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The Catholic Church is a centuries old, hierarchical organization that can sometimes feel very exclusive. As “regular” parishioners we see Priests, Nuns, Bishops, and Cardinals as the leaders and decision makers in our church.
While those ministries hold special auspices as a result of graces given at ordination, we as lay (non-ordained) members also have a distinct and very real role in the spreading of the Gospel as a result of our Baptism. The Church teaches that laypeople are absolutely equal to those in ordained and religious life. The laity is how the world encounters Christ and the Church encounters the world.
We all have increasingly busy lives; careers, school, dating, children, aging parents, and the regular burdens of everyday life. We take one hour out of our week on Saturday or Sunday for God, and then go about our business.
If you are like me, sometimes my mind wanders during mass (Sorry, Fr. Bauer) to things like:
- “Gosh, the plaster is looking really bad up on the arches”
- “I wonder how the archdiocesan bankruptcy is going”
- “They’re taking up another collection for the heating? Don’t they have a budget?”
- “I feel like I don’t have any way of making any real change within our Church”
In moments like this, I think of a quote from former President Barak Obama:
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
Back in the spring of 2013 I was finishing graduate school when I heard about upcoming Parish council elections. I had been involved in The Basilica Voices for Justice but as I thought about it, I decided that I wanted to take on something more, to have a larger platform to represent the young adults of our Parish. I decided to run as a representative for Liturgy.
Parish Council members serve as an advisory group to the Pastor and assist with planning, communication, policies and procedures, and education of parishioners. We are sensitive to the needs, ambitions and desires of The Basilica community to fulfill its mission—we are your representatives, your voice.
This year, the Parish Council is embarking on the creation of a 5-year strategic plan as well as engaging a Liturgical Design Consultant for a whole-campus evaluation. This is a very exciting time as we work to propel our parish into success in the future.
Our Parish Council is composed of:
- 6 elected members including 2 representatives for Learning, Christian Life, and Liturgy
- 3 appointed "at large" members,
- Appointed representatives from the Finance and Development Committees,
- 4 ex-officio members
The deadline for Parish Council nominations is April 6. There is an online application here. You may nominate yourself or someone you think would thrive in one of the positions.
Parish Council is not the only way to get involved at The Basilica. There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities—one-time events, and long-term engagements. This thriving, robust parish is not solely run by Father Bauer—he needs teams of people to make our mission happen.
In the words of the Catechism (CCC 899): “Lay believers are in the front line of Church life. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church.”
YOU ARE THE CHURCH.
Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it demands an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society.” Brothers and Sisters To Us, USCCB, 1979
During the summer of 2016, the Twin Cities experienced a wave of protests and unrest after the shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in St. Anthony, MN. The upheaval throughout the Twin Cities was in direct response to the deep and longstanding effects of racism in our state. Uncovered and exposed were the inequalities and injustices behind virtually every statistic of Minnesota’s quality of life: including our state’s education gap, income disparity, homeownership, and violent crime.
- On April 29, 2016, the Pioneer Press reported “Minnesota has some of the worst racial disparities in the nation—gaps that have widened over the past five decades and that soon may create a statewide economic crisis. U.S. Census data show most Minnesota families of color now have median incomes about half those of their white neighbors.”
- On August 18, 2017, the Pioneer Press reported “Minnesota schools have grown more segregated and the state’s nation-leading academic achievement gap refuses to close.
- Black Students: Reading proficiency, 33% and Math proficiency, 28%
- White Students: Reading proficiency, 69% and Math proficiency, 68%
- Headline in the Star Tribune on August 17, 2017 read, “Already-low homeownership rates of Twin Cities minorities fall further,” with 75% whites and only 23% blacks owning homes.
- A report in August 2017 from the Minneapolis Police Department that covers the period 2009 to 2014 states, while blacks made up 18.6% of the population in Minneapolis, 79% of victims of homicide are black.
During the summer and fall of 2016, The Basilica leadership intentionally engaged in reflection and self-examination: How was The Basilica living faithfully by actively confronting issues of racism and being a force of racial reconciliation in the community? Strikingly, we discovered that, while The Basilica is engaged in the community in many ways, we are not living up to our mission in this area.
In the fall of 2016, The Basilica Parish Council unanimously voted to support a parish-wide, sustained effort to address the issue of racism. In February 2017, a Basilica team met for the first time—a team to help shape a parish wide initiative for racial reconciliation.
