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NUNS on the BUS

by Donna Korba, IHM

Que viva la fiesta! Que viva la gente! Que viva la comunidad!

I recently completed nine years of service on the Board of NETWORK, the Catholic Social Justice Lobby in Washington, D.C. Feeling somewhere between tears and smiles—tears for having to take leave of a wonderful group of justice seekers and smiles for the thought that I might be relieved of some of the strenuous time commitments—I was delighted to be invited to participate in the sixth Nuns on the Bus Campaign. The 2018 campaign was an effort to educate citizens about the truths of the 2017 Tax Law, namely its benefits to corporations and the top 20% of the wealthiest people in the nation while placing burdens on those in society who are already struggling to make ends meet. “Reasonable Revenue for Responsible Programs” was the motto boldly printed on the bus and the urgent message of the “nuns” who rode inside.

The campaign began on October 8, 2018, in Santa Monica, California. The goal was Mar- A-Lago, the “Winter Whitehouse” of President Trump and the symbol of our nation’s wealth disparity. I had the honor of journeying with nine other women religious, NETWORK staff, and communications personnel, Abbey, our program director, and Glenn, our professional and fun-loving bus driver. Our part of the journey began in Washington, D.C. From the moment we boarded the bus, we began to form community. It was a great blessing to get to know the sisters, to pray with them, to share ministry, and to dream of possibilities for the future of religious life. Our long bus rides in between stops allowed ample time for significant  conversations. We made stops in Richmond, Virginia; Raleigh, Durham, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; Apopka, Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida. The visits were divided into site visits, rallies, congressional visits, and town hall events. At the site visits, we met people that are making a difference in their communities by raising up vulnerable populations and finding solutions to challenges such as affordable housing, healthy food availability, elder care, support for immigrant children and dreamers, and sustainable employment for women. Each site gave me a sense of hope when I saw what can happen when people work together as a community for the benefit of everyone. Our own community building on the bus was mirrored by the pockets of communities working together to benefit others and by the thousands of people who signed their names on the sides of the bus in support of the messages displayed there. But effective community building and projects depend on funding. The 2017 Tax Bill threatens to cut funding that enables this hope to continue because deficits need to be filled as a result of the massive tax relief awarded to the corporations and the wealthiest in the nation. "Reasonable revenue for responsible programs” continued to be the motto of our journey.

I was deeply moved by the people I met within the organizations and those who came to support the bus events. All seemed to hold similar values of community, dignity of life, and dedication to working toward a better world for everyone. I am most grateful for:

  • the opportunity to form community with the Network staff and the sisters on the bus.
  • the people I met at site visits, after town halls, at the bus-side rallies, after visits to congressional representatives, and justice seekers from all walks of life.
  • the joy and the hope on the faces of the people who met the bus.
  • Sister Ann Kendrick, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and the immigrant youth at Hope Community Center in Apopka, Florida, Steve Protulis and the seniors at the Elderly Housing Development in Miami, the faithful folks from around the country who came to the Fiesta for the Common Good at West Palm Beach, and the ten “Nuns on the Bus” who walked together and lead the caravan of bus and decorated cars through the wealth of West Palm Beach and to Mar-A-Lago with messages of hope, truth, dignity, and the stories of real people whom we met along the journey.
  • the celebration of life, joy, love and dignity at the Meyer Amphitheater in the face of fear and inequality throughout the nation. We sang, we danced, we spoke, we listened, and we celebrated ordinary people whose voices need to be heard by those on the other side of the waterway in West Palm Beach.

All good things must come to an end and so we said our "hasta luegos" (until later) to each other as we prepared to travel home. I returned with a renewed commitment to the possibilities that can happen for all of us when we say NO to that which divides us and meet fear and division with hope, joy, and community. Pope Francis said, and it was his message on the back of the bus, “A Good Catholic Meddles in Politics.” We all ride the bus of our common humanity. May we all continue to work together on the journey for a more just and equitable nation for all. Que viva la fiesta! Que viva la gente! Que viva la comunidad!

Doona tallking in raleigh-sm

Sister Donna talking at rally in Raleigh, NC.