Category Archives: Nuns on the Bus 2016

Travel Log: Hartford

Travel Log: Hartford

Sr. Rochelle Mitchell, SSS
July 24, 2016

As is our practice, we begin each day with reflection on the scriptures and shared prayer. This morning we gathered early at the farmhouse in Cumberland, Rhode Island where the Sisters of Mercy offered us hospitality. I was struck by the Gospel reading: “give us this day our daily bread.” It is clear that God desires good gifts for us. It is also clear in our “incarnated reality” that we must be persistent, even agitators, in advancing these gifts that God desires—the bread of dignity, work, housing, citizenship.

1hartford1We left Rhode Island and headed to brunch at a restaurant in West Hartford, Connecticut. This event was sponsored and attended by Congressman John Larson along with the mayor, Shari Cantor, and many communities of women religious. The congressman personally thanked the sisters for their work of justice and the many ministries they have sponsored in his district.

After brunch, we headed to Saint James Episcopal Church to meet and engage with a coalition of ecumenical ministers who are part of Moral Monday in Connecticut. They call attention to complacency by “turning up, occupying space and taking action” on behalf of those discriminated against because of race, gender, and income. They hold their elected officials accountable. We learned that there is a massive budget crisis in Connecticut as well as great income disparity. One of the heart-warming and encouraging signs is the work of the ecumenical and interfaith communities coming together for the common good. We were deeply moved by the tangible passion for justice.

1hartford3Our next stop was the Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center. As we entered the meeting space, over 250 people were waiting for us and ready to being addressing the gaps in their community. The gap area that my group discussed was citizenship. The interest in citizenship was so great that there were five full tables of people! I was deeply moved as the people shared their lived realities. The Northeast has a growing refugee and immigrant population. My group shared about how immigrants and refugees in their community often live in substandard conditions and don’t earn a living wage. There was a deep concern among them for a resolution to the millions of people who are living in the shadows and in fear of deportation and separation from family. The attendees envisioned a process that was more sensitive to the refugees and designed for the success of the refugees in the host community. Many of those who wanted to mend the gaps came from faith backgrounds with a strong social justice tradition as well as Catholics who are responding to the vision of Pope Francis.

We were welcomed to share dinner with the community at Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center followed by mass. Before retiring, I spent some time reflecting on the day. I had come full circle, beginning and ending the day with: “give us this day our daily bread.” I feel so nourished and grateful for the bread of life and the hope and vision that was shared with me today. My prayer is that the nourishment we have all received will energize and sustain us for the work of justice.

See also:
Reflection: Creating Spaces for Transformation
Slideshow: Moral Monday Meal (Hartford)
Slideshow: Brunch with Congressman Larson

Travel Log: Scranton

Travel Log: Scranton

July 25, 2016

We had a packed schedule of events for our time in Scranton today.

We started with a visit to The Assembly of God Church in arranged by NETWORK Board member Sister Donna Korba.

1scranton1When we arrived there was a cheering crowd to greet us. Inside, we saw tables set up with participants from all the local service agencies there to talk about their work. We then had a program of speakers. The pastor of the church opened up with prayer and then we heard from local speakers who told us of the struggles of the immigrant, living wages, and the need to vote.

A woman from Bhutan shared the story of her path to citizenship, and we heard about a recent study at the University of Scranton to look at what would constitute a living wage in the Scranton area.

State Senator John Blake welcomed us and vocalized his agreement with the urgent need to vote in order to mend the gaps of our society.

The community served us lunch and we had time for fellowship with the many people who attended.

1scrantonWe ended the meeting with Jan Novotka leading us in the prayerful song that she had written with collaboration by Mary Beth Hamm and Donna Korba for Network’s 40th anniversary. And of course, everyone came outside to sign the bus!



See also:
Slideshow: New Life Assembly of God Church

Reflection: Finding Grace in a Community of Recovery

Reflection: Finding Grace in a Community of Recovery

Sister Mary Ellen Lacy, DC
July 25, 2016

I was so moved by our  stop at Integrity House in Newark, New Jersey.

According to their website, Integrity House is committed to helping individuals and families through an effective and measurable system of comprehensive therapeutic community addictions treatment and recovery support in a way that brings about positive, long-term lifestyle change.  What we saw was a group of flawed human beings, much like ourselves on the bus, who came together and were advancing forward because they had formed a caring community.  It was of particular significance for me because I had worked with addicts for several years. Addicts in recovery can be so tenderly raw, boldly honest, and remarkably challenging.

2Newark2We can learn so much from those who accept the humble reality that “my way” does not work. Darnell told us of the need to have access to a listening ear when things mount up.  Darnell did not sugar coat things – addicts rarely do.  He said recovery was hard but he had hope and had begun to see what a sober life might look like for him. He had learned the value of letting go of baggage that would hurt you.  Darnell found salvation in interdependence with co-community members and counselors at Integrity House.

Michael C reminded me of many of the guys I worked with when I worked at an addiction service facility. He was full of sparkle, had a little mischievousness and had the impulsivity of St Peter.  He reminded me that we need joy in the tough times too.  Seeing many of my own qualities in him, we immediately hit it off.   Mo reminded all of us of faith and patience.  He said we should remain in a place until the miracle happens.   How many times have I wanted to run because things were uncomfortable, only to be rewarded beyond my dreams because something kept me in place?

All spoke of the importance of timing and lack of appropriate response available. Frequently, the residents found that when they were ready to make a change, help was hard to find.  They were told to call back in six weeks or to bring several thousand dollars for admittance.  Many had to get arrested to get into treatment.  That is messed up.  We have to find a way to meet folks when they are ready or society will pay an excessive price. The lifestyle will not allow that moment to last very long so we have to be ready to respond.  Seizing the moment is important.

