Tapping our strength

This article appears in the Nuns on the Bus feature series. View the full series.
Another one signs the bus: “My past doesn’t define who I am today. I’m responsible, acceptable, healthy,” Carlotta told us at the Catherine McCauley Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, during our visit there Saturday monring. We could feel her strength and courage. (Jan Cebula)

Cedar Rapids, Iowa — Editor's note: Follow the tour at NETWORK's site, where you can find an updated schedule of stops – Bus Events – as well as blogs From the Road by sisters, including photos.

“They’re helping me find my strong woman inside. It had been crowded out by negativity.” Words of wisdom from Deborah, whom we met at the Catherine McCauley Center on Day Four.

We were all deeply moved by Carlotta, Amy and Deborah as they shared their personal journeys of transformation from abuse, addiction and prison. “My past doesn’t define who I am today. I’m responsible, acceptable, healthy,” Carlotta told us. We could feel her strength and courage. “I have a passion for change” Amy, who serves on a state commission on homelessness, declared.

Erik, a refugee from Africa, beamed as he looks forward to voting for the first time in November. Charles, who helped him learn English and study for the citizenship test, had tears in his eyes. Wendy, the education program manager, told us they served immigrants from 53 countries last year. Forty three people are on the waiting list. “In Cedar Rapids, Iowa!” I thought. Indeed, we are a country of immigrants.

Signing the bus in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Courtesy of NETWORK)
The Nuns on the Bus toured the newly remodeled kitchen at the McAuley Center. Jennifer Tibbets is pictured at left, wchild Paula Land is at right cutting a cake. (Courtesy of NETWORK)
Nuns on the Bus members pose with staff and clients of the McCauley Center. (Courtesy of NETWORK)
Encouraging people to register to vote - and to exercise that right this November and always - is part of the work of Nuns on the Bus this year, in addition to the Town Hall for the 100% meetings. Saturday afternoon, they gathered at Edwards Congrecational UCC in Davenport, Iowa, to get ready to go knock on doors. (Courtesy of NETWORK)

As we toured the facility, it was clear that Paula Land, the executive director, Jennifer Tibbets, the housing program manager, all the staff and the volunteers are focused on the needs of those they serve. Down to the details. Making sure the women feel safe, at home. Finding new approaches for helping people learn English. Learning from those they serve. Everyone being transformed. Changing their community through their dedication and commitment.

As we prepared to leave and people stepped up to sign the bus, I was acutely aware how much Deborah, Carlotta and Amy want to vote, but are prevented from doing so by the governor’s policy change regarding criminal convictions. We have work to do. It’s why we are on the bus.

I thought of people, like Erik, all across our country working hard to support their families, desperately needing a raise in the minimum wage. We have work to do. It’s why we are on the bus.

Our stop at the McCauley Center was a microcosm of what we have experienced all across Iowa. People who deeply care about others, their communities, our country and the future of our democracy. People working for change. People engaged. Together.

Tapping into our strength as We the People. Crowding out the negativity. We’ve felt the energy.

[Jan Cebula, OSF, is U.S. liaison for Global Sisters Report.]