During our morning prayer before we first boarded the bus for the second leg, we talked about Nuns on the Bus being a pilgrimage. Having ridden the bus before, I had a sense of what that meant. I knew I was going to enter into a sacred experience. I was ready to become a pilgrim: being on a journey, open to discovering sacred places.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called us all to foster a culture of encounter, reaching out, engaging in dialogue and friendship outside our usual circles. Stepping out. I'm not sure he imagined riding on a bus, shining a light on economic disparities, calling for tax justice.
As I stepped off the bus in Cleveland at the end of the week, I realized the encounters we experienced had been the sacred places of our pilgrimage. Images of people we met cycled through my mind and will continue to do so: Diondai, Faith, Trisha, Maria, Cassie, Gladys, Cheryl ...
Even more so, their spirit of dedication, serenity, creativity and focused dedication continues to reverberate. I can sense a presence, a change within. Sacred people.
But I also realized there was another dimension of encounter we experienced, a communal one. We met people at every stop who understand that we're all sisters and brothers and also act like it. What a blessing to be on a pilgrimage to these sacred communal spaces.
We encountered the dogged persistence of constituents on behalf of others and our democracy in the face of indifferent elected representatives, the persistent widows of the Gospel.
We encountered the resilience of St. Sabina Church in Chicago, Sister Maria, and the women of Chopping for Change in Cleveland. Their voices and strength glowed, blessing us and everyone with their courage.
We encountered the creative, innovative and collaborative service programs focused on the whole person at YESS in Des Moines, Iowa; Heartland Health Services in Peoria, Illinois; Cass Community Social Services in Detroit; and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry in Cleveland. They understand both sides of the coin: It takes community/collaboration for healing, and wholeness is communal.
We encountered the openness at every location to learn through our visual town hall human graph experience, releasing more creativity and energy for advocacy.
By witnessing the risk-taking of both staff and the people being served at site visits and of advocates at rallies, we encountered communal courage and hope.
We were blessed by the joy of the solidarity among all of us "nuns" from all different communities who rode the bus and who offered us hospitality.
Sacred people, sacred places of encounter.
[Franciscan Sr. Jan Cebula is the former liaison to women religious in the United States for Global Sisters Report.]