Friday, October 19, 2018

Sr. Phyllis Tierney Reports from Nuns On The Bus

Nuns on the Bus Week 1, October 8-11, 2018

By: Sr. Phyllis Tierney

Sr. Phyllis Tierney (Courtesy of NETWORK).
My sleep-deprived body is home after an exhilarating and exhausting week with Nuns on the Bus, joining Sister Simone Campbell, SSS and NETWORK staff to spread the message that tax justice is not achieved by permanent income tax breaks that benefit the wealthy but deprive the poor of programs that help to maintain their health and wellbeing. On Sunday, October 7 I took an early morning flight from Rochester to Los Angeles to join nine other Sisters and NETWORK staff on a week of adventure and spreading the message of the need for economic justice for all.

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).
give them the pay and working conditions they are entitled to, yet spend millions of dollars on their own personal entitlements and gifts to charities where their name is recognized. On Wednesday morning we accompanied workers who took voluntary furloughs from their jobs and cuts in pay to work for the union canvassing the community to identify residents who have not voted in recent elections and to encourage them to register and vote for Democratic candidates that will support workers and fight for tax laws that benefit the working class, not corporations!

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).
Finally, I need to say a few words about my traveling companions! There were ten Sisters including Sr. Simone and two of her NETWORK staff members, Mary Ellen Lacey and Quincy Howard, and seven of us: Julie Fertsch, Reg McKillip, Bernadine Karge, Dusty Farnan,  Michele Morek, Chris Machado, and myself. We were joined by NETWORK staff members and Abbey Watson, trip director. Melissa Regan, videographer, has been filming Nuns on the Bus events since 2012 and has hopes of finishing her film soon! We were a congenial group, sharing stories, singing songs (a few!) and keeping busy with e-mails and writing blogs! Abbey kept us on track down to the minute for take –offs and arrivals. The staff kept us well-fed with meals and snacks!

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 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.]

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sr. Julie Fertsch Reports from Nuns on the Bus

By: Sr. Julie Fertsch, SSJ

October 8, 2018

Sr. Julie (third from left) at the kickoff event in Santa Monica.
What an unbelievable first day! Every moment of it was so full — sacred, privileged, and special. We were all so incredibly humbled and deeply inspired! What a gift!

At 8:30 a.m., after a healthy breakfast and a fruitful morning prayer, we loaded up the bus and headed out for our kickoff event at Ocean View Park in Santa Monica, CA. We received quite a welcome from the many supporters who were anxiously awaiting our arrival. There, we heard from Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, CA Representative Jimmy Gomez, Angela and Myka Eilers from the Little Lobbyists, Joe Sandberg of CalEITC4me, Gene Sperling, Former Director of the National Economic Council, and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. These fine men, women, and a little girl named Myka challenged us to come together, to remember that we are united, and to speak out and to share the stories of the families who are struggling the most. They called us to stand up for the children in this country, to hold our elected officials accountable, and to remember that WHO WE VOTE FOR MATTERS! They reminded us that our national budget is a reflection of our values, our priorities, and how we affirm the dignity of the human person, and they inspired us to take care of each other, to listen to each other, to feed the hungry and to be beacons of light and surpluses of hope in these very dark times. At the end of the program, Rabbi Sharon Brous offered the blessing: "Each of us is called to do whatever we can to heal the world and bring about the Kingdom of God. Go and help free us from a politics that invisibilizes, marginalizes, disenfranchises, and steals from those who need the most, a politics which hatred, intolerance, and heartlessness poisons the water of our nation. Go and proclaim liberty throughout the land. Go, and remind our nation, aching under the weight of injustice, that it is precisely in the dark of night that we can see the stars. Go, go in peace."

