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. 

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Recent Posts by Janice Andersen

It seems way too easy to fall into conversations that expose confusion, tension or fear, these days. We are living in a time of uncertainty—encountering transition on every level of our public lives. Change is happening. The question is: How do we respond?

Gathering inspiration and wisdom from our Church and Scripture, we can consider five guideposts for our lives. These guideposts offer us strength and direction, as we respond to the challenges and opportunities of our time.

Ground our lives and actions in hope. 
Conflict, pain, and suffering seem inevitable in our life. We can be challenged by situations beyond our control—experiences that often have roots in fear, hatred, or ignorance. Our faith gives us perspective and balance. Incredibly, our faith has the fundamental promise of new life and wholeness through the experience of suffering or death. Can our faith help us find hope in the struggle?

Engage with those who are different than you. 
Pope Francis frequently challenges us to encounter the other. He specifically calls us to cross over and get to know those who have differing experiences and viewpoints, advising “one is always more at ease in the ideological system that he is built.” He challenges us to “talk among yourselves, talk to one another.” I have found this openness-to-difference to be very difficult unless I ground myself in the hope offered by faith. How often do I reach across the isle to engage?

Listen deeply. Practice humility. 
One of the cornerstone concepts of The Basilica Emmaus Ministry is the practice of mutuality. Mutuality is defined as “A respectful give-and-take between and among two or more persons. Each person in the relationship is worthy of dignity and respect.” The Emmaus material states, “Mutuality is the expression of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Every one of us has our Samaritans; people who we believe do not have a right to respectful give-and-take from us. Yet, this important story in our Christian tradition calls us to be transformed by them.” 

Because of our unique life experiences, we all see the world differently—although we experience it in the same place, at the same time. A mutual relationship requires us to listen deeply and understand another’s experience and frame of reference. We must be willing to hear and understand the story from that person’s perspective. Am I open to be changed?

Be bold. Respond. 
Just as people in scripture were called to lead in prophetic ways—creating a loving, forgiving community—so are we called to get involved today. And just as people in Scripture try to say “no thanks” (Moses declined God’s call eight times before accepting!) we often find ways to stay uninvolved or quiet. We are called to get engaged: Be bold. Make a difference. Pope Francis says, “A good Catholic meddles in politics.” He states that politics “is one of the highest forms of love, because it is in service of the common good.” We may get involved through actions that accompany another, serve, or defend. How do you hear the call to get involved and create a community of love and forgiveness? 

Trust. 
We are called to perseverance and faithfulness. We are responsible for our efforts. Yet, we can trust that God is present and in charge. Indeed, our God can move mountains and will be responsible for the results of our efforts. Are we able to trust? 

Our times call us to deep and loving engagement. Let us, as a Basilica community, find ways to accept this call and engage together. Let us seed a revolution of love and tenderness!

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love…Let us love one another.” 1 John 4: 7,8

During Advent, we reflect on and anticipate God’s incredible love for us. God came down to earth. God became human. God lived among us and modeled love each day. We know, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ, that our daily life is not separate from our faith. Our whole life—every thought and action—can manifest love in our world. 

During Advent, we are invited to learn and grow in love each and every day. In small and big ways, in everything we do, think or say we are challenged to know and live love. Indeed, we are invited to be part of a revolution of love and tenderness—transforming the world through love.

There are three facets of life to consider as we grow in love. They are all crucial and all connect. Like a ripple effect, they effect one another. We are called to grow in love with a focus on our internal, individual and institutional life. 

Internal: What is going on in our heart and mind, as we live each day? Our prayers continually call us to reflect on and become aware of the state of our heart. The psalmist cries out, “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Are there ways we have become consumed with hatred or fear? Have we been hurt and do we seek retribution? Have we become overwhelmed or numb to the suffering in our world? We are invited to bring these to prayer and find healing, comfort and strength. God calls us to renewal and peace. Let us open our hearts to this call. 

Individual: The way we interact—person to person— reveals the individual facet of our life. Whatever condition we find in our heart, we are called to reach out and engage with compassion. Seeking spiritual progress, not perfection—and always considering one’s safety and care—our faith challenges us: If we are afraid, can we find a way to be kind? If we find ourselves consumed with hatred, is there a way to be humane? If we are hurt and alienated, can our faith give us strength to find a place to engage?  Our actions matter. Jesus reminds us, “All will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35. 

