Left, Sister Mumbi speaks at the Youth Emergency Services & Shelter in Des Moines, Iowa; second, Sister Mumbi speaks at St. Sabina Church; third, Sister Mumbi in O’Fallon, Illinois, with Sister Carolyn Hoying, Lina Guerrero (a Precious Blood Volunteer), Sisters Donna Liette and Linda Pleiman and Precious Blood Missionary Greg Evers; right, town hall meeting in East Lansing, Michigan.
Since 2012, the Nuns on the Bus tours have traversed thousands of miles around the U.S., highlighting a range of issues in American society and politics. The goal of this year’s tour was “to tell the truth about the Republican tax law and hold elected officials accountable for their votes.”
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act includes sweeping tax legislation — summaries of the new law can often run multiple pages. It is not quick or easy to explain the complex ramifications of the new law. That is why about 40 Catholic nuns boarded the bus to travel to 21 states over the course of 27 days, holding rallies and town hall meetings to educate the public about the law.
I joined Nuns on the Bus for a week, beginning Oct. 15 in Omaha, Nebraska, and made 13 stops with the group. While I was with the tour, we visited the offices of members of Congress who had voted for the tax bill, and who else had a poor record of leadership (lack of availability to constituents, or voting on bills that adversely affected the most vulnerable); visited resource centers including Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (IA), Heartland Health Services (IL), Cass Community Social Services (MI) and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (OH); and held various public events in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
At our town hall meetings, we enacted a “human bar graph” to show the state of the economy since the advent of Reaganomics and to show what growth (if any) has occurred in each economic quintile. We also showed how the 2017 tax bill and its accompanying issues — like possible funding cuts to programs — would affect each quintile. Each sister played the part of one quintile of the population, and as we paced off the steps representing that quintile’s wealth, we illustrated the vast economic differences between each group.
I was struck by the overwhelming needs all over. The people in the lower economic quintiles are struggling to make ends meet, many times having to choose between basic necessities such as food or medicine. It was agonizing to listen to stories of suffering and pain. That said, I was blown away by all the good work being done in different cities following an integrative approach of trying to cure the root of issues like poverty, homelessness and incarceration — not just the symptoms — while offering so many services under one roof or in one campus.
So many people who showed up at the events said that we were restoring their faith and modelling what church should be. Precious Blood Spirituality, as is our baptismal mandate, is to work towards bringing about the reign of God, which translates into bringing hope. I believe that when you show people that you genuinely care about them, this brings about some hope. You also can’t separate our spirituality from social justice because we are compelled to listen to the cry of the blood. The cry of the blood happens to be particularly loud in these times we find ourselves living in.
I felt the support of the Precious Blood family when Sisters Donna Liette, Carolyn Hoying and Linda Pleiman, and Precious Blood Missionary Greg Evers, came to the town hall at St. Sabina Church in Chicago. Precious Blood Spirituality calls us to communion and community, and seeing my Precious Blood family there was wonderful and empowering.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the other nuns, amazing support staff and delightful bus driver. I was also touched to see the interconnectedness of sisterhood, as we stayed in various motherhouses and convents each night, and the hospitality was outstanding. I also got a chance to talk about and share our charism and mission statement with the other nuns on the bus, as well as a documentary writer who was filming the journey.
Our beautiful Precious Blood Spirituality and charism is a much-needed balm for this very wounded world. The interconnectedness of humanity is not only national, but global. I rode the bus knowing that when America sneezes, the rest of the world gets a cold. Policies enacted here will have a ripple effect and impact millions more people. It’s imperative that the work of social justice continues.
P.S. Out of 13 representatives’ offices visited who had a poor track record, eight were voted out on Nov. 6.
– Story by Sister Mumbi Kigutha; contributed photos