Collaborative Members....
CCHD Assists Organizations to Help Those Still Challenged with Harvey Recovery, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]