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Archives: September 2021
As I write this column I realize I do so at the risk of offending just about everyone. I say this because today I want to say something about abortion. I write as a pro-life Catholic priest, but also as a male who cannot possibly know, let alone understand, the very real and complicated issues that can lead a woman to seek an abortion. I also write as a confessor who knows the pain, hurt and sadness that many woman carry and have carried for years after having an abortion. Given these things, it would seem that there is very little that I can or should say that might be helpful, and yet to say nothing seems cowardly and wrong. Legalized as a private act, abortion has become and remains a very public and divisive issue. It is an issue that it has divided our country, our communities, and in some cases, even families. If we don’t start doing something different in regard to the way we talk about the issue of abortion these divisions will only deepen and grow.
I say the above, because in the past several weeks, however, especially since the new law in Texas was passed, I have noticed a not very subtle change in the way the issue of abortion is discussed. Specifically, when this issue comes up, one of two things usually happens. On the one hand, people change the subject and/or simply refuse to engage. On the other hand, people divide into two camps and the discussion usually becomes fairly vocal, occasionally confrontational, and at times mean-spirited.
What the above suggests to me is that perhaps we have reached the point where we need to change the way, the manner, and the form the discussion in regard to abortion takes place. I would like to suggest that we frame the debate about abortion differently as we move forward. And I would like to suggest further, that we who hold and espouse a pro-life position take the lead in this effort. Specifically, I would like to suggest four things that need to be part of the way we frame the debate and talk about the issue of abortion in the future.
1. We need to acknowledge that abortion is a failure for all of us. We can’t just point a finger and lay the blame at the woman seeking an abortion or those who provide abortions. Rather, we need to acknowledge that, as individuals and as a community, we have all failed whenever a woman feels they have no other option than to seek an abortion. We should never demonize a woman who seeks an abortion or the individual who provides it. Rather as Mother Teresa said many years ago when talking about abortion: “How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts.” Abortion is a failure of love for all of us. It is a failure to give until it hurts.
2. The above should challenge us. For those of us who are pro-life, it should challenge us to invite those who would espouse a pro-choice position to help us work together to find common ground that we can all stand on—that we can use as a basis for reaching out to each other, and from which we can move forward together. In this regard, two things come immediately to mind. The first is to ask what we can do to reduce the number of abortions that are taking place. Polls show that the majority of people think too many abortions are occurring. Let’s talk with each other about how we can reduce the number of abortions. Second, in a related vein, we need to talk about how we can provide better medical and social services to women and men in problematic pregnancies so that abortion will not seem to them to be their only option. A woman should never feel that she has to choose between her well-being and her unborn child’s life. While our Church, and particularly our Archdiocese, has done much in this area, imagine how much more could be done if we worked with those who advocate a pro-choice position.
3. As people who are pro-life, we need to continue our efforts to educate people’s minds, illumine their hearts, and challenge their spirits to see and understand what a truly wonderful gift life is. Over and over and over again, we must remind people that life is a gracious gift from a loving God. As pro-life people, our challenge, our goal is to preserve, protect, and enhance life at all stages of development, and in all its manifestations. This activity needs to occur at all levels of our society, and it rightly includes participation in and trying to influence the political process. This activity, though, can never include any form of violence, whether verbal, emotional, physical or spiritual. As people who are pro-life, our position needs to be clear. Violence is not and cannot be part of our cause. And we must disassociate ourselves from those who would use or advocate violence in any form. Wherever the opportunity arises, and whenever the occasion presents itself, we must freely, openly, and unapologetically speak of the value and dignity of every human life—from the unborn to the elderly—to the terminally ill. All life is a precious gift. This needs to be, it must be our unchanging message.
4. Finally, beginning now and in the future, we need to pray with, for, and sometimes in spite of, those who do not hold our pro-life position. I am more and more convinced that if we cannot pray with and for each other—despite our disagreements and differences— that it is only out of force of habit that we will dare to call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus has taught us that we need to pray together and for each other. Prayer unites us in the common belief that a hand greater than our own created this universe and sustains us even now. Prayer is our often feeble attempt to respond to God the Creator, and to try to understand the will and hope of our God for us. In our prayer, particularly with and for those with whom we disagree, we imitate Jesus, and open ourselves up to God’s grace so that together we might seek to understand and do the will of our God.