The team began slowly, prayerfully discerning direction, sharing stories, and developing trust. This Lent, The Basilica officially launched Imago Dei: The Basilica Initiative for Racial Reconciliation. Imago Dei—the Image of God. Rooted in the absolute belief that all humans beings are created in the image of God, The Basilica will devote itself to this effort by praying for empowerment to overcome this radical evil in our lives and communities, by learning about institutionalized racism and its insidious presence in our Church and society, by engaging across lines of difference, and by advocating for social change.
The Basilica of Saint Mary is dedicated to the eradication of racism, and seeks to become a community of racial reconciliation. Look for ways to engage in this important work. This is the work of our time. For more information, contact Janice.
IMAGO DEI: INITIATIVE FOR RACIAL RECONCILIATION PRACTICING RECONCILIATION
SUNDAY, MARCH 18, 11:00AM-12:30PM
SAINTS AMBROSE/TERESA, GROUND LEVEL
Please join us for the last session in this series and hear first hand from Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson about the power of forgiveness.
January 14, 2018 is the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This Day invites us to attend to the needs and conditions of the migrants and refugees who have risked their life to flee war, persecution, natural disaster, and poverty.
Immigration—throughout the world and within the United States—is clearly a hot button issue, when addressed from a political perspective. However, it is also a perfect opportunity to experience grace in the tension, as we interpret our life through the lens of faith. From a secular perspective, this stance will appear radical. From a faith perspective, this stance will bring peace.
Pope Francis calls the situation of migrants and refugees “undoubtedly a ‘sign of the times’ which I have tried to interpret, with the help of the Holy Spirit… Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”
On this 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis invites us to find solidarity across difference. “This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience.” He calls each of us, to “respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom, and foresight.” He states, “our shared response may be articulated in four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote, and to integrate.”
Welcoming suggests a personal encounter—focusing actions on the centrality of the human person. Pope Francis states, “Welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally. “ He goes on, “collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights.”
The call to welcome can be counter-cultural, given our political climate. However, it is rooted deeply in our faith—resonating with welcoming the birth of Jesus himself. The Basilica makes substantial commitments to welcoming through its wide range of Liturgies, RCIA, and St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. The Immigrant Support Ministry has welcomed five refugee families and supported several families seeking asylum.
Protecting calls us to recognize and defend the God-given dignity of those fleeing danger. Pope Francis states, this “may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status.” This absolute acknowledgement of the dignity of the other, and the subsequent call to protection, can expose underlying division in our society. Grounded in our faith, taking the call of Christ seriously, we are invited to stand confidently and faithfully as we declare we will offer care to all—refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented alike.
What does this protecting look like at The Basilica? What does it mean for us individually and as a parish community? There will be opportunities for you to speak with our Parish Council members about how we live this out, in the coming weeks. Together, let us prayerfully reflect on this call.
Promoting calls for an intentional effort to ensure that all migrants and refuges—as well as the communities who welcome them—are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings.
Integrating calls us to consider the many “opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought about by the presence of migrants and refugees.” We are called to foster a culture of encounter—actively embracing opportunities for cultural exchange, and recognizing the strength of diversity.
The call to Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate is not easy. Yet, it is at the heart of the challenge of discipleship in our day. Let us wrestle together with how we can live this out at The Basilica. Let us share our hopes and fears, united in love and forgiveness. We are grateful for this opportunity.
As we walk through Advent, we are invited to prayerfully consider how we prepare for and welcome Jesus into our lives. Looking back on the Christmas story, it is easy to fall into an idealized version of our actions: “If Mary and Joseph past by my door, of course I would have made room for you in my inn, Lord!” But where are those choices in our life today? Where are we closing the door to God in our life and community?
Each day, we are called to be disciples of Christ. We are called to make choices and act so that God’s love is made known in our world. How is that going?
The U.S. Catholic Bishops describe a disciple as those who “make a conscious, firm decision, carried out in action, to be followers of Jesus Christ no matter what the cost to themselves.” This definition makes the strong assumption that there will be a cost. We will each experience some disadvantage from living our life as disciples. Where is this most true in your life?
