Valley Interfaith is revitalizing our democracy and building relational power across party, racial, denominational, economic and geographic lines. We want marginalized people and families to have a powerful voice in the decision-making that affects the communities of the Rio Grande Valley.

Valley Interfaith está revitalizando nuestra democracia y construyendo poder relacional atravesando fronteras partidarias, raciales, denominacionales, económicas y geográficas. Queremos que las personas y familias marginadas tengan una voz poderosa en la toma de decisiones que afectan a las comunidades del Valle del Río Grande.

Texas IAF Orgs Denounce "Vampire" Legislation That Would Suck the Life from Texas Schools

[Excerpt]

The Network of Texas IAF Organizations, a labor and faith coalition that has staunchly opposed using school property tax breaks for incentives... railed against the Texas Jobs and Security Act.

"It looks like it was written on the back of a napkin,"

stated Jose Guerrero, a leader with Central Texas Interfaith from Saint Ignatius Catholic Church.

The organization believes the proposed bill would have even less regulation than Chapter 313, including the exclusion of minimum job requirements as a key factor in a project's eligibility for approval. "It is hard to imagine that they would propose a program with even less accountability, fewer specifics (like no job requirements), and more leeway for companies to take taxpayer dollars from school children to line their pockets," Guerrero stated.

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'Recognizing the Stranger' Conference Commemorates 5-Year Organizing Strategy

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.”  

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Tributes to Fr. Alfonso Guevara Pour In

Fr. Alfonso Guevara on VIDA Job Training

VIDA is a long-term workforce development strategy established with the political power of Valley Interfaith and leaders like Fr. Alfonso Guevara. 

Remembering Fr. Alfonso M. Guevara

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 M. GuevaraRio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Guevara: Valley Interfaith Makes the Politicians Look GoodRio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Push to Get Healthcare District Dollars Allocated to ClinicsRio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Collins: Investing Millions of Dollars in Economically Distressed AreasRio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Rev. Guevara: It Was a Blessing to Participate in Raymondville Drain Groundbreaking CeremonyRio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Nearly 900 Valley Interfaith Leaders Celebrate 30th Anniversary [pdf]

Valley Interfaith, Texas IAF Underscore Lasting Consequences of Chapter 313 Subsidies

[Excerpt]

"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.” ....

National Catholic Reporter Spotlights Valley Interfaith Assistance with Synod

[Excerpt]

"Among those also asking an IAF affiliate for help was Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who is overseeing the entire U.S. church's participation in the global synod...

Flores pointed to the many commonalities between the synodal process and the methods long used by IAF affiliates. "First, they encourage people to gather, listening to people, hearing what's on their minds, what their worries are and what preoccupies them, then making things better as a local community," said the bishop...

Flores said the synodal style "of listening and attentiveness has been reinvigorated" this past year "and that will go on and have a lasting effect." Organizers within the IAF network, meanwhile, said they plan to maintain support for this synodal style."

[In photo, a synod training session is held by Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA) at a parish in the Diocese of Monterey, California. COPA community organizers trained around 500 Catholics to conduct synodal listening sessions in the region.]

For Synod Listening Sessions, US Bishops Turned to Community OrganizersNational Catholic Reporter [pdf]

Meeting with Pope Francis | Reunión con El Papa Francisco

[en español abajo]

Our network had the rare opportunity to visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican.  

An interfaith delegation of 20 leaders and organizers from the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation met with him to share our collective work of broad based organizing at a time when the Pope is guiding the global church in a historic Synod listening process.

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 work, and the work of the Church, past, present, and to come. 

This invitation to meet was in large part due to the recognition of our work by local Bishops, particularly those involved with the 'Recognizing the Stranger' strategy, which is dedicated to formation and leadership development of immigrant parishioners. As well, our involvement to support the Synod process in multiple dioceses has helped to bring those in the margins to the center of the synodal dialogue. 

