WASHINGTON (February 23, 1998) -- Rocio Escobedo of Del Rio, Texas, a grassroots leader for improved living conditions in communities on the Texas-Mexico border, has been named recipient of the "Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People" award, presented annually by the Campaign for Human Development (CHD), the U.S. Catholic bishops' domestic anti-poverty program.
Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., Chairman of the USCC-CHD Committee, will present the award to Ms. Escobedo on February 24 during the U.S. Catholic Church's National Social Ministry Gathering here.
The 1998 Social Ministry Gathering is sponsored by the USCC Department of Social Development, CHD, Roundtable, the National Council of Catholic Women, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, the NCCB Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, the Secretariat for African American Catholics, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice, the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, and the USCC Office for Migration and Refugee Services.
The meeting is being held at Washington Court Hotel, February 21-25..
Ms. Escobedo is co-chairperson of The Border Organization, a CHD-funded group located in the Middle Rio Grande Valley within the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Under her leadership, The Border Organization has successfully advocated for improvements in local school performance, maintenance of basic medical care, and equitable city services for people who live in Del Rio's two poorest barrios.
"Rocio Escobedo is representative of the thousands of low-income leaders who have taken control of their own lives and, with faith and determination, had a significant impact on poor communities nationwide," said Bishop Ramirez. "Rocio's efforts have empowered whole families and neighborhoods and provide a model of effective social change on the border."
Although part of Del Rio for 30 years, the San Felipe and Puerto Rico barrios were served only by dirt roads until Rocio Escobedo organized local residents who asked the city to pave their streets. When the city agreed to pave the streets, but only if residents purchased the materials, the leaders refused. As taxpayers, the community maintained, they had already contributed to this basic service.
Ultimately, the city council accepted responsibility for the improvements. Starting in May, the barrios' dirt roads will be paved for the first time ever. Rocio Escobedo and her neighbors will continue to monitor the city's work.
The CHD Bishops' Committee established the annual Development of People Award in 1987. The award honors a person whose life exemplifies a commitment to the development of people and the elimination of poverty. The award also serves to teach people about the conditions of poverty and the needs of economically disadvantaged people by focusing attention on a person who has made major contributions to human development.
Last year the committee renamed the award the "Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award" in honor of the late Presentation Sister who was executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a USCC-CHD committee member from January, 1994 to November, 1996, and co-chair of CHD's 25th anniversary Future Directions Committee. A social justice leader, community organizer, and educator, Sister Margaret's life demonstrated a commitment to the full development and equality of people, and she inspired others to share in that mission.
Rocio Escobedo is married to Gustavo Escobedo and is the mother of two children, Michael, 9, and Rosemary, 18. They are members of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Del Rio. The entire family will attend the February 24 award presentation.
A life-long resident of Del Rio, Ms. Escobedo is a cafeteria worker at Lamar Elementary School where her son is a student. She grew up in a migrant farmworker family, traveling during her youth with her mother and seven brothers to Wisconsin, Arizona, Idaho, Washington, and California.
The Campaign for Human Development is the nation's largest private funder of programs run by the poor themselves. In its 27 years, CHD has distributed more than $200 million, raised primarily in Catholic parishes, to support low-income, community-controlled organizations that empower the poor. In 1997 CHD distributed $8 million in national grants to low-income groups to help create jobs, fight crime, improve schools, gain better living conditions in their communities, and help people find affordable homes.
CHD's support for The Border Organization and other projects that encourage individuals to join together to improve their living conditions is based on two core principles of Catholic social teaching--the call to family, community and participation, and the rights and responsibilities of the human person.
In Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII wrote that "Every person has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are necessary and suitable for the proper development of life. These means are primarily food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and finally the social services."
NOTE: Additional information is available from Barbara Stephenson, CHD, at 202-541-3364.