Pope Francis, in The Joy of the Gospel says, “An authentic faith—which is never comfortable or completely personal—always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it” (#183). This gives the challenge of discipleship a profound social dimension. It is impossible to live out one’s faith and not get caught in the web of politics—local or global. We are called to enter this arena, and maneuver it with grace and love. We must not avoid it—personally or collectively.
In my experience, one of the biggest obstacles to discipleship today is fear. Fear drives division. Division drives exclusion and oppression. Oppression drives violence.
We can see the challenge of discipleship when we look at some of the hottest issues today. These issues call us to put our faith first—to start and end with a prayer to open our hearts and minds to the love of Christ, and close the door to fear, division, or exclusion. This sounds good, until we get specific.
Issues include: immigration reform, care for the environment, taxes and what Pope Francis calls an “idolatry of money,” health care, globalization and trade, racism, care for the most vulnerable, the seamless garment of life, and on and on.
As Catholics, at this critical moment in history, we cannot afford to proceed with business as usual. We must ground ourselves in our faith and join with people of goodwill throughout the world to transform society through the Gospel of love.
God has taken the initiative. God has come to us this Christmas.
Let us open our lives to the Spirit of love and reconciliation. Let us find a way to talk together and work together on the important issues of our day—to welcome God into our midst and experience the love of Christ transforming our life and community. And yes, we may put ourselves at some disadvantage. After all, we are disciples.
In this “Year of Mercy,” we are called to choose love first. Active love, not passive. Personally, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt a time in my life when this concept has been easier to claim and admire but harder to live. Love? Yes. I’m on board. How can you argue against choosing love? It seems the hard part is living this calling in our full everyday lives. We live in a time when we feel like we have all the information at the tip of our fingers but instead of feeling enlightened, we are burdened by our realities. Perhaps this is why the knowledge that comes with age makes it difficult not just to choose love, but to even see it through these realities. Each day, when we read the headlines or face our own challenges, it can be really easy to become angry, jealous and bitter.
I find myself easily distracted, both by this busy life but also the heartache that surrounds us. I watch friends work tirelessly to give their families every opportunity they can afford but still come up short as they struggle to make ends meet. My heart breaks knowing of the inequity and the startling acts of violence that plague parts of our city. And as a parent, I’m terrified as school shootings are no longer shocking and we hear constant stories of children abused or abandoned. Day in and day out, Basilica staff members see the need as temperatures drop and our doorbells ring more often from those in need.
Yet in this grey area, and because of this, we must be active in choosing love. Our world needs it. When you witness those around you choosing to lead a lifestyle inspired by love, it creates ripples and inspires others to do the same. I see this everyday at The Basilica. Love is choosing to live a life of gratitude over anything else. It’s choosing charity over fear, giving of ourselves even when it’s hard, knowing that the fulfillment will make a difference.
I’ve seen this at The Basilica when a staff member shares their own lunch, a book or even some tissues with someone waiting outside as they make their way into the office. It’s the beauty of the human spirit when we see one another rise to the occasion, choosing love helping a stranger in need instead of passing by, or dropping everything to be there when a friend faces a loss. This is a lifestyle of generosity, and choosing active love.
This fall, The Basilica will ask you to participate in our Financial Stewardship campaign. This is an invitation for choosing active love as your gifts ensure that every day, our community will create justice and spread love through Basilica ministries that serve the unemployed, the grieving, the homebound, those dealing with mental illness, and those who simply need a caring, compassionate, listening ear.
We can do so much when everyone takes part. At The Basilica, stewardship pledges provide 81% of our operating budget. Every time we gather for Mass, send volunteers out with meals, gather children for religious education, and support families in times of grief or joy, someone’s gifts have made it possible. And each time these ministries or programs happen, love is spread throughout our community. And this love has ripple effects, and can make a difference as we face the real challenges we see each day.
I hope you will consider a 2017 pledge today, and be a part in this beautiful cycle of choosing love. You can pledge online, fill out a pledge form and mail it in, or bring it to Mass next weekend. You may also contact Stephanie Bielmas for answers to any questions you may have about supporting The Basilica.
Generosity truly is an act of faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
We are excited to announce The Basilica of Saint Mary will be partnering with Lutheran Social Services to sponsor a refugee family. We are proud to be able to respond to the call from Pope Francis for parishes to sponsor refugee families.