Courtesy of NETWORK Lobby

After the crowd signed their pledge cards and the Bus, we made our way to our next venue: Homeboy Industries. According to their website, Homeboy Industries "provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community. Each year, over 10,000 former gang members from across Los Angeles come through Homeboy Industries' doors in an effort to make a positive change." Boris, Janet, Christina, Selena, George, and Allison created an incredible experience for us! The "Nuns on the Bus" had the opportunity to assemble a tray of cookies in the bakery with Christina and to hear a bit of her story. She reminded us of the importance of opportunities and chances and articulated how Homeboy Industries gave her just that...the opportunity and chance to become the woman she is today...the woman her children are so proud of.  We met George, the security guard for Homeboy Industries, who often comes in on his days off to give tours to groups like ours. He found his road to recovery and healing because of his love for his children. After many years, he still returns monthly to juvenile hall to speak with the kids he encounters. He said "If I can save one by my witness, then that is enough." Boris and Janet, a newly married couple, have worked together for a number of years at Homeboy Industries. They also inspired us with their stories of radical transformation, of the many ways they found "home" at Homeboy Industries, and how they continue to feel excited and grateful to be a part of such a wonderful organization.

Sr. Julie (second from the left) with some of the "Nuns on the Bus" (Courtesy
of NETWORK Lobby).
Finally, we closed up our first full day with a Town Hall for Justice at All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA. There, we received an overwhelmingly warm welcome from the community and the Rector of the Church, Mike Kinman. We heard from CA Rep Judy Chu and then the group of us engaged the community in a way that really brought Tax Justice to life. There was great energy! What a gift to hear the concerns, ideas, and solutions that the group surfaced!

Earlier in the day, Joe Sandburg of CalEITC4me used a quote written by Dr. Suess: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." All day, we had the fine, beautiful privilege of meeting people on the journey who do, in fact, care a whole awful lot. These caring people shine like stars in very dark times. Let us train our eyes to recognize, see, and focus our attention on them! And let us continue to be amazed by the gift of their light and love!

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NETWORK's website. Follow along with Nuns on the Bus at 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. Julie Fertsch is a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, who will be one of the 'Nuns on the Bus' for part of their trip.]

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Interrupt the Contagion of Hatred

By: Sr. Nadine McGuinness, CSJ

This is a plea and a suggestion: that Sisters of St. Joseph (CSSJ) be public and outspoken in support of our brother, Pope Francis.

Many are frustrated by Pope Francis’ latest letter on the topic of the evil and sinfulness of the sex abuse incidents and the cover-ups that have occurred in our country and around the world.

To me, this is a sacramental moment. We must each recognize and own up to our biases and blindness. 

We need to let others show us how we have hurt them and ask them how we can help them heal from those wounds. 

We need to change the systems within our Church that have allowed the disease of pedophilia and the sins of arrogance and authoritarianism to fester and remain hidden.

The victims of this abuse must know that we love them and want all that can heal them to be theirs.
The perpetrators, too, must know that we love them and will walk with them as they live in accountability for the harm that they have done and for their abuse of authority.  

In the past five years, Pope Francis has offered us several of his visions: of evangelization; of love of our earth, our common home; of admiration and joy in witnessing family love; and of practical responses to God’s call to be holy. These messages give voice to so many who have not known how to hope or forgive; how to change in the midst of our own history. Yet, there is still much more Pope Francis can do to condemn evil and encourage justice and mercy. 

Our religious faith communities, our consecrated life communities, and all of our world stretching to be its best possible self, need a guide to show the way forward during this tragic and confusing time.  Let us interrupt the contagion of hatred and offer Pope Francis encouragement to lead us where we need to go.

Sisters of St. Joseph are not the only group that must speak up and bear witness to God’s great love.  Likeminded friends and associates are essential to speaking inclusively and offering suggestions for how to change the systems which have allowed this betrayal of children, parents, community-building societies, and hope-filled faith communities.

For these reasons, I make this plea and suggestion: that we, Sisters of St. Joseph (CSSJ), be public and outspoken in our support of our brother, Pope Francis, as he works to respond to the challenges of standing as leader of our Roman Catholic community.

Nadine McGuinness, CSJ
A member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange

Sr. Nadine McGuinness

[Nadine McGuinness, CSJ, a catechist who has been writing and speaking on the documents of Pope Francis since 2013, is a Sister of St. Joseph of Orange, CA. She works at Emmaus Spiritual Ministries in Orange, CA. She received a doctorate in systematic theology from the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Canada.]

Editor's Note: This perspective is in response to the U.S. Federation's August 2018 Press Release regarding the sexual abuse by clergy. Perspectives on this blog don't necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph but are rather meant to spur further thoughtful discussion on important and timely topics. Please feel free to post your comments below.