Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

Guest Blog: Celebrating Our Dreams, Our Families in the Face of Threats to Family Reunification

Celebrating Our Dreams, Our Families in the Face of Threats to Family Reunification

Sam Yu
August 31, 2018

In February, the Senate voted on four different immigration bills for our undocumented young people. They all included plans to cut family-based immigration and they all failed to pass. Moreover, the Trump administration was doubling down on using harmful rhetoric around “chain migration” in order to further alienate and dehumanize communities whose families benefit from family-based sponsorship.

An overwhelming majority of Asian Americans come to the U.S. through the family-based sponsorship, meaning that any cuts directly impact our community. Forcing immigrant youth to choose between their futures and their families is pure blackmail and intolerable.

In order to spark dialogue and fight back against the harmful “chain migration” rhetoric, NAKASEC and affiliates launched the Our Dreams, Our Families” campaign. During February and March, we shared stories of impacted folks from our community whose families have benefited or will benefit from family-based sponsorship. All of the stories can be found at

In one of our stories, Esther, our DACAmented young leader, explained how “it infuriated [her] that members of Congress, even our so called ‘allies,’ would think that [she] would ever want a pathway to citizenship that would prevent [her] from sponsoring [her] own parents… Our parents made us who we are today, our parents are the original Dreamers, and when you celebrate the achievements of Dreamers like [her], you are celebra

ting the achievements of not just our parents but our friends and our communities.”

Esther’s story and her declaration that her mother deserves to stay too captures the essence of the “Our Dreams, Our Families” campaign. We are asking Congress to value our families, protect family-based sponsorship, and fully understand that we cannot support undocumented young people without also supporting their families. Families are a cornerstone of American values and they deserve to stay together!

Sam Yu is the Communications Coordinator at NAKASEC. NAKASEC organizes Korean and Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice. Learn more at

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Guest Blog: Living out Our Hope That All May Be One

Living out Our Hope That All May Be One

Father Jim F. Callahan
August 24, 2018

Worthington, Minnesota is a community of 13,000 people, located in the Southwest corner of the state. It is a diverse community with 64 nationalities, living, working and worshipping together. The Latino population comprises the largest immigrant community. Seventy-five percent of our public school children speak Spanish as their first language. Most members of our immigrant communities come without documentation.

People often wonder how Worthington has the second largest immigrant community in the state. What draws immigrants here are the meat packing plants in the city and surrounding communities as well as the numerous farms throughout the region.

The challenges facing the immigrant communities in Worthington are racism, prejudice, and discrimination. Lack of affordable housing, medical, and dental care are also challenges that the community faces. As a result of the need for medical care, we established the Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Clinic, and later, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Dental Clinic. Anyone without insurance is welcome. We became a 501(c)(3) four years ago, and have seen over 1200 patients.

The Parish of St. Mary is a church of hospitality. Our primary objective is to make the parish a welcoming and safe haven for all people. After the election of Donald Trump, fear seized our community. We announced to the parish we would do everything possible to help and protect our people. The staff prayed and studied what would be the most Gospel-based response to this crisis. Already we were experiencing families being torn apart by deportation and mothers separated from their children. So we unanimously decided that we had to become a Sanctuary Church. Since our declaration of becoming a Sanctuary Church, we have received support from the diocese and individuals and faith communities around the state.

We believe Sanctuary has biblical roots and we have mandate to proclaim justice for all people, regardless of race, creed, or color.

We work closely with the Immigrant Law Center based in St. Paul. We established a steering committee made up of immigrants and community leaders and the church sponsors programs, workshops, and listening sessions related to topics which affect the community. As a Catholic Faith Community whose foundation is the Eucharist, we have an obligation to live out the pillars of Catholic Social Teaching, living out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

St. Mary’s Parish prays for comprehensive immigration reform and for the end of this reign of terror, where families will no longer hide in the shadows, where families will no longer be separated or children taken from their parents because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or who they call God.

Our prayer is as a Nation, as a Church, as a People, that one day all may be one.

Father Jim F. Callahan is Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Worthington, MN.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Jessica Pauly

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.

We Cannot Allow This Cruelty in Our Country

We Cannot Allow This Cruelty in Our Country

Fighting Immoral Policies Tearing Families Apart at the Border

U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal
August 17, 2018

Our nation is in crisis. The words on the Statue of Liberty—”Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—seem far away as families on the border are separated as a result of President Donald Trump’s inhumane and cruel “zero tolerance” policy.  The policy has resulted in thousands of children being placed in tent cities, shelters, and foster homes across the nation, with no plan to reunite them with their parents.

