Sister Janet Kinney travels with Nuns on the Bus

 

Sister_Janet_Kinney_Portrait_Picture[1] (2)Sister Janet Kinney is travelling with the Nuns on the Bus.  She is working at making religious sisters’ moral authority heard.

Janet  joined the trip  in Albany on July 21st and will travel through to Philadelphia to the Democratic Convention.  She is one of the participants who has been asked to be willing to be interviewed by NCR.

 

A Typical Day includes up to three events: a rally, a site visit, and an evening caucus. There are breaks throughout the day— sometimes on the bus, sometimes at a rest stop— but the days usually go from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. Each morning begins before 8 am with prayer and breakfast, and ends with a chance to unwind and spend some community time together.  At each stop, participants are expected to be “on” – a full participant engages with the attendees, talks to the media, hands-out materials, and speaks at the event.  The sisters on the bus will stay together each night either at motherhouse or at a hotel.

 

Other Expectations:nuns seated in the bus

  • To listen, gather, and document stories from the people encountered.

Report out on these stories through involvement in some form of social media (Twitter, blogging, etc.), and communication with TV and print media.

All sisters will be asked to write at least one blog about one city’s events

  • To be ready to speak each evening on a “Mend the Gap”issue. Janet’s “Mend the Gap” issue will be “Access to Affordable Housing.”
Amanda Monroe speaking on living wage from the Working Families Coalition.
Amand Monroe speaking on living wage
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July 29. 2016

Philadelphia

We were given Rally after DNCgreat seats and we’re pleased that Hillary mentioned several of our ‘mend the gap’ issues in her acceptance speech last night and today. Sister Simone got a few minutes today with Hillary before the rally – Hillary greeted her with ‘I love the Nuns on the bus!’  We also got a shout out by PA senate candidate Katie McGinty who was taught by CSJs at the rally.
Onward to train station now.

 

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Blog July 28, 2016

DNC – Philadelphia

 

Today marks the last day of the convention. Hard to believe these days are drawing to a close.  We gather for liturgy at Old St. Joseph Church, the oldest church in the city, and one of the oldest parishes in the nation. Father Phil, the pastor spoke of the parish as always being a place where religious liberty and all are protected, encouraging those present to be earthen vessels, shaped by God to serve one another.

20160728_222611We did another round of ‘lemonade ministry’ before doing our last workshop of the trip at the convention center in the afternoon. Then it was off to the Wells Fargo Arena; security was high and seats were quickly filled by 5 pm.   I met friends Congressman Joe Crowley and his son Sean as I waited on the food line! We listened to Governor Andrew  Cuomo, the Delegation of all Women Senators, was stirred by the words of Rev. Barber, and were entertained by Carly Simon and Katie Perry, among others on the night’s line up. The crowd was pumped by the time Chelsea Clinton  made her way to the podium speaking lovingly about her upbringing by her mother Hillary and the example of her grandmother, Dorothy Rodham.  After a video of Hillary’s life, Hillary entered from a center stage. The moment had come to accept the Democratic party’s nomination of her as their candidate for this year’s presidential election.

Hillary accepted the nomination with ‘humility, determination, and boundless confidence in America’s promise’ taking her place as the first20160728_224552 woman to lead a major presidential ticket on a night pulsating with emotion.  ‘ When there are no ceilings,’ she declared, ‘the sky is the limit.’

It was wonderful to be in the arena for this historic moment, as balloons and confetti showered us and fireworks were set off from both sides of the stage.  It almost felt surreal to be there!

Although very tired after these long days, it was hard to settle into sleep after such an exhilarating night – but I did!

Tomorrow, Friday we will participate in our Nuns on the Bus closing rally and then have tickets for Hillary’s thank you rally to the city of Philadelphia before returning home to New York on Amtrak.

20160728_232811These have been unbelievable days as a Nun on the Bus and will long be savored by me. I feel blessed to have journeyed with some incredible religious women who are incredible witnesses to the gospel message of Jesus. And I was buoyed by the  hardworking men and women we met in all the cities and 8 states we travelled – people who still believe and have hope for the future of our country and want to be active participants in defining its  future. These days will be long remembered!

