The West / Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation is a network of broad-based institutional organizations building power to revitalize our democracy for constructive social and economic change. We are part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation's first and largest network of community organizations.

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A standing-room-only crowd of 350 people packed Trinity Reformed Church on a Saturday morning for Together West Michigan’s (TWM) first public action assembly since its launch last year.  In this meeting, institutional leaders secured commitments from: 


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[Riana] Alexander, a soft-spoken, studious teen, has become a force for change in her community in raising awareness about students’ mental health needs, most critically the need for school officials to intervene when kids are showing signs that they are at risk for suicide. Schools in her district do a good job responding to crises, but she said where they fall down are in areas of prevention and what Alexander calls “postvention” — follow-ups with students after a peer has died....

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"Gov. John Bel Edwards sided with New Orleans officials Monday by denying tax breaks sought by Folgers Coffee Co. that would have cost the city millions of dollars in property tax revenue....

ITEP has become a hot-button political issue in recent years. Business groups argue that allowing companies to avoid taxes they would owe on new equipment and machinery encourages those types of investments. Critics, led by Together Louisiana, argue that companies have been allowed to skip out on taxes from investments that they would have made anyway and that schools and sheriffs need the taxes to improve the quality of life in their communities.


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"Together Baton Rouge is often like that, bringing together a broad, often unlikely, mix of community members and groups to tackle a common goal.

In the group's 13-year history, it's taken on everything from closed bridges in underserved communities to powerful industrial tax exemptions. If the group identifies something that can help the community, no issue too large or too small is off the table....

"We're really about civic participation," Cage said. "We all have to trust each other before we can get things done.


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.”  


Delivered to the West/Southwest IAF 'Recognizing the Stranger' Convocation in San Antonio, February 28 - March 1

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.”  


CSM_Plenary_Gathering_-_3_Speakers_-_with_quote_and_color_(3).png

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. 


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....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 in San Antonio 50 years ago.

“People are not used to listening, and that is what true catechesis does—listen and teach listening.”


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"They've developed a process of attentive listening over the years, talking to people about their lives and identifying the needs of a particular group," said [Bishop Mark] Seitz. "When we were trying to create a process for the synod, it occurred to me it was exactly the approach they'd long taken."


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Over the years, critics argued certain requirements were whittled away and some companies were bringing few or low-paying jobs with little benefits. Some, including a coalition of interfaith leaders with The Metropolitan Organization, Central Texas Interfaith and Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Organizations, have called out the program as “corporate welfare” and for leaving the rest of the Texas taxpayers to essentially “make up the difference.”


"Over a 43-year career across Los Angeles County, the Spanish-speaking Irish immigrant stood up for his working class parishioners against federal and local officials and even his own bosses. Even after Pope Francis appointed him as a bishop in 2015, O’Connell never lost his common touch....

'He had a very fierce passion for justice, for the dignity of people,' said [One LA] lead organizer Robert Hoo, who had known him since 2005....Hoo sent me two video clips, [one] from a Zoom meeting last month, where O'Connell greeted IAF members who had recently met with Pope Francis about their organizing efforts.  In it, the bishop stood in his office and beamed.

'God bless you for all you’re doing,' he said. 'You’re our best hope — not just for your own communities, but for the church and our society. For America, right now.'"

[Photo Credit: Wally Skalij, LA Times]

‘He Brought Us In Closer’: The LA Journey of Bishop O'Connell, Los Angeles Times


It is with great sadness that we inform you of the sudden and tragic passing of Bishop David O’Connell. He was a beloved bishop, an extraordinary pastor, and a close friend of our network. Bishop Dave (as he was known) was a true shepherd to his flock -- embedded in the lives of his parishioners and teaching thousands of One LA-IAF leaders to love their neighbor and fight against injustice.


Fr. Alfonso Guevara, a long-time clergy leader with Valley Interfaith, passed away on February 10. He was worked for many years to help ordinary men and women develop their confidence and skills people so they could do extraordinary things in the parishes and communities. Here are a few statements made by Fr. Guevara to the Rio Grande Guardian.

Some reflections from Fr. Alfonso Guevara [pdf]

Tributes Pour In for Valley Interfaith Clergy Leader Alfonso GuevaraRio Grande Guardian [pdf]


With sadness, we report the loss of Michael Clements, longtime IAF organizer. He served as organizer with TMO and predecessor organizations of One-LA during a career that spanned four decades.

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After supporting farm workers [with United Farm Workers of America], Clements joined the Industrial Areas Foundation, the longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations in the nation, and moved to Houston to work for the organization... [Back in California], Clements crossed paths with Fred Ross, Sr.... 

Said Fred Ross, Jr., a Bay Area-based social justice organizer: “My father respected Mike and saw him as one of the up-and- coming organizers back in 1985.”

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Said [Cardinal Roger] Mahony, “He was the epitome of a great community organizer backed up by his wonderful Catholic faith, especially the social teachings of the church, which he knew inside and out from the Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 all the way to Pope Francis today.”

[Photo Credit: Scott Smeltzer, Los Angeles Times]


On the Passing of IAF Boardmember Bishop Douglas Miles
by Ernesto Cortes, Jr.

The passing of Bishop Miles is a great loss to all of us.  We shared the earth with him for far too short a time.

He modeled character and leadership, while at the same time teaching those who were marginalized how to be their own agents.  Of him it could be said that he invited all the challenges of Matthew 25: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, break free the captives and take in the stranger.  

He was a man of faith and a full human being.  He embodied Pope Francis’ notion of being a political person.  And he was our friend.
 


We Mourn Together: Bishop Douglas Miles

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Bishop Douglas Miles, IAF Co-Chair and BUILD Co-Chair Emeritus, passed away August 3, 2021 after complications from heart surgery. 

Bishop was a giant of a man, pastor, leader and friend. For more than 50 years, Bishop Douglas Miles (in photo from left, marching with Pastor Prentice at right) has been on the front-lines of every major social change in Baltimore and every major fight led by IAF. 

As longstanding Metro IAF and BUILD Leader Carol Reckling said, “It’s almost unfathomable to grasp Bishop’s reach. One way or another he impacted every one of us."

We were blessed with one of the greatest. We are all part of his legacy. We miss him dearly and are reminded of the words from God to the prophet that Bishop often closed out actions with, "Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us? And the voice of the prophet responded, 'Here am I, send me.’”

Let us continue to answer the call and fight the good fight. As we grieve his loss, may his incredible prophetic voice, brilliant wisdom, deep laughter, and shared memory guide us.

Please hold his dear wife Rose Miles, sons Pastor Dante and Harvey Miles, his entire family, Koinonia Baptist Church and BUILD in your prayers.

Bishop Douglas Miles, Who Advocated for Baltimore's Impoverished Residents and Co-Headed BUILD, DiesBaltimore Sun [pdf]


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.

Tribute to Sister Christine StephensRio Grande Guardian 

Stephens was an Early COPS OrganizerSan Antonio Express-News [pdf]

Christine Stephens, COPS/Metro Alliance Leader, Remembered for her Faith, Sense of JusticeRivard Report

Christine Stephens Worked to 'Help Others Advocate for Themselves,' Austin American Statesman [pdf]

Sister Christine Passes AwayRio Grande Guardian 

Obituaries: 


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