Category Archives: Front Page

Community Conversation: Sisters on the Border

Community Conversation: Sisters on the Border

Mercy Adoga
July 21, 2021

On June 29, 2021, NETWORK hosted a community conversation with the “Sisters on the Borders.” Sr. Doreen Doreen, CSJ, and Sr. Patrice Patrice, CSJ engaged in conversation and shared their experiences.

Sr. Doreen began by mentioning a question she received prior to this conversation. The question was, “How did I become involved in this work?” Sr. Doreen expressed her gratitude for this question as it helped her reflect on her many years of service. She later went on to speak about her experience after Vatican II and how that time pushed her toward direct service. She visited jails, volunteered in homeless shelters, and taught ESL in Spanish-speaking communities. Sr. Doreen said when speaking about her work, “My commitment to living the Gospel led me to this.”

Sr. Patrice spoke next and also shared Sr. Doreen’s experience of reflecting prior to this conversation. Sr. Patrice spoke about her work with refugees in Cambodia, the border of Sudan and Ethiopia as well as Haiti. Sr. Patrice explained that all refugees want to stay in their home countries but their home is no longer safe for them for a variety of reasons including environmental concerns, gang violence, or government mismanagement. Sr. Patrice also joined other Sisters and volunteers in El Paso, Texas to assist migrants. She explained that one, “had to be open to what the needs were.”

With her most recent work in San Diego, CA, Sr. Patrice expressed her gratitude for the different organizations that came together regardless of background to assist refugees. She was also aware of the fact that refugees’ arrival in the states is just the beginning of their journey and that they face many challenges in the immigration process in the United States.

The latter half of the evening was led by Ronnate Asirwatham, NETWORK’s Government Relations Director, who took to explain immigration policies that the Sisters discussed such as Title 42 and MPP(Migrant Protection Protocols) After Ronnate explained these policies, viewers were given reflections questions to discuss in the breakout rooms. These questions included, “What has been your experience with immigration in your community?” “How have certain policies or laws impacted the situation at the border?” “What narratives about immigration do you hear in general? How do those compare to your experience?”

If you would like to learn more or re-watch this conversation, find the recording on NETWORK’s YouTube channel.


Mercy is a graduate student. She is one of the summer volunteers at NETWORK this year and has been working on the Summer Immigration Education and Advocacy Initiative.

Recovery Update: Building Anew with a Bold Recovery Package

Recovery Update: Building Anew with a Bold Recovery Package

Laura Peralta-Schulte
July 21, 2021

Right now, Congress is crafting their budget reconciliation proposal. Over the next weeks and months, our elected officials will decide what policy priorities to include and what to leave out.

Budget reconciliation gives us the opportunity to make bold, transformational investments in our families and our communities by:

  • Making the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit permanent
  • Increasing access to health care, eldercare, childcare, education, and broadband
  • Building affordable housing and increasing access to rental assistance
  • Providing a pathway to citizenship for those with DACA, TPS, farmworkers, and other essential workers
  • Establishing a national paid family and medical leave program, and more.

We cannot go back to the status quo of exclusion and inequality. We must build anew with racial and environmental justice at the center. The recovery package Congressional Democrats are working to pass through budget reconciliation will make bold investments in a more just future. We can afford this by reforming our tax code to ensure that the wealthiest people and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes. We urge Congress to unrig the tax code by:

  • Repealing the 2017 Republican corporate tax cuts
  • Strengthening IRS enforcement to prevent tax evasion
  • Eliminating tax breaks that encourage offshoring
  • Closing tax loopholes used by big corporations to avoid paying their fair share, and more.

Fixing our tax code is essential to closing the racial wealth gap and creating an economy that benefits all of us.

Allying with the We Serve with Love Campaign

NETWORK Allies with the We Serve with Love Campaign

Gina Kelley
July 19, 2021

In June, in celebration of Pride, NETWORK Lobby signed on as an ally of the We Serve with Love Campaign. This important campaign, led by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, aims to lift up faith-based direct service providers providing services to LGBTQ+ people and families. Additionally, this campaign educates faith-based providers on how to offer the most welcoming and safe services to LGBTQ+ people and increases understanding of the intersectionality of poverty and the discrimination people encounter because of their LGBTQ+ identities.

Speaking about NETWORK’s support of this campaign, Chief Lobbyist Laura Peralta-Schulte, said “At NETWORK we advocate for federal policies that respect the dignity and ensure the economic security of all in the United States, no exceptions. Today, 1 in 5 members of the LGBTQ+ community live in poverty, more than double the national rate. No one should have to struggle to make ends meet because of who they are or who they love. Motivated by our faith, which calls us to love one another, NETWORK is proud to support the We Serve with Love campaign, shining a light on faith-based service providers that provide safe and inclusive support to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

We know that people of faith and the LGBTQ+ community are not, and should not be divided against one another. Many people of faith are members of the LGBTQ+ community – around 20% of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. are Catholic. People of faith, and majorities of all voters, support laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. Treating everyone, regardless of their identity, with dignity and respect is a universal value.

