Archives: November 2016

Four years ago, when I received the opportunity to temporarily work in the United States, I wasn't thrilled. The thought of being over 8000 miles away from my home of India made me emotional. It meant I could no longer take the next flight home if I was ever upset, unwell, or in need of delicious homemade food.  My family, though, was overjoyed with the news. They told me that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that I should go for it. Their opinion made no sense to me at the time. But, over these last four years, I have understood and experienced the significance of what they meant. I am so thankful I heeded the advice of my loving and encouraging family. Without my family's hard work, sacrifice, and love, I would not have had the opportunity to come to the U.S.. And  I am ever so grateful to many people I have met along the way who have given me the finest and most pleasant experiences this country has to offer. I am humbled as I share some of these experiences which have been indelibly etched in my heart.

  1. Friendly and approachable people - When I first landed in New York, I had to clear immigration. Blame it on too much movie watching or my wild imaginations, but I expected the immigration officer to be a serious, stern officer whose job was to find paperwork flaws and send the visitor back to their home country. Small wonder I was praying fervently when the officer called my name. To my surprise, he had the most welcoming smile and a cheerful expression. He enquired whether I was an engineer as he went through my papers. I smiled and said yes. I wondered if he was a psychic He mentioned he deduced it from the manner in which I completed the custom declaration form, where I had clearly broke down the cost of each article. He welcomed me to the U.S. and wished me luck for my stay and my job. For this experience, I thanked all the angels and saints especially for helping me meet a kind and jovial immigration officer.
  2. A systematic approach to everything - For a newcomer navigating my way from one destination was an easy experience. Thanks to the well laid out road network and the uniform standard adopted for naming roads, it was ever so easy to find my way to the downtown office from Hennepin and 8th. If I was ever lost, all I needed to do was ask someone. I was always greeted with a warm smile and a friendly tone when I had to do just that. The warmth of the people made a world of a difference to me. I never ever felt like a stranger in my new country. Running a Google search, I could easily know when the bus would arrive at my stop. I learned to keep time. One minute late and I would be running behind a bus until the next stop. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was walking on the, roads especially while crossing a signal. I was surprised to know that I did not have to dodge to avoid passing vehicles. Pedestrians had the right of way. Phew! This meant I could reach my office in peace knowing that I never needed to run for dear life.
  3. A chance to fulfil every desire – One of my lifelong desires was to learn western music. It wasn't easy fulfilling this while in India. So I was ecstatic when I went for my first music class near the University of Minnesota. A chance to watch Cirque Du Soleil perform in Vegas, being humbled by Niagara's beauty, shopping from dusk to dawn on Black Fridays,  watching the first ever snowfall of my life, ease of access to the amazing four-story Hennepin library, I now know why they call America the “land of dreams”.
  4. Work-life balance  - During my first few days at work in the US, I didn't know what to do with my five or six hours of free time after work. I was inspired by my Aunty taking calligraphy lessons every Thursday after work. I would notice many of my friends heading to the gym immediately after reaching home. I slowly began to make use of my free time reading (something I rarely did in India), learning to cook (another rare occurrence for me), watching famous TV shows and visiting the many lovely lakes Minneapolis is blessed with.  

One year my sister wanted to visit me so we could spend time traveling to a handful of major cities in the U.S. We needed two weeks leave to achieve this. I never took such a long vacation prior to this. I spent a few days rehearsing my conversation with my boss. Instead of asking me to apply a "discount" on the number of vacation days, tears welled up in my eyes when my boss happily exclaimed, "Yes!!! Sure! Go for it. Go create the memories you can cherish forever!". 

These are just a few of the many wonderful moments and experiences I have had a chance to realize during my stay here. Every single day I am most grateful to the Almighty for providing this opportunity to live in the United States of America, the land of dreams and opportunities.

 

I have always been a cautious person, and I like to base my decisions on facts and data. While working at The Basilica however, I have learned that facts and data can only tell you so much. I have learned to trust faith and to never underestimate the strength and power of our community.

I started my internship with The Basilica in 2007, graduated college in 2008, then had a short career in corporate America before coming back to work at the Basilica in the spring of 2009. We were in the middle of the great recession and the months and years ahead would not be easy, but in those years I would see what is possible when this community comes together.

In the spring of 2009 we started what is now The Basilica Landmark Annual Fund. Emily, our Director of Development, set a goal of raising $30,000 that first year. Based on facts and data, I remember thinking that there was no way that we would even come close to meeting this goal. I am happy to admit I was wrong. That first year our community gave more than $60,000 and this past year you came together to raise more than $364,000 to support The Basilica Landmark’s mission to preserve and restore The Basilica of Saint Mary for all generations. 

The same was true of our financial stewardship campaigns during those years. I saw a community that while some needed to decrease or cancel their pledges, others increased to make up for it. And no one in the community took those decisions lightly. While other organizations suffered through double digit decreases, thanks to so many in our community we were able to hold steady at 1% down, trim our budget, and continue to provide the hallmark ministry and programs that The Basilica is known for.

The last two years we have ended our financial stewardship campaign 1% down from our budgeted goal of $2.3 million dollars and the current 2017 pledge campaign is also running behind. The data might lead some to believe that this would be a trend but I have learned to never underestimate our community. I know that when our community is given a goal, we rarely miss it. 

If you have already made your 2017 financial stewardship pledge, thank you! If you have not I hope you will consider a 2017 pledge today, because when our community comes together so much is possible! 

In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has explained it this way: “a little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.” At The Basilica, financial stewardship is much the same.

When you make a financial stewardship pledge to The Basilica, your gifts support not just the “less cold” of heat and lights, but also helps our parish shine in the community with our signature warm welcome and illuminating worship. 

Stewardship also creates the “more just” in our community by funding ministries that help the unemployed, the grieving, the homebound, those dealing with mental illness, and those who simply need a caring, listening ear.
With stewardship, as with mercy, a little bit goes a long way. Please prayerfully consider giving thanks for your blessings by making your 2017 financial stewardship pledge today. 

You can pledge online at mary.org, fill out a pledge form and mail it in, or bring it to mass next weekend. You may also contact Stephanie Bielmas for answers to any questions you may have about supporting The Basilica. 

Faithful Citizenship

Several years ago the Bishops of the United States issued a statement entitled:  “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.”     In that document they offered guidance to people in regard to voting and participating in the political process.   In paragraph 34 of that document they said:


“Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote.  This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods.  A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.   In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.  At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.”


“It is clear that as Catholics we are called to incorporate our values and beliefs into the political process in a manner that reflects what best serves human life.   Unfortunately our beliefs are not represented 100% by either of the major political parties.  Neither party represents the entirety of our Catholic values and principles.  Given this, there may be times when as Catholics, while we reject a candidate’s unacceptable position in one area, may decide to vote for that candidate for other good and important reasons.”


The bishops were clear in regard to the above in paragraph 37 of their statement.   “In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.  These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.   In the end, this is a decision to be made by  each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.”

 

One of my favorite photos of The Basilica was taken by Mike Jensen. Positioned at Dunwoody College to the west of The Basilica, Mike photographed our beautiful building against the backdrop of the entire Minneapolis skyline. This photo not only affirms the importance of The Basilica’s physical and visual presence in our skyline, but even more importantly it symbolizes the role The Basilica plays in the day-to-day life of Minneapolis and beyond.

It may be surprising to know that before any religious service was held in the building, the city of Minneapolis and the greater metropolitan area came together to consider the importance of The Basilica for the city. This was done with a series of public lectures by local and national speakers in addition to a number of concerts given during November of 1914.

In regard to the civic dedication, Mgr. Reardon, long-time pastor of The Basilica, wrote in his 1955 book, Basilica of St. Mary of Minneapolis: “The general trend of the discourses was in harmony with the purpose of the civic celebration. The speakers emphasized the necessity of civic righteousness as the characteristic of the highest type of American citizenship. The learned and highly interesting lectures alluded to the new church as a center of civic betterment even before it was dedicated to the religious purpose for which it was erected.”

Today, more than one hundred years later, The Basilica of Saint Mary continues the legacy envisioned by the early members of our Church as we carry on their vision to seek “civic betterment” or in our current parlance as we “seek the well-being of the city.” This vision so near and dear to the heart of our community is inspired by the words of the Prophet Jeremiah (29:7) who encouraged the People of Israel saying: “Seek the well-being of the city to which I have sent you. Pray for it to the Lord. For in seeking its well-being you shall find your own.”

Much has changed since those first years in the life of The Basilica community, the city, and our world. However, our commitment to be good stewards of ourselves, our city, and our world has only become stronger. 

Our calling to “seek the well-being of the city” is a microcosm and metaphor for our broader Christian calling to seek the well-being of the entire world and everyone who lives in it. This may seem like a daunting task, but we might be encouraged by all that we already do if we were to evaluate our personal and communal life. 

This week we are called to cast our vote for the next president of the United States and many other civil servants. This is a task I take very seriously having just become a US citizen in 2008. This will be my third presidential election and I am anxious to vote. The image I will take with me in the voting booth is that of The Basilica against the backdrop of the City of Minneapolis. The words I will take with me are Mgr. Reardon’s call to “civic betterment” and the Prophet Isaiah’s appeal to “seek the well-being of the city.” I will let this image and these words guide my vote.

And when we awake on the morning of November 9, provided that you went to bed, may we clothe ourselves with the mantle of “civic righteousness as the characteristic of the highest type of American citizenship” no matter the outcome of the election.

“Come, Holy Spirit, enlighten our hearts and our minds.”

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110616.cfm 

In our Gospel this Sunday some Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, posed a question to Jesus that presumed there would be a resurrection.   Not only was their question insincere, but also it was rather implausible.  As background to their question, though, it is important to remember that for many Jewish people there was/is no clear belief in an afterlife.   Rather, it is believed that you lived on through your descendants.   Given this, having children was very important.   In fact, having children was so important that if a woman’s husband died without offspring, it was the responsibility of the next unattached male from the husband’s family to marry the widow and try to have children.  Knowing this, the Sadducees invented a story about a woman who married seven brothers, each of whom died without producing any children.   When the woman died, the Sadducees wanted to know "at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?  For all seven had been married to her."   

Jesus’ response to this question was masterful.   He implied that the Sadducees’ question was completely irrelevant because: "The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage."

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the second Book of Maccabees.   This is the only time during our three year cycle of readings that we read from this book.   It tells the story of seven brothers who died rather than "eat pork in violation of God’s law.”   The reason they were willing to die was because of their belief in an afterlife:  “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever."

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.   In it Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to continue to live a life of faith.  “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What causes or helps you to believe in an afterlife? 
  2. How would you describe the resurrection to someone who didn’t believe in an afterlife? 
  3. What causes you to live a Christian life?  Is it hope of heaven or fear of hell?   

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