 

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Blog July 27, 2016

Philadelphia Democratic National Convention

 

The energy and enthusiasm  I have felt  in the streets of Philadelphia these past 2 days has been very palpable. A very different experience from the Republican Convention in Cleveland I was told by the sisters who were on the bus that week!

20160727_173956This morning we did ‘ lemonade ministry.’ What’s that you might wonder.  We took two red wagons, filled two large igloo coolers with lemonade, put our Nuns on the Bus signs on them, and walked the streets surrounding the convention, talking to the folks on the streets, engaging in conversations out the gaps that ordinary Americans are experiencing in their lives.  I found most people very willing to speak once they got over the shock of an offer of a free cup of lemonade on a 90+ degree day! A news reporter from Cleveland ABC affiliate followed us, listening to our conversations  with the crowds. I met  a number of the New York contingent to include NYS  Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, NYS Democratic Conference Leader, whose home district is in Yonkers, and our very own NYSIMG_1882 Senator Charles Schumer who all enjoyed some NOTB lemonade. I had a chance to discuss with the Comptroller and Conference Leader my concern of the divide between Mayor DeBlasio and Governor Cuomo’s regarding  funding for permanent supportive housing and the need to coalesce city and state housing commitments  into a new NY/NY 4 agreement so that this much needed housing can be created  for the betterment of all those who need it.  Also to encourage the Governor to sign the Memorandum of Understanding to fully fund the commitment he made at his address to the state back in January.

Then it was over to the Redding Market for lunch, a large food court with every type of food you could imagine, and then back  to the Convention Center for another afternoon workshop with delegates and observers. Before we knew it, it was time to go to the Arena for the night’s events.

Through the great connections of our trip organizer, this time we got sky box seats- a wonderful view of the entire arena, to watch the delegates on the floor and all the action folding.  Met more interesting people, to engage in even more conversation. Who would have thought I would sit next to a man who was taught by Sister Camille D’Arienzo, a Brooklyn Sister of Mercy! We then sat back and wait for the headliners of tonight  -Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Tim Kaine,  and President Barack Obama.

20160727_212600We watched the  arena became more and more packed as it got closer to 9 pm and we prepared to hear Joe Biden’s heartfelt remarks. The energy in the room reached a crescendo as President Obama took the stage and gave his reflection on the progress made during the past 8 years in his administration, speaking eloquently about what the country needs now for this time in its history, a country firmly headed in the right direction. When he stated that Hillary was a better qualified candidate than even he or former President  Bill Clinton had been when they sought office, a woman he knew to be intelligent, disciplined, with the tenacity to get the job done, the crowd roared. When the President finished his remarks, large signs emerged throughout the arena saying simply  ‘Thank you’ for what he had given to this country during his administration.  Then as the 20160727_230454President  prepared to leave the stage, 20160727_233927Hillary Clinton joined him and the arena was electric with the cheers of the crowd.  It was an unforgettable experience!

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160726_225202Blog July 26, 2016
Philadelphia

 Today we embark for Philadelphia – our final destination – the Democratic National Convention!

After a 2 hour bus ride we arrive at Loews Philadelphia Hotel where we have been given a complimentary hospitality suite to use in the ‘in between times’ of our days here. As we arrive we bump into Senator Tonka of NYS, who had participated in our Albany rally. Later during the day we also will see Congressman Larson of Connecticut who will present Sister Simone with a $5000 check for the Nuns on the Bus tour expenses.

We do an afternoon workshop on ‘mending the gaps’ at the Convention Center for delegates and other participants at the Convention; some of us, including myself, were invited to attend  the Patriotic Millionaires reception, where I met a number of New York millionaires(yes, I did hand out my Providence House business cards!) and then saw some of the NY delegation who were also invited to, include  NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio. . I also got introduced to Nancy Pelosi.

And then it is off to the Wells Fargo Arena where the convention actually takes place.  It is exhilarating to 20160726_182100be there when history is made! We listen to the roll call and watch as Hillary secures the nomination. It is a poignant moment when Senator Bernie Sanders asked that the delegates tender the votes that were made for him to Hillary in a symbol of unity of the Democratic Party.

The women of Congress then join on stage with Nancy Pelosi for this historic moment of breaking the glass ceiling with a woman nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate.

