Archives: August 2018

Miracles Do Happen

My journey with cancer began on March 26, Monday of Holy Week. It made for the most incredible celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Then, on June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul I received the great news that after three months of chemo the tumor was gone. For the next five years I will continue to be monitored very closely to make sure the cancer does not return.

As I have mentioned before, this has been a physical and spiritual adventure of great proportions. I do not believe for a second that God causes us to suffer. Rather I believe that life may present us with challenges. And when that happens, our faith in God offers us the necessary strength to handle it and the much needed insights to find meaning in it. So I did not ask God the question “why?” Rather, I asked God for strength and for wisdom so this experience might allow me to grow as a person and as a believer. And God obliged.

On Pentecost, half-way through my treatment I was the Master of Ceremonies for one of our liturgies. When I looked out at our congregation and saw your faces I had the most intense experience of God’s presence I have ever had. Hearing my name spoken during the Intercessory Prayers I felt the power of prayer strengthening my body and nourishing my soul. By the end of this most beautiful Eucharist I was too overwhelmed to do my usual meet and greet. I needed silence and solitude to process what just happened and to stay in the profound experience of God’s love and the support of my sisters and brothers in Christ.

As I sat quietly and listened to my inner voice, I realized again how important Sunday Eucharist is for us. And I thought of the many people who have asked me over the years: “Why should we participate in the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday? What do we get out of it?” The answer I have given in the past all the sudden was no longer theoretical but thanks to my experience with cancer I found it to be very real.

Above all we gather to give thanks to God for the many miracles in our lives. We also gather so we might be changed in three profound ways. First, in the words of St. Teresa of Avilla, we celebrate the Eucharist so we may be “all on fire with the love of God.” For indeed, when we are on fire with God’s love no fear can overcome us. Second, in the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, we celebrate the Eucharist so we may be gathered into a “deep communion of existence” because in the Eucharist “the Lord joins us to one another.” It is this sense of community, the sense that we are never alone that gives us the strength to face whatever life brings us. And third, in the words of my late professor Mark Searle, we celebrate the Eucharist so we may be rehearsed in what it means to live the Paschal Mystery. And if we do this well we will be able to say “I have lived the Paschal Mystery long enough not to forsake it or doubt it when it becomes most real.” 

As we celebrate Basilica Day let us remember why we, like so many Basilica members before us have come together for the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday. And let us gather with ever greater fervor and devotion so that when our time of sorrow or suffering comes we will feel strengthened by the love of God, we will feel supported by our community and we will be able to say: “I have lived the Paschal Mystery long enough not to forsake it our doubt it when it becomes most real.” But above all, in the Eucharist we are assured that God works miracles in our lives, even if we might not recognize them.

Thank you all for your great support during this incredible journey.

 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081218.cfm 

Three things are happening in our Gospel this weekend.  First the people “murmur against Jesus” because he was known to them, and had said that he had “come down from heaven.”  Second, Jesus responds to them and identifies himself as the “one sent by the Father” and the “Bread of Life.” Third, Jesus promises “eternal life” to those who believe.   Each of these things is important.  Let me say a brief word about each of them.  

Certainly it is difficult to see familiar people in a new way.  We sometimes “lock” people into an early perception of them and refuse to see more than that.  This is what happened with the people in our Gospel today.   However, if we truly believe Jesus’ words, that “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me,” it behooves us to be open to the presence of God in everyone --- even those who are known and familiar to us.  

As a Eucharistic people we are very familiar with Jesus as the Bread of Life.  We believe that in the Eucharist we celebrate and share in Jesus’ name and memory that Jesus is really and truly present, and that he is for us the Bread of Life. 

The idea of eternal life would have been foreign to the Jews of Jesus times.  For the Jews of Jesus’ time  (and even for many Jewish people today) people lived on through their descendents.   That was why it was so important to have children.   We who have grown up with the promise of eternal life would do well to take a step back every now and then, and remember and give thanks for this gracious and unmerited gift.

In our first reading today the prophet Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert and was ready for death.  An angel of the Lord brought him a hearth cake and a jug of water and ordered:  “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.”   These words speak to us today and remind us why the Eucharist is so important.  

