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Nuns aim to ‘mend gaps’ in society

Tour on way to Republican, Democratic parties' conventions

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    Sr. Geraldine Nowak, Order of St. Francis, left, greets Sr. Simone Campbell, Congregation of the Blessed Sacrement, executive director of Network, right, with a hug during a stop on the ‘Mend the Gaps’ tour in downtown Toledo.

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    Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, left, meets Peter Reinecke, of Toledo, during a stop on the "Mend the Gaps" tour in International Park in downtown Toledo.

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    A blessing written over the OH on the Nuns on the Bus bus during a stop on the 'Mend the Gaps' tour.

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    Sr. Simone Campbell, left, speaks with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D - OH), right, Saturday in International Park.

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    “I urge you to join us in mending these gaps,” bus rider Sister Simone Campbell of Washington, executive director of Network, said. “Our nation needs it. Your community needs it. We certainly need it to bring all of our people along.

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The Nuns on the Bus stopped Saturday in Toledo on their way to the Republican and Democratic parties’ presidential nominating conventions and called on area people to appeal to politicians to help bridge economic and social gaps in American society.

“I urge you to join us in mending these gaps,” bus rider Sister Simone Campbell of Washington, executive director of Network, said. “Our nation needs it. Your community needs it. We certainly need it to bring all of our people along.”

A project of Network, which lobbies and advocates for Catholic social justice, the nuns gather peoples’ stories of hardship in order to help narrow income and opportunity gaps in society and make it more inclusive. Saturday’s visit was the group’s third to Toledo.

Speaking at a 90-minute rally in International Park, the nuns asked the 100 or so rally participants — many of them area social activists — to sign pledge cards in support of their endeavor.

“Come the new Congress, we are going to take the [pledge cards] to whoever is your senator elected in this election and say, ‘We were here in Ohio and we know that the people are committed to mending the gap,’ and then give them the pledge card and say, ‘Will you sign up and join us in mending the gap’?” Sister Simone said. “I can hardly wait.”

George Tucker, 74, of Sylvania Township, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO, was among the first to grab a pledge card.

“[I am here] to mend the gap,” Mr. Tucker said. “As far as speaking for labor, I believe the only way we can do that is with good labor presence and good contracts to bring people back from poverty and to see to it that the middle class doesn’t go down to poverty.”

Themed “Mend the Gaps: Reweaving the Fabric of Society,” the nuns’ bus tour includes 23 cities in 13 states, and is spearheaded by about 20 Catholic sisters, including Sister Simone, their leader, according to rally organizers. Nearly half that many bus riders climbed on the podium to line up behind Sister Simone as she urged event participants to sign the pledge cards.

Rally organizers said their goal was to remind people in the greater Toledo area “in an election year when fear, intolerance, and bigotry have become common political conversation” that they are stronger together.

Speakers at the event included U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Ohio), who praised the nuns’ effort.

After the rally, the touring group was to hold a “Caucus to Mend the Gaps” at 7 p.m. at Monroe Street United Methodist Church, 3613 Monroe St.

The nuns are scheduled to attend Mass today at the Sylvania Franciscan convent after overnighting there. They are then to travel to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, which begins Monday, followed by the Democratic National Convention next week in Philadelphia.

Along the way, Network spokesmen said, the nuns will gather the stories of people caught in the social and economic gaps and then share those stories with politicians at the conventions and then in Washington. They will advocate for economic policies focused on tax justice, living wages, family-friendly workplaces, as well as access to democracy, health care, housing, and citizenship, as the defining issues for the 2016 elections.

“In order for all of us to truly overcome the oppression that involves all people, we must be unified,” Julian Mack of Toledo, a 31-year-old Black Lives Matter activist, said after filling out a pledge card while the rally concluded. “And more than anything else, I believe this event represents the unity that it takes for us to overcome all types of oppression that affects all types of people.”

Contact Mike Sigov at:, 419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.

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