Sister Simone Campbell brings her voice to XU

By Alex Budzynski | Campus News Editor

Photo courtesy of Margo Heydt

While most 10-year-olds are concerned about finishing their homework and getting to soccer practice, the same could not be said for Sister Simone Campbell, SSS. She organized her first demonstration in third grade, marching in her hometown with a group of neighborhood kids. Now, instead of fighting for Proposition 3 in small-town Colorado, she is a lawyer and activist, fighting for economic justice, immigration reform and healthcare.

Campbell also does this work from the perspective of a Roman Catholic Religious Sister. She joined after her freshman year of college because she was tired of studying and eager to get on with life. Her order, the Sisters of Social Service, has its roots in systemic changes of social justice.

“What I’m all about is returning to our constitutional and religious roots, which is about we the people,” she said. “Unless we do this together, we’ve got nothing to pass down.”

Since 2004, Campbell has served as the Executive Director of NETWORK, an organization that lobbies and advocates for Catholic Social Justice in Congress. NETWORK was founded in 1972 by Catholic sisters from various congregations who felt a need for systemic change.

“They didn’t want another organization, they just wanted a network of Catholic sisters,” Campbell explains.

On Monday and Tuesday, Campbell visited Xavier to speak and educate students about the need for change in public policy. Sponsored primarily by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the CPS Committee on Diversity & Inclusion and the College of Professional Services, her visit focused on economic injustice.

“It’s our wealth that gives us the illusion of separation. It’s that greater connection that we have to lift up. We can’t do it without each other.”

Photo courtesy of Margo Heydt With the help student volunteers, Simone Campbell, SSS, demonstrates the severity of economic inequality in America during her presentation.

As part of her mission, Campbell has organized six trips of “Nuns on the Bus,” a project in which nuns from NETWORK travel the United States discussing pressing matters, including economic justice, comprehensive reform and voter turnout. 

One of the goals of “Nuns on a Bus” is to travel around the country and meet people of differing backgrounds. Campbell recalls meeting an immigrant family who traveled from Pennsylvania to listen to her speak on immigration reform.

“Nuns on the bus had given them so much hope that we could be an answer to them…I just couldn’t stand it.”

Overwhelmed, she simply began to pray with this family and was soon encircled by fellow members in the congregation. She proceeded to connect the family to an immigration lawyer who spoke Spanish and found them a place to stay.

“It was this experience of community who responded to this extremely unrealistic idea of what we could do but the huge need of community. It just really galvanized everybody and made the theory alive in our midst,” she said. “It felt like gospel.”

For Campbell, one of the ways to fight economic injustice is through community.

“The fact is that when you get so far away, you’re so alone that fearful place of individualism where you become extremely judgmental of the other because you don’t have contact…what would make a difference is if we’re a community,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that people can’t be rich, it just means that people shouldn’t be rich at the expense of others.”

Her time at Xavier was full of meetings with various faculty and administrators, conversations with classes and presentations to the general campus community. She not only educated her audiences, but demanded a communal call to action.

“In our nation, it’s our wealth that allows us to detach because we don’t see that we are essentially communal creatures,” she said. “The whole point of politics is to be able to have a mechanism for living out the fact that we’re communal creatures.”