We're in Des Moines!

Sr. Simone Campbell takes the stage and gets things started. (Dawn Cherie Araujo)

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.

11:30 a.m. update - Introductions

After a pause, the eight sisters who will join Campbell on the Iowa leg of the tour took to the stage introduced themselves and asked the crowd ice-breaker questions about hope and civic engagement.

Joe Biden will take the stage momentarily, amid rumors that he will attend his own political fundraiser later today.

Keep up with Nuns on the Bus throughout the whole tour. Bookmark this page to check in any time. We'll have a full news story for you this afternoon with quotes and highlights.

11:15 a.m. update - Busy taking notes

Sr. Campbell started things off after a benediction from a local priest. She reminded the crowd who want to get voting alerts, reminders and more via text to text NUNS to 877877 on their cell/smartphones. Now various people are talking about their experiences as small business owners, minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act.

10:30 a.m. update - Getting through security

The press covering the kickoff had to go through quite the security ring. Our equipment was checked twice while we stood in a line a few feet away, and then a dog came through to sniff our bags. NETWORK's campaigns and organization specialist, Ashley Wilson, said it was out of her wheelhouse. 

"The nuns don't usually roll with this kind of security."

8:30 a.m. -  Getting ready for the Nuns on the Bus kick-off rally

Social Service Sr. Simone Campbell, the well-known executive director of NETWORK, will kick off will the third Nuns on the Bus tour today with a 10 a.m. (CDT) rally at the Iowa State Capitol, with her team and guest speaker, Vice President Joe Biden. Titled “We the People, We the Voters,” this year’s bus tour will focus on civic engagement and voter registration in 36 U.S. cities in 10 key states from Iowa to Colorado.

I will be covering the rally all morning with live updates here and on Twitter, with a news story on Global Sisters Report later this afternoon. After the rally, our U.S. sisters liaison, Franciscan Sr. Jan Cebula, will be blogging daily from the Iowa leg of the tour, so be sure to check back often for her updates from the road.

Campbell and NETWORK launched the first Nuns on the Bus tour in 2012 to oppose the so-called Ryan Budget, a budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, who said it was inspired by Catholic social teaching. In interviews, Campbell decried the budget as being a “flawed understanding” of Catholicism as well as bad for poor Americans.

In 2013, Campbell led a second bus tour focused on comprehensive immigration reform. On this third tour, women religious connected to each state the bus visits will join Campbell to encourage citizens to vote and to hold voter registration drives.

In the 2012 general election, Iowa had one of the highest voter turnouts in the nation – hovering around 70 percent. But that high voter turnout has only made Iowa a target for lavishly bankrolled political groups like the Koch brothers’ conservative Americans for Prosperity and, ironically, the campaign finance reform-focused Mayday super PAC, which hope to sway Iowans’ votes.

Earlier this month, Campbell told Religion News Service that this tour was about empowering “we the people” to stand up against big money in politics.

10:30 a.m. update: Members of the media get checked and checked again, since the NETWORK Nuns on the Bus kick-off includes an appearance by the vice president of the United States. (Dawn Cherie Araujo)
I'm clear! My press pass will go in my virtual scrapbook when this is over. (Dawn Cherie Araujo)
Vice President Joe Biden lent his support to the goals of NETWORK's Nuns on the Bus tour. (Dawn Cherie Araujo)
Our first glimpse of the We the People, We the Voters bus, as it pulled up to the staging hotel where NETWORK staff and sisters ready to ride were staying in Des Moines, Iowa, the night before the kick-off rally. (Jan Cebula)

[Dawn Cherie Araujo is the staff reporter for Global Sisters Report.]

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