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Archives: May 2021
In our weekly video series "Art That Surrounds Us," Johan van Parys, Ph.D., our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, shares information about a piece from The Basilica of Saint Mary's art collection.
To honor of Mary during the month of May, we have a sub-series entitled Saints that Surround Us dedicated to Mary. In this second installment, Johan discusses the oldest Marian feast, image, and apparition.
For more information visit mary.org/edi.
In 2016, after the death of Philando Castile, The Basilica recognized a need to address the important issue of racism in our parish, in our lives and in society. With the approval and support of the Parish Council, The Basilica began to prayerfully develop a parish-wide, faith filled-response to racism.
The Basilica began to bring people together to share stories and build trust across racial and ethnic divides. The Basilica engaged in ecumenical initiatives and offered educational series and trainings to learn about and address the issue of racial inequity.
As we sought to connect with and learn from community partners, The Basilica entered into an intentional relationship with equity consultant, Sarah Bellamy, in the Spring of 2019. Through small group conversations and workshops with staff and parishioners, Sarah Bellamy created a strategic and comprehensive report for The Basilica: The Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Opportunities and Challenges Analysis.
Upon completion of this analysis and reflection and support by parish leadership, recommendations of the report are being implemented. A twelve member EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity) Leadership Team comprised of parishioners began meeting September 2020. With guidance by Sarah Bellamy, this team is working on parish-wide strategies and goals within The Basilica and the larger community.
“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.”
-Pope Francis, reflecting on the killing of George Floyd
The Basilica of Saint Mary
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Position Statement
- Nurturing an environment within our parish that provides equity, diversity and inclusion for all through opportunities to engage in dialogue, education, and compassionate solidarity
- Identifying where institutionalized racism is in our parish while embracing an openness to reform our policies, practices, and procedures
- Providing opportunities for personal transformation, while working toward systemic change
- Working in collaboration with others in our community to deepen our impact both within our parish and within our larger community
Even though many of us do not see ourselves as migrants, humans seem to have migration in their blood. Over many millennia, our ancient ancestors migrated from the cradle of humanity in the horn of Africa to every corner of the world. And even today, millions of humans are on the move.
Sometimes migrations happen by choice as people are looking for adventure, are driven by curiosity or are responding to opportunity. Sometimes migrations happen out of necessity as people flee war, persecution, hunger and certain death. Sometimes migrations happen by force as people are removed from their homesteads or homelands and sent into endless misery or even are sold into slavery.
The bible is full of stories of migration. Adam and Eve were forced to leave Paradise. Abraham was told by God to leave his homeland to create a new nation. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. His descendants migrated from Egypt and ended up in the Promised Land after 40 years in the desert. Even the Holy Family fled their home out of fear that Jesus might be killed by Herod.
Pre-existing communities have not always welcomed migrants with open arms. Sometimes weariness and suspicion about these new arrivals was warranted as they used force to stake claim to the land driving those who already lived there out. Just look at what happened in Biblical times; or look at what happened to the First Nations of the Americas when Europeans arrived; or look at what is happening around the world today.
And yet, sometimes the reception of newcomers has been less than welcoming due to xenophobia or fear of strangers. And yet, the Bible makes it very clear that we are to treat strangers with dignity and respect. The letter to the Hebrews 13:2 admonishes Christians to “show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
As we know, Pope Francis is very concerned with the plight of migrants and refugees. On September 29, 2019, the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees Pope Francis dedicated a new monumental sculpture in St. Peter’s Square entitled Angels Unawares. Of note is that this sculpture was the first in some 400 years to be added to this iconic square. The sculpture was commissioned by Michael Cardinal Czerny who is the Under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
Angels Unawares was created by Timothy Schmalz, a Canadian Catholic sculptor who has dedicated much of his work to the social teachings of the Catholic Church. Our Homeless Jesus is one of his well known works.
Angels Unawares depicts 140 almost life size people on a boat. They represent migrants from all times and all places. Some of them have experienced migration by choice, others by necessity or force. Among them are a Jewish man fleeing Nazi Germany; an Irish boy fleeing the potato famine; an African family being forced into slavery; a Syrian man escaping the civil war in his home country; a Cherokee man on the trail of tears; a Protestant man escaping the Counter-Reformation. The ship even includes the Holy Family.
As he sculpted each one of these 140 people, the artist used old photographs to represent historic migrants. Some of them he found in the Ellis Island archives. He also had recent immigrants come to his studio to model for this sculpture. Thus each one of the characters on the boat represents an actual person who migrated. In their faces one can see fear or anticipation, relief or dread depending on the reason for the migration.
At the center of this tightly packed boat are two large angel’s wings referencing the Letter to the Hebrews admonishment that any one of these sisters and brothers of ours might be “angels unawares.”
Catholic University in Washington D.C. was given a second cast of the sculpture. Before its permanent installation this fall, Angels Unawares has been traveling to several cities in the United States at the request of the artist. Minneapolis and the Basilica of Saint Mary will be the last but one stop on its way back to D.C. We will host the sculpture throughout the month of August. It will sit on the plaza in front of The Basilica.
On Sunday, August 1 we will have a welcome ceremony and we will bid goodbye to the sculpture on Thursday, August 26. There will be lots of programming around Angels Unawares between those to dates. More details are to follow.
In the same way as the Homeless Jesus calls us to solidarity with people who are experiencing homelessness, Angels Unawares calls us to solidarity with people who had to leave their homes and found refuge here. As we care for them, we may be caring for angels unawares.
Visit mary.org/angelsunawares for more details.
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