Sr. Christine Stephens, CDP: 1940 - 2019
[From the Rio Grande Guardian]
Sister Christine Stephens, a key player in the Industrial Areas Foundation, has passed away.
She was 78 years old.
Stephens served on the National Executive Committee of IAF from 1999 to 2008 when she became one of four National Co-Directors until 2012. Most recently she served as Co-Director of the West/Southwest IAF region.
Among her accomplishments was establishing IAF organizations across Texas, including Valley Interfaith in the Rio Grande Valley.
Indeed, Stephens was lead organizer for Valley Interfaith during the period in the late 1980s when state legislation brought millions of dollars to the Valley for water and wastewater in the region’s colonias.
She also guided the development of new West/Southwest IAF organizations in Louisiana and mentored organizers across the West/Southwest of the United States.
The Rio Grande Guardian will have a tribute story about Sister Stephens in the coming days.
Here is her obituary:
SISTER CHRISTINE STEPHENS, CDP
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/ Mexico border, was 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. She served as lead organizer in the Rio Grande Valley with Valley Interfaith in the 80’s when the organization passed the 1989 Colonia’s Bill that brought millions of dollars to Rio Grande Valley colonias for water and waste water and supervised VIF for decades.
Her advocacy and work during the past four decades were manifest in her various roles as National IAF Co-Director and supervisor of organizations across the IAF Network. Her organizing career began in Houston and then as lead organizer of C.O.P.S. in San Antonio.
She enjoyed seeing ordinary leaders who worked across multi-faith traditions, economic lines, and race 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.
Stephens was an Early COPS Organizer, San Antonio Express-News
Christine Stephens, COPS/Metro Alliance Leader, Remembered for her Faith, Sense of Justice, Rivard Report
Christine Stephens Worked to 'Help Others Advocate for Themselves,' Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Sister Christine Stephens Passes Away, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Revs. Collins & Guevara: Investing Millions of Dollars in Economically Distressed Areas
Valley Interfaith leaders recognize Democratic Senators Eddie Lucio, Jr and Juan Hinojosa, and Republican Senator Charles Perry from Lubbock, for their efforts to generate investment in South Texas’ poorest families.
They authored Senate Bill 2452 and Senate Joint Resolution 79, which would allow the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to use money from the Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP) to bring millions of dollars to economically distressed areas to cover most of the costs to provide access to drinking and waste water services.
These bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers; and on June 14, Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed S. B. 2452.
In 1989, Valley Interfaith and our sister Texas IAF organizations worked with our state senators and representatives to pass the first EDAP legislation. This legislation allowed the state to sell bonds to invest in water and wastewater services in “colonias” and other low-income areas throughout the state....
[In photo: (left) Reverend Kevin Collins, pastor of St. Eugene of Mazenod Catholic Church and leader with Valley Interfaith (photo courtesy of Rio Grande Guardian); (right) Rev. Alfonso Guevara, pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and leaders with Valley Interfaith (photo by Fountain of Mercy Ministries]
Oped: Investing Millions of Dollars in Economically Distressed Areas, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Valley Interfaith & Texas IAF Call on State Legislators to Invest in People
Hundreds of Texas IAF leaders bused in to the Capitol from El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and West Texas, joining Central Texas Interfaith counterparts to call on state legislators to increase spending on adult and K-12 education.
After a short briefing on school finance, the Texas Innovative Career Education (ACE) program and other issues -- including healthcare, payday lending, and infrastructure in the colonias -- leaders were recognized with a House resolution in support of the ACE program. Immediately afterward, they convened on the South Capitol steps, and were joined by several state legislators who pledged to continue working for investments in people.
In photo above left, Valley Interfaith leader Eddie Anaya speaks at the Network of Texas IAF Organizations' press conference. In photo above right, Valley Interfaith leader Rosalie Tristan helps lead the briefing of leaders. After the press conference, leaders broke out into smaller delegations to meet with legislators that represent their geographic regions.
Valley Interfaith: State's Share of School Funding Has Dropped From 50% to Barely 36%, Rio Grande Guardian
Organizations Call On State Legislators to Support Adult Education, Univision 62 [Spanish video]
Piden a Legisladores Texanos Más Fondos Para Apoyar la Educación de Adultos, Univision 62
Valley Interfaith: State's Share of School Funding Dropped from 50% to Barely 36%
BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Over 300 Texas Industrial Area Foundation leaders from across the state will hold a press conference on the south steps of the State Capitol on Thursday.
