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Nuns On The Bus Get Varied Reception At Republican Convention

Jennifer Wong/Network


The Nuns on the Bus who are touring the country rolled into the Republican Convention this week, hoping to talk with attendees and delegates about the nation's social issues.

Sister Mary Ellen Lacy said the sisters generally received a warm reception from those they encountered.

The sisters walked around the convention grounds with a lemonade wagon and invited attendees to talk with them about the issues they believe are important to the nation.

"We asked them if they would speak to us about their hopes, their fears and their values for the nation," Lacy said.

"The greatest theme we heard everywhere is that people just want to have a shot at bringing up their families in peace, give them a good education, health care when they need it and wellness care ... They were asking to live with the dignity God intended them to live with," she added.

Many of the positions the sisters have taken on such issues as a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, universal health care and greater aid for the poor are at odds with the Republican Party platform that was adopted. Lacy said the nuns tried to steer clear of directly contradicting those positions.

Lacy recalled a conversation she had with a police officer in attendance, "We weren't asking about political beliefs, and people talked in a more down to earth way then," she said. "It was not 'those immigrants' or 'those people who don't work.'"

The police officer, she said, "started talking about his own fears. He said, 'I'm afraid of violence. This has gotten bad. I hope for peace.'"

Credit Jennifer Wong/Network
Sister Mary Ellen Lacy, right, talks with an officer at the Republican National Convention who says he fears violence is worsening in the country.

Lacy,  a member of the Daughters of Charity and an attorney in East St. Louis, IL who represents tenants in housing disputes, said she was disturbed by some of the more heated rhetoric in convention speeches.

"I personally find it very disturbing that we have come to the point where we can actually cheer the pain of another person ... It's like, we've got ours and we are going to pull up the draw bridge and not let anyone else in. What about the people who didn't make the draw bridge before you pulled it up?" she asked.

"It's one thing to honestly believe -- and I think wrongfully -- we don't have the finances or the means by which we can care for all of the poor. It's another thing to refuse to care for another human being," she added.

Lacy said she told one participant, "When you vote, think about what's important to you. Not 'those people' or what other people are getting, but what's important to society. We suspect when we ask these questions at the DNC (Democratic National Convention), the hopes and fears are going to be very similar and that's common ground, right?" 

Some sisters, she said, encountered "naysayers" among the delegates, "but not to a combative point. They were able to listen to some extent."

On Sunday in Cleveland, the sisters joined hands with about 2,000 others in a peace vigil on the city's Hope Memorial Bridge. They also co-led an ecumenical prayer service at a United Church of Christ near the convention center.

"I sat next to a Muslim man and he was just so grateful for us showing up there," Lacy said. The prayer service, she added, "was like a microcosm of what the world should be -- different races, different religions. It works if we all remember that God is in charge, but we all take care of each other."

WGLT will be checking in again with the Nuns on the Bus when they reach the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia next week. Their bus tour is taking them to cities in 13 states.