Refugee Zoo
Photo provided by: 
Dorene Wernke

Refugee/Immigration Ministry

The Basilica of Saint Mary is proud to partner with Lutheran Social Services to co-sponsor refugee families who are starting new lives in Minnesota after living in refugee camps throughout the world.

Since entering this partnership in December 2015, the Basilica’s refugee committee has:

  • Welcomed two families to Minnesota. Mentor groups have developed relationships with each family, helping them learn about and assimilate to life in the U.S. Financial contributions from the Basilica community have helped support each family. Learn more about each family here.
  • Prepared to welcome a third family.  Since new refugees are currently not able to enter the U.S., we are preparing to connect with a family who has recently arrived.
  • Collected 126 backpacks full of school supplies to benefit refugee families in the area.
  • Hosted educational talks and films, including discussions led by the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota’s executive director and documentaries looking at realties faced by immigrants.

Read about the Refugee Committee’s work in Basilica Magazine.

How you can help

  • Donate to benefit refugee families.
  • Join the committee. Committee members are invited to monthly meetings and notified when volunteers are needed. Volunteer opportunities include setting up families’ apartments, welcoming families at the airport, letter-writing campaigns, packing supplies and organizing events. Time commitments for volunteer opportunities vary; they can be weekly, monthly, quarterly or one-time functions.  
  • Join a subcommittee. Four subcommittees work on different projects:
    • Mentors: Groups of four mentors work directly with each refugee family to help families adjust to and learn to navigate life in their new community. Mentors go through training with Lutheran Social Services and are required to make six-month commitments.
    • Advocacy: This subcommittee is also a subset of Voices for Justice. It organizes educational programs and community action on issues including immigration, racism, homelessness, prison reform and faithful citizenship.
    • Collections: This group organizes collections to benefit refugee families, like the fall’s school supply drive.
    • Communications: This group promotes the committee’s work through blog entries, articles, bulletin updates and other means.

To join the team or ask for more information, please contact Janice Andersen

Frequently asked questions

What is the Basilica’s relationship with the families?

We are co-sponsors working with Lutheran Social Services to facilitate a partnership with families. The Basilica’s role is to help families get acclimated to life in the United States.

We help with rent for the first six months and provide basic grocery and household items. We also help the family get acquainted with aspects of living in the United States such as finding work, enrolling in school, making appointments and navigating the public transportation system. 

The Basilica has welcomed two families to Minnesota since early 2016 and is preparing to welcome a third family. Read about the families here.

Why are we working with Lutheran Social Services?
Lutheran Social Services already has the infrastructure to help place refugee families in supportive environments; the group has worked with refugees since the end of World War II. The Basilica thought this partnership would make for the most efficient and fulfilling use of resources and time.
Learn about how LSS supports refugees.

How much money has the Basilica raised? What is the money used for?
In December 2016, the parish raised more than $17,000, enough to sponsor two or three families.  Most of the money is going toward basic living expenses for each family's first six months here: rent, furniture, food, and other household items.

How have refugees been vetted?
The State Department's website describes how refugee families were vetted prior to January 2017. Several news outlets have also written about the process of vetting undergone by the Basilica's first two families, including CNN and CBS

How many refugees are there worldwide?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has more facts and figures on the nearly 34,000 people forced to leave their homes each day because of conflicts and persecution, and the more than 21 million refugees around the globe.