As we shared our experiences of organizing, we were struck by how carefully he listened, asked questions, and engaged with lots of humor. Early on, he reflected back to us, “Usaron mucho las palabras ‘ver’ y ‘escuchar,’... Me impresiona que ninguno de ustedes es parte de alguna teoría.  Ninguno dice ‘leí un libro y me interesó eso.’” (You constantly use the words “to see” and “to listen.. I am impressed that none of you start with any theory. No one says ‘I read a book and that interested me.’)  “El peligro es intelectualizar el problema” (The danger is when you intellectualize a problem).

He stressed the importance of being with people and paying  attention to their reality, emphasizing Amor Concreto, love concretely in action, saying that he understood our work as seeing and hearing of injustice in the real lives of our people, acting to change the situation, and being changed ourselves as a result. He expressed his appreciation for our focus on what we are doing, rather than to complain about what is not being done or to disparage anyone. Ustedes no menospreciaron a nadie.”

Before concluding, he thanked us for our visit, saying that although he had never known of IAF before, he was glad that he knew us now, and he welcomed further conversation around our continuing work with the Synod process.

We teach that power recognizes power.  For Pope Francis, “el verdadero poder es el servicio,” (“true power is service”).  Recounting the Good Samaritan, he clearly stated that the Gospel cannot be understood without acting with those who are suffering.  He recognized the leaders and organizations of the IAF and the powerful work that is happening every day at the margins. He referred to the IAF as “Good News for the United States.”

We are humbled to represent the many decades of work from those who preceded us, and we are encouraged in the continuation of our work into the future.  

*** *** ***

El pasado 14 de octubre, nuestra red de la Fundación de Áreas Industriales, Oeste/Suroeste, (W/SW IAF) tuvo la rara oportunidad de visitar al Papa Francisco en el Vaticano.

Una delegación interreligiosa de 20 líderes y organizadores se reunió con él para compartir nuestro trabajo colectivo de organización de base amplia en un momento en que el Papa está guiando a la iglesia mundial en un histórico proceso de escucha del Sínodo.

El Santo Padre se sentó junto a nosotros en su residencia, y nos agradeció la molestia de venir a verlo. Lo que siguió fue un verdadero diálogo; una conversación de 90 minutos en español con mucha participación de las dos partes. El encuentro estuvo lleno de momentos de gracia sobre el gozo y la lucha de nuestro trabajo y el trabajo de la Iglesia, pasado, presente y futuro.

Esta invitación a reunirnos se debió en gran parte al reconocimiento de nuestro trabajo por parte de los obispos locales, en particular aquellos involucrados en la estrategia Reconociendo al Extranjero, que está dedicada a la formación y desarrollo de liderazgo de feligreses inmigrantes. Además, nuestra participación para apoyar el proceso del Sínodo en múltiples diócesis ha ayudado a traer a los marginados al centro del diálogo sinodal.

Al compartir nuestras experiencias de organización, nos sorprendió lo atentamente que escuchó, hizo preguntas y respondió con humor. Entre sus primeras reacciones, nos dijo: “Usaron mucho las palabras ‘ver’ y ‘escuchar’... Me impresiona que ninguno de ustedes parte de alguna teoría. Ninguno dice 'leí un libro y me interesó eso' [...] El peligro es intelectualizar el problema.”

El Santo Padre recalcó la importancia de estar presente con las personas y estar atentos a su realidad, enfatizando “Amor Concreto” en acción, diciendo que él entendía nuestro trabajo como ver y escuchar la injusticia en la vida real de nuestro pueblo, actuando para cambiar la situación, y ser cambiados nosotros mismos como resultado. Expresó su agradecimiento por nuestro enfoque en lo que estamos haciendo, en vez de quejarnos de lo que no se está haciendo, “ustedes no menospreciaron a nadie.”

Antes de concluir, nos agradeció nuestra visita y dijo que aunque nunca antes había sabido de la IAF, estaba contento de conocernos ahora y expresó interés en más conversaciones sobre nuestro trabajo en el proceso del Sínodo.

Algunos de nuestra delegación pudieron reunirse también con otros en el Vaticano, incluyendo líderes del Dicasterio para el Desarrollo Humano Integral, la Secretaría General del Sínodo y la Comisión Pontificia para América Latina. Fue un viaje que abrió muchas puertas.