There, they will call on the House and Senate to invest in families through adult workforce development and public education.
Among those present will be more than 75 members of Valley Interfaith, which is part of the IAF network. In addition to pushing for adult workforce development and public education, Valley Interfaith members will also call for investment in border colonias.
The Rev. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene Parish in Brownsville (in photo above) is a leader with Valley Interfaith. He said Valley Interfaith wants legislators to increase the state’s overall share of the cost of public education and to increase the per-pupil allotment.
“Quality public education is a question of a strong Valley economy and quality of life,” Collins said. “The state needs to step up its game and invest more in public education. Property taxes skyrocketed because the state’s share of school funding went from 50 percent to barely 36 percent. The state needs to increase investment to improve the quality of public education in Texas.”
[Photo Credit: Rio Grande Guardian]
Valley Interfaith: State's Share of School Funding Has Dropped From 50% to Barely 36%, Rio Grande Guardian
Bishop Daniel Flores Accompanies 'Recognizing the Stranger' Training in the Rio Grande Valley
Over 80 predominantly low-income Spanish-speaking leaders converged for a multi-day training on leadership development co-sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Organizers Institute of the West/Southwest IAF and Valley Interfaith.
Trainees came from 19 different institutions of the Rio Grande Valley -- including from Rio Hondo, Elsa, Las Milpas (Pharr), Weslaco, Peñitas and McAllen -- to learn how to organize around their faith and values.
Valley Interfaith Credited with Helping Pass the Drainage Bond
The Rio Grande Guardian named Valley Interfaith as a key group that helped pass a drainage bond in Hidalgo County that will invest millions to improve the county's storm drainage system. County Commissioners pledge that the monies will be invested as promised.
Said Andy Noriega, a leader with Valley Interfaith and St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Weslaco: “People keep talking about the June 20th floods. But in 2015, our homes flooded with just an inch less of rain than what fell on June 20th. We see that these proposed projects will take water out of our families’ homes and into retention ponds and canals. That is why we support this bond.”
Commissioners: Drainage Bond Funds Will Not be Diverted to Other Projects, Rio Grande Guardian
Valley Interfaith Fights for Drainage Bond to Prevent Future Flood Damage in Las Milpas
After summer floods in Hidalgo County left countless homes destroyed and neighborhoods damaged, Valley Interfaith leaders researched a $190 million bond proposal to upgrade Hidalgo County’s drainage system. Leaders were soon angered to discover that almost no funding was planned to be allocated for the poorest neighborhoods of Hidalgo. “Never before has Las Milpas received money to improve the drainage in this community from Hidalgo County,” said Valley Interfaith leader Eddie Anaya.
Valley Interfaith quickly mobilized, reaching out to their elected officials and ultimately negotiating upwards of $15 million in drainage work in South Pharr and $1 million dollars for South McAllen -- not originally in the bond proposal.
[Our neighborhoods] “stand to receive an unprecedented $15 million that will improve the drainage in South Pharr. We sat down with Commissioner Cantú and expressed our community’s concerns about the original design. He listened, and we like the changes.”
Valley Interfaith Endorses Drainage Proposition, The Monitor [pdf]
Community Groups Urge 'Yes' Vote on $190 Million Bond Election, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Valley Interfaith Fights for Flood Relief for McAllen Colonias
Valley Interfaith leaders from South McAllen colonias -- specifically from Balboa, Hermosa and Idela -- organized a press conference calling on the City to allocate funding for neighborhoods most in need of flood assistance. With over $50 million to be invested in flooding infrastructure over the next five years, Valley Interfaith says that neighborhoods on the Southside are getting shortchanged.
Said Pastor Alejandro Flores of San Juan Diego Catholic Church, "I know McAllen is a large area, but we want the response to be proportionate to the need where ever it may be." Flores says the city itself has admitted that the southwest was one of the hardest hit areas during the floods.
