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

Are you interested in working on the refugee family committee, but a don't quite know what to expect? Cate Anderson, the Volunteer Coordinator for Refugee Service within Lutheran Social Services, has provided some answers to some of the common questions that volunteers may have.

  • What is something that people might assume about working with refugees that is usually proven wrong?

 One common assumption about working with refugees comes from the image that many of us have of people in refugee camps. It is easy to feel like refugees are weakened by their experiences or think of them as being exclusively sad or damaged. It doesn’t take much to fall into thinking about refugees in a two-dimensional way because of how they are portrayed in the media. While this assumption comes from a place of compassion and care, the reality that we see every day in this work is refugees’ amazing resilience.

Many refugees we meet have been strengthened in many ways by their experiences in the camp. Families may have drawn closer in their relationships with one another. A person’s faith within their own religious tradition may have been deepened. I certainly don’t want to underplay the gravity of the difficulties and dangers of living in a camp. However, we also constantly witness the beautiful paradox of refugees who, after going through such loss and suffering, find joy, laughter, and love in their lives. This complexity is hard to imagine until you meet someone who happens to be a refugee. We’re so grateful that your community at the Basilica has courageously said, “Let’s get to know our newest neighbors and challenge our assumptions head on!”

  •  How do you work through language barriers?

 Language barriers often play a big role in the relationships built between co-sponsors and the families they are matched with. Running into this particular issue is a good exercise for those of us who speak English fluently because it shows us how incredibly frustrating it can be. While it is difficult, we do our best to equip the mentoring team with training and tools to work with language barriers. Oftentimes, volunteers remark that after the first couple visits where there isn’t a common language, things get easier. You get used to it and find ways to make it work together. Adults will also be attending English Language Learning (ELL or ESL) classes and the kids will attend public school. The practice with the mentoring group can make a big difference in the progress made by the family in hurdling over a major barrier in their lives.

  •  What's the most rewarding part about doing this work?

 One of the most rewarding parts of working with refugees is that we get to actively participate in building our community together. The connection we make with a family going through the whirlwind transition of rebuilding life here in the United States is a precious one. It’s a privilege to walk alongside families as they figure it all out. It satisfies a moral calling to help those in need – in a different turn of events, we could be in their position and they could be in ours.

But beyond that, working with new Minnesotans gives us the opportunity to learn about different cultures, religions and values and to find our common ground as neighbors. Together, we can make our Minnesota community that much stronger and connected, simply by getting to know each other on a one-on-one basis. The most rewarding part of this work is the opportunity to not only learn about and love your neighbor, but also to grow together and love your community as a whole!

  •  What should people know before they get started? 

 One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes this work gets a bit messy! Coming from a Norwegian-American heritage which likes to keep things organized, timely, and rule-abiding, I’ve learned first-hand how important flexibility and humor are in this line of work. Some of the resettlement program is very black-and-white. For example, there are certain time deadlines for tasks such as applying for a social security number for the refugee within seven working days.

 Most other parts are less clear. We usually only get notice of a family’s arrival about two weeks or so in advance. Language barriers can call for moments of creative problem solving. Poverty presents exhausting Catch-22s. So, as we run into the little things that frustrate us, we can learn a lot from refugee families about what is really important. These experiences (and the messiness, I admit it!) encourage us to let go and “go with the flow” in a way that can be both liberating and rewarding.

  •  What's the most common concern potential volunteers have? And how do you work around that?

 One common concern that potential volunteers have is that they don’t feel quite qualified enough. They wonder if they know enough about the public transportation system, the cultural norms of the family, or the county system. The first step, I remind volunteers, is twofold. We don’t expect you to know everything, and we certainly don’t expect you to fix everything. As long as you’re someone who has lived in the U.S. for a good amount of time and knows how to navigate the basics, you are well-qualified!

 While mentor groups provide lots of good guidance to their mentees, it’s also good to remember that your role is not meant to be a fixer of all problems. Instead, we hope it will be an exchange where both parties learn a great deal. We also work with this worry with the help of our case managers who take care of the human services side of helping out the family. They know how to navigate the system and will perform the core services which range from securing affordable, clean and secure housing to enrolling kids in school.

