Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

Catholic Sisters to President Biden and Senator Schumer: Pass S.1!

Catholic Sisters to President Biden and Senator Schumer: Pass S.1!

Meg Olson
July 26, 2021

Today, NETWORK members delivered a letter signed by 3,685 Sisters in support of S.1, the For the People Act, to President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Schumer. The letter urges President Biden and Senator Schumer not to let minority opposition prevent the Senate passing the For the People Act any longer. Click here to tweet about the Nuns’ Letter or share it with your friends on Facebook.

The Sisters’ message: “As Catholic women religious, we see and affirm the dignity of every person. Knowing that all people are made in the image and likeness of God, we cannot tolerate policies or practices that suppress voters’ ability to participate fully in our democracy, especially Black, Brown, and Native American voters.”

Sister Quincy Howard, OP, NETWORK Government Relations Specialist, who helped organize the letter, said, “Sisters feel a real urgency to respond to the rising threat to our democratic institutions. A healthy democracy is our means for creating a better world and therefore this is a moral issue of the utmost importance.”

Sr. Susan Wilcox, CSJ, a NETWORK member and the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Coordinator for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, helped to deliver the letter to Senator Schumer’s district office. She said, “Voting is a right and a responsibility, but voting rights are under attack. Strict voter registration requirements, extreme partisan gerrymandering, voter purges, and long waits times are disruptive and disenfranchising. We need democracy reform now to protect our next election.”

After receiving the letter, Senator Chuck Schumer said: “Republican state legislatures across the country are engaged in the most sweeping voter suppression in 80 years, and I applaud the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood and beyond for their support of American democracy and for S.1, The For The People Act. The Senate vote I held last month, with all 50 Democrats voting in favor, represented the starting bell – not the finish line – in our fight to protect democracy, and as majority leader, I am exploring all options to bolster voting rights and advance democracy-reform legislation for another vote on the Senate floor.”

Amplify the Sisters’ Message, Join Team Democracy

With Congressional redistricting starting soon, now is a critical time to protect our democratic institutions. NETWORK members are organizing local events to raise support for the provisions included in S.1. If you are in one of the cities below, be sure to join your local “Team Democracy” event. (More local events still to be announced!)

  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Flourtown, Pennsylvania
  • Monroe, Michigan

Learn more about these events and R.S.V.P. at networklobby.org/TeamDemocracy.

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. 

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.

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.

Honoring Pride Month by Ending LGBTQ+ Housing Disparities

Honoring Pride Month by Ending LGBTQ+ Housing Disparities

Caraline Feairheller
June 14, 2021

The month of June marks the beginning of Pride Month. First celebrated in 1970 as a commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, the month is both a celebration of LGBTQ+ individuals and the LGBTQ+ community and a recognition of the violence faced by LGBTQ+ communities throughout history – violence that continues to this day. This Pride Month, we call on the Biden administration and Congress to pass federal policies that bring justice and equality for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States.

LGBTQ+ people face multi-faceted and intersecting forms of stigma and discrimination across their lifetime. The inequities faced by LGBTQ+ communities do not only take the form of physical violence but often also stem from discriminatory policies, including our country’s unjust lack of affordable housing. Access to safe, stable, affordable housing is a human right. However, the rising costs of housing paired with the legacy of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in housing continues to threaten the physical and mental health of LGBTQ+ people in the United States. Today, LGBTQ+ people experience higher rates of poverty and lower raters of homeownership compared to non-LGBTQ+ people. The lack of explicit legal protections has led to one in five transgender and non-binary people facing housing discrimination and nearly one in ten having been evicted.

It is critical that the Biden administration and Congress support housing policies that honor the dignity of each person and ensure all have access to safe and affordable housing. In order to build anew and cultivate an inclusive community, anti-LGBTQ+ housing discrimination policies and practices must end. In particular, these federal policies must extend protections for Black trans women who face an epidemic of violence and immoral rates of discrimination because at the intersection of racism, transphobia, and sexism. While there is still much work to do, President Biden’s American Jobs Plan is a necessary start to reshape our country’s housing.

