The Nuns on the Bus tour has been drawing large crowds as it winds it way through the nation’s heartland spreading a message for politicians in Washington. In some stops, the Nuns have drawn larger crowds than Romney’s bus tour a week or so ago. Crowds between 100 and 400 have greeted the Nuns in town after town.
They drew 100 in Middletown, PA Friday. In a hot parking lot outside Republican Congressman Fitzpatrick’s office, Sister Campbell said of the Congressman. “He’s a fine guy, a Catholic, but he’s missing the story of real America.
The Congressman’s office issued a statement that included a biblical verse from Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir one another to compassion and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” This is a far better tone than many Republican politicians have been using when they express disagreement on policy.
The National Catholic Reporter described the turnout for Nuns in South Bend, Ind., as “the same sort of enthusiastic crowds that often greet Notre Dame teams coming home after big wins on the road.” When they rolled into Cleveland, they were cheered like rock stars by more than 400 mostly gray-haired women squeezed into St. Joseph Center.
Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, reported that The Nuns on the Bus are getting the kind of media attention that would make a presidential candidate swoon. Dozens of news organizations — including Time, The New York Times, CNN and NPR have interviewed Sister Simone Campbell, the Nun in charge of the tour.
Campbell is a Catholic nun, an attorney, and executive director of NETWORK, a national lobbying group of sisters who fight for economic and social justice. She and a handful of other sisters are on a 14-day, nine-state “Nuns on the Bus” tour across America. They are protesting the Republicans’ Ryan budget because it would further hurt those Americans who already are suffering.
The Nuns are giving witness to an economic message based on the teachings of Jesus.
Their quest can be summed in five words: “Reasonable revenue for responsible programs.” The Nuns are informing the crowds and the media covering the tour what Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed budget would do:
- –Raise taxes on 18 million hardworking low-income families while cutting taxes for millionaires and big corporations.
- –Push the families of 2 million children into poverty.
- –Kick 8 million people off food stamps and 30 million off health care.
Sister Campbell denounces congressional budget cuts highlighting how millions of people risk losing food stamps and access to Medicaid, US government health insurance for the poor.
“I work very hard to get federal policies that reflect our moral principles,” she said. “The issue is caring for people at the margins. Giving tax cuts to the wealthy and expecting it to create jobs has not worked. You know what the definition of insanity is? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” she added.
“The richest nation in the world isn’t bankrupt, Sister Campbell said in another stop. “We’re bankrupt of political leadership.” She was repeatedly interrupted by thunderous applause, even when she talked about such lofty goals as “radical acceptance.”
“We have to open our hearts, even to John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell,” she said, grinning, “all the people I want to think are God’s mistakes.” She waited for the laughter to die down and added, “The God in me resides in the God in them.”
“They really restore your faith in the country,” Mary McAndrews, a retired French teacher, told AFP, a French news agency covering the Tour referring to the Sisters. Ms McAndrews was attending a packed session organized by the nuns Thursday night in the chocolate-producing Pennsylvania town of Hershey.
Whether the tour will change any votes in a polarized Congress bent on tilting our economy to the wealthy at the expense of the poor remains to be seen. But, just as Jesus did 2,000 years ago, they are spreading a different message—a message of compassion. It is heartening that so many people still turn out to hear that message. It is more Christian than a message that the poor, weak, old, and vulnerable are on their own.
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