Our 50-Year Justice Journey

December 1971

Trinity College

Forty-seven women religious gather at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. to discuss the call to work for justice through the political system and decide to form NETWORK, the first Catholic social justice lobby in the United States.

January 1972
Sr. Carol Coston, First Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby Endowment Fund Celebrates 50 years of Justice

First Director Named

The NETWORK steering committee holds its first meeting; they agree that Carol Coston, OP would serve as NETWORK’s first director.

March 1972


The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passes the Senate and is sent to the states for ratification. NETWORK will lobby for the ERA’s passage for the next ten years.

April 1972
It’s Official!

It’s Official!

Carol Coston, OP begins leading NETWORK, providing “political ministry” in Washington. Four additional sisters later join Carol on the NETWORK staff, funded by their congregations.

August 1972
Legislative Seminar is Born

Legislative Seminar is Born

NETWORK publishes its first newsletter, held an issue referendum, and trained 150 participants in political ministry during NETWORK’s first summer Legislative Seminar. NETWORK’s Summer Legislative Seminars During the summers, NETWORK organized legislative seminars in Washington to train advocates for justice, attracting hundreds of participants from across the country. These trainings..Read More

January 1973

NETWORK publishes its first Congressional voting record, reflecting how often each Members of Congress voted in alignment with Catholic Social Justice on key bills. 

October 1975

Educational Program introduced

Ann (Sampson) Dunn is hired, NETWORK’s first non-Sister on staff, and the NETWORK Educational Program is incorporated.

October 1978

John Paul II Emerges

Pope Paul VI dies, his successor, John Paul I, dies 33 days later. Archbishop Karol Józef Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland is elected Pope and takes the name John Paul II.

April 1979

A Board First

Three non-Sisters, Marie (Grosso) Dennis, Barbara Ann Stolz, and Josephine Zamora, are elected to NETWORK’s Board for the first time.

October 1979

Theresa Kane, RSM and the Pope

During Pope John Paul II’s visit to the U.S., LCWR president Theresa Kane, RSM asks the Pope to open all church ministries to women in her welcome speech; fifty-three sisters stand in protest during his remarks.

November 1980

The Reagan Years Begin

Ronald Reagan elected President. During the eight-year Reagan presidency, NETWORK lobbyists, organizers, and members worked to minimize the deep cuts to human needs programs, increases in military spending, and tax cuts championed by President Reagan. A 1984 poem by NETWORK member Alma Nieland illustrates the NETWORK community’s motivation: “Let me..Read More

June 1982

Nancy Sylvester, IHM

Nancy Sylvester, IHM succeeds Carol Coston, OP as NETWORK’s second leader.

June 1982

The ERA Fails

The ERA fails to receive the necessary number of states for ratification. 

November 1983

Code of Canon Law

The Vatican’s 1983 Code of Canon Law takes effect, prohibiting religious men and women from serving in public office, affecting members of NETWORK, including foundress Elizabeth Morancy.  A Difficult Choice When the Vatican prohibited religious men and women from serving in public office, two NETWORK Board Members were forced to..Read More

January 1988

Responding to Murder in El Salvador

Archbishop Óscar Romero is assassinated and four American churchwomen are murdered in El Salvador. In response, NETWORK invites leaders of congregations with missionaries in Central America to testify about the conditions in that region on Capitol Hill. 

October 1989

Lobby Day Success

NETWORK coordinates the lobby days for Housing NOW!, a program sponsored by 175 organizations. More than 250,000 people participate in the week of briefings, press conferences, panel discussions, prayer services, benefit concerts, marches, and rallies.

January 1993

Family & Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act, which NETWORK strongly supported, passes in Congress and is signed into law by President Clinton.

September 1993

Healthcare Legislation

1993│NETWORK lobbyist Sr. Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ and staff work with First Lady Hillary Clinton and Sen. Ted Kennedy to craft comprehensive healthcare legislation. The bid to reform health care was unsuccessful.

August 1996
Protesting “Welfare Reform”

Protesting “Welfare Reform”

President Clinton signs the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act into law, dramatically cutting the number of people eligible for federal aid.  As President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act into law, NETWORK staff marched in protest outside the White House gates. NETWORK joined Pax..Read More

January 2001

The Presidential Citizens Medal

Carol Coston, OP receives the Presidential Citizens Medal, the country’s second highest civilian honor, from President Clinton for her work shaping federal public policy.