The above are my suggestions as to how we might proceed as we move into the future. I am sure there are many things I have missed, but I would like to suggest that if we are ever to come to a resolution with regard to the issue of abortion, this can only occur when we change the way, the manner, and the form in which we talk about this issue, and seek new ways and means to engage each other in dialogue. As people committed to life, I think we need to be in the forefront of this activity. I believe that ultimately it is only in this way that we can help others come to understand the value, dignity and worth of every human life.
Even a pandemic couldn’t put a stop to the things going on here at The Basilica the past several months. Via this column I’d like to update you on some of these things.
1. Fiscal Year End Summary: Enclosed within this bulletin you will find our 2021 Fiscal Year Annual Report. In an earlier bulletin I had mentioned that while we were running behind in our budgeted revenue for the past fiscal year, but we were also under budget in regard to our expenses. Additionally at the strong recommendation of our Parish Finance Committee, we applied for and received a PPP loan that was forgiven. And we also received Employee Retention Credits. Both of these helped us maintain our staff intact these past months, and will help us continue to retain them. All of the above combined to allow us to end the fiscal year in the black.
I am grateful to our staff for the terrific job they did in reducing and controlling expenses during the past year. I am also grateful, though, for the ongoing financial support of you, our parishioners. Your generosity is a blessing for our parish.
The Annual Report is also available online at mary.org/annualreport. Please contact the Development Office with questions.
Finally, because of your generosity—in our budgeting for next year—we are anticipating a small increase in our revenue. This is a testament to your care for and commitment to our parish community. As your pastor, I want you to know of my gratitude for your ongoing generosity. Please know it is greatly appreciated.
2. Revisit, Renew, Reconnect, and Re-envision: In a nutshell these four words describe what our staff has been doing the past several months in regard to our ministries at The Basilica and the volunteer efforts that make them possible. When the pandemic put everything on hold, one of the things this allowed us to do was to Revisit our various ministries and look at how to Renew and/or Re-envision them post pandemic.
Most recently we have been working to Reconnect with our volunteers, to see if they want to continue in a specific ministry. Very specifically, we have been doing this with our Liturgical Ministers and our St. Vincent de Paul volunteers. If you volunteered in either of these ministries, prior to the pandemic, we have been working to connect with you to see if you would like to resume your involvement, terminate it, suspend it, or become involved in a new way. If you haven’t been contacted yet, or if you’re interested in volunteering for either of these ministries, please contact the Liturgy Coordinator at email@example.com or Janice Andersen to volunteer for our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the above, Melissa Streit, our Director of Engagement has been working with MAVA (Minnesota Alliance for Volunteer Advancement) and a group from our staff to find new and better ways to engage volunteers and improve their volunteer experience at The Basilica. You can expect to hear more about these efforts in the months ahead.
As we emerge from the pandemic we are gradually resuming meetings and other activities at The Basilica. While I am sure there will be many aspects of our ‘”new” normal that will be familiar, at the same time it is not at all clear what our “new” normal ultimately will look like.
One of the things that has not and will not change, however, is our need for volunteers to staff our many ministries, services and programs that are at the heart of our Basilica community. If you volunteered at The Basilica prior to the pandemic, I would encourage you to reengage in your volunteer activity. If you are looking for ways to volunteer we have opportunities galore. In addition to our established ministries and services, we will also need volunteers to help in new and emerging areas like our livestreaming opportunities.
Volunteers are the life-blood of every parish. The Basilica is no exception to this. It is our hope that by Revisiting and Re-envisioning our various ministries, and by Reconnecting with our volunteers the many ministries of The Basilica will be Renewed and given new life. As pastor of The Basilica, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider in what ways you can volunteer to help our Basilica community as we emerge from the pandemic into a future full of hope.
3. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI): For the past few years, The Basilica has recognized a need to address and respond to the issue of racism in our lives, our parish and our community. After meetings with Sarah Bellamy, an equity consultant, in the spring of 2019, and with the establishment of an EDI Leadership Team, a Position Statement was created to guide our efforts as we seek to respond to the sin of racism. We were challenged to do this particularly by the words of Pope Francis in reflecting on the death of George Floyd: “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.”
Responding to racism is a process not an event. And it is a process in which we all must be involved. Our EDI Team will hold a zoom session this summer to invite people to engage with the EDI Position statement & to lay out the goals we have identified to work on as a parish community. To find out more about the important work of EDI visit mary.org/edi.
4. Archdiocesan Synod: This Fall preparation for our Archdiocesan Synod will continue with the opportunity for parishioners to participate in small discussion groups. These small groups will give participants the opportunity to share their ideas to assist Archbishop Hebda in determining the Archdiocesan Synod Assembly topics. These topics in turn will guide Archbishop Hebda as he creates a pastoral plan for the future of the Archdiocese.
These small groups will meet weekly for six sessions between September 19 and November 14. More information about the Archdiocesan Synod can be found at mary.org/synod.
5. The Landmark Spark: As I mentioned previously, this year’s Landmark Spark Gala was held virtually on Saturday, May 15 and it was a huge success. Overall the event raised more than $200,000. And very specifically we were able to reach and surpass our Fund-Our-Mission goal of $100,000 by raising $117,000. With the money raised we will be able to add more air purification systems to our campus buildings; update our historic campus street lighting; install a permanent desk for our livestreaming equipment, as well as the maintenance projects listed in the item below.
6. Maintenance at The Basilica this summer: This summer, in addition to the smaller maintenance projects noted above, we also have two significant projects planned. The first is a grading and surface draining project around the exterior of our school building. We have had water infiltration issues for years in the lower level of our school building. With this project we hope to resolve this problem. While we had hoped to have this project completed by the Block Party, it now looks like this work will not be completed until late September/early October. Another major maintenance project is continuing to tuck point the western exterior walls of The Basilica. The 100 year mortar between the exterior stone blocks continues to deteriorate so our tuck-pointing will need to continue for the foreseeable future. This work ensures that The Basilica will remain a beacon of hope on the Minneapolis skyline. We are grateful that these projects will be funded by The Basilica Landmark.
In addition to the above projects, we have also installed, needlepoint bipolar ionization units in The Basilica School. These units, in addition to the ones we have already installed in the Church, the Teresa of Calcutta Hall, and the parish office building, will clean and sanitize the air of COVID-19, allergens, and other molds in the air. There are also some tech upgrades in progress in some of our meeting rooms. Going forward, we want to offer high quality virtual and hybrid ministry experiences. This upgrade is in progress in four rooms around the campus. Unfortunately, some of the equipment that has been ordered won’t arrive until later this year due to the computer chip shortage.
Finally, as I write this, we are looking at a way to remove the insulation that was sprayed on the side walls above the ceiling of The Basilica. While much of it has been removed, some of it landed in the groins above the windows. And unfortunately, because this insulation retains moisture, it has prevented the plaster above the windows from drying out. Removing this insulation will be an important step in preparing for the eventual restoration of the interior of The Basilica.
7. Parish Council Elections: I am pleased to inform you that in the recent elections for our Parish Council, My Lam (representing Christian Life) was elected and Andrea Lutterman (representing Learning) was reelected to our Parish Pastoral Council. I am also pleased to report that Jan Buczek has accepted appointment to the Council as an at large member; Trevor Adamek has accepted reappointment as the Finance Committee Representative to the Council; and Mara Stolee Cable 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.
8. Staff Changes: On a sad note, in a few weeks we will say goodbye to Travis Salisbury, our Coordinator of Liturgical Celebrations for almost 20 years. During this time Travis as been an integral and crucial part of our Liturgy Team and our parish. To say he will be missed would be a gross understatement. While we are indeed sad to see Travis leave The Basilica, we are excited for him as he moves on to the next stage of his life and career. We wish him well and pray that God will bless him abundantly.
