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. Joe Tomei

    As alwasy the CAtholic church is on the wrong sied of our country and its freedoms. I was raised CAtholic and continue to attend the church.

    It is very disappointing that these nuns would not support those that are able to work and not suggest "another Socialist Agenda" since they have never paid a tax in their lives!

    Like the liberal agenda these nuns think we should suppoort illegal cimmigration to fill the Catholic Churches. Yes the citizen Catholics have to contend with partial treatment for the Hipanic community since they are the largest supporters of the church these days and because or our churches historical political stances and scandles of the churches gay community and boys club have lost many of their flock.

    how can they support Obummer and his anti Catholic mandatory Birth control? has the Church been paid off with special favortism and select favortism for some of the Churches Nuns? Do these Nuns think this willbring the church together? Well tjey have the hipanis support and hopefully this will shore up the opinion of the church I once respected and admired. Demanding that our people and government give a standardized pay for those that come here and are lucky to be working in the USA althoguh most are here illegally , then demanding that the hardworking taxpayer pay people a salary these nuns think is apporpriate? I am getting more and more disalusioned with our churcches Dogma every day.

    Here I thought the church finally was getting there act together! This is not about generosity this is about Obummer Socialism and some deal the church has made with Obummer for a relief of the requirememtn of the church to comply with this presidents Social Medical system in Catholic Hoslithat receive US funds! This support is to finally try and chnage our country from a Capitlaist Competing free country to a Progressive Socialist one. I will not support our church until it changes its policies and beginds to respect its core and the people who have built the church in America. not those that choose to take from those that are legal citizens and those that already pay too much in taxes.

    It has been rpoven and very clear all over the world "Socialism Does not work" in any form! it is a free marketsociety that works to excell and acaive that siucceeds. Not those that expect those that do work hard and do succeed from their efforts to support those that do not and or those that are not even suposed to be in America.

    August 14, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • Joyce Moxin

      IF the "Nuns on the Bus" are "catholic" nuns, do they also support the democratic platform of supporting abortion, at any stage of pregnancy? I'm concerned, because I understand their humanity to humankind,.. but, wonder about their other causes, and IF they should be speaking at the DNC.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  2. Migdalia Mineconzo

    Diarrhea is quite nasty, i have suffered from on and off diarrhea and the only supplement that helps me is psyllium husk because it cleanses the colon as well as the stomach. :*:`' Ciao foodsupplementdigest

    July 11, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  3. SoldierOfConscience

    Im a little conflicted. These nuns should stick with praying not growing 'big gub-mint'.

    July 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  4. matt in nw

    everytime the bus stops, they pour from the bus and wack every set of knuckles with a large ruler, chastise anyone within sight for not following the dress code, being late, – "isnt there something better you could be doing with your time Mr./Miss _______?" ect.

    In all seriousness, in todays America, ANY help for the poor is a good thing as our leaders sure as the sun will rise wont.
    I wish em well.

    June 29, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  5. Kicks

    Is that like snakes on a plane?

    June 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  6. veryclosew1god

    bernie said it best, its great to see the Nuns on the Bus. I left the catholic church many years ago, when it became apparent catholic priest make no effort to understand women or children, their earthly egos prevent them from understanding the importance of all Gods children.
    Don't believe Paul Ryan, I attended parochial schools in Wisconsin, catholic doctrine refers to how Jesus love little children and the importance of caring for the poor and needy.

    June 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  7. Branden

    I'm all for Jesus, woo I love him. But ugh I HATE nuns! Those girls serve SATAN!!!! I swear! lol went to kindergarden with those things, they're EVIL!!!!!

    June 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      June 28, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Cissy

      Prayer does indeed change things. My life is my proof.

      June 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • matt in nw

      um – no

      If god is real then your prayers mean nothing...he has a plan you see......

      Whatever happened to you Cissy, would have happened prayer or no prayer.... there is nobody on the other end of the prayer phone.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  9. BB

    The vatican should be fired and replaced. Out of touch with reality, living in the 14th century and in denial. Pedohilia running amock, being hidden and pushed to the side to focus on what??

    June 28, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  10. bernie

    yeah! these wonderful modern day nuns are opening the doors to young women that want to serve God. i am a recovering catholic and if i were young today i wouldn't think twice of joining these nuns in carrying the message of God.. way to go girls!!! keep the faith!!

    June 28, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  11. Andy

    They should come off the bus with extra long wooden rulers.

    June 28, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • sam stone

      I like it

      June 28, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  12. "militant" catholics

    holy rollers.

    (nice bus)

    June 28, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  13. Brett

    We will have nun of that here.

    June 27, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Fan of Brett

      Ah, that was refreshing and funny. Thank you.

      June 28, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  14. Brett

    Knun on the run.

    June 27, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  15. The Ghost of Neal Cassidy

    When I see who roams aroung in colorful buses these days, I rally miss Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • garcia

      I have seen where the wolf has slept by the silver stream. I can tell by the marks he left you were in his dream...

      June 28, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  16. just sayin


    Anyone have any questions about Christianity? Feel free to ask ...

    You should be asking questions about Sumerian religion to understand the origins of Judaism. Once you learn, you migth see your Christ for truly what he was.

    June 27, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  17. Reality

    Only for the Sisters of the Bus, (Part III)

    Your spunk is admired but please realize the freedom to do so also allows us to review and comment on Christianity in depth one result being as follows:

    Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

    The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


    "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    p.168. by Ted Peters:

    Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    June 27, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Veritas

      May I just note that your attack of verbal diahorrea is a load of Cr@p. If you pardon the pun!

      June 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Reality

      The only solution is a complete flush of the flawed theology and history of all religions. Tis called the Great Diarrhea of god beliefs.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  18. Jane Dougherty

    Did the headline writer who penned "bus filled with nuns" notice there are only FOUR nuns on the bus? If the bus were filled with nuns, there would be 40. If the nuns really cared about the poor, they could have rented a van instead of a luxury bus, but of course that wouldn't have called as much attention to themselves.

    June 27, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • roadrunner2

      the fact is Paul Ryan's so called budget is not in keeping with the words of Jesus. Would have been more truthful for him to say its just the way the Republicans feel. Many many individuals who call themselves Christian seem to live lives void of the true words of Christ.

      June 27, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • sam stone

      Maybe they were very large nuns

      June 27, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • junior

      AMEN, Did any of the 4 wear their religious habits?

      June 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Jill

      so why be so critical of the nuns. What do you do to help the poor – sit on you a... at a computer?

      June 28, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • bernie

      thank you jill..well said

      June 28, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  19. Jack

    Good afternoon. Everyone is invited to visit ... thestarofkaduri.com

    June 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  20. Rich

    Texan Conservative ... you are the smartest Texan I've seen. You're IQ must be as high as a donut hole.

    June 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • just sayin

      Texans arent know for their brains. Ever tried holding a conversation with one of them. They sound like slack jawed drippy droolies.

      June 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Cissy

      While I may not be a Texan, I certainly understand the ignorance of judging a whole population by a conversation with one person. Good luck to you on all that judgemenal stupidity.

      June 29, 2012 at 11:08 am |
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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.