June 26th, 2012
03:10 PM ET

Road tripping nuns hit middle America

By Ted Rowlands, CNN

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (CNN) - A few months ago Sister Simone Campbell was in a brainstorming meeting trying to come up with ways to get the public's attention.

"We thought maybe we could buy an online ad,” said Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK, a liberal Catholic social justice lobby based in Washington.

Everything changed after the Vatican publicly scolded The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group for U.S. nuns, for allowing "radical feminist themes” to go unchecked a conferences and in their literature.

“NETWORK will be forever different because of this,” Campbell said riding through southwest Wisconsin on the “Nuns on the Bus” tour.

The scolding came in a lengthy doctrinal assessment the Vatican said was aimed at the renewal of the group of superiors who represent nearly 80% of nuns in the United States.

Campbell's religious order, the Sisters of Social Service, is a part of LCWR. But for her, the assessment was even more personal because it took direct aim at NETWORK, saying it and other parts of LCWR were too focused on social justice and not focused enough on other parts of Catholic teaching, like the sanctity of life and marriage.

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Campbell said the attention and the overwhelming support the nuns received in the wake of the Vatican’s criticism put nuns in the spotlight.

"So what we said is ‘how can we use this opportunity of the focus on us to show people what we’re all about and who we care for?’”

That’s when the idea of “Nuns on the Bus” hatched.

Support instantly flowed in for the 2,700-mile, nine-state, 30-stop bus tour that began in Iowa and will end in Washington on July 2, Campbell said.

The nuns are drawing crowds at every stop.

“That's the most amazing thing, when you walk out of the bus and you see the excitement and the anticipation," 81-year-old Sister Diane Donoghue from Los Angeles said.

Donoghue is the only nun scheduled to be on the bus the entire journey.

The nuns on the bus roll through Iowa.

The nuns hope to rally support for the poor and fight proposed federal budget cuts to programs geared to help those in need.

Specifically the nuns are lobbying against the budget passed by the House of Representatives and authored by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

The nuns even made a stop at Ryan’s Janesville, Wisconsin, district office and dropped off their “Faithful Budget Proposal” to a staffer.

The congressman has said repeatedly, and most notably in a major speech this spring at Georgetown University, that his budget is in tune with Catholic teaching.

Ryan said in a statement after the nuns dropped off their budget proposal that the national debt and outdated structures of public assistance would do more to hurt the needy than to help them in the long run.

"Economic stagnation and a growing dependency on government assistance continues to push this country toward a debt crisis, in which those who get hurt the first and the worst are the poor, the sick and the elderly, the people who need government the most," the statement said.

"To avoid a debt crisis and to restore the promise of greater opportunity and greater prosperity, Washington owes the American people bold and targeted reforms and real solutions that address today’s most urgent fiscal challenges," the statement continued.

“Congressman Ryan claiming the Catholicism mantle really set our teeth on the edge,"Campbell said. “We wouldn’t be on the road if he hadn’t done that.

“Most of the programs that Congressman Ryan is proposing to cut in the House budget are the ones that are the most effective: Head Start, food stamps, all the really important budget items that work,” Campbell argued.

As the nuns moved from stop to stop, they received a warm reception. Some cheered and  others teared up with emotion when they saw the nuns.

Many said they had come to say thank you to all nuns for their decades of service.

"They’re so courageous and smart," said retired teacher and grandmother Pamela Fitzgerald, who drove 25 miles to greet the nuns in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"This was a wonderful idea," said Lee Mickey, a self-professed fan of Sister Simone Campbell. "This is just a way to show honor for their work."

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“This is so special” Campbell said while sitting on the bus after a visit with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa in southwest Wisconsin. “Someone I just met said to me she’s been waiting for this message for years.”

As the bus rolled down the highway to the next stop, the driver notes he normally hauls around famous musicians in this rented coach.

The nuns settle in for the ride in the large leather seats, using their time between stops to send emails, glimpse up at the flat screens TVs and a grab a snack from the mini kitchen.

By now, there’s no more need for more brainstorming.

“Be careful what you pray for,” Campbell cracks, “This may be just a joke from the Holy Spirit.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election • Belief • Catholic Church • Church and state • Politics • Vatican

soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. mjg

    Want to read about all nuns, then look at these websites (for a partial list):

    They have approx. 250 nuns (and growing). The average age is 30.

    They have thousands of nuns (and growing). The average age is about the same.

    Tens of nuns (and growing). Average age – about the same.

    Make your own conclusions.
    "Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words." Francis of Assisi

    June 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Lindsay Lohan Becomes First Woman Pope!

      Those are good ages . . . if you are talking about brothels. What has age got to do with being a nun?

      June 26, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  2. Loki

    Nuts on a bus. These "non for profit" people do not have a clue nor do they contribute to anything but sales and gasoline taxes. Stop suggesting on how tax money is spent. The Catholic church should not have a political point of view; just pass the message of Jesus. They apparently forgot one of Jesus's best messages... "render on to ceasar which is ceasar's".

    June 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  3. tony

    Throw da pope under da bus!