On a happier note, by the time you read this, Sam Holmberg, will have started in his role as our new organist and liturgical music associate. We are delighted to welcome Sam to our staff. If you have a few moments after Mass, I invite you to introduce yourself to him and welcome him to our Basilica family.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary
Adjust. Adapt. Pivot.
These three words have been our motto over the past year and a half as we have continued to serve our parish community throughout the pandemic. We have transitioned in countless ways including livestreaming liturgies, Zooming wedding prep and other classes, and distributing Holy Communion outside to people in their cars. In these very challenging times, we have looked to our faith for hope and guidance as we made and continue to make decisions that impact our liturgies, programs, and services.
In reflecting on the past fiscal year, concluding on June 30, 2021, it is good to review the accomplishments as well as the challenges of this year. One of our major accomplishments this past year was that we continued to build our virtual ministries and adapt other ministries so that they could be safely held in-person. The support and connection of our parish community during this time has been a blessing.
We reopened for in-person Mass in July of 2020 with new health and safety protocols for the common good of our community. And earlier this year, we were able to return to our full schedule of liturgies as we welcomed back many of our parishioners for in-person worship.
In addition to adapting to each new pandemic challenge, we also continued to emphasize and develop the Areas of Focus, identified in our Strategic Plan. Our commitment to the Arts, Inclusivity, and Homelessness has remained crucial to our community. As a sign of this commitment a few months ago we launched our parish Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity (EDI) initiative and we continue connect with our community partners.
Please know of my gratitude for your commitment to our parish community. As we move forward, our primary concern, as always, will be the safety, security and well being of all those who come to our campus.
Please remember, no matter what brings you to The Basilica, virtually or in-person, and wherever you are in your faith journey, you are welcome here.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary
Basilica Homecoming: Renew and Reconnect
Since 1914, The Catholic Church has been celebrating the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This day is an occasion to highlight concern for people, vulnerable and on the move; to pray for them as they face many challenges; and to increase awareness about opportunities migration offers. The World Day of Migrants and Refugees is this Sunday, September 26, 2021.
The message of Pope Francis on this 107th Day of Migrants and Refugees is entitled “Towards an Ever Wider We.” In his message, we are challenged to see “that we are all in the same boat and called to work together so that there will be no more walls that separate us, no longer others, but only a single ‘we’, encompassing all humanity.” We are invited to embrace and recognize our
broken and fragmented relationships. We are called to reclaim a deep commitment to one another. We are asked to sacrifice—to let go of an individualized “feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation” that can pull us through life.
On September 26, 2021 we have a unique opportunity to live this “ever wider we” in our community.
In mid September, there were about 12,500 Afghan refugees staying at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. Flown in suddenly, with the collapse of the Afghan government and the departure of U.S. support, families were brought to Fort McCoy with nothing but what they were wearing and what they could carry over thousands of miles of movement. Local news reports that life at Fort McCoy is challenging, with food and clothing shortages and overcrowding. On top of this, people are experiencing deep grief and fear. Their individual bodies have been transported. But extended family and all remnants of their life in Afghanistan were left behind.
Since 2015, The Basilica has had a partnership with Lutheran Social Services Refugee Services, co-sponsoring twelve families from around the world who received refugee status. With the support of LSS, we have accompanied families, offering Circle of Welcome Teams that walk with them as they make Minnesota their home.
This September, The Basilica is being invited to co-sponsor Afghan families through LSS. The people who have come from Afghanistan have risked their lives to support the mission of the United States. Now, we are being asked to extend a warm welcome and to keep them safe.
With a strong commitment to “an ever wider we” and a strong infrastructure of our Basilica Immigrant Support Ministry, The Basilica was able to quickly mobilize and commit to co-sponsoring up to four families from Afghanistan. More opportunities may follow.
Pope Francis states, “Today’s migration movements offer an opportunity for us to overcome fears and let ourselves be enriched by the diversity of each person’s gifts. Then, if we so desire, we can transform borders into privileged places of encounter, where the miracle of an ever wider ‘we’ can come about.” May we gracefully embrace this opportunity to grow towards a wider “we.”