In December 2015, The Basilica community whole-heartedly agreed to co-sponsor a refugee family with Lutheran Social Services (LSS). In preparation for their arrival, we held a second collection to gather funds needed for housing and other basic needs. We developed a team of dedicated, talented, and compassionate volunteers to organize the efforts and work with the family. We worked with LSS to set up their apartment and collected various household items to make their transition as easy as possible.

The Family Has Arrived!
On February 21, 2016, a group of Basilica parishioners were excited to gather at the airport to welcome the refugee family to Minnesota. Prepared with welcome signs, U.S. and Somali flags, new winter coats and gloves, and open hearts, Basilica parishioners greeted the family and began a journey of support and solidarity.

The family is originally from Somalia. Two parents, two teenage daughters and two sons in their early 20s arrived on February 21. Several older children immigrated separately a few years ago.

After two days of settling in, The Basilica mentoring team joined LSS in a meeting with the family. They began to share stories with one another and build relationships. Through a translator, one of the young men said he knew this transition would be a very difficult move, and he didn’t know if they would be able to make it. However, after meeting the people here to help them, he knows it will work. It was a humbling and sacred meeting.

The Basilica team began to learn how to help the family in their transition. All of their goals involve education and work. The family is deeply grateful for the opportunity to be in Minnesota and said they are committed to “Doing their very best.” 

Basilica volunteers are excited to work with LSS to help them reach their goals. We invite our whole community to hold the family in prayer over the months ahead.

The Family’s Journey
During the violent civil war and famine in Somalia, this family left their homeland in 1992 and settled into the newly established Dadaab Refugee camp in Kenya. The United Nations set up Dadaab in one of the harshest terrains in the Kenyan desert in 1991, housing 90,000 refugees escaping Somalia’s civil war. Today, Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world, home to close to 500,000 people. 

The children in the family that arrived in Minnesota on February 21 were born in the Dadaab Refugee camp. Even with lives beginning and ending, Dadaab remains purely temporary living. No permanent features of community life can officially be established: housing, employment, schooling, or commerce. While canvas tents are provided by the United Nations, they deteriorate in the sun after several years. Houses are then fortified with twigs and occasional tin roofs. Most homes stand less than six feet tall. While people are protected from civil war, security requires little opportunity to leave the camp. To learn more about the refugee camp, visit dadaabstories.org.

Several years ago, after living in the Dadaab Refugee Camp over twenty years, the family was transferred to the Kakuma Refugee Camp to prepare to immigrate to the United States. They have been awaiting the transition for a long time. They arrived tired, yet glad to be in the United States.  

How to Get Involved:
During this Year of Mercy, there are many ways to get involved in this ministry. There are several committees established to coordinate these opportunities:

  • Mentoring Team: to work closely with the family
  • Collections: opportunities to collect and package supplies for refugee families
  • Education and advocacy: to provide forums to learn more about refugees and immigration
  • Communication: to share information with The Basilica community throughout this partnership

LSS will resettle about 625 individuals in the Metro and St. Cloud areas in 2016.  Because they arrive in the U.S. with few belongings, there is an immediate need to provide them with basic personal and household items. In the coming months, we will organize several events to give our Basilica community an opportunity to collect and package the most-needed items.  

On a Sunday afternoon in early April, The Basilica and Masjid An-Nur will co-sponsor an event on Islamophobia in our community. Our speaker will be Dr. Todd Green, author of the book The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West and Associate Professor of Religion at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. This is a timely and important discussion for our community. 

The Basilica is already making plans to sponsor another family later in the Spring. If you would like to be involved in this ministry in any way, email Tracy at tracy.droessler@gmail.com or call 612.317.3477.

According to the United Nations, there are currently 43 million uprooted victims of conflict and persecution worldwide. Rooted in love and faith, The Basilica community is committed to a compassionate response in whatever ways possible. Look for upcoming announcements about how you can help this effort!

God Is With Us

In July 2013, Pope Francis gave a homily highlighting three “simple” attitudes: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy. Recognizing that difficulties are present in the life of every individual and all communities, we are invited to kindle these three attitudes in life.