I recalled the story that Congressman Higgins told us about John Lewis.   Apparently, Congressman Lewis had travelled to Buffalo when he was 11 years old. On his way, he saw black men and white men working in the steel mills and at GE Mills, side by side. It was in that moment that he realized that desegregation could happen in the South.  Providence reveals itself in just a moment … but we have to respond to the grace.  Readiness for recovery is a grace and we have to respond to it.

2Newark1Integrity house does that. But their resources are limited too.  We need more beds so we can react in the moment.  It was suggested that we could remove the beds from prison and put them in treatment centers and we would save money. Hmmmm.

All had owned the negative impact of their prior behaviors and were committed to becoming whole.   The self-loathing and guilt had done a number on them and they were working to see themselves as God and others see them.  When that day comes, they will be happy with what they see.  Their community relied upon each other to make it through the day.  They were just like our community of bus riders: full of hope, relying upon each other to make it to the next day and hoping to be a contributing member of our community.  One day we shall all be, as Bill W prayed, willing to have God remove from us every single defect of character which stands in the way of our usefulness to you and my fellows.

Travel Log: Philadelphia (Day 1)

Travel Log: Philadelphia (Day 1)

Sr. Eileen Reilly, SSND
July 26, 2016

Excitement rose on the bus as we began the two hour drive down the NJ Turnpike to Philadelphia, the site of the Democratic National Convention. When we arrived in the city before noon, the streets were alive with supporters of Bernie and Hilary – all eagerly awaiting the roll call vote scheduled for the evening.

1aPhilly3We Nuns on the Bus presented a workshop for some of the convention participants. It was a modified version of the caucus that we had presented in every city along the way. We were pleased and amazed at how many people knew of us, recognized us, and affirmed the work we were doing.

The credentialing process for the actual convention reminded me of the UN process – several different credentials were needed to gain access to the various venues for the convention, so we were all walking though the site displaying several passes.

We arrived at the site, just in time for the nominating speeches which were followed by the roll call vote. It was just like the movies!  “The great state of . . . casts 7 votes for Bernie Sanders and 7 votes for Hilary Clinton. “  And so it went.   After a very gracious speech by Bernie at the end of the roll call, Hilary became the official nominee of the party.  We were there for this historic moment!  What a thrill.

1cPhilly1The remainder of the evening was a combination of speeches by supporters, appearances by celebrities, video presentations on some of the key issues. Perhaps the highlight was a presentation by the Mothers of the Movement – a group of mothers of children who have been murdered by police in the last several years.  Theirs’ was a message of hope, a plea that not one more mother ever has to join their group.

One more time, local nuns offered a warm welcome and overnight hospitality to we Nuns on the Bus – and the good news is that we were closer to the site of the convention than most of the delegates!

See also:
Slideshow: Democratic National Convention
Slideshow: DNC Workshop

Travel Log: Philadelphia (Day 2)

Travel Log: Philadelphia (Day 2)

Sisters Janet Kinney, CSJ and Eileen Reilly, SSND
July 27, 2016

1bPhilly2The energy and enthusiasm we have felt in the streets of Philadelphia these past two days has been very palpable. A very different experience from the Republican Convention in Cleveland we were told by the sisters who were on the bus that week!

“Lemonade Ministry,” was on the agenda for the Nuns on the Bus this morning. What’s that you might wonder?  We took two red wagons, filled two large igloo coolers with lemonade, put our Nuns on the Bus signs on them, and walked the streets surrounding the convention, talking to the folks on the streets, engaging in conversations out the gaps that ordinary Americans are experiencing in their lives.

With the temperature rising into the 90’s, many folks were happy to receive an ice-cold cup of lemonade from our little red wagon that we pulled through the streets of Philadelphia. Some just took the lemonade and kept walking; others stayed a few minutes of answer our three-question survey:

Who in you family is it difficult to discuss politics with?
What are your fears in this election cycle?
What gives you hope in this election cycle?

One young woman, when asked the first question, answered “my grandfather,” and began to cry. She told me that her grandfather had just “unfriended” her on Facebook when he found out she supported Bernie Sanders!  Dialogue is so sorely needed in this election cycle – even between grandfathers and granddaughters.

Then it was over to the Redding Market for lunch, a large food court with every type of food you could imagine, and then back to the Convention Center for another afternoon workshop with delegates and observers.

In the late afternoon we were back at the Convention site where the security perimeter had become much tighter, in anticipation of the visit of President Obama and Vice-President Biden later in the evening.

1cPhilly2We were thrilled to be in the arena when they both spoke. We were also happy for the time to just to mix and mingle with convention participants and hear their stories.  Our Nuns on the Bus T-shirts attracted attention and became a very easy way to start a conversation.  We were so surprised at the number of convention-goers who recognized Nuns on the Bus and wanted to talk, donate, take a picture, and/or thank us for our work.

We watched the arena became more and more packed as it got closer to 9pm and we prepared to hear Joe Biden’s heartfelt remarks. The energy in the room reached a crescendo as President Obama took the stage and gave his reflection on the progress made during the past eight years in his administration, speaking eloquently about what the country needs now for this time in its history, a country firmly headed in the right direction. When he stated that Hillary was a better qualified candidate than even he or former President  Bill Clinton had been when they sought office, a woman he knew to be intelligent, disciplined, with the tenacity to get the job done, the crowd roared.

When the President finished his remarks, large signs emerged throughout the arena saying simply ‘Thank you’ for what he had given to this country during his administration. Then as the President prepared to leave the stage, Hillary Clinton joined him and the arena was electric with the cheers of the crowd.  It was an unforgettable experience!

See also:
Slideshow: DNC Lemonade Ministry
Slideshow: DNC Workshops