We listen to the Mothers of the Movement, all who have lost loved ones in altercations with the police.  Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright speaks to us of her long term relationship with Hillary and her knowledge of international and foreign policy that makes her uniquely qualified for the role of President and Commander in Chief. The crowd went wild with excitement when Bill Clinton took the stage and gave a loving overview of his personal relationship with his wife, intertwined with her entire career commitment to public service. Meryl Streep closed the evening – it was an incredible night!

20160726_212054During the night I got an opportunity to get down to the delegate floor. The delegates of West Virginia couldn’t say enough about religious sisters and how we helped to get the Affordable Care Act passed.  So many people when they saw our Nuns on the Bus t shirts got so excited and thanked us for our witness and commitment to the American people.  I felt so proud to represent all religious sisters and am so grateful for this experience.

Wearily we made our way back to Stella Maris Convent – a CSJ Phillie convent. Another day had come to closure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Arrival in Washington for the Democratic Convention
July 25, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog July 25, 2016
Scranton, PA & Newark, NJ

 Another ‘two state’ day with much more bus time due to the distances we will need to travel. It was a great opportunity to catch up on email, chat with other ‘NOTBs’, enjoy the scenery and plan our strategy for our presence in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention.

Today the New Life Assembly Church hosted us in Scranton and members of this community share their stories.  We hear from Cathy, whose mantra ‘No Vote, No Voice’ resonated with others, receiving nods from the audience; from Hema, a southern  Bhutan refugee, who at 7 years old was relocated to a refugee camp in Nepal where she lived for 17 years before arriving in Pennsylvania with her family.  Hema shared the struggles of being accepted, finding work, and beginning her own family, finally becoming a legal resident and then citizen.

State Senator John Blake welcomed the Nuns on the Bus, thanking Sister Simone and the Nuns for being a social conscience that is sorely needed in our country. This time when Simone spoke she encouraged the audience to be missionaries for the common good, each using their voice and actions to benefit those who have no voice.

We enjoyed a community lunch and as we prepared to depart noticed the skies were changing and there were predictions of heavy rains forlater that evening which could disrupt our outdoor rally.  Network staff started  scrambling for an indoor venue.  While arrangements were being made and we continued our travels on the bus, Sister Simone and I were interviewed via phone by The New Jersey Star Ledger and shared about the purpose of the bus trip and explained that  sisters have always stood with the people at the margins.

We arrived at Integrity  House in Newark,  the largest residential addiction treatment center in the state. ‘Creating Co20160725_201504mmunity’ is core to their mission – I again  felt an affinity to Providence House’s mission and heard resident after resident speak to the  value of community in their recovery process. The executive director identified a huge gap they are struggling with in securing funding for those who most need their services, explaining  that residential treatment was not covered by Medicaid.  This gap became very concrete  as the residents told stories of being turned away from treatment centers when they most needed help until they had the monies to pay for their treatment.

groupSeveral residents accompanied us to our next stop –  the rally. When all our phones pulsed ‘flood watch’ we knew we had made the right decision! Father Luigi welcomed us to St. Lucy’s Church  and opened the rally with a moving prayer that deeply touched us.   I was greeted by New Jersey and NYC friends as well as Philadelphia CSJs. Once again people shared the gaps that touched their lives including wage theft, a situation in which employers do not pay the promised wage or neglect to pay overtime wages. As we left the church the rain had stopped and we were greeted with a beautiful rainbow. Everyone signed the bus and we left for our final destination, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace motherhouse where we received hospitality for this night of our journey.

 

Blog July 24
West Hartford, Connecticut

To ask God for the justice of his kingdom is to ask principally for faith, hope, and love.’ St. Bede

This morning we met with Representative John Larson, a ‘Pope Francis voter’ who works on tax justice, Earned Income Tax Credit reform

Congressman Larson and Sister Simone
Congressman Larson and Sister Simone

and the Affordable Care Act in his committees. His key concern is Social Security.  Congressman Larson himself grew up ‘in the projects’ – i.e. public housing.  It is evident that this has grounded him and his passion for justice for the people of Connecticut he represents. Congressman Larson welcomed sisters from the area to be part of the morning conversation – School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of Mercy, and yes, Sisters of St. Joseph! He credits religious sisters for getting the Affordable Care Act passed, and vividly described the scene that  morning when he, Congressman Lewis and others locked arms with the sisters and walked  over to the vote.  We learned a little more about the demographics of Connecticut – unemployment is higher in CT (5.7%)than the US average (4.7%) but that the child poverty rate is 30% lower than the national rate of 21%.

