Virginia Parish Helps Lead Effort in Social Change

Walter Koscinski Around the Province

TRIANGLE, Va. — On July 27, Charles Miller, OFM, and Robert Menard, OFM, led 32 parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi here to join with more than 400 northern Virginia religious and lay leaders to support Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE).

Held at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Alexandria, the Sunday “internal action” was the latest in a series of meetings to bring awareness to this non-partisan, multi-racial, multi-faith, citizens’ organization rooted in local congregations. Enthusiastic VOICE leaders presented and ratified an action agenda that, when achieved, will permanently alter the northern Virginia social justice landscape on issues such as affordable housing, immigration and access to health care for low- and middle-income residents in Prince William, Fairfax and Arlington counties and the city of Alexandria.

Identifying the Issues

The ratified action agenda was the product of thousands of hours and grassroots efforts. From February through April 2008, VOICE leaders, many of whom were St. Francis of Assisi parishioners, conducted more than 100 house meetings with 1,114 northern Virginia residents to identify issues to act on. More than 100 VOICE leaders then volunteered to work on ad hoc issue teams to develop specific, winnable actions for each issue, culminating in the ratified agenda.

During the action, VOICE leaders also committed to working with government and civic leaders in preparation for the organization’s launch at a public action on Oct. 5, 2008. The 34 congregations present committed to delivering more than 1,800 leaders to the public action, where VOICE will unveil its action agenda and invite elected officials and regional leaders to work with the group to advocate for change.

Voice_BGCollaborating with Other Groups
Congregations also agreed to continue to work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in organizing efforts, and pledged almost $200,000 in dues for 2009. The IAF is the country’s oldest and largest organizing network with affiliates in 60 cities in the United States, England, Canada and Germany. VOICE leaders’ commitment in people and dues absolutely ensures that VOICE will deliver a resounding voice and meaningful action on those issues that affect the least of our brothers and sisters.

Walter Koscinski is a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Church and the lead volunteer in support of VOICE.

Editor’s Note: Watch upcoming issues of HNP Today for news of other programs and activities going on at the Triangle parish including the parishioners’ support of an Iraqi family who recently moved to the community.