Dear Parish and Friends,
As a parish that strives to live out the vision of Vatican II, we believe that every member is responsible for the well-being of our church as well as our community. The Basilica Vision states this wonderfully as we attempt to be a Home of Spiritual Nourishment, a Beacon of Hope and an Advocate for Change. We, as Parish Council members, attempt to be your lay voice in carrying out this Vision.
Allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct within our church, and concerns regarding the handling of such allegations by the Archdiocesan hierarchy, continue to be headline news. While we all react differently to this information, each of us as parishioners at The Basilica and members of the Roman Catholic Church must share a sense of compassion for those directly and indirectly impacted by sexual abuse and disappointment that these issues continue to exist within our church.
The Parish Council regularly discusses these issues and supports Fr. Bauer in his regular communications to you and to Archdiocese officials. We discuss what has happened and is happening, both here at The Basilica and at the Archdiocese, and prayerfully ask what more we can or should do as lay leadership to respond to past abuse, minister to those impacted by it, and protect against future abuse within our community and church. Many of you have actively assisted us in this endeavor, through private conversations with Fr. Bauer, staff or members of the Parish Council, and through participation in public listening sessions. Although some parish members have said they’ve heard enough or don’t want to hear anything more from us on this issue, we feel silence does not best serve our Mission at the Basilica. By continuing to treat the safety of community members as a critical issue, and providing transparency regarding our own actions, we will establish and reinforce a church environment that does not allow such conduct to go undetected and unaddressed.
In communicating our actions to date and our plans going forward, we look to The Basilica’s Vision for our guidance.
The Basilica of Saint Mary aspires to be a:
- Home of Spiritual Nourishment - We aspire to be a place where all may be touched by beauty, be nourished in their faith, and be inspired by truth. Our parish should be a place of healing and strength realized through both community and individual prayer. We support Fr. Bauer in being open, transparent and at times blunt about what we can do and what the Archdiocesan leadership should be doing.
- Beacon of Hope - We commit to welcome everyone with respect and dignity and to provide help and care, especially to those most in need. We are proud that the Basilica continues to open its doors to minister to those directly or indirectly impacted by sexual abuse through public listening sessions for our parishioners and private forums for individuals and officials dealing with or protecting others from sexual misconduct.
- Advocate for Change - We pledge to work toward justice, peace, and equality for all and to promote the protection of all of creation. We must make certain that our parish remains a safe and welcoming environment for all those who come through our doors. We strive to be an example and disciple of Christ in protecting individuals from misconduct and being forthright, rigorous and outspoken that such standards are adhered to by clergy, staff and volunteers here and throughout the Archdiocese.
In furtherance of our Vision, concrete steps we have taken as a parish to address arising from sexual abuse and our Archdiocesan response to abuse include the following:
- Fr. Bauer has regularly extended invitation to individuals and families to share with him their anger and frustrations regarding abuse and our Archdiocesan response to it, through newsletter and bulletin articles, pulpit announcements and extending personal invitation.
- We held public listening sessions in November 2013 to provide opportunity for prayer, dialogue and healing, and to provide a forum to discuss openly the impact of abuse on our church.
- We have shared information and feelings heard at the public listening sessions in an open letter from Fr. Bauer to Archbishop Nienstedt to encourage open communication and connection between church members and Archdiocesan leadership.
- We have reviewed and updated volunteer and staff policies designed to protect the safety of our community members. This includes policies and practices for conducting background checks, training volunteers and staff in best practices working with children and reporting suspected abuse to law enforcement, and building awareness among children and parents in our parish programs.
- The Parish Council keeps this topic on its agenda as new information and events unfold, regarding abuse allegations as well as Archdiocesan responses. We regularly ask what more we can and should be doing to support and guide our parish community and what our role should be in the larger church.
In addition to these actions, many of which are continuing, we have begun planning for a liturgical response dedicated to issues of sexual abuse. We will be inviting parish and community members to join us in prayer and support for those who have been victims of sexual abuse and their families and for those struggling with the impact such allegations have had on individuals and our church. Our goals are to provide an opportunity for healing and coming together with anyone impacted or concerned with these issues within the church, to remind ourselves of the healing power of Jesus Christ, and to offer prayerful example to all who are hurt and angry. We will also continue to provide information and feedback to the Archdiocese, to ensure the voices of our parish community are transmitted to Archbishop Nienstedt.
As Parish Council members, we serve you – our parish community. This is your parish and we welcome and need your input to continue to constructively address and respond to abuse issues our church is facing. We encourage your involvement and input, through emails, conversations, meetings and other actions. Provide your feedback and let us know what would be helpful and meaningful to you.
You can contact any member of the Parish Council (including Fr. Bauer) by email. You may also provide input to the Archdiocese at 226 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102 or online.
If you are aware of abuse or suspect sexual abuse, you should report such information to local law enforcement.
We ask that you continue to pray for all victims of sexual abuse. We ask further that we all pray for each other as members of The Basilica and the greater Roman Catholic Church in fulfilling our role to make our church and community a better place for all.
Chip Brink, Chair, Liturgy and Sacred Arts
Jill Ahern, Vice-Chair, At Large
Thomas Paul, Secretary, Liturgy and Sacred Arts
Kathy Noecker, At Large
Deborah Pekarek, At Large
Kathleen Andrus, Christian Life
Anne Jaeger, Christian Life
Rebecca Vandenberg, Learning
Paul Herb, Learning
Steve May, Development
Steve Kattke, Finance
Anne Locker Bernat, Trustee
Delia Bujold, Trustee
Terri Ashmore, Managing Director
Fr. John Bauer, Pastor