Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network:
Dr. Jessica Pauly

August 22, 2018

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

I learned about NETWORK via Nuns on the Bus. In 2014, I was at a feminist organizational communication conference and Nuns on the Bus came up in conversation. It didn’t take long before I was reading anything and everything about NETWORK’s contributions.

You recently wrote a dissertation in which you recognized NETWORK as a “unique organizational site operating at the intersection of religion, politics, and authority.” Can you tell us a little more about this project and what inspired you to include NETWORK in your research?

My dissertation research on NETWORK considered how an organized group of (mostly) women deal with organizational tensions experienced with the all-male hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. I was particularly interested in the 2012 Vatican censure of U.S. women religious. It was a trying time for many women religious, and NETWORK, too. But NETWORK persevered, and continues to focus on shaping politics to better recognize and support the dignity and respect all people deserve. In the end, I see NETWORK representing a beautiful side of the Roman Catholic Church that ought to be seen, supported, and celebrated more often.

How has your combined research on women religious, the Catholic Church, and political action shaped your view of the world?

I have a sense of conviction that was previously lost on me. My research (i.e., reading about NETWORK’s history, interviewing staff and sisters, being Nuns on the Bus groupie) has opened my eyes to Christ’s calling for me, and us all, as Catholics. I am reminded that we are called to do more than pray; we are called to do all that we can to love one another, here and now. Engaging politics (e.g., being educated and informed about local and national politics, voting, supporting qualified individuals) is an excellent way to live out our faith.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

I am inspired in reading about Jesus’s life and times from the Gospels. Jesus was with the people—he walked with those suffering and in need. He made himself uncomfortable so that other’s might be comforted. I am inspired to follow in His footsteps by recognizing my privileges, my comforts, my abilities, etc., and using them to support others—to love others.

Who is your role model?

Many people come to mind, but recently I have been especially inspired by two women who are active on social media as a means of inspiring other Catholic women: Clair Swinarski (of the Catholic Feminist podcast) and Kristin (of @onehailmaryatatime on Instagram). I look up to these women for their unwavering faith and bold commitment to live and share it so openly with others.

Is there any quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?

I recently came across a quote by the Venerable Fulton Sheen that nourishes my soul and reminds me that we, collectively, are truly the Church: “Who is going to save our Church? Do not look to the priests. Do not look to the bishops. It’s up to you, the laity, to remind our priests to be priests and our bishops to be bishops.” Jesus calls us, each and every one.

What social movement has inspired you?

I am inspired by many social movements, and relish opportunities to learn and read more about each and every one of them. That being said, most recently I am struck by the women’s movement, generally. A few news sites have suggested 2018 will be the year of the woman, and we are already seeing a record number of women running for office. Seeing women of all ages come together in the name of women and our social, economic, and spiritual power is astounding and makes me feel so proud to be a woman in this day and age.

What are you looking forward to working on in the coming year?

Inspired by my dissertation research, I am working on a book proposal with a colleague of mine focusing on the untold stories and lived realities of America’s Catholic nuns. In 1966, there were over 150,000 Catholic nuns in the United States, whereas today there are less than 50,000. We are interested in sharing and celebrating the unique and honorable lives our American Catholic nuns have lead, before it is too late.

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