West Hartford is an upmarket suburb so the purpose of our visit  here  was to listen and dialogue with those who are in the upper income brackets; to create a forum for understanding how we can work together for the common good and bridge the ever increasing wealth and income inequality in our country.

After our brunch with the Congressman, we walked down the street to St. James Episcopal Church where we met  with the Leaders from Moral Monday, a group that is part of a larger national movement that has called for acts of civil disobedience to draw attention to social justice issues and government policies that they see  as  discriminatory. These local leaders expressed their concern regarding the moral complacency, ‘much talk and no action’ they see in their legislators  and that they, and we, the people need to hold our government accountable. I am moved by their convictions to stand with those who have been marginalized and to raise the issue of race and Black Lives Matter in the public forum.

Our afternoon and evening were hosted at the Holy Passionist Family Retreat Center;  Sister Elaine Betoncourt, a CSJ of West Hartford is the20160724_123621 coordinator here and is a member of their retreat team.  Sister Elaine was a NOTB in 2013! We were overwhelmed by a crowd of  nearly 300 people, one of our largest yet,  gathered to engage in conversation with us and one another.  While Sister Simone’s presentation will vary depending on the stories that are lifted by those present, one piece that is consistent is her raising of what she calls the 4 virtues that she encourages us to carry within us and to others: a spirit of JOY that is in touch with the pain and lived experience of God’s people; Holy Curiosity – to ask the deeper questions of one another and stay active in the dialogue; Sacred Gossip – to then share the stories of those we meet; and Doing Your Part – to do more than pray and show up – the need to act.

After a 7 pm liturgy at the Center, the  day’s public events  ended. We gathered to share the graces of this day and were grateful for a little earlier night!

 

Boston MA and Providence, RI
July 23, 2016 

Today was a ‘2 state’ day. Each night prior to the next day’s event we get a full itinerary of the stops we will be making, the people we will be meeting etc.  Then directly before the event, while traveling on the bus, we get a briefing on the legislators for that state, their voting record on the 7 Mend the Gap issues, and various statistics for the state – i.e. Unemployment record, poverty rate, # homeless, current minimum wage – so we will be prepared for our conversations with the people we will be meeting, most particularly for the night caucuses.

The Sisters of St. Joseph were in full force when we arrived in Boston.  It was nice to see sisters I had just been with  at the Federation event in Orlando, Florida the week before as well as others from the Leaders as Leaven, current and prior leadership team members, and Atlantic Federation younger members group.

We heard from several local residents, two whose organizations or business have been supported by the CSJs of Boston, namely Haley House, a former Catholic Worker House,  now a multi service SRO housing program, soup kitchen with a bakery/café in downtown Boston that provides job training and employment; and Equal Exchange, that markets fair trade products (coffee and chocolate) for 40 small farm cooperatives around the world. Peter Buck of Equal Exchange quipped at one point:  “ Dunkin Donuts may run on Dunkin, but Nuns on the Bus runs on Justice” to the applause of the couple hundred people who had gathered for the rally.

After a tasty lunch supplied by the Haley House Bakery/Café, we were back in the bus enroute to Providence.  Our next stop was a visit to 20160723_154738McCauley Ministries, a 3 tier program of transitional housing for women with children, a meal site and social service center, and a volunteer supported thrift store. We met with families who had benefited from these programs and heard of their challenges. Every one of the women spoke with dignity about what they have learned from their affiliation with Mercy Ministries. Recovery from addictions, escape from domestic violence, help with medical care – all the things you would expect from a good social services program. What made it special to each was the relationships formed with the staff and one another, that bond of community that sustained them.

