“Who’d have thought, “Nuns On The Bus,” would catch on?”
That is Sister Simone Campbell, the Roman Catholic nun-in-chief of a nine-state 5,000km bus tour across the US, which aims to highlight the need for a balanced US budget that does not reward the wealthy with tax cuts and rob the poor of vital social services.
The nuns’ tour was prompted by a Vatican report that criticised them for concentrating too much on the needs of the poor and not enough on Catholic doctrine like marriage between a man and a woman only, contraception and abortion.
They finally disembarked from their charabanc at the United Methodist Building – a centre for social justice in Washington DC, near the US supreme court building – where they received a heroines’ welcome from people who now consider them to be Catholic rock stars.
Sister Campbell told the crowd: “I have never felt more proud, more delighted, more I don’t know more enriched by being a Catholic sister than to stand here with my sisters today. We’re turning up the heat on Congress so it’s appropriate that it’s hot here”.
On their journey the nuns targeted members of the US congress, most of whom are Republicans in favour of deep cuts in social programs to balance the debt-laden US budget.
In particular, a proposed plan by Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the budget committee chairman, which the nuns say would strip poor people of vital services.
They have been accused of being too politically partisan on the tour. So much so even some Democrats were reported to a little wary.
But when I put that to Simone, she would hear none of it!
The tour, according to her, is just an extension of the ministry.
“We have done it for a long time. We were called to it by the Bishops, we were called to it by the Holy father and we’ve been faithful to it for forty years and I’m very proud of it,” she said.
The arrival of the nuns in Washington DC was something of an interfaith event.
Dr Sayid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America was there to lend support, as were a number of Muslim women dressed traditionally.
Sayid told me the problems facing poor people in the US go far beyond faith.
“The issues that we were discussing here are the concern of everyone Muslims, Jews, Christians, people with faith, people with no faith, all are concerned about the way the budget is going,” he said.
So, now the nun’s bus over is over, what’s next?
81-year-old “Nun On A Bus” Sister Diane Donoghue from California said it is up to “the boss” upstairs.
You know, THE boss!
Yes, THAT one!
“We’re building on it and to the extent that we have the wider audience and people are joining us that’s building. And it makes a difference.”
Earlier, the nun’s fans sang religious harmonies but as the sisters left the podium to give individual interviews, a different kind of music could be heard coming from the speakers – “The Eye of The Tiger” from the Rocky movies. Even that was music to the ears of the nun’s new found followers.