DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) — Sister Simone Campbell, whose “Nuns on the Bus” tours for social and economic justice drew national attention, has been named recipient of the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award. The executive director of Network, a nonprofit Catholic social justice lobby, will receive the award Sept. 21 in Christ the King Chapel at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. The interfaith award honors St. John XXIII and commemorates his 1963 encyclical letter “Pacem in Terris” (“Peace on Earth”), which called on all people to secure peace among all nations that is built on the pillars of truth, justice, love and freedom. Previous award recipients include John F. Kennedy (posthumously), the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Cesar Chavez, Sister Helen Prejean, Lech Walesa and Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche.
“Sister Simone is someone who really exemplifies the purpose of ‘Pacem in Terris’ and raises awareness of social concerns in many different areas,” said Davenport Bishop Martin J. Amos, who will present the award. “I feel she will challenge us to grow in our awareness of many issues.” A member of her religious community for 50 years, she has advocated for systemic change on behalf of people living in poverty and on society’s margins. Organizing for a tenants’ rights push in the earlier years of her ministry inspired her to pursue a law degree so that she could lobby more effectively. She founded and served as lead attorney of the Community Law Center in Oakland, California, for 18 years before taking a break to “give birth to a new idea.” For five years she led her religious community before taking charge of Jericho, a program engaged in legislative advocacy for low-income people in California. That position eventually led her to the top post at Network, where she organized two “Nuns on the Bus” tours that opposed federal budget cuts and supported immigration reform.