2013 Staley Lecture: Sister Simone Campbell

Sister Simone CampbellIntroduced by Avery Haller ’15 as “she is really cool!,” a bright and lively Sister Simone Campbell enlivened the audience with her self-deprecating wit and honesty. She spoke of how her faith and religion applies to current events, mainly health care issues.

Crediting her mother’s wisdom as a guidepost to shaping her tolerance and understanding, Sister Simone recalled a childhood visit to her grandparents in Colorado. Her mother overheard her teaching the children of a Unitarian pastor that lived across the street what the trinity was and how to answer the questions correctly. “My mother took me inside and said, ‘Well dear, other people believe other ways. And just because we believe this way doesn’t mean you have to get everybody else to believe the way we do. People think differently and it’s okay.’”

In June 2012, Simone’s “Nuns On the Bus” tour began it’s nine-state trek in Ames, Iowa, to draw attention to the adverse consequences Paul Ryan’s budget plan would have on the poor and low–income Americans. Word spread. Crowds grew. Day two of their stop drew so much attention that the police issued the nuns a permit allowing them to have a rally on the public square. “People came up to me and said, ‘We don’t believe in anything (religion) but we really like what you’re doing.’”

As executive director of the national Catholic social justice lobby (NETWORK), she was an influential voice during the fight to pass the Affordable Care Act and continues to fight for its effective implementation. While her beliefs and actions may ruffle the feathers of some Catholics, Sister Simone states that Network “cares for the 100 percent” and “that Jesus loves us all. We are all equal. If God thinks we are all equal, how could we not?”

Smiles and nodding heads in agreement could be seen and laughter heard as I glanced around the 900 Room throughout the evening. Sister Simone left us with something to think about: “The Holy Spirit is alive and well and out causing mischief.” And thankfully for us, so is Sister Simone.