Nuns on the Bus in Missouri Spell Out Moral Choices
By Sister Jeanne C.
On Tuesday, I boarded a van in Kansas City that was starting out on a tour of Missouri to focus attention on the enormous moral choices facing our country. Do we choose to be a nation of individualism and fear when the rich get richer at the expense of those in need? Or do we bring our moral principles to the public arena and work together for the common good of all?
The tour is called, “Nuns on the Bus: Nuns Drive for Faith, Family and Fairness.” Seven of us — three sisters, a religious brother, two religious community co-members and a committed lay woman — boarded the van that was to make stops in the span of the week in Liberty, Kansas City, Harrisonville, Springfield, Ballwin, Cape Girardeau and Hannibal.
We are members of NETWORK, the national Catholic Social Justice Lobby in Washington, D.C., that organized a nine-state Nuns on the Bus tour earlier this summer with the same goals: to highlight the work sisters do to meet the needs of people at the economic margins and to reveal how if federal budget cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are passed by the House of Representatives it will hurt struggling families.
I was able to participate only on September 4 in Liberty and Kansas City. We visited Catholic-sponsored social service agencies that serve people who will be further harmed by proposed budget cuts, and we met with staff from the congressional offices of Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO)and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). Our goal was to advocate for a fair budget. At the meeting at Rep. Graves’ office, where four supporters joined us, I was delighted when his staffer, Shawna Searcy, remembered me by name from an earlier visit — I guess we sisters do make an impression!
I found both Shawna and Josh, another Graves’ staffer, very open to our conversation. They took notes, asked clarifying questions and seemed genuinely interested. They also appreciated, as did the media representatives, the information I provided on the national Faithful Budget Campaign and the Save for All Campaign — strong alternatives to the Ryan budget.
Our core concerns about Ryan budget are the following:
- It undermines the food stamp program (SNAP) at a time when millions need it to feed their families.
- It begins to shift Medicare to a voucher program, which may require seniors to pay more of their own healthcare expenses, thus driving more of them into poverty.
- It gives large tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of protections for struggling families.
- It drastically cuts funding for health insurance programs for low-income people.
- It increases Pentagon spending while cutting programs that serve people in need — despite the Pentagon saying there are military programs that should be cut.
Friends, supporters, local church members and leaders and political officials were invited to join us along the way. Over 40 people participated in the media event at St. James Parish in mid-town Kansas City. I had to smile when one of the guests and a staff person from St. James Place next door (where they feed over 200 people a day as well as provide other social services), came to serve us cold water. It was very welcoming especially since it was 95 degrees in the parking lot where we gathered.
How can we sisters not be hopeful when one of our friends says, “Nuns on the Bus…great crowd, awful heat, powerful energy and tangible hope! Thanks to everyone along the way who give support to these brave nuns who give us all more courage to speak truth to power and act in love.”
Like the original Nuns on the Bus, ours is supported by contributions — just another indicator that people of faith are concerned deeply about the well-being of the most vulnerable among us, and recognize the harm that the Ryan budget will cause. It also was an expression of the support for the sisters who have worked for social justice and served those in need.