Director, Rebecca Parrish-Reis
Daniel Alpert, Sister Simone Campbell
The galvanizing and impactful work of the nuns who founded NETWORK, is chronicled in this moving film that followed their lives during an historic five-year period. It focuses on three feminist nuns, in particular: Simone Campbell (one of the producers), Jean Hughes and Chris Schenk. They were modern-day nuns who weren’t flanked in their traditional monastery habits. They were different, in other ways, as well.
The National Catholic Social Justice Lobby was formed by 47 nuns in 1971 to address social inequity in education, healthcare and vital community services. It was a period in which fundamental changes were occurring in the Vatican, the adoption of mandates that would clash with their outreach efforts.
Much of the film follows the activities of lawyer and Executive Director, Simone Campbell, who was a member of the Sisters of Social Service. Outspoken and unfazed by the opposition of the established Catholic Church, she was at the forefront of a movement that became involved in one of the country’s most divisive political issues, Affordable Health Care.
Their outreach efforts drew substantial attention when they launched ‘Nuns on the Bus’ and traveled, not only to the Capitol to lobby our representatives, but across the country to promote economic and social justice. When they campaigned in support of Affordable Health Care (Obamacare), the intensity of opposition from the Catholic Church was strongly expressed. The United States nuns were censored and subject to a formal investigation. Facing the threat of excommunication and other repercussions, they were still undeterred, and they continued their lobbying efforts to promote the type of work they felt represented the values that were most like those of Jesus Christ, to provide health care and vital services to the poor and underrepresented. One of the most touching segments of the film chronicles the hands-on community outreach services of a nun who worked in one of Chicago’s most violent areas. The poignant story of Sister Jean Hughes, who taught and provided counseling to former convicts and other residents, is captured in real-time footage that presents an insightful look at Jean’s life during her last days. It reveals her powerful impact on a community that grew to deeply love and respect her.
The producers were working on footage of Sister Jean and listening to her voice in their editing facility when they learned that she’d passed away. Director, Rebecca Parrish-Reis, was invited to Jean’s memorial service, where she recorded the moving testimonies of the people whom she’d touched.
Radical Grace is an unforgettable film that captures the historic and impactful events that these courageous nuns launched and the standards of Christianity they were devoted to living out, no matter what the cost.