The “Nuns on the Bus” are back from their 6,800-mile trek across the U.S., but their hardest job may be yet to come: convincing the Republican-led House to pass immigration reform.
The cross-country tour, a project of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, was the nuns’ second cross-country trip after last year’s push to protest proposed budget cuts that the sisters said would hurt the poor.
When it comes to lobbying for comprehensive immigration reform, Sister Simone Campbell said even the Catholic bishops are on board with the Nuns on the Bus.
With the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, the “Nuns on the Bus” on Wednesday kicked off a national tour for immigration reform aimed at giving a faith-based push to legislation that’s now hanging in the balance in Congress.
“We have got to make this an urgent message of now,” Sister Simone Campbell, head of the social justice lobby Network, which organized the tour, told a rally on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.
“The next six to eight weeks is going to determine what we can accomplish,” Campbell said as she pointed to nearby Ellis Island, the American gateway for generations of immigrants. “The time is now for immigration reform.”
Champions of immigration reform believe they have their best opportunity to pass a comprehensive overhaul since 2007, when an effort backed by President George W. Bush was thwarted by members of his own party. After Republicans lost the Latino vote in last fall’s elections, GOP leaders said they would be open to an immigration bill that they think could help change that political dynamic.
NEW YORK — The “Nuns on the Bus” are revving up their engines for another national campaign, only this time the Catholic sisters are taking their mobile platform for social justice along the country’s Southern border to push Congress to pass immigration reform.
“The ‘Nuns on the Bus’ is going on the road again!” Sister Simone Campbell, head of the social justice lobby Network, told an enthusiastic gathering of faith leaders and charity activists at a Manhattan awards ceremony Wednesday (May 1).
“This time we’re going out for commonsense immigration reform,” she said to rousing applause.
Sister Simone Campbell sat down with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly to discuss her organization's push for a faithful budget.
Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, recently invited presidential candidate Mitt Romney to join the Nuns on the Bus in some of their charitable work with the poor.
Hundreds of supporters were on hand to welcome home the Nuns on the Bus on Monday at the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C. The sisters completed their nine-state, two-week journey for faith, family, and fairness in the federal budget.
"Some Catholic politicians are pushing budget cuts that violate Catholic social teaching," said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director for the Catholic lobbying group NETWORK. "And they jeopardize the Catholic sisters' effort to really help struggling families, to practice the values of the Gospel by serving the poor and vulnerable."
On June 20, Nuns on the Bus reached Rep. Paul Ryan's Wisconsin office. Nuns on the Bus, a cross-country bus tour of sisters sponsored by NETWORK, hopes to protest the House Republican budget that drastically cuts safety net programs and disproportionately targets the poor. Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, spoke outside of Ryan's office in Janesville, Wis., following a meeting with his staff.
When the Nuns on the Bus pulled up in front of Rep. Paul Ryan’s home office in Janesville, Wis., earlier this week, they were challenging the theological rationale he has been using for his budget plan that has become the economic banner for the Republican Party.
But they were also showing how people can hold strong opinions, get those opinions into the public arena and still engage adversaries in respectful ways.
In the process, they called on citizens to get engaged in the same way.
“I urge you, urge you, I beg you, Janesville, in this election cycle, please, don’t be a spectator,” Sr. Simone Campbell pleaded with a crowd in the courthouse park as their visit to the southern Wisconsin city came to an end.
After four days of meetings, the LCWR board — which represents 80 percent of American Catholic sisters — on June 1 issued a four-paragraph statement that, in stunningly clear language, called the Vatican to “openness, honesty, and integrity.”
The same day, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain took 26 lengthy paragraphs to reflect in America magazine on the history of sisters in the United States and on his role as the Vatican’s point man to oversee the LCWR for the next five years: “No one expects that such a sensitive task will be accomplished quickly or effortlessly, but by God’s grace and with mutual respect, patience and prayer it can be indeed accomplished for the good of all. Challenges larger than this have been met before, with renewal and even deeper faith the outcome.”
The LCWR has a long history of standing with those on the margins of power, and now they find themselves in much the same spot. As Pax Christi noted when honoring the sisters in 2010, the LCWR is composed of “strong, prophetic, and compassionate women … always on the front lines where the weak and most vulnerable suffer at the hands of violent and unjust power.”
Ever since the Vatican and the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference issued their recent highly critical report of the advocacy organization NETWORK and the Leadership Conference of Women Religion, the association representing the majority of Catholic women’s orders in the U.S., both women’s organizations have received thousands of letters and phone calls supporting their social justice actions and questioning what individuals and groups can do in support.
NETWORK was founded 40 years ago by Catholic sisters and over the years it has maintained a close relationship with LCWR. It does not, however, have any formal links with the Catholic Church and it is an organization for political advocacy, not a religious organization. NETWORK has been “stunned” by the Vatican's actions. In a nationwide conference call last week, more than 150 persons called in to speak about their support for Catholic Sisters and NETWORK. They wanted to know what they could do.
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