Monday, February 9, 2009

MACC President Appointed to Obama Faith Council

As a Catholic and recent "graduate" from the mini pastoral program at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, it is thrilling to hear that MACC's president, Dr. Arturo Chávez has been appointed by President Obama to his advisory council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. This is excellent news for all of us who are involved in ministry to Hispanics and especially to immigrants. Here is the full story from Abe Levy of the San Antonio Express-News (2/6/2009):

Arturo Chavez, who grew up on the city’s South Side and is head of the Mexican American Catholic College, is the lone Texan chosen this week to serve on the president’s 25-member advisory council to the newly revamped White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

His one-year term will be spent recommending grass-roots needs for the office and President Barack Obama to consider in their plan of sending millions of dollars in social service aid to churches and nonprofits.

On Thursday, Obama restored and expanded this office created initially by President George W. Bush. Chavez traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, where he and other appointees met Obama in the Oval Office for a briefing.

Chavez said the president told the gathering their feedback was critical for funding local organizations engaged in community issues, including reducing poverty, teen pregnancy, abortion and absentee fathers.

Chavez, 47, is one of two Catholics to serve on the president’s council. The other one is the Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. A majority of Catholics voted for Obama, but not without debate about the president’s compatibility with Catholic teachings.

Chavez, who cited his Catholic faith for opposing abortion, said he realizes others on the council and Obama himself don’t agree with him on the issue. But the Catholic faith also calls him to be engaged in “the marketplace.”

“I think it’s important as Catholics to uphold what we believe, but the president told us we don’t expect everyone to agree with everything we say,” he said. “They want a diversity of perspectives along with a mutual respect.”

Known for his work with disadvantaged youth, the poor and immigrants, Chavez said he hopes to contribute a grass-roots perspective to the advisory council set to meet four times a year.

“I know the best solutions to the issues that face our communities are best dealt with at the lowest possible level,” Chavez said. “Mostly churches are at the hub of community life in neighborhoods that are experiencing all these social issues.”

Chavez has worked in community development and nonprofit ministries for 28 years. He contributed to the founding and fundraising for local organizations such as the PeaceCenter and Merced Housing, along with the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities.

He began his work as a chaplain at the Bexar County Detention Center and then as executive director of the defunct Benedictine Resource Center. Eight years ago, he came as an instructor at MACC, a department of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and formerly called the Mexican American Cultural Center. In 2007, he was named its president and chief executive officer.

Among his most notable accomplishments was the 1992 founding of JOVEN, a youth services organization. It started in a remodeled tire shop across the street from St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, just south of downtown. Most days, he picked up teens in South Side neighborhoods and drove them to the shop, where they were matched with mentors, social services and other help.

Mentors came from St. Leo parish and nearby in a program funded by the Texas governor’s office, he said.

“The idea was to work with resources already in the community so we worked with schools and social service agencies,” Chavez said, “but mostly we worked with churches of every denomination.”

Click here to see full list of members of the advisory council.

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