Category Archives: Nuns on the Bus

Cultivating Community on the 2020 Virtual Nuns on the Bus Tour

Cultivating Community on the Virtual Nuns on the Bus Tour

Meg Olson
December 4, 2020

Back in April, when it became clear that we were going to be in this pandemic for the long haul and weren’t going to have a cross-country Nuns on the Bus tour, I have to admit: I was filled with sadness and despair. How was NETWORK going to be able to make a difference in the most important election of my lifetime? How were we going to cultivate the community that we experience on the Bus? Soon though, thanks to my team’s creativity, our members’ and supporters’ willingness to embrace Zoom and other technology to meet with their Members of Congress and attend workshops, and our partners’ thoughtful virtual events that they hosted, we were able to muster up the enthusiasm and vision necessary to help create a month-long virtual Nuns on the Bus tour that held a total of 63 events in 16 states!

In some ways, the virtual nature of the Bus allowed us to do things that would have never happened on the road in real life. Our very large Bus would have never made it to the hollers of Southwest Virginia to visit the Health Wagon, where we met with Dr. Teresa Tyson and Dr. Paula Hill-Collins and learned about the innovation required for a mobile clinic to provide everything from dentures to cystoscopies to one of Central Appalachia’s most under-served communities. We would not have been able to host 5 Dialogues Across Geographic Divides in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, which brought people together from rural communities, small towns, suburbs, and cities across a state to discuss the challenges they face and begin to find common solutions. Finally, folks from Utah would have never attended a Town Hall for Spirit-Filled Voters in Erie, Pennsylvania!And we were still able to cultivate community. The sisters who “rode” the Bus with us met three times a week with Sister Simone for prayer and meditation. Nearly every night, Catholics and other people of faith gathered in Zoom break-out rooms and shared how their faith had led them to become multi-issue voters. At our Health Care Rally, seasoned advocates Elena Hung and Laura Packard welcomed Kristin Urqueza from newly-formed Marked by COVID, and were eager to connect with and support her. And to this day participants from our Wisconsin Dialogue Across Geographic Divides are continuing the conversation and supporting each other’s activism.

So yes, our Nuns on the Bus Virtual Tour was unusual, but it still managed to be the perfect vehicle of justice and joy to show the nation that “Who We Elect Matters.”

For more information, download the full NETWORK Election 2020 Report.

Unleash Generosity for NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus 2020 Site Visit Organizations!

Unleash Generosity for NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus 2020 Site Visit Organizations!

Maggie Brevig
December 1, 2020

Every year on #GivingTuesday, the nonprofit community mobilizes millions of people across the globe to show up, give back, and change their communities. The goal is to create a massive wave of generosity that lasts well beyond that day, and touches every person on the planet.

This #GivingTuesday, I am incredibly thankful for the many people and organizations who have been part of NETWORK’s critical advocacy efforts this year. From pivoting to virtual lobby visits and streaming interfaith vigils, to taking Nuns on the Bus off the road and directly available to anyone with internet access, hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of activists came together this year to build toward a shared vision of justice for our world.

If you are inspired by all that NETWORK has done this year, I invite you this #GivingTuesday to unleash generosity not only for NETWORK, but also the organizations that partnered with us for Nuns on the Bus site visits. And I hope you encourage your family and friends to do the same!

Nuns on the Bus 2018 Tour speaking at the Women’s Community Revitalization Project.

#GivingTuesday invites us to think about how we can give of ourselves to support others. Where and how you choose to give is up to you. The most important, and communal, part of this day sharing your reason for giving with your networks and encouraging them to join you.

So at NETWORK, I want to share with you the organizations who generously gave their time and brought their expertise and experiences to our Nuns on the Bus 2020 site visits. I encourage you to visit their websites listed below and learn more about their ministries. And I hope you’re moved to support the organizations that inspire you. These organizations are doing critical work in their local communities all across the country, and if you watch the videos of their site visits, you’ll see how vital and interconnected their work is with our national work for justice.

I hope you join me in giving back this #GivingTuesday!

And support NETWORK to continue educating, organizing, and lobbying for justice.

Nuns on the Bus tour is virtual this year, but calling to truth and justice goes on

Nuns on the Bus tour is virtual this year, but calling to truth and justice goes on

Sister Jeanne Christensen, RSM
October 24, 2020

Network Lobby is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1971 by religious Catholic women. Membership is open today to all people who are advocates for justice. In this election year, Network is sponsoring a virtual Nuns on the Bus tour to emphasize that Catholics and all people of faith have a moral obligation to be politically responsible and to vote according to their own well-informed conscience. For Catholics, that includes an understanding of the Catholic social teachings, the importance of being a multi-issue voter, and why who we elect matters.

The principles of Catholic social teaching are the life and dignity of the human person; a call to family, community, and participation; rights and responsibilities; an option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God’s creation.

Bishop Robert McElroy of the Diocese of San Diego recently said in an address: “Frequently in discussions of the application of Catholic social teaching to voting, the question is raised whether one specific issue is singularly determinative for voting in the current election cycle. Some have categorized abortion in that way. Others, climate change. Still other Americans see the central issue in the 2020 election as the ability to heal our culture of exclusion and racism so that we can truly become a unified nation with a coherent political community.

“Each of these issues has a powerful moral claim upon the conscience of a faith-filled Catholic voter.”

These issues are interrelated. For example, if we truly respect life and advocate for the unborn, we must also advocate for their right to adequate food, safe, affordable shelter, quality education, family stability and freedom from abuse and violence.

Pope Francis has called us to frame the defense of human life and dignity in expansive terms and on many issues. He said “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery and every form of rejection.”

This year’s Nuns on the Bus tour will provide fact-based information on the most pressing issues in our nation. We will listen to the lived experiences of those facing difficult challenges and help tour participants to understand and then vote for the good of all on Election Day.

As Bishop McElroy said, “We must vote in faith and rebuild in hope to serve the nation that we love and the Gospel by which we are redeemed.”

Jeanne Christensen is Justice Advocate against Human Trafficking for Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in North Kansas City.

Originally published in The Kansas City Star.

A Message from Vice President Biden to Nuns on the Bus

A Message from Vice President Biden to Nuns on the Bus

Sister Simone Campbell
October 23, 2020

On the eve of the final day of Nuns on the Bus 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden sent a letter in support of our efforts. Over the course of the last month the Nuns of the Bus have held over 60 Site Visits, Town Halls, Dialogues across Geographic Divides, and Rallies, and this letter comes from a place of gratitude for our being together and our commitment to making a difference in these challenging digital times. For me this letter expresses how former Vice President Joe Biden’s own faith is rooted in a commitment to the common good.

Read the letter below:

10.23.20 NunsOTB letter

Dear Friends:

It is a pleasure, as always, to extend my well-wishes and sincere congratulations to you on another successful tour. While it has looked and felt different than previous tours and  rallies, this milestone is no less momentous; your mission to bolster humanity and decency in our nation’s politics so that it may elevate those who face the greatest challenges, no less righteous. Your leadership reminds us that we a part of something bigger than any one individual. It matters a lot, and I wish we could be together in person to celebrate.

We’re living through a time unlike any in our nation’s history. As we continue to deal with a public health crisis which has laid bare historic inequities in our healthcare system and our economy, we are all called upon to dig deep and summon the courage do more than simply speak out––but to engage our communities, to practice gratitude and self-reflection, and to address injustices with real action. Your core values, carried out through your ministries, are intertwined in all you do, whether through the intention of prayer or your presence in the community. And at a time when our nation is reeling from multiple crises profoundly impacting the poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable, your movement, rooted in faith, is a guiding light and a moral example of how we must conduct ourselves and engage one another with compassion. I am grateful for your leadership because scripture is clear: It’s not enough just to wish the world were better. It’s our duty to make it so.

I’d like to take this opportunity to send a special thanks to Sister Simone Campbell. You’ve been a champion of hope and an inspiration to me since the day we met. Despite the deep division that defines so much of our politics these days, there is no force more powerful than the love and compassion you bring to your mission to achieve peace and justice.

Each of you understands that this ongoing fight comes down to a basic universal truth that my father taught me––that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. It’s a simple proposition that you lift up with your voices and strive to see carried out in our laws, our institutions, and our hearts. I am grateful for your tireless efforts and the hope you’ve given to so many along the way. The world is a better place because of it.

Thanks again for all that you do. Jill and I pray that you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy, and I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Sincerely,

Joe Biden

In Cincinnati, a Discussion On How ‘Everything is Connected’

In Cincinnati, a Discussion on How ‘Everything is Connected’

Sr. Caroljean Willi
October 16, 2020

While offering a warm welcome to the Queen of the West at Network’s Oct. 16 town hall meeting in Cincinnati, participants also learned of the high poverty rate that exists in the city.

The opening prayer began with a quote from Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai that reminded us that we are called to be people of hope — even, and perhaps more so, in the midst of the turmoil that surrounds us.

