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Archives: December 2019
My wife and I got married during the season of Advent. We love this season, with Advent wreaths, hymns like O Come, O Come Emmanuel, adding more and more decorations to our tree to mark each week, and of course, calendars with their chocolate for a little daily treat. (Incidentally, you may have heard that Tiffany and Co has released their own Advent calendar this year, with a different piece of jewelry each day of December, starting at $112,000. Come, Lord Jesus indeed!)
The night before our wedding, my wife surprised me with a little gift. She left the room, and I was so excited, I opened the gift before she came back in. That was not a good decision on my part—it did NOT go over well. I’m lucky we still exchanged vows the next day!
Just a couple of weeks ago, while driving to The Basilica I heard Christmas music on the radio. In that excitement, I made multiple phone calls (hands free) to alert loved ones that we can begin listening to our holiday favorites a full two weeks before Thanksgiving! One of those calls was to my wife, who did not share my excitement! She is a bit better at waiting than I am.
Perhaps I’m drawn to this particular season because it forces me to stretch myself and grow in patience and faith. And perhaps I’m not alone in needing that growth. The Church gives us this season because we all need this grace of waiting, as difficult as it can be at times. Some of this waiting is good—like children waiting for Santa to come or families waiting to see loved ones during the holidays.
For others, the waiting is so difficult: for a loved one to come home from being deployed abroad, for a medical test result to come back or an upcoming surgery. Millions wait at borders and in camps for the chance at a better life for their families and the list goes on.
December 8 is the traditional date on the Church’s calendar to celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception, her being freed from sin so that she could conceive and bear the Christ child, our Savior and Redeemer. The Gospel for the Immaculate Conception tells the dramatic story of Mary being visited by the angel Gabriel and being told she would conceive and bear her son, Jesus. After the angel departs, Mary was left to wait. No doubt she had lots to ponder! And yet, in her waiting, she did not stay alone. She went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist, to wait and be together.
Perhaps that is where the grace we need to wait comes from, in family and community. That’s why we gather these weeks for Mass, holy days, vespers, Taizé prayer, etc. All so we can receive the grace to wait, and prepare our hearts again, for the coming Christmas feast. Together, may we all know the grace of holy waiting in this holy season.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120819.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the Second Sunday of the season of Advent. Each year on the Second Sunday of Advent our Gospel reading presents us with the familiar figure of John the Baptist. This year we read Matthew’s account of John’s preaching. We are told that John’s message was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Those who came out to hear John were the people around the region of the Jordan who “were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” However, when “he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers!’” Clearly John, like Jesus who would follow him, saw the Pharisees and Sadducees as opposing rather than supporting his message.
It is also important to note that John clearly understood his roll vis-à-vis Jesus. He said: “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.”
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is Isaiah’s prophecy of a future King from the “stump of Jesse.” (Jesse was the father of King David.) The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon this future King: “a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight will be the fear of the Lord.” (If these words sound familiar they are what Catholics refer to as the “gifts of the Holy Spirit.”)
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. In it Paul asks that “the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- I have always been impressed with John the Baptist’s clarity in regard to his mission. How do you think he came to such clarity?
- John describes himself as not being worthy to carry Jesus’ sandals. How would you describe yourself in relation to Jesus?
- As a child I had to memorize the gifts (as well as the fruits) of the Holy Spirit. I was always troubled by the gift of fear of the Lord. Someone then suggested that I substitute the words “wonder” or “awe” for fear. That made much more sense to me. How do we exhibit wonder or awe of God?
With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.
1. Advent and Christmas Events/Activities at The Basilica: As we move into the Season of Advent and Christmas, there are several events/activities at the Basilica which you are invited to attend.
On Sunday, December 8 we will hold our annual Global Fair Trade Market from 8:30am to 3:00pm. Great gifts will be available from local vendors, just in time for Christmas giving.
Taizé prayer, with the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, will be celebrated in the lower level of the Basilica on Tuesday, December 10 at 5:30pm.
On Sunday, December 15 our Cathedral Choristers, Children’s Choir, Cherubs, and Juventus as well as the children of the Learning Program will present The King of Love by Betty Lou and Ronald Nelson. The musical uses familiar carols to tell the story of the Incarnation. The musical will be presented in the lower level of the Basilica after the 9:30 and 11:30am Masses.
On Friday night, December 20, Handel’s Messiah will return to The Basilica. Tickets for that performance can be purchased at mary.org/messiah.
Finally, we hope you will plan on joining us for one of our Masses on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Our Mass schedule is available on our website at mary.org.
2. Our Parish Finances: First and foremost, I want to thank all those who have made a commitment of financial support to our parish community during our Basilica Fund campaign this fall. Please know your commitment of financial support to our parish community is greatly appreciated. Your pledge—no matter the size—is important and makes a difference. It allows us to continue to offer the many programs, ministries and services that are the hallmark of our Basilica community.
In regard to our parish finances, as I write this column our income is tracking to budget but is down from being able to balance our budget. It is our hope to move towards a balanced budget over the next couple of years. We currently use funds from school rental income to balance our budget, but we know this is not a sustainable solution long-term. This year our goal is to raise an additional $150,000 over our budgeted income.
I am hopeful that with our collections at Christmas and with year-end giving we will continue to stay 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. Change Management Consultant: Several months ago our Parish Council and Finance Committee approved funding to hire a Change Management Consultant, to help us as we seek to implement our new strategic plan. Our parish staff and a small Task Force have been working with the Change Management Consultant to help us identify those ministries, services and programs, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community, and need to continue, as well as those that need to change or end. Our new Strategic Plan has provided the foundation to guide our decision making process and prioritization.