The American Jobs Plan would allocate $213 billion to build, preserve, and retrofit 2 million homes by:

  • Creating public housing and addressing capital needs following years of disinvestment in our public housing ($40 billion)
  • Instituting Neighborhood Homes Investment Act tax credits for low- and middle-income homebuyers to build or rehabilitate 500,000 homes in underserved communities ($20 billion)
  • Developing 1 million affordable, resilient, accessible, energy-efficient, and electrified housing units in underserved communities nationwide, including rural and tribal areas ($126 billion)

In addition to the programs and funding included in the American Jobs Plan, NETWORK calls on Congress to increase funding for public housing in order to adequately meet the needs of our country’s families and provide housing vouchers to all who qualify by creating a universal housing voucher program.

Along with increased investments in housing, the Senate should pass the Equality Act (H.R.5), which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing as well as other areas.

Housing is a basic human right and the foundation for a person’s ability to meet their needs and achieve their God-given purpose. Justice demands that every member of our human family is protected from discrimination; Congress must allocate funding and pass policies that protect the rights of all LGBTQ+ individuals.

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

Virtual Lobby Day: Dismantling Racism in Our Criminal Legal System

Virtual Lobby Day: Dismantling Racism in Our Criminal Legal System

Caraline Feairheller
June 1, 2021

On May 12, 2021, more than 120 justice-seekers from across the country went on 50 lobby visits to urge their Representatives to co-sponsor and vote YES on the EQUAL Act (H.R.1693). Thanks to you, our community of activists, the EQUAL Act now has ten new cosponsors – moving us closer to a criminal legal system that provides fair and equal justice under law!

For decades, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses has contributed to our country’s shameful legacy of systemic racism and mass incarceration despite being two forms of the same substance. As Executive Director of New Hour for Women and Children Serena Ligouri said at the Lobby Day Kick-Off Rally, “It is by no mistake, in fact it is intentional that racism has continue to perpetuate disproportionate sentencing in the carceral system. It is no longer okay to let our legislators stand back and perpetuate this in our communities.” As we celebrate our advocates for educating our elected officials on the importance of the EQUAL Act, we know there is much more work to do.Mary J. Novak emphasizes how “being sentenced in today’s U.S. criminal legal system is essentially a life sentence if you consider the severe consequences economically, the disruptions in family life, the limited future access to employment, housing, voting, the stigma, the trauma to both the person incarcerated and that person’s family.” In order to build anew, Congress must pass legislation that lifts bans on housing assistance and other social safety net programs for those who have been released from incarceration.

Every person is made in the image and likeness of God and deserves respect, dignity, and equal justice under law. We must support each other in these challenging times and continue working to pass policies like the EQUAL Act and George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. This will help dismantle systemic racism, eliminate the wealth and income gap, improve the wellbeing of our communities, and allow all people to thrive.

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

Mary Novak Named in “2021’s Faith Leaders to Watch”

Mary Novak Named in “2021’s Faith Leaders to Watch”

Audrey Carroll
May 28, 2020

Recently, the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at Center for American Progress (CAP) released a list of “21 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2021.”

The list highlights the important work of faith leaders in leading our communities towards progressive, equitable change. NETWORK’s Mary Novak was included on CAP’s list alongside Anthea Butler (@AntheaButler), an associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies and interim chair of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Shantha Ready Alonso, a former NETWORK staff member who led Creation Justice Ministries (@CreationJustice) before becoming Director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs at the Department of the @Interior.

When asked how her faith inspires her, Mary told CAP:

“My grounding in the Catholic intellectual and social tradition, lived through my Ignatian spirituality, motivates my work to transform federal policies and shapes me as a restorative justice practitioner. This prophetic, living tradition compels me to act out of a faith doing justice that is inclusive, centered on race and human dignity, and trauma-informed. Catholic sisters founded NETWORK to center those who are forced to the margins by our systems and structures. For me, this praxis is an essential place of connection, solidarity, and inspiration. Society has prioritized the powerful for too long.”

We are thrilled Mary’s leadership at NETWORK and commitment to advancing the Build Anew Agenda has been recognized amongst many other instrumental faith leaders. See the full list of CAP’s “2021’s Faith Leaders to Watch” here.

