A few months ago Sister Simone Campbell was in a brainstorming meeting trying to come up with ways to get the public's attention.
"We thought maybe we could buy an online ad," said Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK, a liberal Catholic social justice lobby based in Washington.
Everything changed after the Vatican publicly scolded The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group for U.S. nuns, for allowing "radical feminist themes" to go unchecked a conferences and in their literature.
"NETWORK will be forever different because of this," Campbell said riding through southwest Wisconsin on the "Nuns on the Bus" tour.
The scolding came in a lengthy doctrinal assessment the Vatican said was aimed at the renewal of the group of superiors who represent nearly 80% of nuns in the United States.
Campbell's religious order, the Sisters of Social Service, is a part of LCWR. But for her, the assessment was even more personal because it took direct aim at NETWORK, saying it and other parts of LCWR were too focused on social justice and not focused enough on other parts of Catholic teaching, like the sanctity of life and marriage.
Campbell said the attention and the overwhelming support the nuns received in the wake of the Vatican's criticism put nuns in the spotlight.
"So what we said is 'how can we use this opportunity of the focus on us to show people what we're all about and who we care for?'"
That's when the idea of "Nuns on the Bus" hatched.
Support instantly flowed in for the 2,700-mile, nine-state, 30-stop bus tour that began in Iowa and will end in Washington on July 2, Campbell said.