Institutional: Our lives don’t end with one-on-one interactions. We are part of systems and organizations. Our lives are shaped by policies and laws. Pope Francis states, “A good Catholic meddles in politics.” In his provocative way, he affirms this “is one of the highest forms of love, because it is in the service of the common good.” We share a responsibility for the way our society is organized. We are challenged to consider ways to impact institutions with love—ensuring all develop to their full potential. Collectively, we must consider how love can influence our family, church, neighborhood, city, country and world. This is not easy work, but it is crucial work. 

Together, we can attend to all these facets of our lives. As a community, we sponsor refugee families, accompany the grieving, assist the unemployed, protect the marginalized and serve those in need. Let us share, celebrate and bless our community by our honest struggles for love and peace.

When things get out of balance, you begin to hear a call for revolution. In any sphere of life, when things lose their original purpose, or a system we are invested in becomes corrupt, there are cries for radical change.

Revolution is a powerful word, full of assumptions and expectations. It may conjure up fear of violence or loss of power. Yet, the word also contains seeds of comfort and hope. So much depends of what drives the revolution.

Revolution can be described as rolling back toward an original purpose. It can initiate dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized. Pope Francis offers a provocative and inspiring paradigm of revolution. He invites us to recognize the incredible, radical, and all-encompassing power of the forgiving, reconciling, and redeeming love of God. In a call for renewal, he invites us to start a “revolution of faith.” 

“Put Christ in your lives, put your trust in him and you will never be disappointed! You see, dear friends, faith carries out in our lives a revolution that we can call Copernican: it takes us away from the center and puts God there; faith immerses us in his love and gives us safety, strength, and hope. In appearance nothing has changed, but deep down inside us everything changes. When there is God in our hearts there is peace, gentleness, tenderness, courage, serenity, and joy which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Then our existence is transformed, our way of thinking and acting is renewed; it becomes the way of thinking and acting of Jesus, of God. Dear friends, faith is revolutionary, and today I ask you; are you ready to enter this revolutionary wave of faith?”  (World Youth Day, 2013)

Pope Francis highlights an important truth for our day: As we put God first in our life, we come to know and become love. As we know and become love, we act boldly and compassionately in the world. As we act compassionately in the world, the world is transformed and healed. 

This is, indeed, a revolutionary wave of faith—a revolution of love and tenderness.

Today, our world is experiencing pain, fear, hurt, misunderstanding, division, suffering, and violence. Rather than push these away, our faith calls us to the provocative response of encounter—we are called to stand in these hard places. The road of encountering human suffering, and the invisible and institutional dynamics that accompany it, is uncomfortable.  Our faith gives us strength. 

Together, through an encounter shaped by love and tenderness, we are called to see clearly all that needs healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We are called to see and stand with those experiencing grief, death, vulnerability, unemployment, disabilities, mental illness, and societal oppression. We face the questions as individuals and as a community.

Our faith in God, and the redeeming love of Christ, isn’t just for us. It is also for the transformation of our families, our communities, our Church, our country, and our entire world. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ invite us to reimagine and reconstruct human life and society once again.

Pope Francis states, “This is the moment of mercy. We are all sinners. All of us carry weight within.”  At a time of great division, fear, and pain, he calls us to intentionally encounter God’s love and tenderness—and to act on it. This vision of the common good is a powerful invitation to engage in what Pope Francis calls a “revolution of love and tenderness.” Together, let us open our lives to this call. 

One of the core elements of our Basilica community is the mission and work of our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. In many ways, each member of our parish community is part of St. Vincent de Paul at The Basilica. Whether you volunteer, donate money, pray for the ministry, or simply live the mission in your caring response to our neighbors who are suffering—you are part of our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. We are all Vincentians.  

Vincent de Paul faced challenges we can relate to. His life brought him both success and privilege. Yet he also experienced doubt and darkness. He came to intimately know we find Christ in the suffering and poor. He knew the joy and challenge of life choices that bring us toward Christ. Indeed, Vincentian spiritually invites us to see those who suffer as our teachers and mentors. Vincentians believe true religion is found among those who are often excluded—as we attend to their needs, they inspire us and evangelize us.

