Author Archives: ashley

About ashley

Ashley is NETWORK’s Communications Manager. She leads message development and media strategy to highlight the work of NETWORK, our activists, and partners in their advocacy efforts to mend the gaps. Ashley has been at NETWORK since 2012, and has implemented email and digital strategy, created campaigns and resources to educate the community of activists, and served as immigration lead during the 2012-2013 push for comprehensive immigration reform. She has traveled to 28 states with NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus trips. Ashley graduated from St. Joseph’s University, a Jesuit school in Philadelphia, with a degree in Political Science and minors in Sociology and Faith Justice Studies. During college she worked in the Faith Justice Institute to coordinate service-learning opportunities for students, served as President of SJU Students for Workers’ Rights, and volunteered with LIFT-Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness. Ashley is an active member of Contemplative Leaders in Action, and a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. Where she finds inspiration for work: • Connecting with people on Twitter! • Conversations with Catholic Sisters What she loves outside of NETWORK: • Gardening • Discussing Oscar-nominated movies • Quoting most lines from Harry Potter and the West Wing Originally from: Martinsville, New Jersey Why she likes D.C.: It is exciting living in the city where our nation’s laws are created! She also enjoys the DC biking community and being able to visit the monuments and museums anytime she wants. Follow her on Twitter: @APdubs

Reflection on Day Three: We Are All Hungry for Justice

Reflection: We Are All Hungry for Justice

Sr. Larretta Rivera-Williams
Thursday, July 14, 2016

We can’t all sleep on a bed of clouds. Some people in our town have to sleep on stone or concrete streets.
-Layla age 12
Quote on display in Jefferson City at Central Missouri Community Action Agency Family Resource Center

So young and so astute to the world around her. I have never met Layla, but thousands can relate to stone pillows and the cold concrete.

I’ve never lived in public h28218291611_beb579f9bf_oousing; never feared the drug dealer residing next door. I have never had to use public transportation nor worry about what I would have to eat. I have been hugged, however, by those who have.

The people greeting us along the way are so grateful that we have chosen to visit with them. Men, women, and youth thrilled that Nuns on the Bus has made a stop in their city. What a humbling experience this has been!

When we step off the bus people cheer and rush forward to shake our hands. Some people with tears in their eyes want to hug us; telling us how much it means to have us with them. Sr. Susan is keeping count of the number of times Sr. Simone is introduced as a “rock star.”

People are hungry for justice! People are filled with questions of “why” and “what can we do?” People are searching for answers in a country of uncertainty. People want to be listened to without being threatened, judged, or silenced.

Nuns on the Bus is scheduled to travel to 13 states and 23 cities. We have already been to three states and four cities. I know that we have given people a sense of hope and a start to finding the answers.

We begin our day with prayer. Grateful for the people we have met; emotionally moved and strengthened by their sacred stories. We continue forward with their blessings and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The bus is moving and bouncing us along east 64 to St. Louis. Before we lay our heads upon “a bed of clouds” tonight, I wonder how many people will we have met who are afraid of the drug dealer next door, need transportation to a second job that still only allows them to live from pay check to pay check? How many will we have met today who are in need of food and a place to call home; in need of health care to receive proper medical attention for an elderly parent, a sick child, or to seek proper care for themselves?

How many will we have met who are simply hungry for justice?

Reflection on Day Two: We the People

We the People

By Susan Rose Francois, CSJP
July 13, 2016

“We the people.”

27660810933_fd1e939a4b_oThese words from the preamble to our U.S. Constitution, which by the way I learned to sing as a child from an animated Schoolhouse Rock cartoon on Saturday mornings, were in my head and heart upon waking this morning in a simple convent room at the motherhouse of the Springfield Dominicans.

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfection union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”

As I said, I learned to sing the preamble as a child and these words are indeed music to my ears. During my morning prayer I found myself wondering, just as I often do with the words of the Gospel, what if we actually lived them?

One of the privileges of being a Nun on the Bus is that we are going out to be with the people. Yesterday we met folks in Janesville, Wisconsin and Bloomington-Normal, Illinois who are struggling in this democracy of ours. They are struggling to make ends meet, to literally put a roof over their children’s heads.  They are struggling to access life-saving health care so that they can be healthy contributing members of our community. They are struggling to navigate our complex immigration system and fill out the right form at the right time so that they can have access to our democracy and share the responsibilities of citizenship.