Finally, in our second reading today we are reminded of the vices that need to be removed from our lives and virtues we are to exhibit as followers of Jesus. 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Can you remember a time when you discovered God’s presence and/or grace in a person or place that was known and familiar to you?
  2. When has the Eucharist helped you when the journey seemed long and difficult?
  3. What vices do you need to remove from your life or conversely what virtues do you need to develop?   

From the Pastor: 

With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.

1. Parish Council Elections: I am pleased to inform you that in the recent elections for our Parish Council, Erik Miles (representing Christian Life) and Xander Broeffle (representing Learning) were elected to our Parish Pastoral Council. I am also pleased to report that Eric Brandt has accepted re- appointment to the Council as an at-large member; Alfonso Cornish has accepted appointment as the Finance Committee Representative to the Council; and Mara Stolee has accepted appointment as the Development Committee representative to the Parish Council. I am very grateful to each of these individuals for their willingness to serve on our Parish Council. 

The members of our Parish Council represent a cross section of our parish. The Parish Council meets monthly and works with me and our staff to determine the needs, aspirations, and direction of our parish. As such it plays a vital role in our parish community. I am enormously grateful to our Council members for sharing their insights and expertise as we work together to carry out the mission of our parish. 


2. Strategic Planning: As I have mentioned in previous bulletins, a few months ago we received approval from our Finance Committee and Parish Council to engage the services of the MacCallum Ross company to help us begin the process of developing a new strategic plan for our parish. (Our previous plan carried us through spring of 2018.) This plan will serve as a road map to guide and direct our efforts for the next three to five years. 

The reason we engage in strategic planning is simple. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29.18). If we don’t consciously and prayerfully plan for our future, we are at risk of drifting into a future not of our choosing and certainly not of our making. 

David MacCallum and Patti Ross have been guiding the development of a new strategic plan by reviewing our previous strategic plan as well as demographic and other information. An extensive process has been put in place to ensure that relevant information and perspectives are reflected in the plan. They also have interviewed key members of our staff, parish leadership, and community leaders. You will be hearing more about this process in the days ahead. We anticipate that the rollout for our new strategic plan will take place this summer or fall. 


3. This year’s Landmark Ball: Many thanks to all those who attended and/or supported this year’s Landmark Ball. For those of you who are new to our parish, The Landmark Ball is an annual fund-raiser sponsored by The Basilica Landmark to help support the ongoing maintenance and renovation of The Basilica of Saint Mary and it campus. This year $102,763 was raised for this ongoing work. Our thanks go to Jen and Roshan Rajkumar who chaired this event, and to Holly Dockendorf, our Event Manager. I am also very grateful to the many people who worked on the committees for this event. They did an outstanding job. 

Each year as part of The Landmark Ball we include a Fund-A-Need project. This year the Fund-A-Need project was the interior lighting of The Basilica Dome. We will be replacing the old (and large) lights with new LED lighting. The new lighting will be brighter, less expensive and will not produce nearly as much heat as the old lighting— something for which I am particularly grateful.


4. Our Parish Finances and Budget for Next Year: A big Thank You to all those who have been so generous in their financial support of our parish this year. As I write this column (at the end of June) we are slightly ahead in regard to our anticipated revenue, and we are also under budget in regard to our expenses. Given this, we hope to end the fiscal year with a smaller than expected deficit. (The deficit will be covered by a portion of the income from the rental of our school building. The reminder of the school rental income goes into our parish reserve fund.) 

In our budgeting for next year we are anticipating a slight increase in our revenue, and have budgeted accordingly. As your pastor, I want you to know of my gratitude for your ongoing support of our parish. Please know, it is greatly appreciated. 


5. Special Collections: While no one likes special collections, it is heartening for me to report that people of The Basilica have been very generous to the last few special collections here. 

On the weekend of April 28 and 29, $6,796 was collected for the second collection for The Basilica Landmark Annual Fund. 
On the weekend of June 2 and 3, (and afterwards with contributions that were mailed in) $22,253 was donated to help support Ascension School. 
And on the weekend of June 16 and 17, $7,400 was contributed to help defray the cost of air conditioning The Basilica during the hot summer months.

