By Ceil Roeger, OP (Houston)
“Get on board! The Nuns on the Bus are headed to Austin in support of health care coverage for the working poor” was the call from Catholic sisters from around the State of Texas. In response to the call, at 5:30 a.m. on the morning of April 17, sisters from five congregations in Houston and their friends boarded the bus and headed for Austin. Dominican Sisters Carol Mayes, Eleanor Cresap, Julie Greig, Pat Casey, Ceil Roeger (Houston), Maureen O’Connell, (Adrian) and Jeri Cashman (Sinsinawa) were members of the delegation.
The seed for this day of advocacy was planted in October 2012, when it was confirmed that Sr. Simone Campbell, the Executive Director of NETWORK, was to be a keynote speaker at the Socially Responsible Investment Coalition’s fundraising event on April 16, 2013. Nuns on the Bus-Texas Style would converge on the Texas state capitol on April 17.
When the bus rolled up to the west gate of the capitol building, the Houstonians were greeted by nuns and friends from around the state. Holding signs that read “Health Care for 1.5 Million Now” and “Texas Needs a Healthcare Solution Now” between 300 and 400 people gathered for a rally on the steps of the capitol. Standing before a group chanting, “Health care for everyone,” Sister Ceil pointed out that 24 percent of Texans do not have health insurance, the highest number in the country. Speaking at the rally, Sister Simone was clear that “germs are not selective.” “They don’t ask if you have health care before invading your body.”
Following the rally, delegations visited the offices of their legislators and Governor Perry’s office, where letters from his constituents urging him to do the right thing were delivered. The visits focused on encouraging the legislators and the governor to find a “Texas Solution,” using the billions of dollars of federal tax money that our citizens have already sent to Washington that would provide health care coverage to more than 1.5 million low-income Texans.
Lunch was prepared by the staff of AFL/CIO and set up in their auditorium near the capitol. While enjoying sandwiches, fruit and cookies, stories were shared, some encouraging, while others reminded us we still have work to do. More of this conversation took place on the bus ride home. Advocacy is not just for one day. We still need to make calls, write letters, and pray.