Yesterday we also met people who are not necessarily struggling themselves, but whose hearts are moved to act for justice and with compassion to mend the gaps and reweave the fabric of our society.  They are advocates, immigration attorneys, volunteers in the local prison, social workers, friends, family members, neighbors and pastors.  They are every day good people. Goodness is a word that has already peppered our prayer and conversations on the bus.

We the people.  One thing that Sister Simone Campbell has been telling folks on the road is that if we the people created this mess, then we the people can get ourselves out of it.  People are struggling because of the policy choices we have made as a people, or that our elected representatives have made on our behalf.  What we need are policies which instead begin to mend the gaps and invest in the welfare of all the people.

Last night during our caucus in Bloomington-Normal, I was lucky enough to sit around a table with some of these good people and discuss ways to mend the wealth and income inequality gap through tax justice.  Now, I will be the first to admit that taxes are not usually the most exciting conversation topic, and yet last night I was moved and inspired by the passion with which these folks talked about the desperate lack of funding for needed services in their community.  As tax payers and neighbors, they shared a common concern for the way our social safety net has been frayed and the future long-term health of our communities ignored in favor of short term profit and gain.

“We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”

Those words are not from the Constitution, but rather from Pope Francis in Laudato Si.

The folks I met at the caucus were the embodiment of that simple statement. I suspect the folks I meet today on the road in Springfield, Illinois and Jefferson City, Missouri will be further signs of hope for ways we can reweave the fabric of our society.

We the people are in this together.

Reflection: Day One on the Bus

Reflection: Day One on the Bus

Sr. Larretta Rivera-Williams, RSM
July 12, 2016

My journey to Wisconsin began in North Carolina where I left behind security of home and the familiarity of friends. I was somewhat apprehensive of what I might encounter, but a tinge of excitement bubbled within as I anticipated joining the Nuns On The Bus. I had read with awe articles about Sister Simone Campbell and followed her on social media, but never had I anticipated actually being on one of her justice journeys.

I grew up in a very protective environment during the Civil Rights movement. I lived a very comfortable life, was educated by white religious sisters who taught27994857370_a7c568c319_o me little or nothing about my culture and the reality of the world around me. However, I listened to adults talk about racial and economic injustices, I became fearfully aware of the riots of 1960’s, questioned militant stories about the Black Panther Party, and felt the sadness seen on faces after the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy. I developed a hunger to know more, but fear of harm gave me little incentive to actively do something about the injustices around me.

Now in one of the most heated and critical times in America, when people are afraid to publicly express their religious and political views, I find myself on a large light blue, green and orange bus — NETWORK Nuns On The Bus — Mending the Gaps. I am gradually being transformed and now speaking before a sea of people about “policies have created the chaos, but policies can create change!”

I listen to the conversations around me as we travel from Wisconsin to Illinois. The tone is light with laughter and solid with excitement of what lies ahead. We will meet supporters and probably those who do not support our efforts. To them wherever we go will be, as Simone says, “a healing presence.”

I have already experienced this healing presence within the voice of the woman who spoke about the death of her younger sister who died of cancer, unable to afford health care. The power of God’s grace filtered throughout the applauding crowd that cheered the accomplishments of a young woman who did not give up after being denied proper mental health care for her bi-polar condition. She shared what it had been like to overcome the struggles of being homeless, jobless, and unable to care for her three young sons.

Tonight as we travel to Springfield, Illinois my heart is full. Although touched by the rawness of humanity my soul delights in the joy of knowing that we, the Nuns On The Bus, have given hope to the hopeless and encouragement to the discouraged as we begin to reweave the fabric of America.

Travel Log: Janesville and Bloomington

Travel Log: Janesville and Bloomington

Sr. Julie Ann Krahl, CSA
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

It’s our first full day on the bus and we know our message: There are huge gaps in our society: Gaps in wealth that limit us; Gaps in access that burden us, cause us pain and struggle.  We board the bus to promote the goals of the bus: mend the gaps in our society.

28161812922_48d3a1c483_oOur kick-off rally in Janesville Wis. sent us off with stories of gaps – tragedies of healthcare bungles, frightening homelessness and painful immigration bureaucracy. We saw tears in their eyes.  Reverend Hearns prayerfully and emphatically reminded us: “We are God’s children… we are God’s People.”  We signed the bus in hopes that gaps would be understood and mended with policies good for all of God’s people.

28276120185_5f2d01aa17_oThe bus rolled on into Illinois.  The Bloomington YWCA welcomed us.  We toured their child care facilities where the blue-dress girl spends her day.  We met with people from and impacted by the Immigration Project, the YWCA, and the community clinic. We gathered as a community outside the bus and with stories that brought tears to our eyes and the encouragement to continue on.