Two weeks ago, I spoke with 174 women who were, at the administration’s orders, transferred thousands of miles from the southern border to a federal prison just outside Seattle. Most of these women were asylum-seekers, fleeing rape, violence, and persecution. The majority had been held in various facilities for over two weeks, many for over a month.

The mothers had been separated from their children at the border, and not a single one had spoken to their children since then. All but two of the mothers did not even know where their children were. They wept as they told me that they had been “deceived” by agents who told them to just leave the room for a minute to take a picture or see a judge, and when they returned, their children were gone. They didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.

The women I spoke to had already made heartbreaking choices in deciding to come to the United States. One woman told me that her oldest child was shot killed by gangs, her second shot and paralyzed, and that she had to leave that paralyzed child in order to try and save her third child. She had been separated from that last child at the border and had not seen him in a month. Another woman traveled to the border with one child, leaving another child who was blind behind because she knew he could not make the difficult journey.

I am an immigrant and a mother, and what I heard breaks my heart.

We must demand that Trump fix the crisis he created, and reject his false claims that he has taken any action to do that. The executive order he signed does not reverse his zero-tolerance policy that created these abuses and violations; instead, it allows for the indefinite detention of children and their parents in family prison camps. His administration has challenged a previous court settlement that clearly states that children cannot be detained for more than 20 days. That means that, very soon, either he is going to separate families again or he is going to defy that court order and continue to detain children illegally. Does anyone seriously believe that incarcerating children is a solution to the crisis the president has created?

On top of that, the administration has no plans to reunite the thousands of children who have already been separated.

We cannot stand for this. As one of only a dozen members of Congress born outside of the United States, I began my organizing in the wake of 9-11, forming Washington’s largest immigrant advocacy organization to combat the abuses at the time against Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs, and immigrants. I saw then that strength emerges in times of crisis and that is what we must focus on building all over again today. That’s why I’m calling on Trump to overturn his zero-tolerance policy, reunite families, and release them from their prisons.

This isn’t about politics—it’s about right and wrong. We have to stand up for America.

Representative Pramila Jayapal represents the state of Washington’s seventh district. The first Indian-American woman in the House of Representatives, Representative Jayapal has spent the last twenty years working internationally and domestically as a leading national advocate for women’s, immigrant, civil, and human rights.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Humanizing the Immigration Debate: A Conversation with United We Dream

Humanizing the Immigration Debate: A Conversation with United We Dream

August 10, 2018

United We Dream, a youth-led organization with hundreds of thousands of members, is one of the strongest voices for immigrant rights in our nation. United We Dream has shaped the immigration debate on Capitol Hill and across the country since it was founded, advocating for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), and other legislation on the national, state, and local levels to improve the lives of immigrants and their families. 

Recently, NETWORK Government Relations Associate, Sana Rizvi, interviewed Juan Manuel Guzman, Community and Government Affairs Manager at United We Dream, to hear more about United We Dream’s history, current advocacy, and vision for a future of just immigration policy. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Sana: Hi Juan Manuel, thanks for talking with us. Could you give us a brief history of how United We Dream was created and how important it was, in that process, to be an immigrant-led organization?

Juan Manuel: Yes, absolutely. The co-founders of United We Dream, Cristina Jimenez and Julieta Garibay, always tell us how United We Dream  started. As you know in 2001, there was this Dream Act. It was a bill that was introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), but it wasn’t up until 2006 or 2007 when immigrant youth, Dreamers, from different parts of the country had the opportunity to meet each other.

One of the catalysts of having United We Dream form is that idea of “Oh my gosh you are undocumented like me, but you live in another state and I didn’t know you existed.” So, United We Dream started as a network, a network of young immigrants who basically shared the same stories or similar stories and lived similar things here in the United States as undocumented immigrants. They decided to say, “Okay, you live in Texas, I live in New York, let’s keep in touch and see how we can move things forward.” So, that’s how it all started.

I think there was a point in the movement in which people, or at least the young people, their input was not as valid because young people making decision for themselves was not that mainstream. So, there was that need of people saying “No, I need to have a say about my life. Not only am I somebody who will tell his or her story, but I also want to be at that table where the decisions happen. I want to be able to influence that.” Because up until then it was other organizations doing the work and immigrant youth just being called to say their stories. More than the photo-op, immigrant youth wanted to have more influence on their own lives. So, they tell us that it all started with one desk. United We Dream only had a desk and a phone and people just trying to make the most out of it. As you know, it went from that desk and now it’s been 10 years.