    June 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  4. slickteigkcmo

    God bless you Sisters, you taught me and my siblings, my aunt was a nun, my mom joined for awhile till she got sick and left ( we are glad she dropped out 🙂 but now at age 95, who cares for her and others at the Little Sisters of the Poor in KC, MO???? The good, holy, angelic sisters, thank you, thank you, thankk you, we are with you, we love you and will be by your sides always!!!!! God bless all the sisters, I never saw cruelty in my first 8 yrs of education, all nuns teaching me and my classes :))))) they were tough, demanded respect and we gave it, I got As and wonderful education, academics and of our Faith, God bless you, thank you and know you are not alone, never!!!!!!! We appreciate your teaching,nursing, care of the elderly, great prayers, love of the poor and needy, you are wonderful angels!!!!! Jesus loves you and is with you too!!!!esus

    June 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • derp

      Fvck nuns!

      All they ever did to me was beat me with yards sticks for asking questions.

      Evil wicked old hags!

      June 27, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  5. Catherine

    let's talk about something that actually matters.

    HIV infection is only a chronic illness if you can afford the medication. Without the medication you will almost certainly die of AIDS. And if you can afford the treatment, you will have negative side effects from the medicines.

    Food for thought.

    June 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • BRUCE

      one nun makes sure the other nun don't get none

      June 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  6. Bishop Hairy Palms

    The single greatest accomplishment of the Conservative movement in this country has been to convince millions of weak minded individuals that selfishness, hatred, and greed are good Christian values.

    June 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • rdeleys

      BRAVO! Exactly!

      June 26, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  7. cpc65

    So this bus is behind you on the highway on a Wednesday and you have a WoW bumper sticker on your pick-up truck. Hint: The WoW does NOT stand for World of Warcraft.

    June 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Stan M.

      So what does it stand for? Weenies of Woo? Waddlers of Wit? Women of Weariness? What?

      June 26, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  8. jj

    Born and raised Catholic with 3 aunts who were nuns. Only one of them left now but they are the most amazing women who are truly dedicated to the good of the people. I hope that I will be able to see these wonderful nuns on the bus when they are in my area–just to cheer them on.

    June 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • just sayin

      Was your aunt a lesbian?

      June 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Meegan

      Agreed jj, I was too born and raised Catholic and these nuns really are amazing!

      June 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  9. Karen In Chicago

    You are the best thing the Catholic religion has going for it (besides God!!)!

    June 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  10. Socal Reggae


    June 26, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  11. patw2100

    I thought the pope told these people to quit force socialist liberal policies on the world.

    June 26, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Drew

      I thought Jesus said "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." Yet I don't see the pope giving away his diamonds and palaces and funny hats...

      June 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Christian

      @Drew exactly why the Catholic church IS NOT and WILL NEVER BE a true church of God

      June 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  12. victor

    "Nuns on Bus" ??? brothel on wheels or what? Sounds like a mobile and versatile service then.

    June 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • onestarman

      YOU do not NEED to be so AFRAID of WOMEN. If you are not able to function as a MAN then be QUIET and do not call so much attention to your SHAME.

      June 26, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Ruby

      Hum, sounds like idiots on line.

      June 26, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  13. Petrograd

    Hey nuns? You did good to the best of your knowledge and abilities, and you religion bashes you severely for it.

    Why are you still Catholic? Religion sold you out.

    Some organization like Doctors Without Borders would LOVE to have people like you.

    As millions prove daily, you do not need any god to be good and charitable.

    June 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • hippie power 69

      no the pope and priests have sold the nuns out. god bless them and one question sisters, who do you think jesus would be more in touch with? you or the pope. i vote for you. you are out there helping his people, the poor, the sick and the down-trodden. keep up your good works sisters and thank you.

      June 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  14. Surthurfurd

    Clap Clap Clap for Nuns on the Bus.. they evidently took Jesus' message in the Sermon on the Mount to heart.

    June 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  15. just sayin

    Nuns are just lesbians who couldnt get a real job. And preists are pedophiles who couldnt get a real job.

    June 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • onestarman

      FECAL MATTER is NOT a REAL JOB Either but you don't seem to care.

      June 26, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Marrion Sweeney

      Open your heart and mind. There is a much bigger world out there. Some people in it actually live compassionate lives.

      June 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • clarke

      are you 12 or just stupid.

      June 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  16. clown question bro


    June 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  17. William Demuth

    Nuns can be habit forming

    June 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  18. Reality

    Dear Sisters of the Bus,

    The recent upheavals in the RCC has also resulted in a thorough review of the theology and history of said religion with the following conclusions:

    Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/magic/preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.


    For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Too many pedophiliac priests, an all-male, aging hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    June 26, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • junior

      Current Social problem,

      Everyone has created their own little god, even atheists.

      One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

      June 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  19. Rock T.

    Funny how the RCC says that women are not allowed to be priests, shoving them into doing actual work, and then rail at them for not preaching!
    They are not allowed to preach, yet they are in trouble for not preaching! How messed up is that?

    Even though they are deluded about their religion, I am glad to see them doing good things.
    They could start their own church and it would be very successful, but I guess they won't be doing that.
    It would have been interesting to see them take charge like that, but I guess we'll have to settle for the infighting while they go on a campaign against Ryan's budget.
    If only they could beat the man half to death and show him the error of his ways.....!

    June 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • junior

      Nuns are allowed to preach and to teach,
      just has to be in accordance with the CCC. They have been straying.

      June 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  20. Atheist Hunter

    If the nuns have WiFi on their bus they can check out my Catholic oriented site, prolapsed.net!

    June 26, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • William Demuth

      If you want to attract Nuns you need a lesbian oriented website.

      June 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Delusions 3:15

      Is it for women with GYN problems, or men with rectal problems ? Prolasped indeed.

      June 26, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.