At the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington-Normal we ‘caucused’ with the crowd gathered inside the church.  We discussed the goals and purpose of the bus.  We “buzzed” about who it is hard to talk with about the gaps, we heard new, yet familiar stories of the effects of the seven gaps and we also discussed the vision of our society without gaps.  We signed the bus in the dark stronger conviction that

We took off for Springfield and tomorrow.

See also:
Reflection: Day One on the Bus
Slideshow: Janesville Rally
Slideshow: YWCA McLean County Site Visit
Slideshow: Bloomington Caucus
Reflection: Day Two- We the People


P.S. I also want to share with you this poetic reenactment of an event that happened today:

The blue-dress girl story
by Sr. Julie Ann Krahl, CSA
“SHE CAN’T DRAW!” four girls chorused with 5-yr-old giggles and confidence and pride at their multicolored fire engine masterpieces.
“I can’t draw’ — sighs the blue-dressed girl alone at the end of the table –- close to tears, quiet, head down.
“NO, SHE CAN’T DRAW!!” — the chorus reaffirmed with more emphasis
“Have you tried to help her?”
“Would you like another color?”
— Slow nod —
The cup of markers passes down to her and she takes a blue marker, draws another frustrated line.
— at the end of the table — sad, eyes down, hands off the table again.
“Can you draw a circle?”
“Yes, I can draw a circle”
Slowly, blue marker goes back to table and a small circle appears.
“Yes ! You can draw a circle.  Can you draw another one?”
And another small circle appears
“Yes, and can you draw a square?” A small square now hovers over the circles.
“Perfect! You can draw another larger square.” She draws a big square just touching the two circles with the small square inside.
“Wow, you did some good drawing! Looks you drew a fire engine or maybe a bus.”
“Yes, I can draw a bus”
There were gaps: she didn’t have the experience, talent, encouragement, friends.
They could draw anything, and it was her fault she could not draw…they knew it.
They were wealthy, she was not.
There were gaps: she didn’t have access to markers, she needed help, a friend. They had access to markers, controlled the markers, and made it difficult for her to succeed.
They enjoyed. She struggled.
We sign the Bus.

Reflection: Nuns on the Bus 2016 — A Revolution of the Heart

Nuns on the Bus 2016: A Revolution of the Heart

Sr. Susan Rose Francois, CSJP
July 11, 2016

How do we mend the gaps and reweave the fabric of our society? That is the question at the center of this summer’s Nuns on the Bus tour which will cover more than 2,400 miles to meet with individuals, families, and communities in 13 states, 23 cities, and both political party conventions.

20160711_200935Of course, before you can answer a question as big as that, you need to cover the logistics. Monday afternoon, nine Catholic sisters gathered in a small conference room at Holy Wisdom Monastery in Madison, Wisconsin with the Nuns on the Bus staff to start our journey together. Some of the women have been on the bus before. Sister Simone Campbell, the nun on the bus, has of course been on all five bus tours. For other sisters this is a repeat experience, and for still others, myself included, this is a brand new adventure.

Mentally I have been preparing myself by learning about the seven policy recommendations to mend the gaps in wealth and income inequality and gaps in access to citizenship, housing, health care, and democracy.  I carefully studied the preparatory materials sent to us by the amazing staff at NETWORK.  I even looked up the weather forecasts in the various cities we will visit over the next eight days to make sure I packed accordingly.  Sitting in that small conference room as the staff reviewed the logistics with us, I thought to myself, I’m prepared.

Then something happened that is bound to happen when a group of nuns and people who hang out with nuns sit together in a circle. We shared some of what was in our heart. There was a common sense of excitement.  There was also some anxiety and fear of the unknown as we begin a journey that, for this group of sisters, will finish in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention. (Another group of sisters will then board the bus and head to Philadelphia and the Democratic National Convention.)

Within myself, I discovered a wondering that has been percolating quietly under the surface. In light of everything that has been happening in our country in recent weeks, from Orlando to Baton Rouge to Minnesota to Dallas, and in all of our hearts, is this really what I, what we should be about right now?  Someone else in our circle verbalized their own version of the same wondering

My heart, not my head, told me the answer. The Spirit has led us to this moment and brought us together for a purpose. There is such pain, sorrow and confusion in our society right now, and no one seems to know what to do.  Yet here we are ready to embark on a journey of encounter and listening to bring a politics of inclusion to divided places.  What better response could there be for this moment in history?

