Category Archives: Nuns on the Bus 2016

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

Reflection: Creating Spaces for Transformation

Reflection: Creating Spaces for Transformation

Sister Jan Cebula, OSF
July 26, 2016

We were talking with Josh, Heather, Cathy, Curtis and Janee with Moral Monday Connecticut on Day 13 about their efforts to do something about poverty and racism on the local level in Hartford. After many years of talking without resulting legislative changes and in the face of racial incidents nationally, they realized that something different had to happen. That’s when United Church of Christ Bishop Selders, who had been present in Ferguson, offered this insight:

1jan2We’re not going to talk our way out of racism” and income inequality.

They decided to become pro-active and step things up. After engaging in nonviolent disobedience skills training, twice they occupied major intersections in West Hartford to call attention to income inequality. They also stood up and spoke out during a Connecticut forum on racism, setting the conversation on another course.

They acted by “occupying spaces” to call attention to racism and income inequality and to shift the conversation. And by doing so, they were “creating spaces within which transformation can take place,” Josh explained.

The insight of Bishop Selders is echoing in my mind and heart. We need to do things differently, to act to shift the conversation in our local communities, in our nation. We even need to ask ourselves, “Who’s controlling the conversations?” How can we be about intentionally creating spaces for transformation wherever we are so that all can live healthy, dignified lives? Sometimes that’s going to mean disrupting the usual way things go.

1janOn Day 14, we witnessed just such a space created for transformation at Integrity House in Newark, the largest comprehensive addiction treatment facility and program in New Jersey. Robert Budsock, CEO introduced us to the staff and clients, or members of the family as he likes to call them. They have an educational program, outpatient treatment and prevention programs. The most transformative is their therapeutic residential community: the love and care for each other was evident. Indeed, it is a family. Over 50% of the staff had themselves been participants in Integrity House. As one after another told their story of addiction, recovery and future goals, the healing power of relationships shone in their faces and was broadcast in their voices. How important community is! Each radiated a healthy, confident presence. How could we Nuns on the Bus not be touched, changed.

Connections to federal policy became central to our conversation; the need for funding for treatment, especially for residential therapeutic programs under Medicaid. When people are ready to enter treatment, immediate access to services is critical to recovery.

At all our rallies, including the most recent in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Newark we’ve heard testimony from low-income workers and immigrants. At each site visit we’ve met people impacted by policies: We’ve heard and seen the effect of these policies.

As Nuns on the Bus travels from place to place, we are amazed at the enthusiasm of those who greet us. What is it about the Bus that generates so much energy, we ask ourselves. Last year I described it as The Multiplication of Energies.

2jan3Is the Bus a visible vehicle of hope, of our desire for change, for a future when all are one?

Each morning before we get on the Bus, we gather in prayer. The scripture reading for Day 14 was incredibly appropriate and captured what we have been experiencing:

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
2 Cor. 4:7

We also wonder what happens once we leave the places we have visited. Through the rallies, site visits and caucuses, have we shifted any conversations? Have we inserted ourselves to call attention to the impact of policies? Are we helping gather a community to work for change?

And now, I’m beginning to wonder, are we a rolling space for transformation?

Travel Log: Newark

Travel Log: Newark

Sister Eileen Reilly, SSND
July 25, 2016

Our last city before finishing up in Philadelphia was Newark, New Jersey, where we had two events.

1Newark1Our first stop was Integrity House in Newark, New Jersey, the largest residential addiction treatment center in the state. The caring, family-like environment there was amazing, especially given the size of the program.  The director there identified a huge “gap” when he explained to us that residential drug treatment is not covered by Medicaid.  This gap became very real when a few of the residents shared their experience of finally realizing they needed help, only to be told by other treatment centers that since they were on Medicaid, they could not come until that had the funds to pay for their treatment.

Several of the staff and residents of Integrity House accompanied us to our next stop, a rally. The event had been scheduled in a local park in Newark as the day went on, the weather forecast convinced us that would never work.  When all of our phones pulsed with “Flood Watch” alerts we knew we had made the right decision to move the rally in doors.  With only four hours notice, Father Luigi welcomed us to St. Lucy Church nearby, and opened the event with a prayer that deeply touched all of us as we sang the refrain, “Let My People Go.”

1Newark2Once again, local residents shared the Gaps that touched their lives, including wage theft – a situation in which employers do not pay the promised wage or neglect to pay overtime rates to those working more than 40 hours a week. When we came out of the Church, we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow – and a wet bus.  Those attempting to sign our bus had to dry a spot first!

See also:
Reflection: Finding Grace in a Community of Recovery
Slideshow: Integrity House
Slideshow: Newark Rally

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: 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

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