Hopefulness: “In the face of those moments of discouragement we experience in life… I would like to say forcefully: always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! The ‘dragon,’ evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand. The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope!”  
We are invited and challenged to identify the ways we are drawn away from trust and hope, and to let go of our need for control. There are times in each of our lives that we become discouraged. There are experiences that challenge us all. Let us recognize these experiences and moments, and remember that we do not have to deal with them alone. God gives us what and who we need, when we need it. God is with us.

Openness to being surprised by God: “Anyone who is a man or woman of hope…knows that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and surprises us….But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God!” 

We are invited and challenged to find ways to continually draw nearer to our God, to nurture and deepen our relationship with God as individuals and as a community. Once again, we are asked to let go of our need for control—to yield to the ever present goodness of God. Ultimately, we are asked to accept the incredible reality that we are God’s beloved, and God cares deeply for us. 
The simplicity of this request belies the challenge often experienced in living it out. It is amazing how many ways we find to doubt our own goodness or the goodness of another. There seems like endless ways we build walls between ourselves and God, between ourselves and our neighbor. So often, we place our trust in material and worldly powers—actively creating facades of protection that separate our selves from God’s reconciling and healing love. God is with us, and will surprise us—if we trust and open our eyes to see. 

Living in joy: “If we walk in hope, allowing ourselves to be surprised by the new life that Jesus offers us, we have joy in our hearts, and we cannot fail to be witnesses of this joy…If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will ‘lighten up’ with a joy that spreads to everyone around us.” 
We are invited and challenged to accept the profound gift of God’s love in our day-to-day life and embrace joy. As a spiritual discipline, joy is a powerful attitude that goes beyond the familiar experience of being happy. Our faith is full of sacred stories of people who have experienced deep trials and tribulations, yet emit joy. We may know people in our lives who have many struggles and hardships, yet radiate a deep joy. The joy appears to come from someplace deep—beyond the realities we can see. It is not simply a happiness. Perhaps we have had glimpses of this in our lives, as well. Once again, we are invited to let go of control—finding ways to choose joy, and let go of fear, resentment, or an attitude of competitive scarcity.

Our invitation and our challenge is to live a faithful life that puts our hope in God, recognizes the daily gifts of God’s love, and thereby finding joy amid the realities of everyday life. 

What do you need to grow in these three simple, yet profound, attitudes? How does The Basilica community support you in your growth? How do you support others? As we live as people of God, rooting our hopes and expectations in our faith, let us focus our lives on these attitudes and grow in love together. 

 

Working to end hunger in our country and world can seem overwhelming. Hunger is a complex, age-old human struggle. What can one person do?

Providing direct assistance to people who are hungry through churches and charities is vital. It feeds many families in immediate need and gives people hope for the future. But even if churches and charities doubled their efforts, they still would not be able to end hunger on their own. Our federal government must play a role. Only government leaders can make economic, social, and political decisions necessary to attack the deep structural causes, and ultimately eliminate widespread hunger and poverty. Just a sentence or two written into a piece of legislation can benefit millions of people in the United States and around the world.

As people of faith and conscience, we must remind leaders of their responsibilities to the people they represent, and offer constructive solutions. We can advocate for changes in public policy that will end hunger and poverty in the decades ahead. Advocating with and for people who are hungry is something each of us can do, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. It just takes the will to act and speak out. Even though the political process in Washington can seem challenging, we remain hope-filled and confident that our voices will make a difference.

Bread for the World is a non-partisan, Christian citizens' movement in the United States that urges our nation's leaders to end hunger at home and abroad. God's grace moves us to help our neighbors, whether they live in the next house, the next state, or the next continent. If we work together and confront the problem of hunger directly, we can end hunger in our time. Everyone, including our government, must do their part. Together, we can build the political commitment needed to overcome hunger and poverty.

The Basilica is joining other churches throughout our country in Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters. We are mobilizing our entire parish community to write letters and urge Congress to renew our federal government’s major child nutrition programs, including those for school meals, summer feeding, and the WIC nutrition programs for pregnant and new mothers along with their small children.

Every five years, Congress must re-authorize the law that funds these programs, which have helped so many children. Even with all the progress that has been made, only half of children receiving school lunches benefit from breakfast. Summer meals are available to less than 10 percent of those children who count on lunches during the school year. Overall, one in five children goes to bed hungry every night in the U.S.

