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Sister: People need to talk, revive sense of community

BLOOMINGTON (MCT) - A decline of community-mindedness in the United States has led to dysfunction in Washington, D.C., in Springfield and in neighborhoods.

One step to recovering the sense of community is having substantive conversations with people around you, suggested the head of a Catholic social justice lobby who gained fame as founder of the Nuns on the Bus tours in 2012 and 2013 and as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

"The most important thing we can do is talk to each other," Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network. She spoke to The Pantagraph on Friday before speaking on "Achieving Economic Justice in a Broken State" at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Campbell also will talk at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Illinois State University's Alumni Center and 10:30 a.m. Sunday at New Covenant Community Church, both in Normal.

"I call it grocery store missionary work," Campbell said. By asking people at the supermarket and elsewhere about what they think about immigration reform, efforts to raise the minimum wage or implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we learn their opinions and may better understand our own thoughts.

Resulting discussions and deliberation - and sharing opinions with elected officials - can only benefit democracy, she said. "This experiment of democracy requires 'we the people' to be engaged.

"I'm patriotic, so I love community," Campbell said. "I'm a person of faith, so I love community. I have self-interest, so I love community."

"The problem right now is our country is about the game of politics and not the art of government," she said. "We've made government a game. 'We the people' need to demand that our (political) parties get together."

"Faith causes me to care about people on the margins," said Campbell, who is focusing nationally on raising the minimum wage, immigration reform and "getting over arguing about the Affordable Care Act and getting into implementing it."

During her talk, Campbell addressed a receptive audience. But, later, representatives of social service agencies told The Pantagraph that - while agreeing with Campbell's broad statements - they were frustrated with a lack of specific solutions in her talk regarding government debt and her tendency to blame Republicans for the current dysfunction.

"She takes complex issues and makes them appear simpler than they are," said Dale Strassheim, chief executive officer of The Baby Fold.

Campbell said increased engagement by everyone will result in "a more perfect union."

(c)2013 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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