Janice Andersen

Director of Christian Life
Christian Life

Janice Andersen has been on staff at The Basilica of Saint Mary since 1994, working with programs that serve our community and advocate for justice.  She currently serves as the Director of Christian Life, overseeing ministries that provide charity and care, justice formation, and volunteer ministry. She began her work as the Director of Social Ministry, working with Basilica St. Vincent de Paul to collaboratively build programs that offer relationship and service to those in need, and advocate for justice.  Janice serves on the Boards of City House and From Death To Life. She holds Masters Degrees in special education and theology, and is a certified Spiritual Director. 

(612) 317-3477

Recent Posts by Janice Andersen

January 14, 2018 is the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This Day invites us to attend to the needs and conditions of the migrants and refugees who have risked their life to flee war, persecution, natural disaster, and poverty. 

Immigration—throughout the world and within the United States—is clearly a hot button issue, when addressed from a political perspective. However, it is also a perfect opportunity to experience grace in the tension, as we interpret our life through the lens of faith. From a secular perspective, this stance will appear radical. From a faith perspective, this stance will bring peace. 
Pope Francis calls the situation of migrants and refugees “undoubtedly a ‘sign of the times’ which I have tried to interpret, with the help of the Holy Spirit… Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”

On this 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis invites us to find solidarity across difference. “This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience.” He calls each of us, to “respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom, and foresight.” He states, “our shared response may be articulated in four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote, and to integrate.” 

Welcoming suggests a personal encounter—focusing actions on the centrality of the human person. Pope Francis states, “Welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally. “ He goes on, “collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights.” 

The call to welcome can be counter-cultural, given our political climate. However, it is rooted deeply in our faith—resonating with welcoming the birth of Jesus himself. The Basilica makes substantial commitments to welcoming through its wide range of Liturgies, RCIA, and St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. The Immigrant Support Ministry has welcomed five refugee families and supported several families seeking asylum.

Protecting calls us to recognize and defend the God-given dignity of those fleeing danger. Pope Francis states, this “may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status.” This absolute acknowledgement of the dignity of the other, and the subsequent call to protection, can expose underlying division in our society. Grounded in our faith, taking the call of Christ seriously, we are invited to stand confidently and faithfully as we declare we will offer care to all—refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented alike. 

What does this protecting look like at The Basilica? What does it mean for us individually and as a parish community? There will be opportunities for you to speak with our Parish Council members about how we live this out, in the coming weeks. Together, let us prayerfully reflect on this call. 

Promoting calls for an intentional effort to ensure that all migrants and refuges—as well as the communities who welcome them—are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings. 
Integrating calls us to consider the many “opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought about by the presence of migrants and refugees.” We are called to foster a culture of encounter—actively embracing opportunities for cultural exchange, and recognizing the strength of diversity. 

The call to Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate is not easy. Yet, it is at the heart of the challenge of discipleship in our day. Let us wrestle together with how we can live this out at The Basilica. Let us share our hopes and fears, united in love and forgiveness. We are grateful for this opportunity. 

 

As we walk through Advent, we are invited to prayerfully consider how we prepare for and welcome Jesus into our lives. Looking back on the Christmas story, it is easy to fall into an idealized version of our actions: “If Mary and Joseph past by my door, of course I would have made room for you in my inn, Lord!” But where are those choices in our life today? Where are we closing the door to God in our life and community? 

Each day, we are called to be disciples of Christ. We are called to make choices and act so that God’s love is made known in our world. How is that going? 

The U.S. Catholic Bishops describe a disciple as those who “make a conscious, firm decision, carried out in action, to be followers of Jesus Christ no matter what the cost to themselves.” This definition makes the strong assumption that there will be a cost. We will each experience some disadvantage from living our life as disciples. Where is this most true in your life?

Pope Francis, in The Joy of the Gospel says, “An authentic faith—which is never comfortable or completely personal—always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it” (#183). This gives the challenge of discipleship a profound social dimension. It is impossible to live out one’s faith and not get caught in the web of politics—local or global. We are called to enter this arena, and maneuver it with grace and love. We must not avoid it—personally or collectively. 

In my experience, one of the biggest obstacles to discipleship today is fear. Fear drives division. Division drives exclusion and oppression. Oppression drives violence. 

We can see the challenge of discipleship when we look at some of the hottest issues today. These issues call us to put our faith first—to start and end with a prayer to open our hearts and minds to the love of Christ, and close the door to fear, division, or exclusion. This sounds good, until we get specific.

Issues include: immigration reform, care for the environment, taxes and what Pope Francis calls an “idolatry of money,” health care, globalization and trade, racism, care for the most vulnerable, the seamless garment of life, and on and on. 

As Catholics, at this critical moment in history, we cannot afford to proceed with business as usual. We must ground ourselves in our faith and join with people of goodwill throughout the world to transform society through the Gospel of love. 

God has taken the initiative. God has come to us this Christmas. 

Let us open our lives to the Spirit of love and reconciliation. Let us find a way to talk together and work together on the important issues of our day—to welcome God into our midst and experience the love of Christ transforming our life and community. And yes, we may put ourselves at some disadvantage. After all, we are disciples. 

Every once and a while, it is important to reflect on one’s actions: What am I doing, and why? Taking time to intentionally access and evaluate direction, goals, and behavior has value. One can correct course, strengthen commitment, refine productivity, and identify weakness and strength. 

Over the past nine months the Christian Life staff, volunteers, and leaders have been engaged in evaluation and assessment of Christian Life Ministries at The Basilica. Through surveys and interviews, we have intentionally and prayerfully evaluated what we do at The Basilica and how we do it. What does our world and community need today? How are we meeting those needs?