This intuition was confirmed when we joined a crowd of 300 plus at the First Unitarian Society in Madison for the pre-launch blessing.  First of all, I realized that there was no way that I could be prepared for the emotional experience of walking off the bus into a crowd of people who see the Nuns on the Bus as a symbol of hope for a broken world. Really, there are no words to describe the feeling, other than that this experience is bigger than any one of the individual women riding on the bus.

More importantly, every speaker during the evening program contextualized the meaning of this particular trip in the mess that we find ourselves in as a society, particularly the recent events these past weeks.  At the root of the violence, racism, and despair are policies that have created and perpetuated systemic injustice.  There are not many spaces in our sound-byte-world where those connections can be made at both the head and the heart level publicly. Nuns on the Bus is one of those spaces.

Earlier this week as I was preparing for my first Nuns on the Bus experience, I ran across a quote from Dorothy Day that sums it all up for me.  She said that the greatest challenge of her day, and I’d say it’s even more urgent today, is “how to bring about a revolution of the heart.”  To those who questioned small efforts in the face of big problems, she said this:  “A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”

That is why so many people came out to the pre-launch blessing in Madison on Monday night, to cast pebbles into the pond, to add their signatures to the NOTB bus, to throw their lot in with the side of justice, goodness, and peace. As they blessed us on our journey, they found their way into our hearts and will journey with us.

So how to do we mend the gaps and reweave the fabric of our society? One step, one stop, one signature, one story, and one conversation at a time.  We cannot sit down and feel hopeless. There is still too much work to do in our revolution of the heart.

Travel Log: Madison Pre-Launch Blessing

Travel Log: Madison Pre-Launch Blessing

Sister Bernadine Karge, OP
July 11, 2016

Sister Bernadine and the Dominican Sisters in MadisonRev. Schuler of First Unitarian Society, welcomed more than 300 people and the NETWORK Nuns on the Bus 2016 on a warm sultry night in Madison, Wisconsin.  The beautiful First Unitarian Society was filled with energy and excitement  as we launched the Mend the Gaps theme for this pre-election time.

Rev. Schuler asked that the scales fall from our eyes as we focus on the  seven areas of inequality in our world in 2016: , Tax credits, livng wages, a family friendly workplace, access to healthcare, access to housing, access to democracy (voting rights) and access to citizenship (immigrant rights).

Two sisters introduced the two buzz questions:  When did you first vote and for whom did you vote?  Who in your family is difficult to speak with about politics? The room roared with laughter, tears, and serious  conversation as we engaged on the first step of mending the gaps which touch our lives and those around us.

Lynne and Jini MacAdam told the story of  Jini’s sister, Margaret, who died four years ago. Margaret was a strong independent private woman who had various jobs throughout her life. When Margaret lost her job, she  lost her health insurance and then  lost her life. The Affordable Care Act had passed but it was not  yet implemented.  When  a friend finally got Margaret to the ER, she was diagnosed with 4th stage cancer.  Lacking resources, Margaret was not able to get the treatment she needed.  Lynne traveled to  Cincinnati to see Margaret and asked her to take her picture in her Wisconsin 14 shirt that Lynne had brought to her.  In the midst of her vulnerablility, Margaret agreed to have her picture shared  in order to help others get  the help they need.  Margaret the  fiercely, painfully private  person opened herseld to be seen, to be known. In 2012, Lynne gave Margaret’s photo to Sr. Simone two hours after Margaret’s memorial service at a Nuns on the Bus stop in Cincinnati. Margaret’s presence stenghtens us in the struggle for universal healthcare for all as a pro-life issue.  The expansion of Medicaid coverage in all 50 states is what is needed now. In this time of crisis of compassion, Lynne and Jini thanked Sr. Simone for helping heal their family in their sorrow and grief.

A sense of  gratitude pervaded the evening. Rabbi Renee Bauer offered a prayer for the journey, not only for the Nuns on the Bus, but for all U.S. Americans in this time of grief and crisis of compassion in our country.  The conditions outside the yellow tape need to be mended to bring our country to wholeness and oneness.  Rev. Stephen Marsh of Madison Urban Ministry gave the final blessing and sending us forth in the name of justice and Jesus.

Pledge cards were enthusiastically signed, turned in and the bus  signing commenced.   We had time to mingle, mix and bless each other as we venture forth out of our comfort zone to Mend the Gaps!

Click to watch the slideshow:

NOTB2016: Madison Blessing