Participants reflected on how the coronavirus has given us an opportunity to look at ourselves and remember that we all belong to each other. Pope Francis’ injunction that we have to move to the margins came up repeatedly during the discussions.

Racism and the need to confront it was a recurring theme. There was unanimity in agreeing that racism and inequality have to be dealt with at the systemic level, that it is a structural problem affecting our society negatively in our treatment of people considered “minorities.” Even the term “minorities” itself was called into question if we truly believe we are equally loved as children of God. This belief in the dignity of all people forces us to look at how all people in society are treated and be willing to speak up and act with clarity and integrity, to call out the injustices in our own backyards, but also to offer our time and efforts to find solutions.

One of the greatest challenges expressed was that of getting people to listen to what we are saying about the sacredness of all of life, referring not only to people, but to all of creation and the responsibility we have to care for it. Suggestions offered included the need to try to find at least one kernel of common ground with the person with whom you disagree, and also being sensitive to your audience and willing to enter into dialogue.

Whether discussing racism, immigration, climate change or the pandemic, Pope Francis’ words that “everything is connected” were a constant reminder that who we elect matters.

[Caroljean Willie is a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati who has a Ph.D. in multicultural education. She has extensive experience working cross-culturally throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America.]


This blog was originally published on Global Sisters Report.

The Dire Need for Health Care in Wise, Virginia

The Dire Need for Health Care in Wise, Virginia

Sr. Cecelia Cavanaugh
October 15, 2020

On Oct. 15, the Sisters of St. Joseph foundation day, I “visited” the Health Wagon in Wise, Virginia. I found our congregation’s values of meeting the needs of “the dear neighbor” incarnated in the mission of the Health Wagon, which provides medical care for the working poor in Appalachia.

Dr. Teresa Tyson and Dr. Paula Hill-Collins shared the energy and insights that fuel their mission. As they repeated the phrase, “This is the United States of America,” they named staggering statistics: a life expectancy shortened by 20 years on average, high percentages for illnesses, addiction, lack of medical insurance of working people who are earning their way out of eligibility for Medicaid and into debt and preventable illness.

A Catholic sister working in Africa to provide medical care to people on the margins. A young woman growing up in the United States, dreaming of being a missionary doctor. Thousands of men, women and children, many standing in line for days to have access to free medical, vision and dental care. These three came together in extraordinary ways in a mission field, but not in an African country, as one might conclude.

Sr. Bernadette Kenny, a Medical Missionary of Mary, met Teresa in Virginia, Teresa’s home state. Sister Bernie was missioned from Africa to southwest Virginia in 1978 to provide health care to people who are medically underserved. Teresa found her missionary calling in staying home, earning her nurse practitioner credentials and inheriting the directorship of the Health Wagon in from Sister Bernie.

Teresa and Paula, the clinical director and Teresa’s partner in mission, call this being “covered by Sister Bernie’s cloak” (1 Kings 19:19). As they described their efforts to Sr. Simone Campbell, they repeated the refrain, “This is the United States of America,” and it echoed in my soul. This is not a country in the developing world. My city is in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet.

As Sister Simone spoke with Teresa and Paula, I heard another refrain: “innovation, innovation, innovation.” This includes the Health Wagon, bringing clinical care to those with no way to travel to two health care sites. Drones deliver prescriptions. Telehealth provides counseling. It demands networking — building collaborations across faith traditions, health and educational institutions, for example — and creatively meeting needs as they arise.

As I reflected on these refrains and the way they are enmeshed in the work of the Health Wagon, I thought of all the people I know in Philadelphia working for justice and dignity for every dear neighbor. Teresa and Paula are sustained by that which energizes them and moves them to relentless action. “God provides.” “God does not call without providing the means.” “This is the United States of America.” We can do this.

[Sr. Cecelia Cavanaugh of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia is the former dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at Chestnut Hill College.]


This blog was originally published on Global Sisters Report.

“What do you seek?” A Call for Community in Kansas City

“What do you seek?” A Call for Community in Kansas City

Audrey Carroll
October 26, 2020

The Nuns on the Bus rolled into my hometown, Kansas City, Mo., on the evening of October 19. I was excited to “go home” for a night and have important conversations with people I knew I could relate to. What you need to know about Kansas Citians is that we’re very passionate people. We’re passionate about our city, our sports teams, our families, our local businesses, our neighbors. So I wasn’t surprised to see Kansas Citians show up to the Town Hall for Spirit-Filled Voters eager to learn and discuss how we can better the common good during the election season. 