Sana: We know that one of United We Dream’s guiding principles is “Our Stories are Power.” How do you use the power of stories in both mobilizing supporters and lobbying elected officials?

Juan Manuel: I think when politicians and the media and everyone talks about immigration in particular, it is a very hot issue. Sometimes when you don’t put a face to that, to those reports, when you don’t do that, you don’t humanize. What the stories do is basically put a face, a story, a human being, to what is being discussed. Politicians can talk a lot about policy but it is only when you understand the effect on people when it starts to make sense for you whether that policy is right or it’s wrong. So the stories are very powerful.

I did a lot of advocacy meetings with Republican offices for the DREAM Act campaign, for example. And you know, me, an undocumented immigrant, talking to Republican offices, that is not easy. But when I told them about the sacrifices of our families, for example, I remember telling this to one staffer: I told her, “Our families— our dads, or moms, our cousins— they worked hard for a better future. From dawn to sunset in backbreaking jobs, sometimes being abused, sometimes being treated unfairly, so we can have a better chance” and people would relate to that and say, “My mom worked a lot too and made a lot of sacrifices and you know what, I understand. It makes sense.” That is why our stories are so powerful.

Sana: What do you think is the most significant campaign that United We Dream has worked on in the past?

Juan Manuel: What a question. Probably the one that had the most impact is our DACA campaign. In 2010, right after the failure of the DREAM Act in Congress, United We Dream and other organizations decided to see how we could move into an executive branch strategy. Eventually, after a lot of work, activism, and organizing, immigrant youth were able to force the hand of the president of the United States into signing an executive order. It was the organizing, it was the strategizing, it was everything that made DACA happen. And that had, as you’ve probably seen, a huge impact on the lives of people, of families. It is not just about the DACA recipient who was able to get a work permit and be protected from deportation, but it was also an impact on the families, the economy, and the communities where we live. I think that is one of the most important results from our organizing.

Sana: So, moving onto the current situation which is, unfortunately, attacks on DACA and attacks on the immigrant community. With all of this, how is United We Dream balancing its priorities and what are some of your current campaigns?

Juan Manuel: I have to say the end of DACA [by President Trump] had a huge impact on United We Dream, because we are primarily led by undocumented young people. So the end of DACA took us to a 7-month [legislative] campaign for the Dream Act. That happened until March 5. We fought, we did everything that we could to find a legislative solution, but ultimately, politicians were not able to come up with a solution that provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth but at the same time doesn’t hurt our families. So after March we decided to go back to the drawing board and see what is next.

I think at this moment what is important is that there have been a lot of leaders that emerged during the DREAM Act campaign. Even though there is that difficult reality that the future of the DACA program is in limbo, people have this energy, this willingness, to fight, to do something for their communities, to step up. There are many people in the country that we need to be involved at the local level. We have to see how we can protect immigrants at the local level. How do we work with the city council, how do we work with the school districts, how do we work with local organizations so we protect immigrants? Especially for people who are not protected or are losing protections, like TPS recipients or our own family who do not have any protection. How do we push for policies and people who are going to not only support us, but putting a stop to what has been coming from the federal government?

Sana: What keeps you all hopeful during this time? As an organization, I see United We Dream get up after we have a defeat and say, “Okay we are going to keep working, we are going to keep doing this.” What keeps that hope up?

Juan Manuel: I think we were able to see that in the DREAM Act campaign. We worked really long hours. We used to wake up really early, go to bed really late at night. Every day: working, going to Congressional offices, doing visits, doing actions, doing everything. We used all our energy and we were tired and it was difficult and it was cold, but at the same time you could see that people were still hopeful, were still energized and willing to fight. I think when you see that even though you might be tired, you might be burned out, you also have this sense of hope. In the worst times you can get the best out of people and I think that’s what gives me hope. When we didn’t have any certainty about our lives, it became the greatest leadership that we’ve seen. I think that’s what gives me hope that this is not over yet. We are going to keep fighting.

Sana: What is your long-term vision for just immigration policies in our country?

Juan Manuel: I think United We Dream has set it up clearly. It is not just about immigration. It goes beyond immigration. That was one thing we were able to see with President Trump coming to power. It is only not immigrants who are being attacked. It is also women. It is also our Muslim brothers and sisters. It is also the LGBTQ community that is being attacked, the environment. So I think the future for United We Dream and the vision is that we want to build this network of people, of people of conscience that want to work on behalf of these issues.

