Countdown to Caucus: Catholic ‘Sisters’ Share History of Political Activism

Tags: Currents Catholic Church, Catholic Community, Crux, Democrats, Faith, Inspiration, Iowa, Iowa Caucus, Media, Politics

By Michelle Powers

Most Iowans don’t get involved in the political race, but two sisters in their eighties have never stopped: Jeanie and Elaine Haygerdorn, who are “sister sisters” — siblings and part of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary.

Growing up in the Hawkeye State, they were determined to make it a better place. “You can’t really do that without politics,” explained Sister Jeanie, so they’ve never missed a caucus.

The pair came of age during the Vietnam War. when political activism first took college campuses by storm.

The sisters had just taken their final vows and were coming back into the secular world. “There was a lot to catch up on,” Sister Elaine recalled.

But since that moment, they’ve made it their mission to cast every ballot they could: their first one was for the first Catholic president.

Since the sixties, Sister Jeanie and Elaine have volunteered in every presidential election to get out the vote, supporting the candidate they believe best upholds Catholic values.

They’ve done this however they could, whether that meant making thousands of phone calls, canvassing, or touring the state with Nuns on the Bus.

Unlike others, the pair said they never argue over politics.

This year, their biggest concern is Iowa’s growing Hispanic population, a community they minister to. They want to make sure Hispanics are represented in Iowa and in the Oval Office.

“We’ve gotten to know and care about so many immigrants and that’s a big issue for us as well,” said Sister Elaine.

Right now, they aren’t sure which candidate will do that best and for the first time in their lives they might just vote for different people.

“If we don’t get involved, no one else to blame,” said Sister Elaine. 

So now they’re calling all Catholics to say they’ll see you at the polls.