The contributions to these collections testify to the generosity of the people of The Basilica. Please know of my gratitude for your generous and caring response.


6. Change in Staffing: As some of you already know, this summer Cathy Edwards, who has served as our Coordinator of Caring Ministries for the past several years, is retiring. I am enormously grateful for Cathy’s work these past years. We will certainly miss her, but wish her well in her retirement. While we are sad to see Cathy leave, we are grateful that Wendy Cichanski Caduff has been hired to fill this position. Wendy comes to us from Sacred Heart and Holy Trinity parishes in Owatonna, where she was a Pastoral Associate for four years. Before that, she worked at Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud. She has many years of experience working in different parish settings. Wendy has a Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Ministry from Saint John’s University of Theology and Seminary, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from St. Cloud State University. And if Wendy’s last name sounds familiar that is because Ben Caduff, our Coordinator of Family and Young Adult Ministry is her husband. We are happy to welcome Wendy to her new position. Her education and work experience will surely be an asset to our parish and community.


7. Archdiocesan Bankruptcy: Recently we heard the good news that an agreement had been reached to resolve the bankruptcy of the Archdiocese. The agreement establishes a trust fund of approximately $210 million for the victims/survivors. Some of the money for the settlement fund came in the form of voluntary pledges of financial support from parishes and priests of our Archdiocese. I believe this is a wonderful statement of our compassion and support for our brothers and sisters who were seriously wounded and hurt by my brother priests and by others in our church. 

In a letter to all parishioners a few weeks ago, I said that The Basilica of Saint Mary was one of the parishes that made a confidential pledge of financial support to the settlement fund. This decision was made in consultation with our Parish Council and Finance committee. After setting a range for this contribution they directed that our Parish Trustees and I make the final decision as to the amount of the contribution. The money for this pledge came from our parish reserves, which are funded by the rental income from our school building. Our financial pledge won’t be payable until the details of the settlement are finalized. It is our hope that making this pledge of financial support will send a strong message of solidarity and support to the victims/survivors. 

While the settlement will resolve the Archdiocesan bankruptcy we need to continue to follow up with prayer and outreach to the victims/survivors. This needs to be and must be an ongoing effort. I hope you will join in prayer for those who have been so grievously wounded by members of our Church. 


8. Refugee Sponsorship: This past June The Basilica welcomed our eighth Refugee Family through Lutheran Social Services. (So far we have sponsored 3 families from Somalia; 1 from Iraq; 1 from Ethiopia; 1 Karen; and 2 from Mayanmar/Karenni.)

Our newest family is Karenni, originally from Burma. There is a mother, father, and two young daughters ages 4 and 6. They are coming from a camp in Thailand and have been there about 20 years. Lutheran Social Services is hoping to find secure an apartment for them in East St. Paul. The family has some relatives or connections there and they speak some English from working at a hospital in the camp. They arrived on May 23 and our refugee support committee gathered at the airport to greet them.

All of the families we have sponsored have been very different. However, they have all be very grateful and gracious as they settle into life in Minnesota. Their lives are filled with activity as they seek to learn English, enroll their children in school, find work, and care for medical and dental concerns. 

If you are interested in helping with this project please Janice Andersen in our Christian Life Department at 612.317.3477. 


9. Campus Space Planning: As I mentioned previously, The Basilica Landmark has approved funding for the hiring of liturgical space planning consultants. A few months ago these consultants began a process to help us look at and develop a master plan for The Basilica and its campus. Unfortunately, Robert Habiger, from the firm Dekker Perich and Sabatini out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who had begun this work with us, has decided to retire. Fortunately, Fr. Gil Sunghera S.J. who worked with Robert initially has agreed to continue to work with us to build a vision for our campus spaces that helps us welcome the community and our guests. Fr. Gil is on staff at the University of Detroit Mercy (and works with their) School of Architecture. A committee of parishioners has been formed to work with Robert and Fr. Gil in this process. 

Some of the important issues/concerns that will need to be considered are accessibility, making The Basilica and its campus more open and welcoming, and renovating and updating the interior of The Basilica.

