Longtime CHN Board Member Sister Simone Campbell awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom 


July 8, 2022

President Biden this week awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor — to longtime CHN Board Member Sister Simone Campbell. 

Sr. Simone led NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, a CHN member group, from 2004 to 2021. She announced her retirement last year, and stepped down from her service on CHN’s Board of Directors. In 2013, CHN honored NETWORK with its annual Human Needs Hero award for its advocacy on behalf of immigrants. 

“It’s a joyous moment to see President Biden honoring Sr. Simone Campbell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” said Deborah Weinstein, CHN’s Executive Director. “Sr. Simone brings together people of conscience and good will to wage with glad hearts the continuing struggle for dignity, security, and opportunity for all of our people.” 

In conferring the award, Biden, who once joined Sr. Simone on the widely regarded “Nuns on the Bus” tour, credited her with helping pass the Affordable Care Act. “Sister Simone Campbell is a gift from God,” Biden said. 

While leading NETWORK, Sr. Simone Campbell is credited with pioneering efforts to organize Catholics in progressive politics. She founded the Nuns on the Bus events, and led seven cross-country tours. CHN is proud that its Director of Public Policy, Sr. Richelle Friedman, participated in several of the bus tours. After passage of the ACA, her efforts often centered on protecting access to health care for millions of Americans. 

“I am overwhelmed and grateful for this honor,” Sr. Simone  said in a statement. “This award recognizes each and every advocate for justice who accepts the moral call to participate in politics to advance the common good. I am so grateful for the opportunity to lift up all of our work! For me it is a gift of the spirit!” 

“Sister Simone propelled NETWORK’s mission of political ministry into the national spotlight with her committed advocacy for justice,” said Mary J. Novak, who succeeded Sr. Campbell as NETWORK’s Executive Director. “As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, the NETWORK community is overjoyed – and enlivened – to see this award bestowed on Sister Simone in a time of rising tension and threats to our democracy. Sister Simone and all of the awardees remind us of the power of possibility and hope.” 

The Nuns on the Bus Tour stops in Washington, D.C. Sr. Simone Campbell is fourth from left. CHN’s Sr. Richelle Friedman is far right.

Sr. Simone Campbell was one of 17 Americans honored this week by Biden. The awardees represented an incredibly diverse slice of America, ranging from athletes to actors to senators to entrepreneurs. Writes the Washington Post: 

“Biden’s list of recipients, his first as president, reflected his personal and political identity, ranging from a labor leader, the late AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, to a gun control activist, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He named several Republicans known for working across the aisle, those who came from average backgrounds to do extraordinary things — and, in true Biden form, a Catholic nun.” 

You can watch Sr. Simone receive her award here. 

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