By: Sr. Phyllis Tierney
|Sr. Phyllis Tierney (Courtesy of NETWORK).|
Monday morning began with an opening rally and bus blessing on Santa Monica Beach. Sister Simone greeted the crowd and explained our mission, "Reasonable revenue for responsible programs."
Take-Aways from this experience:
The first evening that we gathered, Sr. Simone gave each of the bus riders a simple bracelet: a piece of elastic with one glass bead that symbolizes Hope, a hope that we bring with us and a hope that we share with all that we encounter, that together we can bring about a change, a conversion of heart, metanoia, so that we will see tax justice as caring for our neighbor in need, and not just the accumulation of wealth for ourselves. From the Kick-Off Rally with Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Jimmy Gomez to the Town Hall for Justice in Tucson that was attended by approximately 200 people (by my scan, at least!) there was great enthusiasm and appreciation for Nuns on the Bus and their message. We also encountered those who didn't like us, consider Democrats to be doing the work of Satan, etc... but it was important to hear those voices because they signify the deep divisions in our country. We were blessed by the visit to Homeboy Industries, founded by Jesuit Fr. Greg Boyle. Workers shared their stories of "Fr. G.'s" belief in them when they had given up believing in themselves. My eyes teared when George said his son asked "Are you ever going to love us? Do we even exist for you?" Today he can say "I can only save myself…I do this because I have to give back to my community." Today George has his family back and George is here to help others who are trying to fight their way back from addictions and gang membership.
Tuesday in Las Vegas we met members of the Culinary Union 226 who are fighting for hospitality workers in the casinos. This union represents immigrants from 173 countries. Its composition is 54 percent Latino and 55 percent women. Its' diverse membership speaks over 40 different languages.
They are working for new contracts for 2000 workers in three casinos whose owners have refused to
|Sr. Phyllis Tierney canvassing with Culinary Union |
Local 226 in Las Vegas (Courtesy of NETWORK).
Union workers who canvass neighborhoods have been working from 9 am in the morning to 7 pm, six days a week. They return to addresses where no one is at home during the day to try to personally speak with persons they are trying to reach. We spent only about an hour and a half in the morning but we had a taste of what workers do every day, trying to find persons at home, encountering those who are angry and those with fierce dogs who will not answer the door!
In Phoenix, we visited the Human Services Campus where we witnessed all the social agencies sharing a common area where persons in need of assistance could obtain central access. This vision has enabled agencies to concentrate on their own specialty instead of trying to stretch resources across multiple needs. The sign at St. Joseph the Worker reads "No one can go back and make a brand new start. Anyone can start from now and make a brand new beginning."
Town halls each evening had their own flavor — Each one was different! Sister Simone and her staff have a well-scripted scenario that describes persons of different income levels and the effects of the Trump tax cuts on each. Each night we drew names to see which part we would take. Most of us had the opportunity to represent a different income quartile and the benefits given to us by the tax cut, as well as the losses we can expect when social programs are cut. These cuts affect those at the bottom levels the most as we to try to finance our extraordinary financial debt which will not be recouped in our lifetimes or beyond! Audience members raised issues and concerns regarding the Republican tax plan. When they were asked to generate solutions in every audience, someone said: "we have to build community." We can't talk to each other on a political level before we share with our neighbors. We have become a society of isolated individuals who thrive on fear rather than hope.
At the end of every gathering, participants were invited to sign postcards and then sign the bus! We passed out copies of Network’s Connections, stickers, and postcards. We listened as people told us there very personal stories, including their faith journeys. What I realized is that tax justice may be the message but it is our presence and persistence that are so valued in these times when so many feel isolated and disenfranchised.
|Sr. Phyllis (fourth from the left) in front of the bus|
(Courtesy of NETWORK).
As the Bus continues its journey, I send prayers for the safety of the occupants, for the audiences that hear the message, and I pray that many will find hope in the message and in the messengers.
Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NETWORK's website. Follow along with Nuns on the Bus at www.nunsonthebus.org and don't forget to join the conversation on their Facebook and Twitter pages, where you can also find if Nuns on the Bus is visiting your area.
[Sr. Phyllis Tierney is the Justice Director for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester.]