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Just Living Blog
Every time I hear the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, I wonder about the rich man allowing Lazarus to lay at his door—tolerating his presence. He did not order Lazarus to be removed, and perhaps was not intentionally cruel to him. As he allowed Lazarus to lay and eat anything that fell his way, did he feel somehow generous in his tolerance?
This Gospel parable challenges us: the sin of the rich man was accepting the condition of Lazarus—assuming it perfectly natural and inevitable that Lazarus could lay in pain and hunger while he enjoyed luxury. Indeed, the sin of the rich man was that he could look on his brother’s suffering and need and be content to tolerate it—having it incidental and irrelevant to the rich man’s life.
As I come into The Basilica Rectory weekday mornings, I see a man who sleeps outside on the steps that lead from the Rectory driveway to the west school parking lot. Sometimes he sleeps in the driveway. Sometimes on the curb of 17th street, leaning on the highway wall. Most days, he is here—literally lying at our door. One day, as I was walking back into the office after lunch, he called me and asked if I was going to eat the food I was carrying. He was asking for the scraps of my food.
Scripture is not always so poignantly real—but do we see the “Lazarus” in our lives? In many manifestations, he is there every day. And every day we have a choice of how we respond to his presence—both individually and collectively. If we look, there are opportunities and challenges in this call to radical and bold compassionate action. It is so easy for us to think we are doing something kind—even as we fall so short.
The Basilica community has always been committed to responding to the needs of the most vulnerable among us. In formal and informal ways, we reach out to see our brother and sister suffering or in need, accompany them through their journey, serve them, and defend them.
For the man lying at our Basilica door—we have gotten to know him by name. Sought to find services through partner non-profits to support him. Provided food and drink, respectfully. Welcomed him, even as he experiences mental health struggles. We hope he knows he is not alone. Yet, it doesn’t feel enough.
Our faith calls us to deep and real solidarity with one another. We are called to care for our brothers and sisters, whoever they are and wherever they live. Regardless of national, racial, ethnic, economic, or ideological differences, we are one human family. We are called to embrace the reality of being interconnected—and to seek to embody this without resentment, indifference, domination, or exploitation.
This Gospel is a wake-up call to see the needs of our brothers and sisters and engage in bold compassionate action. Let us help one another to see and respond to the suffering and pain around us. What else would we expect of a Catholic community?
Expressing concern for displaced families worldwide seven years ago, Pope Francis challenged to every Catholic parish to sponsor a refugee family.
After research and conversation, Basilica leaders said “Yes” and launched the Immigrant Support Ministry as part of our St. Vincent de Paul Outreach, working with asylum seekers (a six to nine month plus process), and with refugee families. Our partner, Lutheran Social Services (LSS), coordinates with arriving refugee families.
The Basilica provides $8,000 - $10,000 per family for basic expenses, and intergenerational Circle of Welcome teams of three to five volunteers. They accompany a refugee family for six or more months to help overcome barriers like language, weather, getting proper identification, and finances.
In 2015, Donna Krisch volunteered with the first refugee family from Somalia and is still involved. After her husband Rich traveled to the Mexican border and saw firsthand people fleeing violence and seeking safety in the US, he joined Donna on the Welcome team. Team members bring different gifts to the work. As retirees, Donna and Rich are available daytimes to help, while the children often gravitate to the team’s young adults.
Rich shared, “Even the Holy Family fled Egypt as refugees for their own safety. Jesus was radically welcoming and as Christians, we are asked to welcome the stranger. The Immigration Support Ministry is a tangible way to offer this welcome right here in our own community.”
Fun is part of the program. After learning their Afghan family loves kit flying, they visited the winter kite festival on Lake Harriet. Temps were below zero, and their father commented “the children now know what cold is.” Snow pants and kites were soon purchased for the children. Masters at stringing and flying kites, one small child loved it so much he flew his kite out his bedroom window.
The ministry is a two-way street. Treated as family, volunteers were welcomed with green tea, dates and nuts. Another time, the family cooked a traditional Afghan dinner for the volunteers at Theodore Wirth Park. They noticed the father had quietly gone off to say his midday prayers.
Donna and Rich’s grandparents were immigrants, and this work is personal. Donna shared, “I gain much more than I give. Sometimes it’s complicated and can be uncomfortable, but we have always worked through things. We are so much more alike than different. Their values are our values. They care about family and faith just like we do. These experiences have broadened our horizons. This has been a fun, fulfilling year. We are blessed.”
Team member Rachel Ziegler has worked with families from Iraq and Afghanistan for five years. A teacher, Rachel had seen students in her classroom new to the US and wanted to learn more about their challenges. Impressed by their strong family values and ability to adapt, Rachel finds joy in connecting on a personal level and as Acts of Mercy. She stressed people can help as advocates in the public arena, and more Circle of Welcome mentors are needed to accompany Afghan families with crucial wrap-around services.
Since 2015, Basilica volunteers have accompanied 15 refugee families from eight countries and asylees from eight countries, but there much more to do. To learn more, contact Janice Andersen.
Five years ago, The Basilica started an Immigration Support Ministry and entered a strategic partnership with Lutheran Social Services (LSS) to co-sponsor refugee families and they’ve helped 22 families settle in new homes in their new country.
Volunteer Dorene Wernke has been part of the Immigration Support Ministry since its inception. Dorene and her husband had lived overseas and experienced first-hand what it is like to acclimate to a new culture and new ways of doing things. Thinking back, she remembers fondly the people who welcomed her during this experience. Dorene wanted to provide that same warm welcome to people who come as refugees to our country. She finds her volunteer experience gives her a greater perspective on other cultures. She has stayed with this ministry because it is interesting and rewarding.
