'Nuns on a Bus' Roll on to Campus

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

by Julia Snyder

What’s black and white with a will to travel and connect? Nuns on the Bus! The Catholic advocacy group with a passion for social justice has returned to the road after a two-year hiatus, and the nuns will pull up for a town hall meeting at the Chapel of St. Joseph - Michael J. Smith, S.J., Memorial on Wednesday, October 24 at 6 p.m.

The event is sponsored by SJU’s Office of Mission and Campus Ministry.

This year’s program is called The Tax Justice Truth Tour, and the sisters are outspoken in opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which they argue will increase economic and social inequalities that they see in the United States. As with previous tours, the nuns invite those who support their work to grab a marker and write their names and messages of support on the actual bus. It’s fun and inclusive, with a serious, pointed message.

The 2014 and ’16 tours made the nuns celebrities. Even so, being on the road is demanding and not very glamorous.

“The sisters are always working, even when they’re traveling between locations,” says Ashley Wilson ’12, communications director for the bus’ organizer, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “There is always a lot of networking and community-building happening between the nuns. They’re all dedicated to spreading the story, so they do phone interviews or write blog posts and reflections while they’re on the bus to preserve these moments and this mission.”

And everywhere the bus stops, there are potential connections to make.

“Even at gas and food stops, there are always people who are curious about the nuns in the tour bus,” says Wilson, who studied political science with a double minor in sociology and faith justice during her time at Saint Joseph’s. “The sisters have actually started carrying markers in their pockets so that no matter where they’re speaking to someone, they can pull pamphlets out of their tote bags and markers from their pockets and say, ‘If you’re with us, sign the bus.’ ”

The current tour includes 54 events in 21 states, spread over 27 days. It began on October 8 in Los Angeles and will conclude at the Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on November 2, four days before the midterm elections.

At each stop, the sisters hold town hall meetings and visit state representatives’ offices to voice their concerns. While the tour is sometimes criticized as politically partisan, the nuns’ mission is inspired by a homily delivered by Pope Francis in 2013. One excerpt is painted on the back of the bus. “Politics, according to the social doctrine of the church, is one of the highest forms of charity because it is designed to serve the common good. And a good Catholic meddles in politics to offer the best of themselves, so that those who govern can govern.”

“I understand that as a nun there is a certain level of credibility that we have. We’ve been known as teachers, healers, individuals in social services and we are well-educated,” said one of the nuns on the bus, Linda Werthman, RSM. “We think that the tax bill can be modified and we hope it will be so that the most vulnerable people in our country are not overburdened.”

The bus rolls on.

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