It is both good and important periodically for parishes to take a step back and review the various programs and ministries that are part of their parish operation to make sure they are still filling a need, or whether they need to be modified, or ended so that new or emerging needs can be addressed. The Change Management Consultant is helping us take a careful and considered look at all that we do here at the Basilica. We hope to finish this work sometime this winter or early spring.
4. Archdiocesan Synod: As I mentioned in an earlier bulletin, on the Vigil of Pentecost (June 8, 2019), Archbishop Hebda formally announced that our Archdiocese will be embarking on a synod, our first since 1939. A synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is the Archbishop’s hope that over the next two years, the synod process will involve every parish and draw on the gifts that have been bestowed in such abundance on the people of this archdiocese to discern and establish clear pastoral priorities in a way that will both promote greater unity in our Archdiocese and lead us to a more vigorous proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. In doing so, it will help Archbishop Hebda discern, through a consultative process, the pastoral priorities of our local Church today—and into the near future.
Archbishop Hebda described the local pre-synod and synod process as following Pope Francis’ “listening Church” model. “It’s the confidence that comes from believing that the Holy Spirit works in the faithful, and it’s in sharing those things that are most important to us that we’re able to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”
The synod process will begin this fall and winter with prayer and listening events. After these events, in the spring/summer of 2020, Archbishop Hebda will announce the topics that will shape the synod. In autumn of 2020 and winter of 2021 there will be a parish and deanery consultation process. On Pentecost weekend May 21-22, 2021 there will be a synod assembly. Delegates to this assembly will be invited from across the Archdiocese and will meet to discern synod topics and vote on recommendations for the Archbishop. The Feast of Christ the King (November 21, 2021) is the anticipated publication of pastoral letter from Archbishop Hebda addressing the synod’s topics with a pastoral plan to shape the following 5-10 years.
I believe the synod process brings with it much promise for the future of our Archdiocese. It will only be successful, though, if people pray, participate, and honestly share their concerns, questions and hopes for our Archdiocese. To this end —since I first informed you of the synod—we have established a parish synod ambassador team who will work to solicit feedback from our parishioners and keep everyone informed as the synod process moves forward.
There is a link to this group as well as information on the listening session on our parish website at mary.org/synod. You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead.
5. I would also like to update you on the work of our Campus Space Planning Committee. Beginning in January of 2018 this committee began working to establish a vision for our campus to prepare us for the next 150 years of service to the Church and the city. Earlier this year this group completed its work in providing a vision and set of priorities to ensure our buildings and campus serve both our current needs and the needs of future generations at the Basilica and the community. Their efforts have helped us move into the future with confidence and hope. I am enormously grateful for all the time and effort this committee put into this important work.
As a next step, we selected a team of individuals and organizations to assist us in creating a more specific Master Plan for the Basilica and its campus. The process, included “Requests for Qualifications” and later “Requests for Proposals” and in-person interviews. In these requests we wanted architectural firms that could work as a team with urban planners, historical preservationists, and landscape architects. We eventually interviewed three teams and ultimately recommended to The Basilica Landmark Board that the team, led by the Architectural firm HGA be hired to develop a Master Plan for our Basilica Campus. The Landmark Board approved the funding of this recommendation and we began negotiations for a contract with HGA.
After this a small Master Planning Committee was formed to work with HGA and their team in the development of the Master Plan for the Basilica and its campus. This Committee has been meeting for the past few months and will continue to meet this fall. In addition to the whole Basilica campus this committee will also examine some specific issues, e.g. accessibility, music, parking, and our liturgical space. It is our hope that we will be able to share the results of the work of this committee early in 2020.
6. Feasibility Study: As I have also mentioned previously, The Landmark Board also approved funding to hire the firm of Bentz Whaley Flessner to conduct a feasibility study to help determine fund raising capacity for a potential Capital Campaign needed to implement elements of the newly developed Master Plan.
As the work of the Campus Space Planning, Master Plan Development, Feasibility Study, and potential Capital Campaign have broad implications for our Parish we have been actively engaged with the Basilica Landmark Board, Parish Council and Finance Committee to ensure our leaders are informed and appropriately involved in providing guidance and approval.
7. Recent Maintenance Projects: In addition to several smaller maintenance projects this summer, there were also two major maintenance projects. We replaced the carpeting in the lower level of the church. If you have not been in the lower level of the Basilica recently I would encourage you to stop down and see the new carpeting. Replacing the old carpeting and updating the hospitality area with an expanded area of terrazzo was one of our major maintenance projects this summer. I know I come from a biased perspective, but I think it turned out quite well.
The other major maintenance project this summer/fall was rebuilding the south façade of our parish school building. While the brickwork is done, the Terra Cotta needed to finish the job has been delayed. When the order was first placed, we were told that the Terra Cotta had a 105 calendar day lead time and should have arrived by the end of August. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago we were informed that Terra Cotta will not ship until November 1. So unless there are further delays, by the time you read this bulletin the Terra Cotta hopefully will have arrived and have been installed.
8. At the end of September we completed the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of our parish. 150 years ago, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was founded in Minneapolis. When the parish outgrew its original site, seven lots were donated at 16th and Hennepin, and the corner stone of the Basilica of Saint Mary was laid in 1908. 150 years is a significant amount of time. It speaks highly of the faith and dedication of those who have gone before us that not only has our parish survived, it has thrived. As our parish moves into the next 150 years we are blessed by our parish leadership and our staff who serve our parish so well. It is the task and challenge for all of us, though—and it will take our combined efforts—to ensure that for the next 150 years our parish will continue to be a beacon of hope on the Minneapolis skyline and place of welcome for all who come to our doors. I am excited by this challenge, and given all the work that has gone on the past several months—and some cases continues to go on—I am very hopeful for the future.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary