From the Pastor
With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.
1. Archdiocesan Synod: A few weeks ago I received a report on how the Synod small group process was going at The Basilica. Below is a synopsis of that report.
The Basilica hosted three Synod session opportunities this fall. Each met for six two hour sessions—two on Zoom (Wednesday morning and Thursday evening) and one on campus on Sunday mornings following the 9:30am liturgy. We also had two groups which were ministry specific: a book club and a young adult Bible study. Approximately 35-45 people attended the sessions, down from a registration and early attendance number of about 65. A number of staff attended as well. The age range for the groups was 20s-80s. The sessions followed the Archdiocesan provided path, using prayer, teaching and individual sharing and discussion, followed by participant feedback which was sent to the Archdiocese. As you might expect, reactions to the process were varied. Some people were pleased with the Synod process and content, and others were disappointed. Concerns were expressed that the “listening” promised by the Archdiocese failed to materialize.
The above was in contrast to the Archdiocesan listening sessions in 2019 which were well attended. Those sessions were vibrant and crowded, and surfaced many important issues for our local church. Those attending the Synod small groups felt that what was said at the earlier listening sessions was not included in the Synod’s main themes, and thus not discussed in the small groups. Additionally, there was almost no opportunity to submit original ideas or responses. Many of those who signed up for the Synod small groups did so because of their concerns for our Church. And one of their major concerns was that bishops need to listen to all the people, not just the people they want to hear from.
People from The Basilica who attended the Synod small groups did so because they love our church and they have true and serious concerns for our Archdiocese and the global church. Whether the Synod will deliver on the promise many felt was possible remains to be seen. I am grateful for the efforts of those who participated in the listening sessions, or a Synod small group, as well the overall Synod process.
2. The Basilica Fund: During the months of October and November we ask all parishioners to make a pledge of financial support for our parish. While I am very much aware of the many requests for financial support we all receive, I am hopeful that The Basilica will be near the top of your list in terms of your financial support. It is your ongoing, consistent financial support that makes it possible for us to offer the many programs, services and ministries that are at the heart of our Basilica parish.
The Basilica has been, and will continue to be, a place that welcomes all those who come through our doors, a place that reaches out to those in need, a place that helps us grow in our understanding of and relationship with God, and a place where we recognize and celebrate the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in each other.
I want to thank to all those who have made a commitment of financial support to our parish community during our financial stewardship campaign this fall. Please know your commitment of financial support to our parish community is greatly appreciated.
In regard to our parish finances, as I write this column we are behind in our anticipated income at this point in our fiscal year. Our Finance Committee monitors our income and expenses closely, so if it becomes necessary, we can make the appropriate decisions about balancing our parish budget. I am hopeful that with our collections at Christmas and with year-end giving we will be back on track with our projected income. Thank you to all of those who support our Basilica community financially. Please know of my great gratitude for your ongoing financial support.
3. Staff Changes: On a sad note, a few weeks ago we said goodbye to Travis Salisbury, our Coordinator of Liturgical Celebrations for almost 20 years. During this time Travis as been an integral and crucial part of our Liturgy Team and our parish. To say he will be missed would be a gross understatement. While we are indeed sad to see Travis leave The Basilica, we are excited for him as he moves on to the next stage of his life and career. We wish him well and pray that God will bless him abundantly.
On a happier note, I am pleased to report that Ramónd Mitchell has accepted the position of Coordinator of Liturgical Celebrations. Ramónd is a native of the Bahamas. He studied at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. While there he interned at The Basilica during his two last summers. He spent a year studying and working in Rome. Currently he is Director of Liturgy at a church in London. Ramónd loves the liturgy, and he has a great passion for working with volunteer ministers.
4. Maintenance at The Basilica: This summer and fall we have been busy with a variety of maintenance projects at The Basilica. Some of the smaller projects have included adding more needlepoint bipolar ionization units in the Church, The Basilica School and in other rooms on our campus. These units clean and sanitize the air of Covid-19 allergens and other molds and allergens. We have also installed a permanent desk in The Basilica for our livestreaming equipment. Additionally, we are adding more exterior security cameras with upgraded technology. We have also added livestream capabilities to our chapel and have made some tech upgrades in some of our other meeting rooms. Going forward, we want to offer high quality virtual and hybrid ministry experiences. These upgrades are in progress in four rooms around the campus. Unfortunately, some of the equipment that has been ordered won’t arrive until later this year due to the computer chip shortage.
In addition to these smaller maintenance projects, we also have two significant projects. The first is re-grading and installing drain tiles around the exterior of our school building. We have had water infiltration issues for years in the lower level of our school building. By changing the grade and adding drain tiles, we hope to resolve this problem. While we had hoped to have this project completed by the Block Party, it now looks like this work should be completed by the time you read this.
Another major maintenance project is continuing to tuck point the western exterior walls of The Basilica. The 100-year mortar between the exterior stone blocks continues to deteriorate, so our tuck pointing will need to continue for the foreseeable future. This work will ensure that The Basilica will remain a beacon of hope on the Minneapolis skyline for many years to come.