After opening the Town Hall with introductions and an overview of the night from Sister Simone, attendees were placed into small discussion groups. Although I had never met my group members, we shared common concerns. We all were finding it hard to get through to the single-issue voters in our lives, and were hitting walls when trying to confront authority figures in our city and our parishes. The Nun on the Bus facilitating my small group conversation was Sister Alice. Sister Alice encouraged us all to remain hopeful in making change. “One small step still moves the whole group forward,” she said. 

Coming back to the large group with that in mind, people began to share takeaways from the small group conversations. There was an evident, overarching theme of a need for community among all the Town Hall attendees. We agreed election season was frustrating and isolating. However, what followed the shared frustration were reflections on how we all can create the community we want to be a part of. One attendee shared that her new goal was to “go towards abundance” rather than scarcity. It can be easy to get caught up in negativity, doom scrolling on Twitter or engaging in Facebook comment wars. But we gain nothing from those interactions. Some political conversations we have will be filled with scarcity and not much opportunity to change opinions or reach common ground. So why not strive for relationships and conversations that we know will be fulfilling and productive? 

Sister Judy Blake then shared the words that presented a perfect call to action. “Go to people whose hearts can be opened,” she said. “Reach out to others, seek out others.” Her words reminded me of Jesus’s words in John’s Gospel. As two of John’s disciples leave to follow Jesus, Jesus turns to them and says ‘What do you seek?’ (John 1:38-39). That question is more relevant than ever. People come to Jesus for a multitude of reasons, so in the Gospel Jesus prompts us to get specific in what exactly we are seeking from Him. This message directly applied to our Town Hall discussion. What do we seek in our relationships, communities, and conversations ahead of the election and beyond? Do we seek to open hearts and minds, or to create further division? Do we seek scarcity or abundance?

In the quest to build a community of Multi-Issue voters, we seek out others whose hearts can be opened to our message, even if the journey is made up of a series of tiny steps. We are all part of the connective tissue that makes up one body of voters. We may not all have the same opinions, but it is possible to find common ground and create a thriving community of justice seekers. 

Bus Blog: Sojourner Truth House and The Dream Project

Bus Blog: Sojourner Truth House and The Dream Project

Caraline Feairheller
October 15, 2020

On Wednesday, October 14 the Nuns on the Bus went on two virtual site visits. The first stop was in Gary, Indiana with the Sojourner Truth House. At Sojourner Truth House, Sister Simone met with Sister Peg Spindler, the Executive Director, Pam Key, the Director of Client Services, Casaundra Hill, the Senior Case Manager, Twyla Burks, the Support Services Coordinator, and Angie Curtis.Established in 1997, Sojourner Truth House serves homeless and at-risk women and their children and underserved members of the community through providing a day center, food pantry, transportation, case management, and recovery classes. They focus on a holistic service delivery model that strengthens the mind, body, and spirit of the clients, and as Casaundra said, “there is no cookie-cutter service here. We go by what our clients need.”

Beyond meeting the needs of their clients, the Sojourner Truth House works to meet the needs of their community. In response to the murder of George Floyd they created a “Finding the Truth on Fridays” series that brings people together to share stories on the impacts of racism and encourage them into action. Sister Peg made sure to remind viewers, especially white viewers that, “the only Gospel some people ever read is that of our lives. We have to be actively fighting against racism in whatever form it takes.”

Late in the afternoon the Nuns on the Bus made their second site visit in Arlington Virginia with The Dream Project. Sister Simone was joined by Dr. Emma Violand-Sanche, Dream Project Founder and Chair, Lizzette Arias, Dream Project Executive Director, Belinda Passafaro, a Dream Project Case Manager, and Daniel, a Dream Project alumni.The Dream Project as founded in 2011 and empowers students whose immigration status creates barriers to education by working with them to access and succeed in college through scholarship, mentoring, family engagement, and advocacy building. Since its founding it has grown from providing 4 scholarships a year to 100 per year.

The conversation highlighted the importance of creating a community that is willing to shift gears and adapt to the uncertainty of Federal policy decisions. Both Emma and Belinda emphasized the traumatic consequences that come with an Administration that creates uncertainty around ICE, deportations, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Dream Project is mindful of its advocacy because, as Emma stated, “the cruelty of these policy decisions is felt by the people. We need to remember that these are someone’s daughter, or brothers, and parents. This is the time we need to vote and remember that our votes matter.”

While the Sojourner Truth House and the Dream Project are divided by geographic region and provide different types of service to different types of clients, both organizations recognize the impact policies, such as a rent moratorium, have on their clients and are actively organizing to ensure that those in power are listening to their voices.