[Photo Credit: Joel Martinez, The Monitor]
Frustrated South McAllen Residents Plead for Relief from June Rains, The Monitor [pdf]
Hardest Hit Flood Areas Say Not Enough Projects Being Proposed, KVEO [pdf]
Valley Interfaith Tells Senators Cornyn & Cruz: Reunite the Children Quickly & Stop Detaining Families
In the hubbub surrounding a meeting with US Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Valley Interfaith leaders spoke up forcefully to press the issue of the reunification of children with their parents.
[Excerpt from Rio Grande Guardian report below]
"Valley Interfaith urged Congress, to reunite the 2,300-plus children who are currently in custody with their parents and electronically monitor, rather than detain theses families.
Also, it urged that pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, and pediatric nurses be sent to the centers, especially those centers specializing in infants and to take swift action because under the so-called Flores Settlement, the detention of minors with or without the parents can only last up to 20 days.
“The president was the one who created this problem, through the so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy. If you cross illegally, they will arrest you for a crime and by law they will separate you from the children, that is the problem,” Anaya said.
“We are telling them (Texas’ two senators), now we need them to pass legislation to resolve the problem, because we believe this problem will be resolved by legislation, not by executive orders; not by the president, but by their leadership.”"
[Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool, Dallas Morning News]
Senators: We Don't Know When Immigrant Families Will Be Reunited, Rio Grande Guardian
Pause At the Border? Friday Marks First Day in a Month That No Parents, Children Separated in McAllen, Dallas Morning News
Trump Caves, Plenty of Reaction, Rio Grande Guardian
Cruz, Cornyn Joining Another Wave of Congressional Visits Amid Family Separations Outrage, The Monitor
Sister Norma, the Border's Fiercest Fighter, is 'Astute as a Serpent, and Gentle as a Dove', Dallas Morning News
IAF Calls for Quick Reunification of 2,000+ Children with Families
Reaction to President Trump’s executive order on the separation of immigrant families has been swift, with most community groups and elected officials opposing the “zero tolerance” policy.
Trump made the announcement that he was changing policy on Wednesday, June 20, which was designated World Refugee Day by the United Nations. He directed the Department of Homeland Security not to separate families as they await immigration proceedings.
The Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s oldest network of Broad Based Community Organizations, with over 75 organizations throughout the United States representing hundreds of thousands of families, issued this statement:
“The Trump Administration needs to immediately stop and desist from further separation of immigrant children and their parents, quickly reunite those 2,000 family members, and begin a humane approach to border security and immigration reform. While the president may soon reverse part of this policy, it is important that the victimized children be cared for respectfully and appropriately, including inspection of the detention facilities by local clergy and health providers.”
Fr. Kevin Collins, OMI, of Valley Interfaith-IAF, and pastor of St. Eugene de Mazenod Church in Brownsville, Texas, said: “The ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy promulgated by the Attorney General and the Trump Administration is nothing short of cruel. It is un-American to separate children from their parents.” Collins is pictured [right].
Rabbi John Linder, of Valley Interfaith Project-IAF and Senior Rabbi of Temple Solel of Paradise Valley, Arizona, said:
“Forcibly taking children from their mothers and fathers, is nothing short of government-sanctioned child abuse. Where will this stop? Children in cages, tent cities. What’s next? Every elected official at the local, state, and national level must tell the administration that this brutality cannot be tolerated. The lack of political will on all sides for balanced, comprehensive immigration reform is responsible for this mess. Children are never to be used as political pawns. The Trump Administration has crossed a moral line.”
Fr. Mike Walsh of Holy Trinity Parish in Dallas, TX, with Dallas Area Interfaith-IAF, said:
“It’s stunning that we are perpetrating something so horrible for families. This is the 21st century, and our government is placing children in penned cages. We’re a better country than this.”
Maria Elena Manzo, leader with Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA), in Salinas, California, said:
“Virtually every moral voice and authority is denouncing these administrative actions. This is horrifying. What can be more sacred than the family? It is torture to take children away from their parents.”
Full Statement Here
Trump Caves, Plenty of Reaction, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
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At a COPS/Metro Alliance assembly on June 18, San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller called the separation of immigrant families at the border "immoral", "evil" and "sinful."
[Top Image Credit: NOWCastSA footage]
How Catholics are Helping Immigrant Children Separated from their Parents, America [pdf]
Catholic Bishops Across US Condemn Separation of Migrant Children, America [pdf]
San Antonio Archbishop Calls Separation of Families Immoral, Evil and Sinful, NOWCastSA [pdf]