From the Archives: Spirit at Work from the Beginning

From the Archives: How One Meeting Sparked a Legacy

Sr. Mara Rutten, RSM
March 24, 2022

Dear Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

More stories soon!