But most importantly, we want to seek racial justice because immigration is also a racial issue. You are seeing black and brown kids being separated from their families right now. They are not white kids. They are black and brown kids being separated from their families and black and brown people being incarcerated at such high levels. In the case of immigrants in detention centers, immigration detention centers, which are just jails— I can tell you that that is the future. Racial justice for issues that affect black and brown communities.

Sana: Are you hopeful that we will be victorious?

Juan Manuel: I think that sometimes we have to stumble and we have to fall a little bit so we can see the direction of our lives. I think that‘s true on a personal basis but also as a country. I think the country itself is waking up and people are saying, “I don’t agree with separating children, that’s not right. I don’t know what kind of political views you have but that is not a political issue, that’s a moral issue.” And I think people coming from that moral point of view will be able to say, “That is not the direction that we are going to go.” And I think progress, of course, is not linear, sometimes you have to take one step back to get two steps or three steps forward.

Sana: Can you give one word to describe how this movement makes you feel?

Juan Manuel: Wow, that’s a profound question. I think empowered. I joined the movement right around when Donald Trump was about to become the presidential nominee for the Republican Party. Before that, I was in the shadows and I felt very disempowered. That’s how you just feel. You don’t know your future here in the country. All these things being said about you and your community and your people. I had so much frustration and anger inside myself because of all the hateful things I was hearing. It was through the movement in United We Dream that I could feel empowered. I was able to say, “We can have an impact on the direction of our lives.”

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Fr. Terry Moran

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Fr. Terry Moran

Fr. Terry Moran
July 10, 2018

Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.

I am a Catholic priest, an associate of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace, and currently minister as the Director of the Office of Peace, Justice, and Ecological Integrity for the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, a congregation of women religious, mostly in New Jersey, with some sisters in other states and in Haiti and El Salvador.

How did you first learn about NETWORK and what inspired you to get involved?

I remember when NETWORK was founded and the excitement it generated in sisters who were friends of mine.  NETWORK incarnated what we were talking about in theology after Vatican II – that the gospel compelled us to become involved in the political process, to build on our history of direct service by engaging in structural change.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Climate change and learning how to foster a healthier human/Earth relationship is my greatest passion. Any other social issue is contingent on us facing the climate crisis. There can be no just human society on a dying planet.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

In as many ways as possible: I send out regular action alerts on issues that are important to us; a monthly e-newsletter called JustLove; two ecospirituality groups that meet monthly; regular workshops and talks; a Facebook page; recently I distributed a refrigerator magnet with a graphic of our Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) priority issues so that the sisters think about them as they get their morning orange juice.

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

I come from a family in which political engagement was an important value so there’s a restlessness in my genes for a world that is more just, peaceful, and verdant.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

My religious formation was in the early post-Vatican II days when “a faith that does justice” was shaking our sleepy 1950’s Catholicism. I’m very happy that Pope Francis is putting the social agenda of the gospel front and center again. I think his encyclical Laudato Si’ is the most compelling program available today for where the world needs to go.

Who is your role model?

Two people that are daily inspirations for me: Margaret Anna Cusack, the founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace –the community of which I’m an associate. She was a 19th century Irish social justice advocate and prolific writer who drove bishops crazy.  Her book Women’s Work in Modern Society (1875) was among the first to explore the role of women in economic life. I love her quote, “People make a lot of the sufferings of the Desert Fathers but they were nothing compared to the sufferings of the mothers of the 19th century.”

Another is Daniel Berrigan, SJ, who has been a mentor for me since I first met him on his release from prison in my hometown, Danbury, CT in 1972. His contemplative searching of the scriptures that led to a life of resistance to war has been a life-long model for me.

Right now, I am most inspired by my seven friends of the Kings Bay Plowshares action who entered the largest Trident submarine base in the world on April 4, 2018 and enacted the prophecy of Isaiah 2 by hammering and pouring blood on these instruments of mass destruction.  I have their photo on my desk and often turn to it in the course of the day in gratitude and prayer. Their willingness to put their own lives and plans on hold and to risk prison for the sake of the gospel of non-violent resistance is tremendously inspiring to me.

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

“The world is violent and mercurial–it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love–love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”– Tennessee Williams

What social movement has inspired you?