We are proud to celebrate the service providers who practice acceptance and love with everyone who needs their aid.

NETWORK Advocates Tell President Biden: End Title 42

NETWORK Advocates Tell President Biden: End Title 42

Audrey Carroll
July 16, 2021

Yesterday, Grassroots Mobilization Coordinator Sister Emily TeKolste, SP and Government Relations Director Ronnate Asirwatham delivered a petition to the White House telling President Biden to End Title 42.

Title 42 has no true medical basis and is causing harm to our immigrant siblings at the southern border. The order also violates the internationally recognized right to seek asylum. Thank you to over 1,600 NETWORK members and supporters that signed the petition urging the Biden Administration to end Title 42 and protect the dignity of immigrants and asylum seekers.

Download the full petition here. 

People Over Profits: Chancellor Merkel Must Release the Vaccine

People Over Profits: Chancellor Merkel Must Release the Vaccine

Andrew Stokely
July 16, 2021

On a typically hot and muggy July morning this week, I headed into downtown Washington, D.C., with a first stop at the historic Lafayette Square by the White House. But I wasn’t there for sightseeing.

Instead, I watched as activists and protestors displayed body bags on the street and launched a giant balloon of Angela Merkel’s likeness.

It was all part of a movement to protest a decision by Merkel, the German chancellor, to oppose Covid-19 vaccine patent waivers. Allowing the waivers is crucial to fighting the pandemic. It would increase the supply of vaccines to countries around the world, especially in places like India and Africa, where many people are suffering and dying as the virus keeps spreading. With Merkel in Washington for a meeting with President Joe Biden, now was the time to make the case for allowing the waiver.

I’m a 17-year-old rising high school senior. If you’re wondering why someone like me was documenting the protest, it’s because I think teens and young people can and should fight for increasing access to global vaccines and encouraging vaccinations here at home. Until the whole world is safe, none of us are safe.

Olivia Rodrigo visited the White House recently to push for young people to get vaccinated. That’s a great first step, but I think it’s also important for my generation to learn and remember how young activists played a major role when the HIV and AIDS epidemic became a public health crisis in the 1980s. “During the first decade of the epidemic, young activists demanded action on the epidemic and successfully advocated for radical changes to the clinical trials and drug approval processes,” according to UNAIDS, an international advocacy group.

We can step up again. This time around, we have social media and we know how to help organize and mobilize protests. We could use everything from TikTok to text messages to get the word out. And just showing up in large numbers can help.

As the protest continued, activists staked out a position across the street from a nearby Johns Hopkins University building, where Merkel was being honored. When she was leaving one of the cars in the motorcade, the protesters yelled, “Release the vaccine!” and, “People are dying!” She ignored them as she went in to accept her award. I wish I could know if she heard the protestors and if she thought about what they said.

But, by the end of the day, I saw that Merkel had not changed her position. I was disappointed. But I also know that change doesn’t always come as quickly as we’d like it to. I want to keep encouraging my peers to speak out about making vaccines available to everyone and the importance of getting vaccinated. I hope that the next demonstration I attend will be one that celebrates this accomplishment.

Andrew Stokely is a member of Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington, Virginia and a rising high school Senior at Washington-Liberty High School.

The Moment is Now: Pass H.R.40

The Moment is Now: Pass H.R.40

Mary Novak
July 16, 2021

On July 13 2021, I joined faith leaders to call on Congress to pass H.R.40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, before the August recess. What a Spirit-Filled gathering with the incomparable Nkechi Taifa, Founder of The Taifa Group; Laura James, Program Coordinator for Grassroots Organizing; Yolanda Savage-Narva Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Director, Union for Reform Judaism; Diane Randall, General Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation; Jarrett Smith, Government Relations Fellow, NETWORK Lobby; Bishop Eugene Sutton, Episcopal Church, Maryland Diocese; Victoria Strang, Policy Advocate with Faith Communities, Human Rights Watch; Reverend Timothy Tutt, Senior Minister, Westmoreland Congregational UCC; and Jim Winker President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches.

What is not named cannot be healed. It is time to name our country’s sickness. Using the frame of the  Catholic tradition — it is time to name our original sin of slavery and move towards repair, reparations. That moment is now.

For the first time, we are talking about reparations in the national conversation. States, local authorities, and religious orders are all moving on reparations. We have been waiting 32 years for this moment. We cannot wait another day or another week. We are  calling on House leadership to bring H.R.40 to the floor. The moment is now.

It is no coincidence the momentum for movement on reparations follows that terrifying day of January 6th. We not only survived that shameful day, but are seeing for what it was: evidence of our need for collective salvation. The moment is now.

