The “Nuns on the Bus” returned to Toledo today (Oct. 13) to spotlight the Catholic nuns' concerns over the Republican presidential ticket’s proposed budget cuts and to highlight good works being done by the sisters.
The tour bus, wrapped with a billboard-sized “Nuns on the Bus” logo, pulled up to the Assumption Outreach Center on Page Street, next to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, as a crowd of about 70 applauded and waved signs proclaiming “Fight the Plight” and “Welcome Sisters, Thanks for Being Our Voice.”
A small contingent of nuns stepped off the bus and greeted the crowd, then entered the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church for a tour of the outreach center led by its directors, Suzie Stapleton and Ellen McComis.
The Catholic sisters and their entourage spent several minutes listening to Mark and Matthew Henderson, 11-year-old twins (Matthew made a point that he is 4 minutes older than Mark) who had been mentioned by Sister Simone Campbell at the Democratic National Convention last month.
The Henderson youths told the nuns in Toledo today how much they appreciate the Padua Center, a local urban outreach center whose programs include educational alternatives for students facing school detention or in-school suspension.
Sister Simone, executive director of the Catholic lobbying group Network and the organizer of the original 2,700-mile cross country Nuns on the Bus tour last summer, had met the Henderson twins when she was in Toledo in June, and spoke about the boys at the Democratic convention in Charlotte as an example of some of the good work that nuns are doing. Sister Virginia Welsh, executive director of the Padua Center, had learned that the Henderson boys' mother was bedridden from multiple sclerosis and that the twins were her sole caregivers.
Mark said today with a big smile that after being mentioned on national TV his friends started calling him “Hollywood.”
Sister Virginia said she hopes the Nuns on the Bus tour, which is visiting 10 Ohio cities in five days, will “raise awareness about some significant issues in this election” and that she was concerned the federal budget cuts’ impact on the nation’s poor “could get overshadowed.”
Several of the nuns, all of whom are from Ohio on the current bus trip, addressed the crowd that was standing on the sidewalk outside Assumption Outreach Center.
Sister Monica McGloin, 71, a Dominican of Hope nun from Cincinnati, said the sisters agree with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that the federal budget proposed by GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan “failed a basic moral test because it would harm families living in poverty.”
She said Catholic social teaching calls for people to be “responsible for one another. I am my sister’s keeper; I am my brother’s keeper.”
Rev. Susan Quinn Bryan, a Presbyterian pastor from Cincinnati, said proposed budget cuts are a concern for people of all faiths including Protestants, Muslims and Jews.
“I’m so thankful for the nuns lifting it up and bringing it to everybody’s attention,” she said.
The current Nuns on the Bus tour was organized by nuns who wanted to continue the effort started by Sister Simone and Network last summer, said Sister Monica.
“We know what the Gospel calls us to do. It calls us to be a loving community,” she said. “We know what Catholic social teaching says and we know we’re standing on solid ground. Society is not just about money. We can’t keep giving to some wealthy people and taking away from the poor and the workers.”
Sister Simone was in Cincinnati for the start of the tour on Wednesday but was unable to join them for the rest of the journey, Sister Monica said.
She said that, contrary to what some pundits have claimed, the Nuns on the Bus tour was not in part a response to a recent Vatican-ordered assessment of U.S. nuns.
“What we are saying is that we have to talk about our values, and the way your values are expressed is in how you spend money,” Sister Monica said. “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value. And this proposed budget does not meet the moral test.”
Sister Mary Ann Connolly, 80, a Dominican of Peace sister from Columbus, said a budget is a moral document and reflects the values of those who draft it. Congressionial budget planning requires the same principles as a family budget, she said.
“When you do a budget for your family, your values are incorporated. That's also true for our country. It's a matter of values,” Sister Mary Ann said.
Joe Mascazine, 58, of Toledo, said after the bus departed for stops today in Fremont and then Cleveland that he showed up at the Assumption Outreach Center because “I wanted to support the sisters. I believe in what they are doing. I see the budget as a moral document and we need to take a good look at it.”
Rev. Anthony Gallagher, 77, a retired Toledo diocesan priest, said that “the real leaders in the church today are the women religious … because they are leading theologically, in service to the needy, and in understanding and proclaiming the Gospel.”