Our History

Celebrating 50 Years of Service!

Begun in the Catholic Archdiocese of Newark (New Jersey) in 1963, Catholic Volunteer Network was originally known as the Newark Liaison Foreign and Domestic Lay Apostolate. Fr. George Mader, a priest of the Archdiocese, petitioned then Archbishop Thomas Boland, for permission to begin a “Church Peace Corps” after his sister, Patricia, had served for a year as a volunteer in Farmville, North Carolina with the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. He wanted to promote such lay volunteer service and to encourage others to support it.

The first issue of RESPONSE, a directory of faith-based volunteer opportunities, was published in 1965 (and continues to this day). In 1971, the organization, by then known as Newark International Liaison, was first listed in the Official Catholic Directory. Two years later, International Liaison became a “coalition” of various mission agencies, the purpose of which was to act as an instrument through which policies might be recommended and issues discussed.

In 1975, the organization, by then called the International Liaison for Lay Volunteer Ministry (ILLVM), moved to Washington, DC. That same year, Bishop Joseph Francis, SVD, auxiliary bishop of Newark, became the organization’s Episcopal Advisor, a role he carried out until his death in 1997. In 1978, ILLVM hosted its first annual conference. In 1982, the organization’s name was changed to the International Liaison of Lay Volunteers in Mission (ILLVIM). The Father George Mader Award was instituted in 1988, in honor of the founder, to recognize individuals or groups that have been exemplary in fostering lay volunteer service.

In its thirtieth anniversary year, 1993, the organization once again changed its name to Catholic Network of Volunteer Service, a name that remained in place until 2010, when the current organizational name, Catholic Volunteer Network, was adopted. In 1998, Catholic Volunteer Network was awarded a federal grant to administer AmeriCorps Education Awards for volunteers in its member programs. By 2000, membership in Catholic Volunteer Network was comprised of 200 lay volunteer programs, of which about 80% were Catholic and the remainder from various other Christian traditions.

By 2003, Catholic Volunteer Network recorded more than 10,000 volunteers in its annual membership survey. That same year, Catholic Volunteer Network celebrated its fortieth anniversary and moved its national office to Takoma Park, Maryland, where it remains at present.

In November 2013, Catholic Volunteer Network commemorated its fiftieth anniversary at the Annual Conference held in Washington, D.C. A special component of the conference was a day long symposium on the impact of faith-based service on CVN alumni, to coincide with the release of a research study conducted by CARA entitled "Volunteer Introspective". Partners, supporters, program staff, and longtime friends gathered in Washington, D.C. for this celebration. Also at this conference, CVN's annual survey report recorded over 20,000 volunteers serving annually.

To find out about membership opportunities for faith-based volunteer programs, please click here.

To find out more about volunteer opportunities, click here.