We know there is resistance to move towards healing from our collective soul sickness. Resistance comes because healing can be hard and oftentimes painful. We must overcome that resistance because the freedom on the other side is calling us. The moment is now.

My friends:

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul

That balm can begin now, so let’s do this; let us get this Commission going and pass H.R.40. If not, my friends, we must call on President Biden to make it happen by any means necessary. The moment is now.

Watch the Faith for H.R.40 Press Conference to learn more. Watch on Facebook or YouTube.

Stay engaged and find more ways to take action to advance policies that build our systems and structures anew at www.networklobby.org/ActNow.

Called to Serve our Neighbors at the Border

Called to Serve our Neighbors at the Border

Sr. Cecilia Cavanaugh, SSJ
July 15, 2021

In response to the Biden administration’s changes to federal policy at the U.S.-Mexico border this year, Catholic Sisters began traveling to the border to be of service to the influx of children and families entering the U.S. A few weeks ago, I traveled from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to McAllen, Texas with three other Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia, one of our Associates in Mission, and two friends.  

We, the Sisters of Saint Joseph have a special commitment to serving all people who we recognize as “dear neighbor” especially those who are most vulnerable. Eager to serve our dear neighbors migrating into the USA, this is my fourth experience accompanying migrants in their journeys. Being able to “connect some dots” between my past experiences and the present is helpful and inspiring. As I reflect on the first of my two weeks here in Texas, I’m increasingly grateful for encounters I’ve had in recent years. 

Last year, another SSJ Sister and I spent ten days in McAllen. Because of the Trump administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols,” the Center in Texas was almost empty. Instead, we often packed provisions and drove to Brownsville to cross the Río Grande into the refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico. Walking through rows and rows of tents housing families in Matamoros, knowing that the policies of my country created these conditions, branded an indelible mark on my soul.  

This week, our group visited another bridge and some wanted to cross. I could not. I realized that my experience witnessing families trapped in Matamoros last year was traumatic and that I’m still processing.  

Now that policies are changing, hundreds and hundreds of people are being served daily. As overwhelming as my experience this year has been, there is a significant difference. There is movement. The families are on their way. Their hope energizes and lifts me up. I recognize my privilege and blessing in both scenarios. I want to be one with these dear neighbors and can bear witness to their experiences, but I will never share the extent of their pain, distress and trauma. 

Last week, I listened to a woman describe the home she was forced to leave in Guatemala and assaults she and her sons experienced on the journey to the U.S. She anguished over finding her way to her sponsor and shuddered when she looked at her monitoring ankle bracelet. As she spoke, I remembered the simple but beautiful homes and subsistence farms I visited during a 2013 trip to Guatemala; the material poverty was in contrast to a deep sense of history, home, and community.   

When I told her I could picture the homes in Guatemala, she burst out, “I miss my chickens. I miss my chickens.” I can’t stop repeating her words. Those animals represent so much about home, familiarity, and belonging. This person did not want to leave her home. I praised her resilience and bravery and promised her my prayer and that I would not forget her. Her story guarantees it. 

Finally, I remember a week spent last March in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz with our Sisters of Saint Joseph of Lyon. I was visiting a shelter near a border where folks cross into Mexico, having already traveled through parts of Central America. I listened to interactions, heard stories, and learned more about their experiences. Having traveled that week from Philadelphia to Mexico City and then by bus and car to Tierra Blanca, I had a privileged view of the length of their journey.  

We drove through train yards where dozens of men waited to jump on a passing train despite the danger from gangs threatening to extort them and the trains themselves, fast and unforgiving. Watching them leave the shelter in the morning and head out — to my country — I prayed that they would know a welcome after their long journeys. Now, I stand at the other end of that route here in the United States. I welcome my dear neighbors, offer clean clothing, necessities, encouragement, a smile. They set off again. I took a young woman and her toddler to the airport and tried to explain this new experience to her — security lines, what to do if her plane was late or canceled. I felt fearful imagining her layover. I watched her set out and prayed for her. Who will help her? 

In his September 2020 message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis reminded us of our call to “welcome, protect, promote, and integrate” these valiant, vulnerable siblings of ours. He added six pairs of verbs: to know and understand, to be close to and serve, to be reconciled and listen, to grow and share, to be involved and promote, to cooperate, and to build. So much work of body, mind, and spirit! This cannot be completed or even undertaken over the course of a two-week volunteer stint. Rather, such effort must be undertaken by all of us in all the places where we live and minister. The journey does not end at our borders. 

Cecelia J. Cavanaugh SSJ is a Sister of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia and a former Nun on the Bus.   

