Persons, places and things: A nun in a bug


By Barb Arland-Fye

When a Nun on the Bus needed to be picked up at the airport, who would be a better chauffeur than the owner of a Volkswagen Beetle Bug? Because, of course, the Nun on the Bus would be a Nun in a Bug!

Barb Arland-Fye
Sister Simone Campbell, leader of Nuns on the Bus and Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award recipient, took a ride from the Quad City International Airport in Barb Arland-Fye’s 2003 Volkswagen Beetle. For 15 minutes or so, Sr. Simone was a Nun in a Bug.

Here’s the story of how I, owner of a Volkswagen Beetle, ended up driving Sister Simone Campbell, leader of Nuns on the Bus and Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award recipient, to Bettendorf.

Nuns on the Bus rolled out their latest tour for social justice Sept. 17 in Des Moines, Iowa, with Sr. Simone aboard. This year’s 10-state tour focuses on encouraging 100 percent voter participation in this year’s mid-term elections. The Davenport leg of the tour was scheduled for Sept. 20 so that Sr. Simone would be in town for the televised Iowa gubernatorial debate and to receive the Pacem in Terris award the following day.


But long before the bus trip, Sr. Simone had committed to participating in a workshop in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sept. 20. She caught a plane the night before in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and hours later was back in the air headed to the Quad Cities.

She planned to join the Nuns on the Bus and other attendees viewing the televised debate at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf. The debate between Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, and Iowa State Sen. Jack Hatch, a Democrat, was to begin at 7 p.m. Sr. Simone’s flight was to arrive at 6:56 p.m. at the Quad City International Airport. It takes longer than four minutes to travel between the airport in Moline, Ill., and Bettendorf, even without a traffic jam on the Interstate 74 bridge.

Kent Ferris, director of the Davenport Diocese’s Social Action Office, oversees the Pacem in Terris Coalition and planned to pick up Sr. Simone and take her to St. John Vianney. But he also wanted someone from the coalition to be at the church just in case of technical glitches. He wondered whether I might be willing to handle the technical duties.

Knowing that I’m a bit stronger in the area of hospitality than technology, I volunteered instead to pick up Sr. Simone while he handled technical duties. As if to persuade him, I added: “Just think, if I pick her up, she’ll be a Nun in a Bug!” Kent is a pushover for puns. I got the job.

Arriving an hour early at the airport, I pulled out my iPad to work on a story, while keeping an eye on the electronic board listing arrival and departure statuses. Sister’s plane arrived 11 minutes early and she was the first person off the plane. Kent had emailed a photo of me to Sr. Simone’s staff so that she would know who to look for. She wouldn’t have had to search too long because the number of people waiting for arriving passengers totaled around 10 — including three children!

Sr. Simone had just a carry-on bag, so we were out in the parking lot in no time. Even though we had no time to spare for such nonsense, she, a woman with a sense of humor, agreed to pose outside my Volkswagen Beetle in a slight drizzle. I had prayed on my way to the airport that everything would work out smoothly, and it did. I got a photo of a Nun by the Bug and the televised debate was just getting underway when we arrived at St. John Vianney.

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