Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference

IVC Philadelphia/South Jersey Member Profile: Tom Volkert, NETWORK

by | Mar 8, 2023

Members of the NETWORK delegation, Sr. Sue Gallagher, RSM; Gerri DiLisi, Tom Volkert, and Pat Bonner thank Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-4) for voting in accordance with the principles of the Catholic Social Justice tradition.

Many IVC volunteers want to work with organizations that provide direct service to individuals, but for others, their IVC commitment is a chance to be part of an effort to change the system itself. Tom Volkert, for example, moved from a volunteer hospital ministry to grassroots community organizing for NETWORK, the Catholic social-justice movement based in Washington DC. With NETWORK trying to build out at least one local advocacy group in all 50 states, Tom has helped get its Philadelphia-area effort off the ground, organizing local NETWORK volunteer meetings and coordinating outreach to area legislators and their staffs.

“I had an interest in both social justice work and pastoral work,” says Tom, who retired in 2019 from his job as a hospital social worker. “I had always wanted to do lobbying, to influence legislation, to do something more systemic.” Tom helps coordinate the lobbying efforts of about 15 Philadelphia-area NETWORK supporters, and also participates in national NETWORK staff meetings and conversations on legislative strategy and priorities. “NETWORK gives Catholics who are holding on to their faith something substantive to do, something they can really sink their teeth into.”

What difference does it make doing this work as an IVC member? “For one thing,” says Tom, “I think the organizations we volunteer with take us more seriously. They know we are making a real commitment to this work, and with that comes respect. Also, the monthly IVC gatherings are very enriching. We discuss the challenges of the work we are doing, the difficulties of seeing the underlying causes of the poverty and social problems we encounter each day. It helps to have other people to talk it through with.”

– Tom Baker,
IVC Philadelphia/South Jersey Regional Advisory Council