The nuns’ bus stops in Camden

The nuns’ bus stops in Camden


The “Nuns on the Bus,” joined by some local women, pose for a photo before leaving St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, Camden, on May 30. The group is on a multi-city tour to promote immigration reform. Below, people in the Pro-Cathedral react to the sisters’ call to “raise your hands, raise your voice” for immigration reform.

Top photos by James A. McBride

CNS photo/Pete Souza, The White House

nunsonbusbarak-webU.S. President Barack Obama talks with Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and president of the Catholic social justice lobby Network, in the Oval Office at the White House May 30. Their meeting came as Network was launching its second “Nuns on the Bus” campaign – this time focusing on immigrants and national immigration reform.

CAMDEN – On May 30, the morning of the second day of their 6,500-mile journey, the nuns swung through Camden City, visiting two parishes, to generate support for their current cause, immigration reform.
They were greeted warmly, cheered and asked to pose for photos before the bus was back on the road, travelling to a fundraiser in Washington and an Oval Office meeting between one of the nuns, Sister Simone Campbell, and President Barack Obama.
The “Nuns on the Bus” tour is similar to the nuns’ campaign in the summer of 2012 that denounced the U.S. Republican budget cuts.
This time “Network Nuns on the Bus: A Drive for Faith, Family and Citizenship” is designed to rally support for immigration reform legislation currently being debated in the U.S. Senate. It is organized by Network, a Catholic social justice lobby.
The U.S. bishops have long advocated for immigration reform, stressing the need for a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. and in particular reforms that preserve family unity; ensure just wages and working conditions for immigrant workers; provide for humane law enforcement; and address the root causes of migration.
The bus journey – 40 cities in 15 states – began in Liberty State Park on May 29 and is scheduled to end in San Francisco on June 18.
“We’ve got to let people know there is a groundswell for immigration reform,” said Sister Campbell, a Sister of Social Service who made headlines as a speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
Twenty-nine women religious plan to participate in some part of the journey. At the group’s stop at St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, six arrived by bus and some others arrived in cars.
The bus was expected to arrive at 9 a.m., and a crowd had gathered in the parking lot waiting for their arrival, some holding signs of welcome or with messages, such as “Education Not Deportation.” As the women religious left the bus, waving and smiling, the people started singing “Donde Esta Dios.”
“Our people work and live in fear and anxiety all the time,” said Sister Kathleen Brown, pastoral associate at Divine Mercy Parish, Vineland, who attended the rally. “This brings great hope. That is what immigration reform is about.”
Sister Karen Dietrich, executive director, Catholic Partnership Schools, also attended the rally and spoke of the fear that undocumented immigrants feel.
“For parents, without documentation, they cannot open bank accounts or get credit cards or a driver’s license. This is a big issue when you talk about things like paying tuition. They cannot go online and give a credit card number,” she said. “Everything is done with cash.”
For the children, she said, the situation can have “heartbreaking ramifications.”
For this coming year, 34 percent of the children in Catholic elementary schools in Camden have earned scholarships, she said. “But we know that for many, should they go on for four years and do well – unless something changes – they will not be able to go on to a public or state college because they will not be able to apply for any kind of aid – or get a driver’s license, or open a bank account. All that investment into a good education and then to not be able to go to college….”
Inside the church, the event was part rally, part education, with parish representatives explaining initiatives to help immigrants, such as Know Your Rights workshops, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
Before the stop at St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, the nuns visited St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

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