Watch the Nuns on the Bus site visit to the Sojourner Truth House to learn more. Watch on Facebook or YouTube.
Watch the Nuns on the Bus site visit to The Dream Project  to learn more. Watch on Facebook or YouTube.

Discussing the Three C’s at a San Antonio Town Hall

Discussing the Three C’s at a San Antonio Town Hall

Sr. Bernadine Karge
October 9, 2020

Friday night, Oct. 9, found 77 folks on the bus at Network’s town hall in San Antonio, sponsored by the Intercongregational Leadership Group of San Antonio. The seven men on the bus were outnumbered 10 to 1 by women. Curiously, three of the seven were named James or Jim!

In the opening prayer, we called upon the fire of the Spirit to give us audacity and hope in this election season to engage in dialogue with others even though we may disagree with their viewpoints. Encounter, being together and seeking a future of freedom will enable us to be community.

Our animated interfaith exchange evolved into the three C’s: the common good, character and conscience. Most of the attendees lived in the San Antonio and Austin areas. As part of this wonderful multicultural, multilingual, multiracial world, they identified immigration as one of the key issues in which they are involved.

 

A health care worker adjusts a monitor on a patient's hand at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston Sept. 30. Texas ranks 50th in the United States for access to affordable health care. (CNS/Reuters/Callaghan O'Hare)

A health care worker adjusts a monitor on a patient’s hand at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston Sept. 30. Texas ranks 50th in the United States for access to affordable health care. (CNS/Reuters/Callaghan O’Hare)

The fact that Texas ranks 50th in the United States for access to affordable health care was raised by many as something they are not proud of as Texans.

Those who work in agriculture know the need to organize, cooperate and work to bring in the harvest. Care for the environment, care of the Earth, education and economic equity were also added to the common-good stew.

The character of whom we elect was raised as most important. Is there one who can see how our policies are the sources of suffering, inequity, grief and fear among the community? Is there one who can recognize those who suffer with empathy and compassion?

One of the nuns on the bus who recently returned to the United States after 50 years on mission in many African countries reflected on the blast of vitriol present in the public discourse in the United States. In this time of fever pitch, we need the ability to listen to another, to respect the human dignity of each person, to seek truth and to live with integrity.

“Be curious, not furious” was a slogan shared to be a means to encountering another without judgment.

As we moved on in our conversation, the word “conscience” came to the fore. We raised the fact that the issues of this time cross interfaith barriers. An integrated, holistic approach to honoring each human is possible. Each person has a conscience, whether they operate out of a faith tradition or not. Each of us can choose to show empathy. As someone remarked, “A little goes a long way.”

One thing that the COVID-19 rollercoaster has taught us is that we are all in this together. There is something we can do: Get out to vote and bring your friends. “Silence is violence.”

[Sr. Bernadine Karge is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, who has practiced immigration law in Chicago for more than 30 years.]

Bus Blog: Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Alliance for Fair Food

Bus Blog: Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Alliance for Fair Food

Caraline Feairheller
October 13, 2020

On Thursday October 8, The Nuns on the Bus Virtual Tour had a site visit with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Alliance for Fair Food. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is located in Immokalee Florida and is a worker-based human rights organization that fights against human trafficking and gender-based violence. The Alliance for Fair Food (AFF) is a coalition of CIW, Interfaith Action, Student Farmworker Alliance, and Just Harvest that joined together to build collective strength and stand with farmworkers as they advance their struggle for justice and dignity. During the Visit, Sister Simone Campbell spoke with Nely, Julia, Silvia, and Cruz from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers as well as Uriel from the Alliance for Fair Food.

Organizing efforts for both the CIW and AFF begin with this question of “who has power?” Their work has taught them that by gathering together and targeting the massive food corporation who use their power to leverage farmworkers, they are able to make workplace changes such as increased wages and greater protections against violence. During the conversation Silvia emphasized how “gender-based and sexual violence continue to be a big problem in this industry. Through the Alliance for Fair Food we have been able to see a significant change in terms of protections and creating a culture where women are able to speak up without fear of retaliation.”

In Immokalee, Florida there have been over 2,250 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Due to a variety of factors in housing, access to medical care, and transportation farmworkers are uniquely vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as Cruz said during the site visit, “all our small actions add up to something momentous. Those small actions have meant a difference to farmworkers having their rights respected” One of those small actions the CIW is asking us to take is to sign the petition calling for the government to take the necessary steps to protect essential farmworkers.

Watch the Nuns on the Bus site visit to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers/Alliance for Fair Food to learn more. Watch on Facebook or YouTube.