Fostering lay leaders has long been the backbone of Catholic Extension.  Inspired by Pope John XXIII’s 1959 encyclical, Princeps Pastorum, calling for more laity involvement in the Church, Catholic Extension immediately took the lead by creating Extension Lay Volunteers (ELVs).  It was revolutionary.  For the next 11 years, more than 2,000 volunteers dedicated at least one year to working in mission dioceses.  This groundbreaking program was further fueled by Vatican II, which also heralded the importance of lay workers in the Church.

Extension Lay Volunteers were mainly young adults, with more women than men.  They served as teachers, nurses, catechists, social workers and campus ministers for Newman Centers. 

For many, this experience proved life-changing, planting a seed for volunteerism that grew throughout their lives—deepening their faith and instilling a lifelong desire to give back. 

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