Author of Nuns on the Bus, Simone Campbell, shares lessons of contemplation that drive her social action


Sister Simone Campbell is known to many of us for the inspirational endeavor that she and her team at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice undertook in 2012 through Nuns on the Bus. Traveling over 2,700 miles across nine states, she motivated people to get out and vote to prevent the U.S. House of Representatives’ budget plan from cutting social services to those Americans who need them most.

While those who know Sister Simone might assume that Hunger for Hope is about social action and speaking out on issues that affect the fabric of our society, they would merely be scratching the surface of the treasure being offered here to readers.

This treasure is the fuel that sustains Sister Simone in her tireless efforts as a Sister of Social Service in bringing justice to those who most need it. Jim Wallis, the founder and president of Sojourners, sums it up aptly, “Sister Simone offers deep wisdom borne from such rich experience in both Christian contemplation and action for social justice—that sometimes puts nuns on the bus.”

Just as her first book, A Nun on the Bus, inspired people into action, this book shares the deeper lessons of contemplation that drive Sister Simone’s social action and are fundamental to being a contemplative in action.

Much has been written on the concept of a “contemplative in action.” In fact, the idea forms the basis of Ignatian spirituality. Jesuits spend a lifetime finding the right balance between contemplation and action, whereby one’s active ministry feeds the contemplative life and one’s contemplative practice informs the active life.

Sister Simone has achieved this balance. She begins by sharing her contemplative foundation, reflecting on the varied ways she listens to and senses the divine movements within. For many spiritual seekers, experiencing these sacred moments is the ultimate goal of a healthy spiritual life. For Sister Simone, however, this is simply the starting point and the catalyst to go out into the world, where she finds inspiration for and fodder for those movements, but also where her contemplative practice informs and enables her “to stay open and avoid a defensive, knee-jerk response,” especially when her own ways of thinking are challenged. Her meditation reduces her fear of exploring the unknown. It also teaches her to listen more attentively to the “underlying messages and feelings” that bring her a deeper understanding of those challenging human and, at the same time, insightfully divine encounters. In short, her meditation “provides an anchor of hope in a turbulent world.”

Hunger for Hope shares the spiritual lessons of more than 50 years of religious life and contemplative practice that have guided Sister Simone through politically chaotic times and experiences. As Sister Helen Prejean, author and advocate for abolishing capital punishment in the United States, rightly testifies about Sister Simone Campbell: “Her soul is wide…and the real-life engagements to which those encounters lead her couldn’t be shared with us at a better time.”

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