A Reflection On Recognizing the Stranger

My name is Rosalinda Aguirre and I am a leader at Sound Alliance, an alliance of labor, education, and faith-based organizations working towards the common good. I come from a tradition that holds one’s faith as a significant belief in how we make it through our days.  

I have been a practicing Catholic, a lapsed Catholic, and what I would call a spiritually-led advocate.  As a Latina, I am moved by the depth of what it means to be in Church. As lay people, we are the Church- and to be an integral part of the parish and move out into community gives us a framework for how we create a world that provides for all humankind. 

Attending the Recognizing the Stranger Convocation held on February 28th and March 1st in San Antonio, Texas was instrumental in reinforcing for me the role my faith has in strengthening my impact on the common good. The Convocation celebrated the five years of Recognizing the Stranger- Reconociendo Al Extranjero, initiated by the West/Southwest IAF that has provided training, leadership formation, and Catholic parish organizing strategy. At the heart of it all for me was listening. I was present with not only the many men and women who have participated at their local parishes but by diocesan leaders.  Among those leaders present in panel presentations were Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, Archdiocese of San Antonio; Bishop Mark Seitz, Diocese of El Paso, and Bishop Greg Kelly, Diocese of Dallas and Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. 



I heard the words of activists in Texas who talked about how the pandemic turned people’s lives upside down. With the help of their local alliance and the Church as a base, they gathered together to create stronger relationships with their children’s schools, thereby transforming the community. Diocese Daniel Cardinal DiNardo summed up the work in this way, “That's the good practical work that this organizing does; it helps people recognize their solidarity and their ability to work together,” he said. “When you are a member of community organizing, the parish becomes electrified with agency. It shows in the world, in the city. I think that's what organizing is all about, and it's beautiful.”

Story after story that was shared at the convocation spoke to the capacity and possibility that organizing with faith as a base has for creating change in our communities. And it is awe-inspiring. The commitments made by individuals and the clerical leadership leads me to believe that we can commit to reach out and provide training, leadership formation, and organizing strategies to lay people in our Catholic parishes here in King County. I am ready to do this work. Are you? 

 If you are interested in bringing this work to your parish, please reach out here