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!