Kevin Courtney's Celebration of Life - Saturday, Jan. 27

You are invited to a Celebration of Life for Kevin Courtney on Saturday, January 27, 2024, at 2:00 p.m., at The Sea of Glass (330 E. 7th Street, Tucson, Arizona).

Kevin, the lead organizer of Pima County Interfaith from 2011-2018, died unexpectedly on October 19, 2023.

Read more about his life and career at https://www.pimacountyinterfaith.org/kevin_courtney.


With Support of Bishop, PCI Launches Parish IDs in Tucson, AZ

In a major step towards establishing trust between local law enforcement and immigrants, and with the support of Bishop Weisenberger and local law enforcement, Pima County Interfaith officially launched the first printing of parish identification cards in Tucson.  Participating law enforcement, including Sheriff Chris Nanos of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and Assistant Chief Diana Duffy of the Tucson Police Department, reassured PCI that they could be trusted to accept the IDs.  With this in mind, they encouraged parish ID holders to report when they are victimized or witnesses of crimes.

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Remembering Kevin Courtney (1950-2023)

The Pima County Interfaith (PCI) Executive Team regretfully announce the sudden death of Kevin Courtney, our former organizer, on Thursday, October. 19, 2023. 

Kevin started his community organizing work  Pima County Interfaith Council in Tucson, then moved to El Paso, where he was the senior organizer for EPISO. He returned to Tucson to become the PCI lead organizer in 2011, retiring from that position in 2018. 

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PCI Current Focus Areas - Summer/Early Fall 2023

Updates for late summer/early fall 2023

PCI’s recent focus has been primarily in three areas:

  1. meeting with city and county government leaders
  2. continuing to build the Parish ID program
  3. educating parents and other concerned adults about new challenges facing Arizona’s public education system.

Government Leaders

As we have spoken with elected leaders and administrators at the city and county level, the stories we have heard are remarkably similar. Here are some highlights:

  • The new flat tax will have a significant negative effect on the city budget beginning in 2025. Multiple approaches to replacing lost revenue are being considered so as to avoid cutting services. It will also decrease the amount of the general fund making it difficult for the state to provide services at historic levels.
  • The state legislature is undercutting the ability of municipalities and counties to work effectively by issuing pre-emptive legislation preventing them from passing local laws on a wide range of issues. These run the gamut from gun safety to plastic bag usage.
  • Homelessness is a significant problem; affordable housing is the single most pressing unmet need in southern Arizona at the moment. The county and city are working together on the regional affordable housing commission.

Parish IDs

The parishes involved in the Parish ID program include Our Lady Queen of All Saints, St John's, St Pius, Santa Monica's, Our Mother of Sorrows, St Joseph, St Augustine Cathedral, Sacred Heart, St Cyril's, St Margaret's and Our Lady of Fatima.

Several 100 people to date have participated in orientations for the program. More orientations will be held in the future, including plans to expand beyond the Catholic parishes named above. Once technical difficulties are resolved, PCI plans to work with St John's parish to print IDs for those who have completed orientation, projected for November 2023.

The parish ID program is modeled on successful programs by our sister Industrial Area Foundation (IAF) organizations in Boston, Baltimore, Dallas, San Antonio and others in PCI's national network.

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The Public Education Townhall Was a Success

On Saturday, September 9th, 2023 Pima County Interfaith, Save Our Schools Arizona, the Children's Action Alliance, Arizona Center for Economic Progress, and the Amphitheater School District hosted a public education town hall to learn more about the issues impacting Arizona schools.

The town hall was a great success, bringing together over 80 participants and a panel of experts to discuss ways to support our students, teachers, administrators and school boards.

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Pima County Interfaith Holds Leadership Retreat

On August 3-4, leaders, and potential leaders for Pima County Interfaith (PCI) joined together at St Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church for a leadership retreat on broad-based organizing for Pima County. Joe Rubio, national Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) co-director and Jorge Monteil, lead organizer in Denver, presented the retreat, which provoked deep discussion and involvement of participants.

Topics covered included the challenges and opportunities of post-COVID organizing; the nature of institutional relationships and interests; how to deepen relationships with member institutions; and how to cultivate new relationships.

Based on the book of Ezra, leaders learned that out of a crisis, change will happen. COVID was just such a crisis, and our goal is to change for the better. To do so, it’s important to understand the nature of society, and the difference between contracts and covenants. While PCI is a covenantal organization, much of our society functions in a contractual or transactional way.

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Read about PCI's newest institutional member, Kol Ami Synagogue

We are excited to welcome Kol Ami as PCI’s newest member institution!

On July 13, 2023, we interviewed Rabbi Malcolm Cohen and Dr. Elaine Jones to learn more about Kol Ami and social justice according to the Jewish tradition. The following is a summary of our conversation.

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Introducing Rabbi Malcolm Cohen

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen grew up in the United Kingdom and served as rabbi at West London Synagogue and Temple Sinai in Las Vegas, Nevada before becoming one of Kol Ami’s first rabbis on March 10, 2023. Rabbi Cohen is passionate about social activism.

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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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West/Southwest IAF Delegation Visits Pope

Delegation of West/Southwest IAF leaders and organizers stands with Pope Francis. [Photos credit: Rabbi John Linder]

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. 


PCI Action at the Legislature

On June 15, PCI leaders joined other faith leaders from AIN to visit elected officials Rep. Andrea D'alessandro, Rep. Joel John, Sen. Sean Bowie, and Sen. Rebecca Rios. The most important topics disussed were

Education - Our public schools need an immediate investment of at least $1 billion, with $100 million earmarked for special education.

Housing - Arizona is one of the hardest hit states in terms of a housing shortage; we support an investment of $100 million in the state housing trust fund.

Water -  As the drought continues, the Legislature must prioritize conservation and regulation of groundwater use, and ensure tranparency in the expenditure of public funds.

Email these respresentatives and add your voice in support of these critical areas. Tell them you are also active in Pima County Interfaith and that the leaders who visited with them speak for you too!
Meeting with Joel John
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