Agradecemos a todos ustedes por su apoyo en esta visita histórica. Muchos de ustedes contribuyeron con sus oraciones, consejos, aliento e inversión financiera. Pasamos un día completo antes de la reunión con el Papa Francisco realizando nuestro propio proceso sinodal. Todos sentimos nuestra obligación hacia ustedes y aquellos que nos precedieron para hacer posible esta peregrinación.

Enseñamos en la IAF que “el poder reconoce al poder.” Para el Papa Francisco, “el verdadero poder es el servicio.” Relatando la historia del Buen Samaritano, afirmó claramente que el Evangelio no se puede comprender sin actuar en solidaridad con los que sufren. Reconoció a los líderes y organizaciones de la IAF y el poderoso trabajo que se realiza todos los días en los márgenes. Se refirió a la IAF como “Buenas noticias para los Estados Unidos”.

Nos sentimos honrados de representar las muchas décadas de trabajo de aquellos que nos precedieron, y nos alienta la continuación de nuestro trabajo en el futuro. Los alentamos a compartir este anuncio con los líderes y amigos de la IAF. Reflexionaremos más sobre este encuentro en las próximas semanas.

Pope Francis Meets with Valley Interfaith Leaders

[Excerpt]

On Friday, October 14, our network (Valley Interfaith and the Industrial Areas Foundation) had the rare opportunity to visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

An interfaith delegation of 20 leaders and organizers from the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation met with him to share our collective work of broad based organizing at a time when the Pope is guiding the global church in a historic Synod listening process...

This invitation to meet was in large part due to the recognition of our work by local Bishops, in particular those involved with the Recognizing the Stranger strategy, which is dedicated to formation and leadership development of immigrant parishioners. As well, our involvement to support the Synod process in multiple dioceses has helped to bring those in the margins to the center of the synodal dialogue...

As we shared our experiences of organizing, we were struck by how carefully he listened, asked questions, and engaged with lots of humor. Early on, he reflected back to us, “Usaron mucho las palabras ‘ver’ y ‘escuchar,’… Me impresiona que ninguno de ustedes es parte de alguna teoría. Ninguno dice ‘leí un libro y me interesó eso.’” (You constantly use the words “to see” and “to listen.. I am impressed that none of you start with any theory. No one says ‘I read a book and that interested me.’)“El peligro es intelectualizar el problema” (The danger is when you intellectualize a problem.)...

We teach that power recognizes power. For Pope Francis, “el verdadero poder es el servicio,” (“true power is service”). Recounting the Good Samaritan, he clearly stated that the Gospel cannot be understood without acting with those who are suffering. He recognized the leaders and organizations of the IAF and the powerful work that is happening every day at the margins. He referred to the IAF as “Good News for the United States.”

[Photo Credit: Rabbi John Linder, Rio Grande Guardian]

Valley Interfaith Leaders Visit the Vatican to Meet Pope FrancisRio Grande Guardian [pdf]

Port Isabel School District Votes Down Ch. 313 Tax Break After Valley Interfaith & Allies Speak Out

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At the Point Isabel ISD Board meeting, Texas LNG sought last-minute approval for tax abatement through the expiring Chapter 313 program. Leaders from Valley Interfaith, alongside allied organizations, made the case to the board.

[Excerpt]

On a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the school district voted not to go forward with the applications.

Several Port Isabel area residents voiced opposition, both to Texas LNG on environmental grounds, and to the abatements, saying Texas LNG deserves to have to pay its fair share of taxes.

Valley Interfaith and the other objectors said Texas LNG doesn’t need the abatement because the project has been planned for years and the company has already decided to build the facility here.

VI_to_Point_Isabel_ISD_p1.png

Valley Interfaith congratulates the superintendent and PIISD Board members for their willingness to look at the facts and reject this application for huge tax abatements for an LNG export terminal they

 have long planned to build in the Port of Brownsville area,” said Father Kevin Collins, O.M.I. pastor of S. Eugene of Mazenod Church in Brownsville and Valley Interfaith. “They don’t need to take money from Texas school children to build a profitable LNG export facility at a time when the whole world is clamoring for liquified natural gas,” Collins said.

Point Isabel School District Rejects Texas LNG Tax AbatementThe Brownsville Herald [pdf]