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Social Action Collaborative discusses foreclosures, immigration

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

By Mike Dyer

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES DEANERY — Mary Bridges stood in the front of the undercroft at St. Mary Parish in Hyde Park with a microphone in hand and spoke candidly to the audience about the struggle she had endured to remain in her home.

Bridges said words couldn’t express the gratitude she had for the people who helped her to avoid foreclosure on her Kennedy Heights home earlier this year.

(CNS photo)

Bridges and her late husband found themselves in a mortgage crisis after an illness put a large burden on the family’s financial situation. She found it difficult to work with lenders over her payments, but through the assistance of a Working In Neighborhoods (WIN), a non-profit advocacy group, she was able to stay in her home.

Bridges was just one of the many success stories that members of the Greater Cincinnati Catholic Social Action Collaborative heard during a meeting at St. Mary Church on Sept. 16. More than 40 individuals gathered in Robisch Hall to check in on priority issues, celebrate accomplishments and recommit to the work ahead for the fall and winter. Participants included those from parishes all across the city. Issues ranged from climate control to pregnancy counseling and from helping the unemployed to helping to feed the hungry.

But the two most prevalent topics involved foreclosure and immigration. Representatives from about two dozen parishes voted last February to give special energy to helping neighbors next door and those from other countries.

A foreclosure task force enabled participants to view a PowerPoint presentation about foreclosures around the area. “The Crisis Next Door” was compiled by WIN and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Social Action Parish Collaborative.

Dave Scharfenberger, chairman of the task force, said WIN has helped about 130 families this year. WIN is a community organization that is supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), which helps the city’s low and moderate income residents with homeownership, community building and financial education.

Organizers could definitely see God’s guidance in their efforts this year. Scharfenberger said residents have realized “there is hope” when it comes to help from a neighbor.

According to WIN and the collaborative, there were 85,782 new foreclosure filings in Ohio during 2008 — for an increase of 437 percent from 1995.

“We’ve all seen it in the news and how it affects neighborhoods across the country and internationally,” Scharfenberger said.

The task force has been an advocate for those faced with crisis. It has provided information to lawmakers and given a Catholic response about facts surrounding foreclosure. Forums have been in parishes that include St. Mary, St. Ann in Groesbeck and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Anderson Township.

On Oct. 21 there will be a forum at St. Agnes in Bond Hill, followed by another forum Oct. 27 at Our Lady of Lourdes in Westwood.

While there is plenty to be learned from the economic recession, members of the Immigration Collaborative also have been proactive in helping to inform parishes and the general public. Ruth Ravenna heads the group and gave examples of how immigration has impacted education, the job market and health care reform. Immigrants from Guatemala and Uganda gave heartfelt talks about their ongoing struggles to remain with family in the United States.

Tony Stieritz, director of the archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office, said all the efforts from the collaborative involve issues about life and the dignity of an individual. He said social justice is often an uphill battle, but members have reflected the spirit of the apostles and early Christians.

“There’s always a team effort,” Stieritz said. “It brings people together and it’s about getting the word out.”

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