Yesterday around noon, a large, colorful bus was parked on Howard Avenue off West 14th Street in Tremont, alongside the historic red brick building occupied by St. Augustine’s Catholic Church. A group of friendly gray-haired women in conservative skirts and jackets mingled with neighbors and local social justice activists. The Nuns on the Bus tour had arrived in Cleveland.
The Roman Catholic nuns are travelling through nine states — primarily in the Rust Belt — to emphasize their work with those in need and to protest the budget cuts proposed by Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan that would hit the poor the hardest. The nuns got a tour of the church, learned about its special outreach ministries to deaf and blind people, and visited its longtime hunger center across the street.
The nuns also dashed across West 14th Street to Lincoln Park to visit with a day camp group. They watched some of them demonstrate their hula hoop abilities, queried the kids about their activities and suggested that when they do their cooking project, they send photos to Michelle Obama since she is promoting healthy eating for children. One little girl asked, “Couldn’t we just slip in some ribs?”
Sister Simone Campbell, the catalyst and spokeswoman for the tour, addressed the assembled crowd afterward, saying what nice weather they’d had. “But we’ve been turning up the heat,” she added.
She was referring to the impetus for the tour: an “investigation” ordered by the Vatican of American nuns’ activities that concluded they were devoting too much time doing things like feeding people, educating children, and caring for the sick, and not enough time to attacking gay marriage and abortion. The nuns’ response was basically, “Whatever, Pope Fancy Shoes.”
Some of her travelling companions spoke as well, saying things like, “We as a nation have been losing our sense of community and have gone down a path of individuality. This bus trip is to lift up ‘we the people.’”
Campbell introduced their response to the Ryan budget, which they call the Faithful Budget: “reasonable revenue for responsible programs.” It aims to invest in the common good, putting everyone on a stronger economic footing rather than cutting safety-net programs and doling out a tax cut to the wealthy as Ryan’s budget does.
After lunch, the nuns were heading down to a meeting with the Plain Dealer editorial board. Look for Kevin O’Brien’s column on how misguided they are soon.