It is not only difficult to underestimate the suffering of refugees, but also the struggles in transitioning to life in the U.S. As an attorney, I have had the opportunity to work with refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and have seen how important it is to help families navigate the trials of resettling here.
This year, I worked with a woman (I will call her Maria) who was seeking asylum in the U.S. from Guatemala. As a child, Maria was persecuted at the hands of the Guatemalan government. When she was born in 1981, Guatemala was in the midst of a bloody civil war, and the government had begun to wipe out entire villages of indigenous groups, including Maria’s group, the Q’anjob’al, for fear they were part of a rebel resistance. When Maria was three months old, the Guatemalan military came to her village, and brutally killed her father, five-year-old brother, and burned all their family’s belongings.
After the war, Maria was able to resettle with her mother and sister in Guatemala. She later married and had two children. In 2007, her husband moved to Minnesota to be able to better provide for the family. He soon began sending her money regularly. However, during this time, a gang known as M-18 had become very powerful in Guatemala, with members across Central America, Mexico, and Southern California.
The gang discovered that Maria’s husband was sending her money and began extorting her. The gang eventually became dissatisfied with their cut and began issuing death threats to Maria and her two young children, who were now nine and seven years old. Fearing for her life and the lives of her children, she fled Guatemala with her children to the U.S. in hopes of reuniting with her husband and starting a new life.
After traveling overland for two weeks, they were detained as she crossed the border in San Diego. Fortunately, after several months of court battles, a Minnesota judge granted Maria and her two children asylum. She is now living in Alexandria with her husband and two children.
Obtaining asylum was a monumental relief for Maria, as she was now safe from the M-18 gang, however there were still significant hurdles adjusting to a new life in the U.S. For example, no one in the family speaks English. Maria’s first language is her indigenous dialect and her second is Spanish, so she is now learning a third language from scratch in a foreign country. In addition, Maria’s husband was undocumented while living in the U.S. He will soon have asylum, but we had to apply for it separately and the application has been pending for six months.
Maria was also four months pregnant when she was granted asylum. We had to spend hours working with MNsure, Maria’s and her husband’s employers, and the U.S. government to track down the correct documentation to provide Maria basic health insurance so that she could have her baby (who was born healthy in September).
These are just a handful of the myriad of issues that Maria has faced and will continue to face as she adjusts to life in the United States. But she is also one of the lucky ones. She represents one of the few refugees that got the resources she needed to be resettled. Had she not had these resources, who knows if she would be alive today.
For these reasons, The Basilica is both excited and proud to be able to sponsor a refugee family and help them navigate these same issues and adjust to life in our Twin Cities community.
The Basilica of Saint Mary is on the threshold of making a huge difference in our community. We are on the verge of doing something great. Working together, we have an opportunity to effectively put our faith into action—leaving the world a better place for future generations.
What are we doing? What is so grand and effectual? Beginning in early May, when you throw away garbage at the Basilica, you will have three options: Is it recycling? Is it organics? Is it trash? Your choice to sort waste accurately will help change the culture of The Basilica, and save our world. This simple choice can speak boldly and prophetically to our community.
Is this hyperbole? Well, perhaps. But I suggest that this very simple gesture, multiplied over and over every day, can indeed change our world. This focused attention to the waste stream we create, individually and collectively as a parish community, can make a significant difference in our world.
We can too easily minimize the impact of small, individual efforts in a big world. Yet, we are invited to consider the impact of our collective actions, working together as the Body of Christ, advocating and acting on behalf of the most vulnerable. All it takes is a desire to engage—a willingness to care and act.
Currently, The Basilica sends at least two-thirds of our waste stream into trash, with less than a third recycled. Over and over we put materials that have value into the trash—adding to landfills or incinerator use. Hennepin County was considering enlarging the incinerator just north of The Basilica due to over use. A large proportion of what is being burned has value, and they have refocused their efforts to increase composting. We can help in this effort. As we all help to sort our waste, we will drastically reduce what The Basilica puts into the landfills and incinerators. The goal for The Basilica is to move to 10% trash.
One big change for The Basilica is to begin to collect organics that can be easily composted into rich soil. Did you know that 40% of the waste stream created by each of us every day is organics? Food waste, non-recyclable paper, flowers and plant waste, and other organic items add up to almost half of our garbage. When organics are placed in a landfill, they create methane gas, which is 70 times worse a greenhouse gas than carbon-dioxide. If we divert even 15% of the organics from our landfills, we would realize a reduction of methane gas equal to taking over 23,500 cars off the road. We can make a huge difference. All it takes is a choice: place all organics into the correct waste bin.