It has been a sacred and meaningful journey. We have learned a lot and raised a lot of new questions. We will unpack what we have learned over time. Some changes may be subtle. Others may be bold. Together, we seek to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to build a community of love. 

At the heart of our work, affirmed and clarified in our assessment, is Catholic Social Teaching (CST). 

CST is rooted in scripture and includes writing of popes and other Catholic leaders to the Church and the world about social issues that affect society. Issues like hunger, conflict, worker’s rights, environment, migration, trade—basically every issue that intersects with our life. 

CST reads the sign of the times in light of scripture. This is why our popes often speak out about the environment, world hunger, or immigration. They are teaching us to live a life rooted in scripture—showing us, tangibly, how to follow Christ.

While CST has its roots in scripture, Modern CST began in 1891 as oppressed workers demanded justice and rich employers objected. In response, Pope Leo XIII said, “The state should watch over these…citizens banded together in accordance with their rights.” As the Church calls for society and business to attend to the rights of the workers, the church is living out its prophetic mission of upholding basic human dignity and basic human rights. Today, CST still challenges our world. 

Key principles underpin CST. While there are several ways of articulating the principles, they include the dignity of every human person, a plea for solidarity among diversity, a surrender toward the common good, trusting subsidiarity in community, upholding the rights and responsibilities of all people, a call to attend to the needs of the most vulnerable first, finding ways for all to participate in and benefit from society, a commitment to promote peace, and a priority to care for creation.

In many ways, CST is radical. If everyone put CST into action, the world would be transformed. If we are honest, we know that CST can turn society upside down. Indeed, CST is the tinder of the revolution of love and kindness. Consider engaging with our Immigrant Support Ministry, Mental Health/Justice work or Emmaus and Grief Ministry at The Basilica. Personally and collectively, let us all weave CST into our work and our life, and transform our world, in love. 

Homeless Jesus Sculpture

Finding Christ

During the month of September, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast days of both Blessed Frederic Ozanam and St. Vincent de Paul. St. Vincent de Paul, is well known to The Basilica, as he is the namesake of our ministries that serve those who are suffering, sick or poor. Blessed Frederic Ozanam is not as well known, yet equally formative to our work.

Blessed Ozanam lived in France during the middle of the 19th century. Studying literature and law, he organized discussion clubs that debated the issues of the day. Legend tells us, one day he found himself advocating the value and role of Christianity in civilization. Upon spouting strong, fancy words, a member of the club challenged, “Let us be frank, Mr. Ozanam; let us also be very particular. What do you do besides talk to prove the faith you claim is in you.” This question stung, and it propelled Blessed Ozanam to action. Over time, he founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society and laid out a framework for securing justice for the poor and working class that continues to this day. 

Both St. Vincent de Paul and Blessed Frederic Ozanam compel us to see Christ in those who are marginalized or vulnerable. Indeed, St. Vincent de Paul states that “the poor become our teachers and mentors, and we their servants.” We are urged to “Go to the poor and suffering; you will find God.”

This month, The Basilica will break ground for a public sculpture of a life-sized homeless Jesus lying on a park bench. Cast in bronze, it will be placed right off the main plaza in front of The Basilica Church on Hennepin Avenue. This sculpture has been placed in other cities around the world, and has elicited reactions ranging from awe to fear, compassion to anger. It stimulated conversation and conversion.

The Basilica is honored and excited to install this Homeless Jesus Sculpture. As a community, we are committed to broad and quality care and assistance to those in need. We are also committed to the prophetic and transformative power of art. 

Join us this Sunday at 1:00 for a wonderful presentation of the intersection of art and justice. Be present as we break ground for the sculpture. Look for the litany of program and ministry opportunities offered over the next two months—culminating in the installation and dedication of the sculpture on Sunday, November 19 at 1:00pm. 

Look for a Homeless Jesus prayer card in the back of church, and reflect on “Who is Jesus to me?” Join together in a novena for the homeless over the next nine weeks, praying for all those suffering and in need—and praying for transformation and conversion of all our hearts, helping us to be gentle, compassionate and patient to all.

The Basilica will receive the Homeless Jesus Sculpture mid-October. We will place it in The Basilica Church and we will bless it. It will be moved down to the Teresa of Calcutta Hall for several weeks before the installation outside in November. 

We are all invited to be challenged by the question put to Blessed Ozanam, “What do you do besides talk to prove the faith you claim is in you.” Let us honor our faith and praise God by finding Christ and serving Him in the person who is sick, poor, or suffering. Vincentians believe that true religion is found among those who are often excluded—and as we attend to their needs, they inspire us and evangelize us. 

To learn more about opportunities to serve, call the Christian Life Office. 

The Immigrant Support Ministry team welcomed the third family we will co-sponsor with LSS on February 23rd of this year.   They are a Karenni family of five: two parents and three young children.  The parents were originally from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.  The family came to the US from a refugee camp in Thailand.  The father of the family had lived in the camp for the last 17 years--since he was a teenager.  His wife had lived in the camp for nearly as long

With the help of the Basilica four person mentor team, the family has been settling into their new home.  The first task was to get them warm clothing.  Coming from a tropical climate the Minnesota winter was quite a shock.  The mentors have taken them shopping for groceries. They were excited to find a nearby market that has foods similar to those from their home country.  The team is also helping to find them a dentist for some needed dental work and has been available to help get their apartment set up with any necessary items.  Coming from the refugee camp, the family came with very few belongings.  The two oldest children have recently started elementary school and LSS will be arranging ESL classes for the adults.  Betsy Hasselman, from the mentor team said that she has enjoyed her time with them so far and has been inspired by their determination as they start the their new lives in the US.  She looks forward to getting to know them more and being able to be part of their journey.                   

 

 

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