Category Archives: From the Archives

From the Archives: Called to Challenge the Treatment of Poverty

From the Archives: Centering Encounter for 50 Years

Sr. Mara Rutten, RSM
April 7, 2022

Dear Friend,

As we get ready for our 50th Anniversary Advocates Training and Gala next week, I invite you to reflect on the words of Sr. Jan Cebula, OSF:

“Yes, we face some critical choices as we decide
what kind of a people-a country-we want to be. It’s OUR choice
and we all have decisions to make at this pivotal time. Are
we going to choose: to remain isolated or recognize the strength
of community? To be fearful or reach out with compassion and love?”

~ Sister Jan Cebula, OSF, Nuns on the Bus 2016

In recent years, NETWORK continued to build on the legacy set by the lobbyists and organizers who came before, harnessing the power of community to advocate for federal policy change.

From 2012 up through a virtual campaign in 2020, NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus NETWORK's Nuns on the Bustrips encouraged communities across the country to share their stories of how national policy issues of immigration, health care, and federal budgets are not just statistics, but have real impact on their personal experiences.

NETWORK lobbyists and organizers worked with people in the communities the Bus visited to meet with Members of Congress and advocate for policies that better serve their families and communities.

Throughout 2019 and in early 2020, NETWORK Lobby Raises Rural Voiceswe hosted roundtable discussions listening to diverse groups of more than 250 people living in rural communities all across the United States. NETWORK published a report titled “Raising Rural Voices,” lifting up their hopes and hardships, to help guide federal policy decisions in Washington.

“This report reflects the ‘active listening’ that doesn’t occur frequently enough within states or with policymakers in Washington. Too many decisions are made without understanding the perspective of rural residents or acknowledging the values of shared obligations.”

~ Kathleen Sebelius, Former Kansas Governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Forward to “Raising Rural Voices”

And friend, over the last year the NETWORK community has continued to prioritize encounter in our organizing. NETWORK's Title 42 White House ProtestJust last December, more than 80 Catholic Sisters and their advocacy partners rallied outside the White House to bear witness to their experiences serving migrants at the Southern Border and protest the inhumane misuse of Title 42 and call for its end. While strides forward have been made, there is still much to do in order to build a humane and just asylum system.

As we celebrate NETWORK’s 50th Anniversary, we recommit to centering encounter in our advocacy. This important work can only happen in community, and we are grateful to count you as part of our NETWORK community.

I have enjoyed sharing my stories with you over the past few weeks. Through the many changes in technology and shifts in politics over the years, NETWORK has remained steadfast in our political ministry. Together, we will continue to work for economic and social transformation for many years to come.

Read From the Archives: NETWORK’s Vision Comes to Life
Read From the Archives: Spirit at Work from the Beginning
Read From the Archives: Called to Challenge the Treatment of Poverty

From the Archives: NETWORK’s Vision Comes to Life

From the Archives: NETWORK’s Vision Comes to Life

Sr. Mara Rutten, RSM
March 31, 2022

Dear Friend,

I am thrilled to share another story with you about the people and events that made NETWORK the organization it is today.

Friend, you may be wondering, like I was, how the name ‘NETWORK’ was chosen. Sr. Nancy Sylvester, IHM, and NETWORK’s second National Coordinator, explained to me: “‘The NETWORK’ suggests the vision: an effort to influence through a network of participation.”

Once the founders chose the name, hiring staff was their next step. The steering committee believed the director should be someone who had attended the founding meeting. All eyes settled on Sr. Carol Coston, OP. She considered the offer, but needed permission from her congregation, the Adrian Dominicans, before she could accept it. Sr. Carol left the sisters gathered in the room to make a few calls, and upon her return, she accepted the new role.

While NETWORK’s foundresses had big plans for the work ahead, they needed resources. The sisters appealed to their own communities and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) passed a resolution of support. After the LCWR action, many congregations made financial contributions.

NETWORK's 1977 Legislative SeminarParticipants, 1970's

NETWORK held its first Legislative Seminar for those interested in political ministry that summer in 1972. Sr. Carol recalled, “We were so new at all of this. When we got all the participants to the Hill in our rented yellow school buses, we started to walk toward the House of Representatives and realized we didn’t know which direction to go.”

Attendees watched Congressional hearings, visited executive agencies, and met with their congressional delegation. Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) was the first Member of Congress to speak to the sisters, just after completing her historic Presidential campaign. This was quite an achievement for an organization still in its infancy.

More stories soon!


From the Archives: Spirit at Work from the Beginning

From the Archives: How One Meeting Sparked a Legacy

Sr. Mara Rutten, RSM
March 24, 2022

Dear Friend,

As NETWORK’s Historian, over the past year, I have been researching NETWORK’s history, gathering important and inspiring stories about the people and events that made NETWORK the organization it is today.

In 1971, Monsignor Geno Baroni first discussed the idea of holding a meeting for Catholic Sisters interested in pursuing social justice with Sisters Marjorie Tuite OP, Mary Reilly RSM, and Claire Dugan CSJ. Monsignor Baroni was “frustrated that I hadn’t been able to start a priest’s group to lobby Washington.”

Together, they planned a 3-day meeting in Washington, D.C. and hoped 15 sisters would come. In the end, 47 Sisters from 21 states showed up! There are as many stories of how sisters came to attend that meeting at Trinity College in December 1971 as there were women there.

I’ve uncovered these stories and more from NETWORK’s 50 years of working for economic and social justice, which I’ll be sharing with you over the next month. As we mark this milestone, your support helps us continue the work into the future.

Carol Coston, NETWORK's first Director, 1970'sSome sisters received formal invitations from the organizations they belonged to, while others heard about the meeting from other sisters. Recounting her trip to me, Peggy Neal said “no one with good sense leaves Kansas in a car in December, but we got there.” Sr. Carol Coston, OP, who would become NETWORK’s first director, didn’t even get an invitation – she tagged along with someone.

Sr. Marilyn Huegerich, a Clinton Franciscan in her 20s, was sent by her diocesan Sister’s Council. Her superior, Sr. Cartona Phelan, gave Marilyn permission because she thought the young sister would benefit from the trip. Upon further thought, Sr. Cartona decided to tag along. (Good thing too — it was Sr. Cartona’s idea during the meeting to ask each sister to pledge to raise $50 for the fledging organization.) Sr. Marilyn told me, “Everyone thought Sr. Cartona brought me along, but she came with me!”

More stories soon!