Monday, July 2, 2012

Nuns on the Bus

This past Friday the Nuns on the Bus tour rolled through Philadelphia. The brainchild of NETWORK, the Catholic Social Justice Lobby, the "Nuns on the bus" have been touring across the United States since June 17th, raising awareness about the need for reasonable revenue for responsible programs as the Senate considers the national budget. The point? The proposed budget sponsored by Representative Paul Ryan would make drastic cuts to social services in this country- the nun's wanted to raise awareness about what is happening and try to inspire people to stand up for the poorest of the poor who would be affected by this plan.  I was invited to speak about the people I work with who would be adversely affected by this budget. It was a pleasure to be a part of this wonderful cause, call for dialogue, and defense of the most vulnerable. Below are the remarks that I prepared and delivered at the Philadelphia "friend-raiser" at Chestnut Hill College on Friday, June 29th. Hopefully, video of the event will follow... Enjoy!

When I moved to Philadelphia two years ago it wasn’t because of the promise of a cushy job. No, I came because of the sisters- the work they were doing, the faith that they had, the people that they work with and the promise that our neighborhood holds.

The Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia is one of, if not the, poorest neighborhoods in Philadelphia.  The Community Center at Visitation seeks to serve our neighbors without regard for race, age, faith, education, or income.  Our neighbors are exactly that, our neighbors, those who Jesus calls us to love and serve with compassion and care.  The people that I work with day in and day out are an inspiration to me, they have captured my heart, and they are the ones who will be most adversely affected by the Ryan Budget.

Budget cuts can easily come down to a game of numbers. To save money here, we need to cut funding there- figures fly back and forth and as politicians try to balance the budget, the most vulnerable of our neighbors’ lives hang in the balance.

Of the 159 million fewer meals that low-income Pennsylvania families would receive under this plan, I can only imagine the way Theresa Hernandez will have to stretch what little she and her 3, soon to be four, children have to eat to make up for the resources that will be taken away from them.  Local food pantries will help to subsidize this loss but budget cuts will affect the resources of those organizations, too.  In the last two years alone, our food pantry at the Community Center has doubled the amount of food it gives out in a month- if fewer meals were available to our neighbors there is no way that we would be able to provide for them.

Among the over 1.6 Million seniors and children in Pennsylvania who would lose health care access is Joe Stevenson, a homebound diabetic in his 70’s who I visit each week, not to mention the home healthcare worker who comes in to check-up on Joe and who could lose her job, under the proposed budget, and be unable to provide for her family.

These are the people behind those numbers that are so easily cut in the Ryan Budget. We cannot balance our budget on the backs of the poor. By eliminating key services, we don’t give our brothers and sisters who are already vulnerable any chance at survival- and if they falter we all do. We need to stand up for change, believe in hope, and trust that the promise that is in our neighborhoods and neighbors is worth protecting.