Our Commitment to Equally Sacred Issues

Our Commitment to Equally Sacred Issues

NETWORK Lobby Staff
July 1, 2021

We know that Catholics, and people of all faiths or no faith, are called to be politically active in many policy areas that promote human dignity and the common good. Our elected officials deserve our encouragement as well as our engagement in addressing today’s most pressing moral and political issues.

As Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, caring for immigrants, dismantling racism, and putting an end to immoral levels of economic inequality are equally sacred to care for the unborn.

We, the people, have valuable and critically important authority. This is true in both our democracy and the Church. During the 2020 election, the members of our Spirit-filled network acted to support “Equally Sacred” issues. You told candidates and fellow voters that abortion is not the only issue that matters to Catholics.

Right now, the NETWORK community is lobbying to advance legislation like the For the People Act, the EQUAL Act, the Dream and Promise Act, H.R.40 (Creating a Reparations Commission), and more. These bills reflect a justice-oriented, multi-issue policy agenda.

We at NETWORK will keep Building Anew by promoting policies that work to dismantle systemic racism, cultivate inclusive community, root our economy in solidarity, and transform our politics. By valuing and practicing justice, our unified commitment is strong.

Download your copy of the “Equally Sacred” Scorecard now.

Eviction Moratorium Remains Extended to July 31

Eviction Moratorium Remains Extended to July 31

Caraline Feairheller
June 30, 2021

The COVID-19 Pandemic has exacerbated the affording housing crisis — leaving millions of renters at risk of losing their homes. Renters of color in the United States disproportionally face this hardship and are now twice as likely to report being at risk of eviction. On June 24, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention extended the eviction moratorium from June 30 until July 31.

Despite being challenged in the courts, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the extension of the eviction ban. This 5 to 4 decision will allow government agencies to continue working on getting Emergency Rental Assistance into the hands of tenants who are in need.

Throughout the pandemic, Congress has provided more than $46 billion in emergency rental assistance through the Consolidate Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan. Recently, the White House and United States Treasury updated their guidance on the qualifications and possibilities of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Renters or landlords apply for this assistance from the state or local entities selected to administer the program, find the right place to apply here.

As clarified by the National Low Income Housing Coalition FAQ on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the updated guidelines:

  • Provide ERA funds to families who have lost or are at risk of losing housing by paying for relocation assistance, prospective rent, security deposits, and temporary hotel accommodations.
  • Provide ERA Funds to families who are temporarily displaced living in hotels or motels.
  • Provide ERA funds to families living in federally subsided housing.

Eligibility for Emergency Rental Assistance Funds:

  • If one or more individuals has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the pandemic.
  • If one or more individuals can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
  • The guidelines do not impose restrictions based on immigration status. State and local governments cannot impose their own immigration status or Social Security requirements.

Finally, when ERA payments are being made on the household’s behalf, landlords are prohibited from evicting renters for nonpayment.

NETWORK welcomes the decisions to extend the eviction moratorium and applauds the Supreme Court for prioritizing the health of the nation. The updated guidelines for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program will keep families in their homes. However, the extension of the eviction moratorium and updated guidelines is only a short-term solution to the affordable housing crisis in the United States. Congress must work to pass the American Jobs Plan in order to honor the human dignity of every person by investing in long-term affordable housing.

Read the Full National Low Income Housing Coalition FAQ Sheet Here.

2021 Is the Year to Pass the Equality Act

2021 Is the Year to Pass the Equality Act

Gina Kelley
June 24, 2021

In many U.S. states, members of the LGBTQ+ community can be fired at will, denied a place to live, and refused medical care. Our LGBTQ+ friends, family, and neighbors can legally face disrespect and discrimination because of who they are and who they love. Discrimination has no home in our country or in our communities. No one should be excluded in a society that respects and supports human dignity.

The Equality Act (H.R.5/S.393) would provide consistent and explicit anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the Equality Act does this by “amending existing civil rights law — including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government — to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex. The Equality Act would also update the public spaces and services covered in current law to include retail stores, services such as banks and legal services, and transportation services.”

These legal protections would ensure that folks in the LGBTQ+ community can fully belong and participate in our society without the risk of being subject to discriminatory and punitive practices.

The Equality Act (H.R. 5) passed the House of Representatives in February of this year. It joins the long list of legislation that will not reach the floor while the filibuster remains. The Equality Act, like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the For the People Act, and more would help us create a more just economy and a more equitable society, and deserve a real chance in the Senate.

At NETWORK, we affirm that our faith calls us to welcome and love everyone—no exceptions. Additionally, many members of the LGBTQ+ community are people of faith – up to 20% LGBTQ+ Americans are Catholic. People of faith and the majority of voters support laws like the Equality Act, which protect members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Not only is this legislation popular but we know that our faith calls us to practice welcome and inclusion and to see and affirm God in all people. NETWORK Lobby urges the Senate to pass the Equality Act and finally include protections for our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers into our country’s fundamental civil rights laws.