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Sister Angela Fitzpatrick renews her commitment to Network issues

Ursuline Sister Angela Fitzpatrick submitted a letter to the Kansas City Star opinion page in April 2022 to raise awareness of the need for prison reform, especially dealing with racial disparity.

“That was a first for me, I’ve never sent my opinion to a newspaper before,” Sister Angela said.

Despite a long history of being involved in social justice issues, Sister Angela found the motivation to try something new after spending three days in Washington, D.C., celebrating 50 years of Network – the justice advocacy group she helped begin.

“I’m glad I went, it was a wonderful experience,” Sister Angela said. She was a young Ursuline Sister of Paola, Kan., in the winter of 1971 when she was among 47 women religious who sojourned to Washington to determine how they could make a difference if they united. In April 1972, Network was formed and has been engaged in political activism for social justice ever since.

When Network planned its 50th anniversary celebration on April 21-23 with a Justice Ablaze Gala and Advocates Training in Washington, Sister Angela was invited as one of the founding members. She was one of four founders who attended.

“I was so happy with all the diversity and young people,” Sister Angela said. “There were college-age people, it wasn’t just gray-haired sisters.”

The Ursulines of Paola merged with the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph in 2008. Sister Angela has continued serving in her native Kansas, now as a caregiver in metropolitan Kansas City. She was joined at the celebration by Ursuline Sister Michele Morek, who was a member of Network’s “Nuns on the Bus” effort in 2018.

“It was a learning experience,” Sister Angela said. “We had this workshop on how to organize, and met with people from our area, although mine was only Sister Michele. We asked for a list of Network members in our area, so it’s possible we could find some more people.”

This gathering was quite different from her first trip in 1971, Sister Angela said.

“It was encouraging, hopeful. We knew it was possible to have an effect,” she said. “We were seeing things that had been accomplished, like the Affordable Care Act, which Network supported.”

The early days of Network were quite different, Sister Angela said.

“We were foundering back then, until Sister Carol Coston (a Dominican Sister) took over in April 1972. She had $147 to work with, but she started hiring a staff. She was the mother foundress.”

Sister Carol’s attendance at the celebration was a highlight, Sister Angela said. A banner Network produced featured some of the founding members’ quotes, including ones from Sister Angela and Sister Carol. Sister Angela’s quote read, “We felt if we formed a group to lobby we’d counteract the influence of the rich and powerful … If we really were united, we could be a dangerous force.”

“The fact they chose those two quotes really made me feel special,” Sister Angela said. “I was happy and surprised.”

Sister Angela read that Network now has 100,000 members from all 50 states, compared to the 47 people who began. Anyone can join Network, not just women religious. Sister Angela said she would be happy to forward Network information concerning how to sign on to support an issue for anyone who wants it.

“I found a deeper appreciation for Network. I felt what’s possible,” Sister Angela said. “We have the power to change things. To be silent is wrong.”

Sister Angela said she is committed to being more involved with Network issues.

“It’s going to take everybody,” she said. “Together we can do something.”

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