Mary J. Novak Chosen to Lead NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

For Immediate Release: March 22, 2021
Contact: Lee Morrow, lmorrow@networklobby.org, 202-601-7871

Mary J. Novak Chosen to Lead NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Mary J. Novak: “Over these past 50 years, and most recently with Sr. Simone at the helm, NETWORK has been able to bring people together around a shared vision for the common good. As the next leader of this phenomenal organization, it is an honor to be called to build on that rock solid legacy.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mary J. Novak has been named the Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice effective April 1, 2021. Novak succeeds Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, the founder of Nuns on the Bus and NETWORK’s leader for the past 16 years. “The board is proud to announce our unanimous choice of Mary Novak as the new Executive Director of NETWORK,” said the Chairs of NETWORK’s Boards of Directors Sister Mary Beth Hamm, SSJ and Rachelle Reyes Wenger. “Mary’s experience as a lawyer, educator, chaplain and spiritual director, restorative justice practitioner, and activist make her uniquely positioned to build on the historic work of Sister Simone and all of NETWORK’s Sisters and advocates as we grow in this new era.”

Having worked among Catholic Sisters and Jesuits for decades, Novak comes to NETWORK after serving Georgetown University Law Center as Associate Director of Mission Integration and Adjunct Professor of Law. She was also the founding Board Chair of Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), which is part of the Congregation of St. Joseph Mission Network. Novak’s leadership helped grow CMN into a thriving force to end the use of the death penalty and promote restorative justice. Novak has practiced and taught law in a myriad of areas, including advocating for men on California’s death row, and she has served pastorally in hospitals and universities. Novak is well versed in the dynamics of U.S. women religious having served the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and having made her lifetime commitment as an Associate of the Congregation of St. Joseph.

“Over these past 50 years, and most recently with Sr. Simone at the helm, NETWORK has been able to bring people together around a shared vision for the common good. As the next leader of this phenomenal organization, it is an honor to be called to build on that rock solid legacy,” said Mary J. Novak. “I am excited to join the extensive NETWORK community and work day-to-day with staff members who hold an immense wealth of knowledge and practice.”

Novak shared her vision for NETWORK’s future: “For two decades I have been grounded in a Jesuit ethos, animated by Ignatian spirituality and steeped in the Catholic intellectual and social tradition, which also takes shape for me in restorative justice practices. I step into this work acutely aware of the intense polarization plaguing our society, our culture, and our politics, and following a very painful year of collective trauma we are only just beginning to name. I believe the Catholic Social Teaching that undergirds all of NETWORK’s engagement can be a unifying and universal source of inspiration for the moral imagination we need to promote justice, healing, and the common good.”

Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, founder of the Ministry Against the Death Penalty, which was the incubator of CMN, applauded the choice. “I am delighted that Mary Novak – faith-filled and passionate for the common good – will be taking the helm at NETWORK,” said Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ. “Mary is the living embodiment of ‘faith that does justice.'”

Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ, Executive Director of Leadership Conference of Women Religious said, “With a clear commitment to the Gospel message, a compassionate concern for Gospel justice, and a clarion conviction to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, Mary Novak comes to the ministry of Executive Director of NETWORK ready to serve, witness, and lead. Mary brings a depth of prayer, discernment, and vision to this ministry. Her personal and professional integrity promises to honor NETWORK’s rich past, strengthen its significant present, and forge its vibrant future.”

NETWORK Board Chairs praised outgoing Executive Director Sister Simone Campbell. “Sister Simone is a champion for justice, and her strident leadership has ensured NETWORK’s influential position in the social justice community for years to come,” said Sister Mary Beth Hamm, SSJ and Rachelle Reyes Wenger. “NETWORK will be forever grateful for Sister Simone’s visionary, creative, and steadfast leadership, and we are wholeheartedly excited for Mary as she carries forward NETWORK’s mission to advance justice.”

Sister Simone will work closely with Novak during the transition. “Mary is the perfect choice to lead NETWORK in the next step to ensure the well-being of those most marginalized people among us. This is the mandate as we build this nation anew,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS. “I could not be more proud of what NETWORK has accomplished, and I am excited to join the entire NETWORK membership in the work ahead.”

Founded in December 1971, NETWORK was formed when a group of Catholic Sisters felt the need to collaborate and engage in political activism around social justice on the federal level. NETWORK now includes tens of thousands of individuals from all walks of life united in answering the call for justice.

NETWORK’s mission arises out of this long tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, working to create a society that promotes justice and the dignity of all persons in the sacredness of God’s abundant creation. NETWORK is a Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace advocating on federal policy that relates to health care, immigration, racial justice, economic justice, and more.

###

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice – advocates for justice inspired by Catholic Sisters – educates, organizes, and lobbies for economic and social transformation. They have a nearly 50-year track record of lobbying for critical federal programs that support those at the margins and prioritize the common good. www.networklobby.org