Archives: June 2021

As a community we have adapted in many ways over the past year and a half. Last year, at this time we were working to install our new livestreaming equipment and training our staff members on the process. 

We filmed our first Sunday Mass on July 26, 2020. As a member of the team, we felt a huge sense of accomplishment. We had started serving our community in an entirely new way in a matter of months. We could feel the outpouring of support and appreciation throughout our staff and parishioners. 

Each week we would see posts online from parishioners who were so thankful for the ability to participate in Mass live at home. Seeing the community engage online opened up new conversations from people all over the country and world. 

Now, a year later, we continue to work to improve the livestream experience for those watching at home—adjusting camera positions and expanding our use of the equipment to improve our processes. We have also recently installed a new desk for the livestream equipment—to house the computers and camera set-up more securely and cleanly in the church.

The livestream has become an evangelization tool to reach out to the broader community and world. We see new visitors finding Mass for the first time online and starting to engage with our community. For many it’s a first step to exploring their faith and joining the parish. We also hear from many who are homebound or in care facilities that attending Mass online has been greatly appreciated and plan to continue to participate from home.

Johan van Parys, Director of Liturgy and the Sacred Arts, said, “when it became impossible for us to gather as a community due to the pandemic we thought it extremely important to find ways to connect with the members of our parish community. If our parishioners were not able to come to us we wanted to be able to go to them. Although virtual worship is not ideal it has allowed us to stay in touch and to pray together albeit virtually. I am very grateful we were able to acquire the necessary equipment. I greatly appreciate the willingness on the part of our staff to learn new things and to pivot and adapt on short notice and with great regularity. This being said, I am so happy we now can gather again in person to celebrate the liturgy.” 

The livestream is also a great way to stay connected to The Basilica this summer. As you make your summer travel and cabin plans—you can still participate in Mass from any mobile device. We see many of our parishioners post they are attending Mass from “up north” locations this summer. 

With the support of The Basilica Landmark, we have been able to continue to envision what a virtual Basilica can be for our community. We are exploring more livestreaming capabilities to add to the church and campus. Our staff is exploring how we will work in the new hybrid reality of in-person and at-home attendance across all of our programs and ministries. 
As we closely monitor our viewer analytics each week and will continue to set goals for further engagement with our home attendees. The metrics provide data on what platforms work best and how to assess our communication needs going forward. 

As many parishioners will be transitioning back to in-person Mass, we look forward to welcoming you back, but recognize that the livestream has become a valued experience for many in our community. We plan to continue to livestream our Masses and services going forward and see this new ministry as an opportunity to reach beyond The Basilica walls and welcome people in new ways to our community. 


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Angels Unawares

Angels Unawares

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 for more details. 



Angels Unawares Pope












Basilica Community, 

Christopher Stroh, has discerned the call to a new position at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, Washington. Beginning in mid-July, Chris will start his ministry at St. James Cathedral as Assistant Director of Music and Assistant Cathedral Organist.  St. James Cathedral is among the few major Catholic parishes that compare to The Basilica parish’s own diversely rich spiritual, artistic, inclusive, and social outreach. 

Chris has been a true gift to our parish and he will be dearly missed. Yet, this is a great opportunity and we congratulate him on his new position.

Chris has shared deep gratitude for his nearly 15 years of service to The Basilica as organist. The wonderful Basilica parishioners, sincere volunteers, staff colleagues, community partners, and the distinctive “Centennial” organ (Wicks Opus 3047) are among the things Chris mentioned he will miss most from The Basilica. 

During summer we will welcome regular substitute organists at our liturgies as we conduct the search and interview process for candidates to the position. We are pleased by the great interest already received.

We invite you to join us for 9:30am Mass on Sunday, June 27 when we will celebrate Chris’ ministry at The Basilica. The Cathedral Choir will sing this Mass. At the end of Mass we will have a special blessing for Chris. And following Mass we will have an ice-cream social on the plaza in front of The Basilica. 

Chris will still play the 5:00 pm on July 3, 7:30am and 9:30am on July 4, 10:00am on July 5 and the Memorial Mass for Walter’s Father on July 6 at 10:00am.

As we make this transition let us pray for Chris as he assures us that The Basilica will remain in his prayers. Let us also pray for the success of our search for a new Basilica Organist and Liturgical Music Associate.

Johan M. J. van Parys, Ph.D.
Director of Liturgy and the Sacred Arts



Photo provided by: 
Mike Jensen










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