St. Louis was the fifth stop on a 21-stop tour for Nuns on the Bus, a program started by the NETWORK lobby, which has nuns and their allies riding on a bus advocating for social justice across the country.
Now, the sisters find themselves at the Republican National Convention serving lemonade to attendees in hopes of enticing Republicans participating in the convention to answer three questions about the 2016 election and the future of the United States.
The theme of this trip, which is the group’s sixth, is “mend the gaps.” The sisters are calling for attention to economic and social divides in the country.
“The bottom 24 percent of earners in the nation have lost almost nine percent of their income,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, who founded Nuns on the Bus and is executive director of NETWORK. “Wages are flat and the cost of living going up, they’re losing ground. That worried us. What is happening? It didn’t used to be this way. Between 1949 and 1979 it wasn’t this way. We did a study and found seven policy areas that caused this huge change, starting at about 1980. You could think this is bad, grim, but the good news underneath it is that if policies made this mess, then policies can change it. We’re on the road to say ‘let’s change it.’”
Campbell said the trip had been a powerful one and that, in particular, the sisters’ time in Missouri was upsetting.
“We were in Jeff City and we were horrified, the amount of tears that we shed was significant, because of the struggles of the people there,” Campbell said. “Missouri has the lowest pay for state workers, they are struggling.”
Campbell said that the group had “seen so much heartbreak and at the same time so much hope.” Medicaid, living wages, paid sick leave, citizenship and housing are some of the most difficult issues that the sisters advocate over.
At a time when abusive political rhetoric is at a fever pitch, Campbell said it was essential for Nuns on the Bus to be present at both the Republican National Convention, happening this week, and the Democratic National Convention, happening next week.
“You can’t run a democracy on arrogance and fear,” Campbell said.
Campbell believes that Catholic voters will have an important part to play in the presidential election.
“Catholics have been the bellwether voters for all but one of the elections since the 1940s,” Campbell said. “I think Pope Francis has lifted up for Catholic voters a deeper analysis of what catholic teachings is about. Often, politicians want to make the Catholic faith just about a single issue, often the abortion or marriage issue, but what Pope Francis has done is to dramatically lift up Catholic social teachings. Catholics in the United States are keenly aware of that. They know the economy, how we care for the environment, how we care for each other is a moral issue. Like the last many elections, Catholics are going to be key.”
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