Growing up in the 60’s, I’ve been deeply formed by my involvement in the peace movement and the women’s movement. I remember participating in the first Earth Day in 1970.  Most recently I’m very inspired by Black Lives Matter, the leadership taken by young people against gun violence, and the work of an organization of Dreamers called Cosecha who are risking their own safety for dignity for all the undocumented.

What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?

That I haven’t lost my mind and have been able to keep going in the vile political climate in which we live.

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

Starting an organic garden on our motherhouse property. There is something healing about getting your hands in the dirt. Also working with a local organization to welcome a third refugee family.

It’s Time to Nominate New Board Members

Help Us Find New Board Members!

August 27, 2018

NETWORK is now seeking three new Board members to join the NETWORK Lobby and NETWORK Advocates Boards in 2019! We are inviting all of our members to participate wholeheartedly in a “name-raising” process to help identify potential candidates to fill these positions.

If you know someone who would excel in this role, including yourself, please complete the name-raising form at by September 1.

Read more about who we are looking for and the requirements for being a Board member.

  • Who do you know who has a passion for justice?
  • Who comes to mind when you think of valuable Board members?
  • Do you know of justice-seekers who represent NETWORK’s values?

As you know, NETWORK educates, organizes, and lobbies for social and economic transformation. As an organization founded by Catholic Sisters, we value women’s leadership, we appreciate people from religious and secular backgrounds, we affirm members of the LGBT+ community, and we engage in the ongoing work to become a multicultural anti-racist organization. Do you know someone who should join us on our Boards?

In the coming days, please take time to prayerfully consider people whom you believe would be an asset to the NETWORK Boards. Speak to those persons who come to mind and let them know you are raising their name as a candidate for a position on the Boards. Finally, complete the name-raising form at no later than September 1.

We look forward receiving your nominations soon!

If you have questions about the process, please email

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Rachelle Wenger

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Rachelle Wenger

Rachelle Wenger
June 25, 2018

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

I first learned about NETWORK through Dignity Health. Dignity Health is one of the largest healthcare systems in the nation. Its mission is to deliver compassionate, high quality, affordable health care service—especially to those who are poor and vulnerable. Advocacy is central to its mission, and NETWORK has been a longtime partner in helping the organization to advance its policy priorities. As the Director of Public Policy & Community Advocacy, I can’t imagine being able to do my work without our collaboration with NETWORK.

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

To sum it up, it’s the Sister-Spirit that inspires me and that continually draws me in. I’ve been so fortunate to grow up (and be raised by) incredible women religious. They’ve shaped my love for people and community since I was a little girl—through my formative years in elementary school and high school. And as I came to Dignity Health as a young mother and someone starting out in a career in Catholic healthcare, it was always the Sister-Spirit that moved me, made most sense to me, and gave me the reason for why and how I’m called to this work.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Other than health and healthcare, I’m most passionate about immigration, equity issues (homelessness and poverty), and the environment. As an immigrant to this country from the Philippines at age of five, I have a deep understanding of what it means to be “the other,” to be displaced and to be indebted (this utang ng loob, literally translated in Tagalog means, “a debt of one’s inner self”). All this while continuing to practice what it means to be authentically one’s self, value this broader sense of being home, and give back to and cherish community. There is so much suffering in our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world today. I believe that our passions direct us to seek justice, build meaningful connections, and experience joy and love.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

I get to wake up to the best job in the world. I wouldn’t even call it work, except that I actually get paid for doing something I love. At Dignity Health, I get to live out my passions, work on social justice issues at both the legislative/regulatory policy and community levels, mobilize grassroots advocacy efforts, and partner with so many amazing organizations, businesses, and leaders of all sorts of shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

I’m often on a plane these days and I never seem to tire looking out of the window—the view still takes my breath away. The sun sometimes gets too bright or the darkness too mysterious and I have to put the window cover down. And so I close my eyes to reflect and pray. Life is so precious. Every day that we get to have to be in it, to be a part of it, and do our part for it—makes me feel so blessed. Advocacy is more than just seeking social justice; it’s actually experiencing this incredible gift in the world called humanity.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

Faith is all things quite alive in and around me, and is also in those things in between that seem like contradictions—that in the moment can’t get quite pinned down by time. In a word, faith is everything to me. Faith lets me know that the work I do to advance justice matters—that it’s meaningful and that there’s more work still to be done.

Who is your role model?

