Monday, November 19, 2018

Sr. Janet Kinney Reports from Nuns on the Bus

By: Sr. Janet Kinney

Travel Log: Rep. Comstock Lobby Visit

Sr. Janet Kinney address a crowd in North Philadelphia.
(Photo Courtesy of NETWORK)
Today we are making our last stops as we round out this week ‘on the road’ speaking about Tax Justice on our Truth Tour across the country.

We left Delaware and after a 3-hour ride arrived at the office of Representative Barbara Comstock (VA-10).  While Rep. Comstock voted against Speaker Ryan’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act, she has also voted to remove some of the provisions of this act that will affect thousands of people who rely on their health care plans to remain healthy and receive much-needed care. Rep. Comstock also voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which has not provided the tax benefits and wage increases promised to the average person, as it was designed to benefit the upper 1 % and major corporations. Already we have heard that this country has lost over $160 billion in tax revenue this year alone because of the passing of this legislation! And now Senate Leader Mitchell McConnell says we will have to cut our social programs – Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and other programs – to make up for the deficit!

Sr. Janet Kinney (fourth from left) with the novices and
directors of the CSSJ Federation Novitiate program.
(Photo Courtesy of Sr. Janet Kinney)
I accompanied Sister Simone Campbell and Sister Richelle Friedman on a lobby visit with John O’Donoghue, who works on tax and healthcare issues for Representative Comstock. We also were accompanied by Angie Voyles of the Little Lobbyists; Jim Vollmer, an SEIU member; and Yolanda, a representative of CASA Maryland.

Angie spoke movingly about her daughter Anna who is medically fragile and was born at 25 weeks, along with her twin brother. Anna has a tracheostomy, feeding tube, cerebral palsy, metabolic bone disease, as well as a few other debilitating conditions and relies on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid to receive the care that she needs. Angie became Anna’s mom when she was 2 months old and officially adopted her at age 2. Her daughter has had many medical emergencies and, because of her husband’s career in the military, they were flown to DC to get Anna needed care because their hometown hospital in Arkansas had run out of the resources needed to treat her conditions.

Despite the odds, Anna has grown, has started walking and talking, and is attending school! She is able to attend school due to her access to a home healthcare nurse provided by the Medicaid Waiver program. Angie and her husband are so fearful that the provisions currently being suggested to revise Medicaid will harm the services that help her daughter every day.

Nuns on the Bus rally. (Photo Courtesy of NETWORK)
We tried to impress upon Rep. Comstock’s staff that her advocacy in Congress for her constituents and families like Angie’s was critical to their wellbeing. Unfortunately, we received only a message that Mr. O'Donoghue would pass along our concerns to the Representative. When we shared statistics and data supporting our concerns made public by the Congressional Budget Office with him, we were questioned on the accuracy of our data!

After the lobby visit, we had a rally outside Rep. Comstock’s office with a rousing group of her constituents who also shared that she has never had a town hall to listen to their concerns in her two terms in office, and they have experienced roadblocks every time they try to meet with her. This was discouraging to hear!

Angie’s story and many other stories like hers, I have heard over and over during our trip this week.

These are the voices that need to be lifted up and shared with our legislators and one another, so that we vote for persons who represent "We the People." I am praying that we have record turnout at the voting booths this November 6th. United together we can make this happen!

Travel Log: Morristown

The "Nuns on the Bus." Sr. Janet Kinney is pictured
kneeling on the right side. (Photo Courtesy of
Today was another early day for the nine sisters and NETWORK staff who are traveling on the Bus this week.  Each day begins with contemplative prayer in Simone’s room, where the sisters sit in quiet and listen to the stirrings within our hearts, recalling the people we met the prior day. After a period of extended quiet, we lift their intentions, mingled with our own and then one by one, share the fruits of our contemplation. Part of the program the prior evening was an illustrative example acted out by the sisters of how the tax cuts impact real people. One sister shared in this morning’s prayer about a conversation with a woman who came up to her afterward and said, "I am the Nicky you spoke about. I live in HUD housing and I am so fearful that if cuts are made to the social net programs I use and need, I will lose my apartment." As the sister gazed into her face she saw a middle-aged woman of pallid complexion, simply dressed who was doing the best she can, day by day, yet living on the edge and carrying all the uncertainty that this stark reality brings to her life.

We ended our prayer, gathered our suitcases and stepped onto the bus, fortified by our faith, called to be bearers of hope to those we will meet each day. Leaving Seneca Falls a little after 8 am, our first two stops were lobby visits with Representative Tenney (New Hartford) and Representative Faso’s (Kingston) offices. Sister Betsy shared these experiences in her blog for that day.

As evening dusk began to fall, we arrived in Morristown, New Jersey. Our hosts were the parishioners of Church of the Redeemer. We were greeted warmly by Reverend Cynthia Black and introduced to Mayor Tim Dougherty. We shared a meal with the parishioners in the parish hall, where we were told that they serve over 70,000 meals to individuals and families in need in their community. Rev. Black shared that their church was founded by the Abolitionists; they are also a "Green Faith sanctuary."

After dinner, we moved to the church for the program.
Sr. Janet Kinney speaking at a Nuns on the Bus stop
at a church in Delaware. (Photo Courtesy of

Simone gave a brief introduction to the trip, but the real purpose of this evening’s program was a live podcast interview with Jesuitical, which is sponsored by America Magazine. Zac Davis and Ashley McKinless from America moderated the conversation with Sr. Simone and Sr. Richelle Friedman, another “Nun on the Bus." Sr. Simone and Sr. Richelle shared moving stories from the road trip and explained why the Republican tax plan is so devastating to over 60% of the country’s population, encouraging all to get out the vote for the midterms. After the podcast concluded, all gathered were invited to sign pledge cards and move outside to sign the bus. It was a beautiful moonlit night – Rev. Black "signed the bus" with a Church of the Redeemer bumper sticker with this slogan: "supporting the separation of church and hate since 1852."

Clearly, all that we heard and experienced from these parishioners embodied these words.

After the podcast, all participants moved outside to sign the bus. We were provided hospitality by the Filipino sisters at their Filipini Villa Walsh, a 100 + acre campus which includes an all-girls academy, grades 7-12. Sister Ascenza and Sister Alice greeted us and after showing us our rooms, we gathered briefly to give gratitude for the people we have met and the graces we have received.

I am humbled by these experiences and enriched by the desire of so many good people in this country who truly want to be a caring community for others, in contrast to the negative rhetoric and policies that are being implemented by the current administration. This trip is all about bringing hope to those who are discouraged by all that they are seeing happening in our country.
Sr. Janet Kinney (Photo Courtesy of NETWORK)
I am richly blessed for these days shared with my sisters and those we have met on the road to Mar-a-Lago.

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NETWORK's website. You can see more Nuns on the Bus posts at and follow them on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

[Sr. Janet Kinney is a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood. She is the executive director of the Partnership for Global Justice, a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the United Nations.]

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