On to Amos House where we shared a meal with the participants in their housing and training programs. Again,  I am so struck by their trust and ability to share  their stories, struggles and what is most important to them. One after another in their own way expresses gratitude for the simple things they have been given, things we often take for granted. I also saw a great willingness to help each other. At one point in the meal, ‘Matt’ stepped aside to make a call to a buddy, saying he was down on funds and could he get him ‘some smokes.’ After he got off the phone, he explained that his friend had been really struggling and that he had helped  his friend find a place to live and shared what he had – which wasn’t very much. Before the meal ended, his friend arrived with ‘the smokes.’ Matt explained, ‘we take care of one another.’

20160723_185818 (1)We were getting a little weary as we arrived at our last stop of the day, another caucus at St. Marks Church..  As we disembarked, a  rousing  band greeted us with ‘When the Saints Come Marching In!’ You would have thought we were in New Orleans as the jazzy strains and the energy of the crowd re-charged us. For  the next 2 hours the faith, hope and love that permeated that  room was a powerful reminder that  God is indeed with us as we strive for justice for all our brothers and sisters.  The Sisters of Mercy gave us hospitality at their farmhouse in Cumberland and after a brief gathering to review the graces of the day we tumbled into our beds, grateful for another day in the vineyard.

July 22nd Concord & Manchester, New Hampshire

Although this year’s Nuns on the Bus journey began last week in Wisconsin, I only became an official “NOTB” yesterday.   Travelling via Amtrak from my ministry as Executive Director at Providence House, a transitional and permanent housing organization in Brooklyn (founded by sisters of my congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood),  I joined the sisters in Albany, New York and began my acquaintance with wonderful women – some of whom I had already met at other experiences as a “Nun on the Ferry” and through NETWORK affiliated events.

This morning as we prayed together and shared the scripture of the day, I was struck by this particular feast of Mary Magdalene, the woman who proclaimed to the disciples after the Resurrection “I have seen the Lord.”  Thinking of the people I have met these two days, I too, “have seen the Lord” in the face of Christ in each of them.  I have been blessed by their trust in sharing their stories, their dreams, and yes, their passion for justice and equality for all their brothers and sisters.

Our day began by travelling to the State Capital in Concord.  Shortly before the event I was met with a big surprise – my very own cousin, Gail Kinney was the local coordinator of the rally! Gail is a New Hampshire resident, a minister affiliated with the Meriden Congregational Church, long time organizer for the United Auto Workers, and a member of both  the United Church of Christ Economic Justice Ministries and Interfaith Voices of Faith groups.  Who better than Gail to welcome us!

Like rallies held before this one, 4 local residents spoke on the gaps that have most intimately affected their personal lives. The rallies are a great illustration of the power of story telling. Two mothers told stories of the challenges of raising young children and trying to support their families. The need for a living wage and the gap that currently exists is very real. Both women were well educated yet employment that paid a living wage eluded them.  When Jazmin, a biracial college student got up and spoke and told us she carries her student ID in front of her driver’s license just in case she gets stopped by law enforcement, we knew that the racism gap is real. It was one of many humbling moments for me, a woman with white skin who has never had this worry.

In the afternoon, the Granite State Organizing Project of New Hampshire invited us to visit a public housing development in Manchester composed of 250 units which are occupied by an extremely diverse community. The residents  proudly described their newly organized Resident Council, whose motto is “togetherness is community.”  I thought of the tagline of my ministry at Providence House – “Creating Communities – Transforming Lives.”  I felt a synergy with the residents’ desire here and the strength that we all find when we are part of a caring community that supports one another!  We learned in our visit that in the past 2 years the council has developed a Homework club, English language classes, and other social activities for the whole community.   Dot who participated in their leadership training program spoke of how she learned to plan and prioritize her goals, and after 2 years was now on track to move to Georgia to reunite with family.  Dot was thrilled that we had come to visit and hear their stories.  Another humbling moment, as I thought of the women and children back home at Providence House – have I missed similar opportunities?

The evening was a caucus event at Holy Cross Center Manor.  Spirited conversations with men and women from the local community ensued on the 7 gap issues, each sister being responsible for a different gap conversation to moderate.  Mine was affordable housing – a natural fit!   Before we left, all attending “signed on to the bus” signifying their commitment to working on the ‘Mend the Gap’ issues.    I said a heartful good bye to cousin Gail, and put a close to a very full day.  I felt enormously blessed!

Janet Kinney, CSJ

 

 


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