Wow, to pick one would be impossible for me. Every day, at every turn, there is someone or even something that inspires me and that I want to practice to become. Like my dad, who is recovering from a stroke and who I see fighting his way back from paralysis to walk again; like Sister Regina Ann, who I got to know during a break at a NETWORK Board retreat while we sat under a dogwood tree as if the chaos of time stopped for a moment so we could enjoy the beautiful spring afternoon; like my children, Keana Sky and Tristan Blue, who show me the resilience and unbreakable bond of love.

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

I recently gave a TedTalk style presentation at the closing plenary session of a CleanMed conference, since titled “Finding Your Voice in the Climate Story.” And there was this one quote from Nigerian storyteller Chimanda Ngozi Adichie that I included: “The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story…The consequence of the single story is this: … It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult.”

It’s just such a powerful way of recognizing what harm we do to ourselves and each other when we fall for the single story. How truly precious everyone’s voice is and how our own story contributes to the greater story of what is humanity.

What social movement has inspired you?

There are lessons to be gained from all the modern day social movements. The one I’m most interested in right now is how our country will continue to grapple with healthcare so that it is accessible and affordable to all. We’ve been able to make gains, but we’ve also made some steps backwards. What inspires me most are the many women and men that work day in and day out to care for others—despite the political winds, despite the brokenness still of our nation’s healthcare system, despite the long road ahead to one day get to a place where we no longer look at healthcare solely as a human right, but as something everyone can depend on during their time of need.

NETWORK Celebrates Pride

NETWORK Celebrates Pride

NETWORK Communications Team
June 13, 2018

Happy Pride Month! Our faith teaches us that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities have human dignity, and that is surely something to celebrate!

At NETWORK, we acknowledge that too often members of the LGBTQ+ community are not recognized to extent that they should be. This is true in all of society – but it is especially true in Catholic and other religious settings.

Of course, NETWORK has ‘Catholic’ in our name, which means that very often people hear that word and draw conclusions (not entirely unwarranted) about what our positions may be on issues like LGBTQ+ equality. Especially this month, as the LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride, and moving forward, NETWORK wants to make it clear that we welcome and affirm all members of the LGBTQ+ community. We are actively working so that all justice-seekers can find a home in NETWORK, when other religious corners of the country (or of the internet) can feel particularly polarizing. NETWORK was founded by Catholic Sisters, is motivated by Catholic Social Justice, and is open to all who share our passion.

NETWORK and our society (including those of us who are allies) need to do a better job of acknowledging the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in our shared work for justice. We recognize that many members of the LGBTQ+ community can experience injustices when they shop, where they work, and beyond. We also know that many members of the LGBTQ+ community are working alongside us on all justice issues. As we look forward at mending the gaps in our society with an intersectional focus, we promise to do our best to recognize the many identities our justice-seekers have.

To all LGBTQ+ members of the NETWORK community: Happy Pride Month! We see you, we affirm you, and we are grateful for all that you do to make the world a more just place.


Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Sister Erin Zubal

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Sister Erin Zubal

Sister Erin Zubal
June 4, 2018

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

I learned about NETWORK from the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland Social Justice Office when I first entered the community.  NETWORK has informed and educated me on many social justice issues, which in turn has empowered me to do advocacy work.

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

I was inspired to take action with Nuns on the Bus in 2016.  The goal of the trip was “to bring a politics of inclusion to divided places, change the conversation to mending the vast economic and social divides in our country, and counter political incivility with a message of inclusion.” Our world is in great need of this and I believe it is important to advocate for systemic change that seeks to address the needs of our brothers and sisters who are underserved. What better way to do this than travel the country to listen to the realities and lived experiences of people in our own communities—and then take those stories to our elected officials and encourage them to legislate for the common good.

What issue area(s) are you most passionate about?

Housing, healthcare and advocating for a faithful budget.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

My faith has deeply inspired my work for peace and justice.  As an Ursuline Sister of Cleveland, the story and legacy of martyrs Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Jean Donovan have had a tremendous impact on my call to work for systemic change in our world.  Even though I was not yet born when the women were killed, their history and legacy shared with me by my sisters has formed and shaped me as a woman religious. We must continue the work of those who have gone before us—and be faithful to the call as women of faith, committed to contemplation, justice and compassion in all we do.

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

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lilla Watson

What social movement has inspired you?

The youth of our world who are standing up and allowing their voices to be heard on critical issues.  I am so inspired and filled with hope witnessing the good work of the next generation.

Erin Zubal is an Ursuline Sister of Cleveland. She currently serves as Guidance Counselor at Cleveland Central Catholic High School in Cleveland, Ohio.