This busload of nuns tells it like it is

  • Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns On The Bus speaks during an earlier tour in lower Manhattan. THOMAS ALTFATHER GOOD/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Published: 8/3/2016 5:57:09 PM


A week or so ago, we went to see the traveling political movement known as Nuns on the Bus.

What a refreshing, invigorating discussion we had of pressing issues confronting our country, in marked contrast to all the yelling, name-calling and simplistic rhetoric we have heard in the presidential campaign.

The project stopped in West Hartford, gathering about 300 people from all over New England. The busload of nuns is led by Sister Simone Campbell, who is also a lawyer. These nuns come from different backgrounds. They are lawyers, social workers and teachers and are touring the country to discuss national policies with people from all walks of life.  

The theme for their tour is “Mending the gaps.”

NETWORK, an organization that advocates for Catholic social justice, sponsors the Nuns on the Bus. They have been traveling through 12 states to call on elected officials and candidates to “mend the gaps” in income and wealth inequality in our nation. Their belief is that federal policies created the huge income and social divide that exists — and therefore we must change federal policies to close the gaps.

Here are some of the key issues the nuns discussed, with a lot of participation from the audience:

Living wages. National legislation should move from adjusting a minimum wage to creating a living wage. No one can live on $7.25 an hour in this country. Some people living in homeless shelters are working, but they can’t afford a house or apartment. In one of our local shelters, I met a gentleman who was working two jobs and he still could not afford an apartment.

Housing. Everyone should have access to safe, affordable housing. Current studies have counted at least 564,708 homeless people in the U.S. Of them, 40 percent are white, 10 percent are Latino and 41 percent are black. Many are veterans.

Immigration. Immigrants should be welcomed into our country, which was, after all, built by immigrants. We are all descended from immigrants. The U.S. would gain $2.2 billion in tax revenue from undocumented immigrants who are here if comprehensive immigration reform is passed.

Tax justice. No tax policy should exacerbate the income gap, especially the racial, ethnic and gender wealth gaps. More than 4 million people of color and 6 million women in the U.S. would benefit from expanding the earned income tax credit to include childless workers.

Family-friendly workplaces. The needs of women and families should be integrated into federal workplace policies. Fifty-one percent of working parents in the U.S. are ineligible to take unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Health care. Racial and economic disparities in healthcare should be eliminated. In the U.S., 2.9 million individuals remain uninsured because 19 states have refused Medicaid expansion.

Two weeks ago, the Nuns on the Bus visited the Republican National Convention, then drove to Philadelphia to attend the Democratic National Convention.

For more information on these talented and dedicated women, visit

John F. Sheehan, a Catholic activist and former executive director of the United Way of Hampshire County, lives in Southampton.


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