Pentecost and the Call for Reparations

Pentecost and the Call for Reparations

Jarrett K. Smith, NETWORK Lobby and Minister Christian S. Watkins, National Council of Churches
May 21, 2021

As we continue commemorate Pentecost this year, we are reminded of the strange and new power that came and rested upon the Apostles and other followers of Christ. The gift of the Holy Spirit was God’s way of showing and sharing His power so that the disciples could do great and extraordinary things.

We are heirs and spiritual descendants of those who were present for that event. That same power and spirit that was upon them is also upon us to do immeasurable tasks and feats as well! Today, we see the ways that systemic racism is holding back the true potential of our country and doing grave harm to our communities. In the spirit of Pentecost, we must take action to stake a moral claim against racism on our country.

Due to past and present systemic racism, Black people are pushed to the margins of our society; with lower rates of homeownership, greater difficulty securing reliable transportation, higher rates of food insecurity, and all the things that contribute to a person’s wellbeing. These conditions are manmade. Systemic racism is built into every historical and contemporary system and institution of U.S. society, placing Black people at a constant disadvantage.

The results of this widespread, systemic racism are perceived by the rest of society as normal.  Soaring rates of mass incarceration serve as a way to destroy the Black family unit. Street executions by law enforcement, painfully reminiscent of the violent slave patrols, threaten Black men and women every day. Given our country’s history (and our lack of reckoning with it), it is no wonder that those who commit these atrocities often garner no punishment.

Inspired by the feast of Pentecost and the nation-wide movement for racial justice, we call on Congress to pass H.R.40 (The Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act). We need legislation to examine the impact of chattel slavery, Black Codes, convict leasing, Jim Crow, redlining, access to fair housing, education, employment opportunities, and the list goes on. H.R.40 is the first step to understanding and quantifying the continued impact the legacy of U.S. slavery has had on the Black people.

We can see the devastating effect of white supremacy on Black people throughout the United States with our own eyes. It is time for Congress to support a start to end institutional racism. Passing H.R.40 to establish this commission on reparations would be a start.  As our scriptures affirm, God hears the cry of those considered “least” in our society. Now, we ask, will Congress hear those cries as well and act?


Call Your Representative NOW: 888-422-4555
Tell them to pass a H.R.40 and establish a Reparations Commission!


Jarrett K. Smith is a Government Relations Fellow at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and Councilmember for Ward 5 in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Minister Christian S. Watkins is the Justice Advocacy and Outreach Manager for the National Council of Churches.

NETWORK Virginia Advocates Team Lobbies for COVID-19 Relief

NETWORK Virginia Advocates Team Lobbies for COVID-19 Relief

May 17, 2021

I am a longtime supporter of NETWORK with financial contributions, prayer support, and occasionally (pre-pandemic) attending in-person witnesses in Washington, D.C. I am also a longtime admirer of the women religious and the lay leaders at NETWORK.

For many years, I have been immersed in advocacy for justice, especially in state and local organizations in my home state of Virginia. Like so many other justice-seekers, the dawn of 2021 and the inauguration of our newly elected president brought rays of sunshine and hope that We the People were embarking on a new journey replete with reform and improvement for all, but especially for people struggling on the margins of our great country.

I was invited to join NETWORK advocates in northern Virginia to advocate for President Biden’s legislative initiatives to rescue the American people from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic and to restore many of the basics of our country’s democratic systems fractured under the previous administration. NETWORK provided me with a unique opportunity to learn about proposed legislation and why it was critical to persuade Congress to pass it. As a NETWORK Advocate, I received resources that explained the problem, proposed solutions and gave me tips for how to present it to my Members of Congress. NETWORK also provided materials (“leave behinds”) to share with our legislators and their staff.

Our small group of enthusiastic advocates for justice met in advance (virtually) to discuss the legislation we planned to raise with the Senators, choose the specific issue on which each of us wanted to focus and outlined a strategy for our meet-up. We took a couple of days to study our focus-areas in the legislation and then had a final brief meeting (virtual) for a practice lobby meeting. By the time we met with our Senators’ staff, I felt like I was sufficiently knowledgeable to share my concerns for struggling people and why the proposed legislation would help solve the problems we wanted addressed.

Now, I am more attentive to what is happening on the federal stage and am looking forward to further collaboration and participation with NETWORK Advocates.

Anne Murphy
New Member of the Virginia NETWORK Advocates Team

This article was originally published in Connection. Read the full issue here.