The Nuns on the Bus are on a 5-day tour of the battleground state of Ohio to call attention to what Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. calls a “moral hole” in the national debate about the economy. After watching the vice presidential debate on Thursday evening, the sisters made a stop at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus on Friday afternoon.
In June, the Nuns on the Bus toured the United States to raise awareness of the impact that the budget proposed by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan would have on low-income Americans. On Friday, the nuns focused on the silence of the presidential candidates on how the poor would fit in to their economic proposals.
“This stand of reaching out to those who are on the margins goes back a long time,” said Sister Margaret Orman, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, to an audience of about 120. “It is not just a political stand given this election year. It is not an ideological position because of the recent debates. It has to do with one question which is fundamental to our Christian faith: are we hearing the cry of the poor in our world today?
“Working for justice belongs squarely in the life and mission of all Christians,” Sr. Orman said. “This is not an option. This is not a political statement. This is an obligation.”
“Jesus was not executed for saying his prayers,” said Sr. Judy Morris, Promoter of Justice for the Dominican Sisters of Peace. “He was executed because he had both feet firmly planted with the marginalized. He was not intimidated about speaking out for the poor. And that task as been handed over to us.”
Sr. Morris spoke about impending cuts to Meals on Wheels and student Pell Grants, and the need for affordable health care for all Americans. “Now the call is not to partisanship. The call is to citizenship. We look through the lens of the common good,” she said.
“I’m still waiting for a real debate when the poor are talked about,” Sr. Morris said. “It didn’t happen last night, and it didn’t happen last week. I hope that the poor are at least going to be mentioned in the presidential debates.
“Study and prayer are not enough. There must be an action that follows. We must speak out with conviction. And yes, we speak out for the unborn as well,” Sr. Morris said in response to sporadic heckling by pro-life protesters. “We stand under a big tent. Don’t marinate in division.”
“What does the Lord require but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?” asked Rev. Tim Ahrens of the First Congregational Church in Columbus, citing the prophet Micah. “The work of the Nuns on the Bus is to do justice. The call of the prophet is to take care of those who are forgotten, forsaken, and left behind.
“If we’re going to meet on higher ground, to come to a place of common cause, we have to do it in a spirit of humility,” Rev. Ahrens said. “I’m sure I don’t have all the answers, and I know that others don’t have all the answers. But when we come with only one issue, or one answer, or one cause, we’re missing something, and we’re certainly not humble in the eyes of God.”
Sr. Monica McGloin, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Hope in Cincinnati, spoke about the Faithful Budget endorsed by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faith leaders, and encouraged the audience to read and endorse it. “After the election, no matter who gets elected, we need to have a budget,” she said.
“We haven’t heard a lot of talk about the poor. Both parties need to know that we don’t want a budget that takes away from the poor to give to the wealthy. We want a budget that really does honor the fact that we are all one community,” Sr. McGloin said.
“The way you express your values is how you spend your money. Somebody once said, don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
Nuns on the Bus Ohio has scheduled stops through Monday, including Cleveland, Youngstown, Akron, Athens, Marietta, and Cincinnati.