This process of developing a master plan for The Basilica and its campus continues as I write this column. It will also occur concurrently with the development of our new strategic plan. We will share more information about this important work as we move forward. 


10. Maintenance Projects at The Basilica: Finally, as I mentioned in an earlier bulletin, there will be several maintenance projects occurring this summer on our campus. As I hope you have noticed we are tuck-pointing The Basilica dome. We will also be upgrading the kitchen in the lower level of The Basilica; doing some upgrades to the church sound system; seal coating and re-striping the parking lots; replacing the florescent lights in the lower level of the church with LED lighting; and as mentioned above, we will also be replacing the lighting on the interior ring of lights in the dome with LED lighting. We also hope to reconstruct the South entrance to our school building sometime next spring. 

We are hopeful that there will be minimal disruption with these projects. We are grateful that most of these projects will be funded by The Basilica Landmark. 

 

Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary

 

Download August/September 2018 Bulletin

 

 

One of the priests I worked with when I was first ordained was a genial Irishman who seemed to have a saying for every occasion or circumstance. When an unlikely couple presented themselves for marriage he would say: "There's no pot so beaten out of shape that you can't find a lid for it." When someone's clothing choice was a bit questionable or problematic he would say: "They must have got dressed in the dark this morning." My favorite saying, though, was when he was confronted with a situation that defied explanation or understanding. In those cases he would simply say: "Sometimes the Lord uses poor sense." This was his way of acknowledging that sometimes things just happen that are beyond our reason and over which we don’t have any control. 

Now to be honest, I have used this saying on more than a few occasions. While it is nice when there is a logical explanation for the things that happen in our lives, this certainly is always or often the case. Now sometimes those unexpected or unexplainable things that happen are good e.g. winning the lottery. I suspect, though, that more often this is not the case, e.g. we face a sudden illness, or someone we love dies unexpectedly. At these times, while we can search for meaning or understanding, these often prove elusive. 

The above is not a new problem. In the Old Testament the Book of Job dealt with the question of why bad things sometimes happened to good people. For Job's friends the answer was simple. Job must have done something wrong or bad to deserve all the terrible things that were happening to him. Job, though, knew that wasn't true. He knew he had tried to live a good life and that he didn't "deserve" what was happening to him. The resolution occurs in the final chapters of the Book of Job. God speaks and in essence says: I'm God; you're not. My ways are not your ways. 

Now I realize that for some people this is not a very satisfying response. For me, though, it helps me remember that God is in charge, and that ultimately the ways and work of God are beyond my ability to comprehend or explain. It also invites me to believe that God knows what God is doing, and that I need to learn to trust that the God who loved me into being isn't capricious or aloof in continuing to love and care for me. 

As there have been in the past, so there were will continue to be times in the future when things happen that cause us pain or anxiety, and over which we have no control. At those times we need to continue to pray. and to remember that it's okay to say: "Sometimes the Lord uses poor sense." 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/080518.cfm 

Our Gospels for the next couple of Sunday’s are taken from that section of John’s Gospel known as the Bread of Life discourse.   Our Gospel today immediately follows the story of the feeding of the 5,000.   The crowd has sought out Jesus and, upon finding him, Jesus says to them: “you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”    They then asked Jesus “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?”  Jesus didn’t respond to their desire for a sign, but instead invited them to have faith in him as the one sent from God.  He tells them:  “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”   

Often times we ask God for “signs” of God’s love and care for us.   Like the people in our Gospel today, though, we seek the signs we want and not the signs God has given us.  The challenge for us is to look through the eyes of faith and see the signs of God’s love and care that exist all around us.  

In our first reading this Sunday, from the Book of Exodus, the Israelites grumble against Moses and Aaron: “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our flesh pots and ate our fill of bread!”   Similar to the feeding of the 5,000, God sends the Israelites “manna” to eat.  When they question about it, Moses tells them:  “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.   In the section we read this Sunday,  Paul urges the Ephesians to “put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:  

  1. Have you ever asked God for a sign only to discover later that you missed a sign that was already present?
  2. Have you ever grumbled against God when things didn’t go the way you wanted?
  3. What does it mean for you to put on the new self created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth?  

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