By Marion Filler
Dusk was falling on Tuesday when an enormous blue bus– covered with slogans, a map of the United States, and what appeared to be a million signatures — pulled in front of Morristown’s Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.
Moments later, nine nuns emerged, to greetings by Rector Cynthia Black and a round of applause from onlookers.
They were the famous Nuns on the Bus, advocates for social justice who are traveling from California to President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, stopping along the way to deliver a midterm message:
Congress must be held accountable for the 2017 tax bill and for numerous attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Who knows, maybe we will tweet the President to see if he will invite us in” to his country club, said Sister Simone Campbell, spokesperson for the group.
Video: Nuns roll into Morristown ahead of midterm election.
And if Trump rolls out the welcome mat, what will she tell him?
“Do you see all the signatures on the bus? Our nation is a community, and it is community that makes this nation great. This tax policy is tearing us apart. We need to change the tax laws to work for the common good, not just those at the top like you.”
Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Hover / click on images for captions:
Sponsored by the Washington DC-based NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, the sisters hit the road from Santa Monica, CA, on Oct. 8, 2018, after a two-year hiatus. Their tour spans 54 events in 21 states over the course of 27 days, culminating with a “Fiesta for the Common Good” on Nov. 2 in West Palm Beach.
The Republicans’ tax package is estimated to add $1.9 trillion to the national deficit over the next decade. Putting that number into perspective, Sister Simone said if we spent one dollar every second, it would take 60,248 years to pay the extra debt.
The nuns emphasized that cuts already are being proposed to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to pay for this deficit — so the tax bill’s cost will be borne by those who benefit least from the measure.
“I’m getting upset with politicians who want to cut these programs –- because that’s where the money is — by changing how we think about them and calling them ‘handouts,'” Sister Simone said.
“We have paid into them for decades. I’m sorry, I’m just collecting on an insurance policy that I have paid for all of my working life.”
The evening began with dinner in Redeemer’s Parish Hall; Mayor Tim Dougherty and Morristown First Lady Mary Dougherty came to welcome the nuns.
Next came an interview of Sister Campbell and Sister Richelle Friedman in the Sanctuary. The discussion concerned the basic responsibility of government to do what communities cannot do for themselves: Guarantee health care, build infrastructure, develop housing, and see to the welfare of its citizens.
“Nuns on the Bus give people hope,” said Sister Friedman. “We bring joy. It’s a unique ministry.”
The conversation was taped by Zac Davis and Ashley McKinless of Jesuitical Podcasts, a division of America Media. Episodes are released every Friday and can be found on iTunes.
Redeemer Rector Cynthia Black called the nuns’ visit “an incredible honor.”
“They could have gone anywhere. They’re here because a seat in the 11th District is up for grabs,” explained the minister, referring to the Nov. 6 contest to replace retiring Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen.
Democrat Mikie Sherrill of Montclair and GOP state Assemblyman Jay Webber of Morris Plains are vying for the job.
Will the nuns change any minds, or are they just preaching to the choir?
“As Christians, we live in hope,” Black said. “That’s my message, too. I always have to hope. I can’t stop.”