Now is the time to renew these national nutrition programs. We invite you to be part of the Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters by taking a few minutes to write letters to your members of Congress. Urge them to protect child nutrition programs from cuts and harmful policy changes, and improve children’s access to school breakfasts and summer meals. Working together, we can be part of God’s will on earth that all children receive the food that enables them to learn, be healthy, and grow strong.

Advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable is a constitutive part of our faith. As God’s hands and feet in the world, we work toward a beloved community in which every person has an equal opportunity to thrive. The Offering of Letters is one way that we can live out this commitment. It invites us to be good stewards, using our voices to encourage our elected representatives to take the necessary steps to end hunger.

The Basilica will be collecting letters from you, our parish community, throughout the month of May. Place your letters in baskets in the back of church or in the parish Rectory. Before they are mailed, we will gather these letters and bless them in Mass throughout the weekend of June 6/7, 2015. We encourage all members to participate in this call to action. You can learn more at www.mary.org/offeringofletters. Let us act together and make a difference!

On the Threshold

The Basilica of Saint Mary is on the threshold of making a huge difference in our community. We are on the verge of doing something great. Working together, we have an opportunity to effectively put our faith into action—leaving the world a better place for future generations. 

What are we doing? What is so grand and effectual? Beginning in early May, when you throw away garbage at the Basilica, you will have three options: Is it recycling? Is it organics? Is it trash? Your choice to sort waste accurately will help change the culture of The Basilica, and save our world. This simple choice can speak boldly and prophetically to our community.

Is this hyperbole? Well, perhaps. But I suggest that this very simple gesture, multiplied over and over every day, can indeed change our world.  This focused attention to the waste stream we create, individually and collectively as a parish community, can make a significant difference in our world. 

We can too easily minimize the impact of small, individual efforts in a big world. Yet, we are invited to consider the impact of our collective actions, working together as the Body of Christ, advocating and acting on behalf of the most vulnerable. All it takes is a desire to engage—a willingness to care and act. 

Currently, The Basilica sends at least two-thirds of our waste stream into trash, with less than a third recycled. Over and over we put materials that have value into the trash—adding to landfills or incinerator use. Hennepin County was considering enlarging the incinerator just north of The Basilica due to over use. A large proportion of what is being burned has value, and they have refocused their efforts to increase composting. We can help in this effort. As we all help to sort our waste, we will drastically reduce what The Basilica puts into the landfills and incinerators. The goal for The Basilica is to move to 10% trash.

Organics:
One big change for The Basilica is to begin to collect organics that can be easily composted into rich soil. Did you know that 40% of the waste stream created by each of us every day is organics? Food waste, non-recyclable paper, flowers and plant waste, and other organic items add up to almost half of our garbage. When organics are placed in a landfill, they create methane gas, which is 70 times worse a greenhouse gas than carbon-dioxide. If we divert even 15% of the organics from our landfills, we would realize a reduction of methane gas equal to taking over 23,500 cars off the road. We can make a huge difference. All it takes is a choice: place all organics into the correct waste bin.

Recycling: 
Recycling can seem mundane or old-school. Yet, when we choose recycling, we allow our waste to be reconstituted and reused. Some things, like aluminum cans and glass bottles/jars, have no limit on the number of times they can be recycled. They don’t lose their quality when recycled over and over. 

Materials like paper do not have an infinite life. The number of times paper can get recycled into new paper is limited. Normal copy paper can go through the recycling process five to seven times. After that, the paper fibers will become too short. Newspaper is already of lower quality. It can be turned into egg cartons.

Our habits are often ingrained in our culture and can easily be dismissed. We are a society that measures our productivity by how much we purchase. We often clear out by throwing away.  Our faith calls us to calibrate our lives and actions differently. Our invitation is to take these choices seriously.

The exciting part of this initiative is that it involves each of us. We will have success if we all do our part. Yet, the hard part of this initiative is that success depends on each one of us. Let us, together, find ways to energize our imaginations and engage. 

Look for new bins, in sets of three, all around The Basilica campus. Help us be successful in our work to leave the world in a better place for future generations. To get more involved in this initiative, contact Donna at rdkrisch@gmail.com or Dennis at dennis.dillon@msn.com.

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