Finally, as I write this, we are looking at a way to remove the insulation that was sprayed on the side walls above the ceiling of The Basilica in the 1970s. While much of it has been removed, some of it landed in the groins above the windows. And unfortunately, because this insulation retains moisture, it has prevented the plaster above the windows from drying out. Removing this insulation will be an important step in preparing for the eventual restoration of the interior of The Basilica. We are grateful that these projects will be funded by The Basilica Landmark.
5. EDI: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: As I mentioned in a previous bulletin, for the past few years The Basilica has recognized a need to address and respond to the issue of racism in our lives, our parish, and our community. After meetings with Sarah Bellamy, an equity consultant, in the spring of 2019, and with the establishment of an EDI Leadership Team, a Position Statement was created to guide our efforts as we seek to respond to the sin of racism. We were challenged to do this particularly by the words of Pope Francis in reflecting on the death of George Floyd: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of human life.”
Responding to racism is a process not an event. And it is a process in which we all must be involved. Our EDI Team continues to invite people to engage with the EDI Position statement and to lay out the goals we have identified to work on as a parish community. To find out more about the important work of EDI visit mary.org/edi.
6. Revisit, Renew, Reconnect and Revision: As I mentioned in an earlier bulletin, these four words describe what our staff has been doing the past several months in regard to our ministries at The Basilica and the volunteer efforts that make them possible. When the pandemic put everything on hold, one of the things this allowed us to do was to revisit our various ministries and look at how to renew and/or revision them post-pandemic. Most recently, we have been working to reconnect with our volunteers to see if they want to continue in a specific ministry.
In regard to the above, I am happy to report that after many months of doing ministry virtually, at the beginning of November our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry resumed in-person ministry on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. While our rental assistance program will remain virtual on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, we will help people with bus cards for new jobs, gas cards, I.D. vouchers, and clothing and household items vouchers. I am excited that we are able to resume this ministry and I am hopeful that it will be a blessing both for those it serves and for the volunteers.
We have also resumed hospitality after the 9:30 and 11:30am masses on Sunday. While we won’t be serving doughnuts just yet, we will serve coffee and lemonade. We hope this will once again offer people the opportunity to visit with their “church buddies” in a safe environment.
Our Learning Ministry is also back with our youth religious education and sacramental preparation programs, and our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Our Liturgical Ministers and Choirs are back and continue to grow. Also returning this year will be our Children’s Advent Musical: Light of the World on Sunday, December 19. Check our website for details. Finally, Taize prayer, with the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, will be celebrated in the lower level of The Basilica on Tuesday, December 14.
While we have a ways to go yet in regard to getting all of our ministries back to full strength, I am pleased with the progress we have made thus far. While there are many aspects of our “new” normal that will be familiar, it is not clear what our “new” normal ultimately will be. One of the things that has not and will not change, however, is our need for volunteers to staff our many ministries, services and programs that are at the heart of our Basilica community. If you volunteered at The Basilica prior to the pandemic, I would encourage you to reengage in your volunteer activity. If you are looking for ways to volunteer, we have opportunities galore.
As pastor of The Basilica, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider in what way you can volunteer to help our Basilica community as we emerge from the pandemic into a future full of hope.
7. Special Collections: While no one is fond of special collections, it is heartening for me to report that the people of The Basilica have been very generous to the last few special collections here at The Basilica.
- On the weekend of June 12 and 13, $830 was contributed to help defray the cost of air conditioning The Basilica during the hot summer months.
- On the weekend of July 31 and August 1, $9,227 was contributed to help fund our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry.
- On the weekend of August 28 and 29, $4,623 was contributed to help fund earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.
The contributions to these collections testify to the generosity of the people of The Basilica. Please know of my gratitude for your generous response to these collections.
8. An Invitation To Come Home for Christmas: It goes without saying that the pandemic has had an impact on all of our lives and on almost every aspect of our lives. We have had to forgo favorite activities and/or learn to do them in new ways. This has been particularly true in regard to church and worship. During the height of the pandemic when The Basilica was empty for our masses, I missed babies crying in church. (I always tell people that if you never hear a baby crying in church, your congregation is probably dying.) I missed being able to check-in with people to see how they were doing. I missed gathering with people to sing God’s praises, and to be and bring the peace of Christ to each other. Most importantly though, I missed celebrating and sharing the Eucharist with people like me—sinful and weak and in need of God’s grace.
In the past few months while we have seen more and more people returning to worship, we are still not at pre-pandemic attendance levels. There are, no doubt, many reasons for this. As my mother used to say though, sometimes people just need a personal invitation to do something. So for anyone who needs a personal invitation, please know that I extend that to you. Come home—come to The Basilica for Christmas. Come and celebrate the birth of our savior with your fellow parishioners. We miss you and want you to be part of our community again.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary
Bulletin December 2021/January 2022