Recycling can seem mundane or old-school. Yet, when we choose recycling, we allow our waste to be reconstituted and reused. Some things, like aluminum cans and glass bottles/jars, have no limit on the number of times they can be recycled. They don’t lose their quality when recycled over and over.
Materials like paper do not have an infinite life. The number of times paper can get recycled into new paper is limited. Normal copy paper can go through the recycling process five to seven times. After that, the paper fibers will become too short. Newspaper is already of lower quality. It can be turned into egg cartons.
Our habits are often ingrained in our culture and can easily be dismissed. We are a society that measures our productivity by how much we purchase. We often clear out by throwing away. Our faith calls us to calibrate our lives and actions differently. Our invitation is to take these choices seriously.
The exciting part of this initiative is that it involves each of us. We will have success if we all do our part. Yet, the hard part of this initiative is that success depends on each one of us. Let us, together, find ways to energize our imaginations and engage.
Look for new bins, in sets of three, all around The Basilica campus. Help us be successful in our work to leave the world in a better place for future generations. To get more involved in this initiative, contact Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dennis at email@example.com.
Preparing for Lent, I find my focus is often on what to give up. But I’ve come to realize the opportunity to give alms to help those in need is an equally important practice of our Catholic faith traditions.
One way to do this at The Basilica is to share your financial gifts with our St. Vincent de Paul Outreach ministries (SVdP). One hundred percent of every dollar you donate goes back to help someone in need. During Lent, please take a coin bank, fill it, and bring it back on Holy Thursday and, if you can, make a pledge to help those most in need in our city.
Five days a week at The Basilica, more than 70 St. Vincent de Paul Outreach volunteers welcome people from our neighborhood. They carry out this ministry by visiting with people and listening to their concerns and needs. We offer help in many ways, and when we can’t assist financially, these volunteers offer a listening ear, a warm welcome, and help connecting people to community resources.
Laura Schommer, A long time SVdP volunteer, helps with our Saturday Shoe Ministry and weekly Outreach. Laura has volunteered for the past 20 years and I asked her about her involvement over the years.
“It could be any one of us” Laura said of the people she meets each week. “Just a few things go wrong, and any of us could find ourselves needing help and support. I’m honored and humbled to be able to meet with people and hear their stories. It’s gratifying.”
Laura shared the story of a young pregnant woman who came to The Basilica many winters ago. She didn’t have a winter coat. Laura had just brought a red wool coat to church that had belonged to her mother, and she gave it to the young woman. All these years later, Laura still remembers this encounter.
The work of our SVdP volunteers brings to mind a quote from Saint Teresa of Avila. “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours…” She challenged us to live our faith and reminded us that it’s our job to do Christ’s work on earth.
Your financial gifts truly make a difference in people’s lives, and your contributions go directly out to help people in need. Last year alone, your donations to SVdP and our Outreach ministries:
· Helped 352 families keep their housing and prevented them from homelessness.
· Provided bus cards or gas vouchers to more than 4,000 people that helped them get to work, school, or appointments.
· Offered a meal and practical and spiritual support to 900 participants in our Pathways life-skills programs.
Sharing our financial support and coming together, our parish gave more than $600,000 last year to help people in need in our city. In past years, we’ve also supported affordable housing in North Minneapolis, and it’s exciting to report that, as a result of a partnership, the West Broadway Crescent Apartments are now open and filling up with new residents.
This Lent, we ask you to consider an intentional, pledged commitment to support our outreach ministries. Watch for a letter with more information, and the weekend of March 21 and 22 bring your completed pledge form for our St. Vincent de Paul Outreach ministries to church.
Our St. Vincent de Paul Outreach ministry is our faith in action.
Kao Kalia Yang, a Hmong American writer, joined the Fair Trade Market at The Basilica of Saint Mary on Sunday, December 7, 2014. Her interest in attending this annual event centered around helping people understand her father's song poetry. She has a new book, The Song Poet, being released in January 2015 by Metropolitan Books. Kalia expressed a deep understanding of her Hmong culture and continued journey. The interview helped me understand her feeling of love, growth and spiritual connection to Hmong traditions.
