The trip began with a Monday blessing, and a group of Roman Catholic nuns has started another journey by bus, their fifth since 2012, this one covering 15 states and addressing income and wealth inequality – the theme: Mend the Gaps.
Nuns on the Bus is a project of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, an organization formed 44 years ago: “NETWORK commits to upholding human dignity, embracing our right and responsibility to participate, standing with those living in poverty, bridging divisions, uniting with workers, and nurturing the earth.”
Events along the way will include caucuses, workshops, a prayer breakfast and other community meals, rallies and celebrations of the Mass.
Wisconsin Public Radio reports on the sisters’ journey, which begins in that state and ends in Pennsylvania:
The group hopes to bridge the chasms within society by doing everything from funding a new census to changing the tax structure, said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and leader of NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus group.
“Too often, we’re giving tax cuts to those at the top, but you know what? It’s adversely impacting those at the bottom,” she said. “We all have to contribute to the common good.”
The Network, and the bus project, is purposefully political:
Janesville’s unique political makeup makes it the first stop on the tour, as the central topic of this year’s tour is societal divisions, Campbell said. The area is represented by House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“We thought that any area that could be represented by two such different folks created the possibility for dialogue and engagement,” Campbell said. “That’s the perfect place to learn how to mend the gaps because certainly their political perspectives are dramatically different, but it’s one people in one county.”
The Nuns on the Bus first hit the road to highlight social justice issues and protest a federal budget that was proposed by Ryan, who cited his Catholic faith when he proposed the budget cuts. But the members of Nuns on the Bus opposed it, arguing that the proposal would help the rich at the expense of the poor.
Campbell, who is also an attorney and poet, described engagement in the political world as a challenging, but necessary expression of her faith.
“In our society, in a democracy, the way we make our values seen is by stepping into that political world. It’s much easier to do direct service and do charity,” she said. “Doing this political work is hard, because I have to listen to people who disagree with me, I have to figure a way out that includes them as well as my perspective, and together we can move forward.”
The Baltimore Sun, in a profile of Sister Ilaria Buonriposi, an area nun chosen to join the trip, gives some more background into the group of travelers:
Buonriposi, 51, who lives and works at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Baltimore, is about to join the Nuns on The Bus, an annual initiative in which a group of Catholic sisters takes a tour of several states by bus, stopping in multiple places along the way to work with the needy and draw attention to social-justice causes.
Sisters who specialize in applying Catholic doctrine to societal problems are chosen from parishes across the country.
Buonriposi, a native of Florence, Italy, who has lived in Baltimore since 2009, is the first sister based in town to join the tour.
This year’s tour — the fifth — starts in Madison, Wis., on Monday, and will take a rotating roster of 18 nuns 2,400 miles through 13 states, finally rolling into Philadelphia on July 25.
Photo from NETWORK Lobby Flickr feed.