Vincent de Paul articulates five virtues that help us live the Gospel:

Simplicity
This is the virtue St. Vincent loved most. “It is my gospel,” he says. Hear how St. Vincent describes simplicity: “Jesus, the Lord, expects us to have the simplicity of a dove. This means giving a straightforward opinion about things in the way we honestly see them, without needless reservations. It also means doing things without any double-dealing or manipulation, our intention being focused solely on God.”

Humility
The Gospels teach the kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit. Provocatively: God resists the proud and raises up the humble. Vincent reminds us to stand before God humbly in our daily prayer, and have the attitude of a servant. Humility is understood as standing in awe and wonder. It is a stance where we can learn from everyone. 

Meekness
Meekness is often construed as weakness. Yet Jesus challenges—the meek will inherit the earth and find joy. St. Vincent takes this to heart and teaches that meekness develops as warmth, approachability, openness, deep respect for the person of others. Vincent tells us that he was irritable by nature. Continually, he implores God to change his heart: “Grant me a kindly and benign spirit…” 

Surrender and Willing to Sacrifice
Jesus calls us to follow him even unto death. He asks us to die to sin daily. St. Vincent challenges us to be faithful to our duties of serving those who suffer—to the point we prefer them when they conflict with other more pleasurable things.

Zeal
Vincent loved, with a burning love. “Let us beg God to enkindle in our hearts a desire to serve him…” We are called to persevere as servants of those who suffer—remembering always we are cooperating in the work of the Spirit. We must strive to live a balanced life, so that we might have the energy that nourishes zeal.

Together, we strive to grow in faith and live boldly the Gospel of love. We are all Vincentians. 

During this Year of Mercy, it seems particularly jarring to hear stories of families fleeing violence in Syria: The unimaginable terror at home turning into unimaginable terror on the trip toward safety. What state of desperation would lead a family on this journey? 

The whole experience of migration in the Middle East and Europe seems unreal, as I live safely in Minnesota. Vulnerable people fleeing for their lives. Countries welcoming—Countries closing their borders. Fear everywhere.

I want to help. But it seems unlikely that I can have any impact. So I wonder, what is the situation on the U.S. border? What is happening in my own country? How are we treating those escaping state sponsored violence or life threatening poverty?

To find answers to these questions, I joined a small group of Basilica parishioners on a trip to the Mexico/US border. We met with groups living and working on the border, and heard stories of people seeking shelter in our country. I learned so much about things I never hear on mainstream media. While I am still processing what I experienced, I am confident about two things: This is an issue our faith calls us to be actively engaged in.  And, this is an issue that is very relevant to us in Minnesota. 

To be sure, this is a complicated issue. The issue of immigration intersects with a myriad of laws and government policies. It taps into conflicting emotions on national identity. Yet, hearing people share their stories of desperation, and witnessing the physical drama of deportation, I became convicted of the simple truth that we must enter the confusion, learn, and get involved. We must act on behalf of the most vulnerable—to serve, accompany, and defend the migrants on our border. Complicated, yes. But through the lens of faith, a bit more clear.

I learned several things on this trip to the U.S. southern border:

I learned about harsh and punitive policies and laws the U.S. government has put in place, with the expectation that this will deter migration.

I also learned when one is desperate enough—fleeing violence or oppression—these policies or laws are not effective. It is absolutely beyond my imagination to understand the despair one must feel to cross the Mediterranean Sea, or the Sonora desert. Yet, this is the plight of our sisters and brothers all around our globe—including on our southern border. Our neighbors are desperate and need our help. How shall we respond?

I learned, while the Sonora desert is one of the most lush and beautiful deserts in the world, it has also become one of the deadliest corridors for migrants. Since the mid-1990s, at least 6,000 men, women, and children have died trying to cross the US/Mexico border.  In an attempt to deter migration, government policies have funneled migrants into the most dangerous and remote areas of the border.

I learned as immigration laws and borders have changed over time—it is now a felony to re-enter the United States without proper papers. A felony crime. As a first-generation American, I am troubled by the criminalization of migration. As a Christian, I am appalled. 

I invite you to join me over this next year to learn more about immigration, and to find ways to get involved. Together with migrant brothers and sisters in our community, we can work our way through this complicated issue. Pope Francis states, “Migrants trust that they will encounter acceptance, solidarity, and help, that they will meet people who will sympathize with the distress and tragedy experienced by others.” Let us live up to this trust. 

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