Hope is a Verb

Audrey Carroll
October 21, 2021

On October 18th, NETWORK hosted a monthly Community Conversation titled “Called to Action– The Spirituality of NETWORK’s Political Ministry.” The event began with a presentation on NETWORK’s foundational history from Historian Sister Mara Rutten, RSM. NETWORK was founded in 1971 when 47 Catholic Sisters gathered at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. to form a lobbying group in the spirit of Catholic Social Teaching. These Women Religious created a nationwide community of political justice activists and held legislative seminars to train new justice-seekers on priorities such as fair wages, tax justice, health care, workers’ rights, and more. Over the decades, our spirit-filled network has expanded to include thousands of people of all backgrounds.

NETWORK’S foundresses based the organization’s mission on Catholic Social Justice tradition– living out the Gospel values of pursuing the common good and uplifting every person’s inherent human dignity. When approaching federal policy through a Catholic Social Justice lens, we center the lived realities of those experiencing systemic inequalities such as sexism, racism, and economic exploitation. NETWORK’s principles of Catholic Social Justice continue to guide our approach to educating, organizing, and lobbying for transformative change.

After reflecting on NETWORK’s history, Community Conversation participants were asked to consider how Catholic Social Justice informs our current work as advocates. Many participants shared frustrations of living in communities where many Catholics are single-issue voters and are unaware of equally sacred issues. People agreed that our country’s divisive political climate can be discouraging on a familial, parish, neighborhood, and national level in the fight for justice and the common good. However, a profound message stood out to me on how we can sustain our work during difficult times.

In my small discussion group, I explained how advocacy work is very important to me, but can disheartening and emotionally draining at times. One of my group members, Sister Betty McVeigh, then shared a phrase that has stuck with me: “Hope is a verb.” In the moments where there seems to be only tragedy and an extreme lack of progress on the issues that matter, we must move forward with radical hope in order to realize our vision of an equitable society with justice and human dignity at the center. As the NETWORK community organizes and lobbies on priorities such as democracy, the Build Back Better plan, immigration reform, and more we must come together to rise above the brokenness and suffering, and live out the same Gospel call NETWORK’s foundresses were moved by.

Catholic Social Justice is not only doctrine, but a tool we can use to build relationships and work for societal change. So much can be achieved when we approach every situation with the hope of building our country anew to dismantle systemic racism, cultivate inclusive community, root our economy in solidarity, and transform our politics. Pope Francis calls us to be “social poets,” people that “have the ability and the courage to create hope where there appears to be only waste and exclusion.” As we embark on the journey of celebrating NETWORK’s 50th anniversary I hope we can all renew our dedication to the foundresses’ mission of rejecting exclusion and inequality and building a just world together. We be social poets together through hope, hope, hope.