Many refugees search for a place to call home. In Yang’s first book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, she explores her personal journey to America. Her book is not just a refugee story. According to the author, her books are an exploration of “what is ever weighing on my heart.” She captures the human experience for each generation in her family. Primarily her first book is a tribute to her grandmother’s remarkable spiritual strength that kept them all together during the years from war-torn Laos to Ban Vinai, a Thai refugee camp, and finally to Minnesota.
Kao Kalia Yang has a sincere dedication to her family’s story. In her new book, The Song Poet, she tells the story of her father's struggle to find beauty in the war torn jungles of Loas and refugee camps of Thailand. The author noted that the poetry of her father, Npis Yai-Bee Yang, “carries Hmong words through a hard life, and distills from the sorrows, strength of heart, and appreciation of beauty.” Her father’s song poetry CD was made possible by a Minnesota Arts grant. His songs started developing years ago as he went from neighbor to neighbor in Laos to learn hope. Her father felt that one day all the words in his heart escaped and songs were born.
In one of his poetry songs, Npis Yai-Bee Yang concluded, “In our life time we have loved well and deep, let our love flourish far beyond us. Let us love into time. Let us love with no end, no goodbyes. The universal beauty of life is filled with a spiritual understanding that youth passes and wisdom enters.”
In addition to her books and promotion of her father’s song poetry, Yang created a lyric documentary. The Place Where We Were Born, uses photos from a physician who served in her refugee camp where she was born. The photos became very important to Yang because her birth place no longer exists. When she was six years old, Yang’s family immigrated to America. She is proud of her personal development, family, and Hmong culture. Her name, Kao Kalia, was a gift from her beloved grandmother and means “the girl with dimples.” Learning about Yang’s dreams, wisdom and traditions helps to build a sensitivity to the Hmong refugee experience.
During the months of December and January, The Basilica of Saint Mary focuses on global stewardship and the journey of refugees.
Linda Goldetsky has been an active parishioner since 2002. She co-chaired the Fair Trade Market, and has served on the Global Stewardship Team since 2009. She has also participated in JustFaith, our Mental Health Awareness ministry and been a Basilica Block Party volunteer.
My immediate response to this question is to name the people that live next door to me. But in scripture, Luke challenges us to look beyond the obvious in the parable of the Good Samaritan, and we are repeatedly called to love our neighbor as ourselves.
During December and January, we invite you to explore Global Stewardship and learn about the challenges faced by our neighbors who are refugees. Historically, Minnesota has been a place of welcome and safe haven and today, Minnesota is home to over 70,000 refugees.
Our neighbors now include the largest population of Somalis and some of the largest Liberian communities outside of that country. Sudanese, Hmong, Ethiopians, Cambodians, Bosnians, and people from the former Soviet Union now call Minnesota home. They are being joined by refugees from Burma, Bhutan, and Iraq.
You can hear some of their stories first hand by watching the short film, “Refugee’s Journey to Minnesota” here. Parishioner Dan Baluff embarked on his own journey to film interviews with refugees relocated to Minnesota. Through Dan’s work, you will be introduced to Mariam, Salim, Tha, Hakeem, Abdi, Ogang and others, all refugees who now call Minnesota home.[asset-672-0]
Their stories compel us to consider how blessed we are and their journeys share many consistent themes. Can you imagine having to flee for your life on foot with only the possessions you could carry? Flight from civil war and violence. Homes being burned to the ground. Separation of children from their parents, of husband from wife. Not knowing where beloved family members are, or even if they are still alive. Years of hard life in refugee camps, where finding food and fear of violence were daily concerns. Children born and growing up in the camps. Some compared these years in refugee camps to being in jail, with no work, no school, and constant uncertainty about the future.
As these new Minnesotans work to rebuild their lives and make new homes, courage, strength, determination and resilience are clearly in evidence. Like us, they are looking for opportunities and a little help along the way. Help learning English, how to ride the bus or find educational opportunities for their children and themselves, are some of the simple ways we can help make a difference as new refugees make their way in our community.
As we gather with our families to celebrate Christmas, take a moment to consider how we are called to welcome refugees. Are we ready to open our minds and hearts to the strangers in our midst? Are we afraid, or are we ready to help our new neighbors whose hopes and dreams much like our own, revolve around family, safety, education, and finding good jobs?