About six months ago, Dorene stepped in as Volunteer Coordinator of The Basilica’s Circle of Welcome for refugees, an important part of The Basilica’s Immigration Support Ministry. Circle of Welcome volunteers work with refugee families for 6 to 12 months or longer if needed. The process starts with an initial meeting with the family along with the LSS case manager.
Volunteers help the family get acquainted with their new community and provide a variety of tangible support. They might help the family find a grocery store with the types of food they enjoy and help them get there. Volunteers help families find doctors and dentists and assist with setting up appointments. They help families as their children settle into new school situations and provide follow-up in any way needed. An important role is to help families make their new living situation feel like home by finding furniture and household goods.
Circle of Welcome Ministry has been well received by Basilica volunteers and we are grateful for the important work they are doing. While Welcome Teams are filled right now, there are many ways you can help.
Families are large and finding suitable housing is challenging. If you have housing available that would work for a large family, learn more on our website at mary.org/refugeesponsorship. You will find a Housing Form and specific criteria there.
At this moment, many families need to set up new homes and this is happening all at once. Sometimes it takes families months to get needed furniture and household goods. Two other non-profit partners of The Basilica welcome your donations.
Donate furniture to Bridging bridging.org or the Minneapolis St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store at svdpmpls.org/storedonations_2.html.
Donate household goods like trash cans, wastebaskets, silverware drawer organizers, everything any family needs to set up their new home to the St. Vincent de Paul Store. The Store is located at 2939 12th Ave. S. in Minneapolis, MN 55407. You can call the Store at 612.722.7882 and hours are Monday to Friday from 10:30am to 5:30pm, and Saturdays from 10:30am - 4:00pm.
Please hold these refugee families in your thoughts and prayers as they build new lives for themselves in our community and take the time to learn more about The Basilica’s Immigration Support Ministry.
Core to The Basilica’s vision is a commitment “to seek the well-being of the city” around us. If we’ve learned anything in the midst of a global pandemic, we have learned how interconnected and interrelated we are to our sisters and brothers worldwide. In this sense, seeking the well-being of our city isn’t defined by local or national boundaries. We must seek the well-being of all of God’s children in order to find our own.
In 1970, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis began a mission in the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela. Over the past four decades, many priests from the archdiocese have served in various parishes and capacities in the Venezuela Church. Since 1983, priests from our Archdiocese have been pastoring the parish of Jesucristo Resucitado in San Felix. The mutual interchange of peoples, cultures, gifts and faith between the parish of Jesucristo Resucitado and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is the goal of the Venezuela Mission Partnership.
This weekend, The Basilica will have a second collection at all Masses to support the Venezuela Mission Partnership. An estimated 65,000 people live in the 11 distinct barrios (neighborhoods) of the Jesucristo Resucitado parish, and this diocese suffers from 70% unemployment with lack of healthcare and basic nutrition.
Here are some of the ways our archdiocesan efforts and donations minister to the physical and spiritual needs of our sisters and brothers in Venezuela:
- Every weekend there are seven Masses celebrated in the parish – two Masses in the church and five in the barrio chapels. Building more barrio chapels would allow us to provide Masses for the people in their own neighborhoods.
- The Jesucristo Resucitado parish center has space to address medical needs of our people with a medical clinic, dentist office, and medical laboratory.
- The parish center also provides space for a computer center, youth room, and classrooms. A variety of classes teach catechesis and the basic skills to start their own businesses, including classes on baking, cake decorating, cutting hair, basic accounting, basic computer skills, and pharmacist assistant among others.
- Additionally, the daycare center is under remodel to serve as a study center with access to the internet for the youth in the barrio of Campo Rojo.
- The soup kitchen prepares 150 lunches Monday through Friday for mostly children and elderly. Around 70 people eat at the soup kitchen and the rest of the food is delivered to people’s homes.
- The parish collaborates with a neighboring Salesian parish to run a home for abandoned and homeless boys. This home located in the parish, is currently home for 12 boys ages 11 to 18 years old.
Most of us aren’t able to travel around the world as missionaries. But we can all answer the call to be missionary disciples by supporting those who so desperately need our assistance, prayerfully accompanying them and helping them reach their fullest potential.
Thank you in advance for your support of our mission collection, in addition to your generosity to The Basilica’s regular collection.
Donations can also be sent to:
Archdiocesan Center for Mission
Attn: Venezuelan Mission
777 Forest St.
St. Paul, MN 55106-3857
Or you are invited to donate online at archspm.org/venezuela/donate.
For the past 55 years, the Roman Catholic Church has highlighted the fundamental, yet weighty, call to peace by celebrating World Day of Peace. Each year, on January 1st, our Pope issues a World Day of Peace message inviting Catholics throughout the world to stop, to pray, to learn about and to act for peace.
The Peace we are invited to embrace, on this World Day of Peace, goes way beyond an experience of inner tranquility. It includes a willingness to enter into the contradictions and tension of injustice, falsehood, and brokenness in our lives, our community and our world. We are called to see, to understand, and to act in a way that ensures abundance, prosperity, and well-being for all.
This is the biblical notion of shalom: abundance, prosperity, and well-being. Pope Francis states, “when in Hebrew we wish shalom, we wish for a beautiful, full, prosperous life, but also according to truth and justice.” Pope Francis encourages, “at that moment there seems to be no peace, but it is the Lord who puts us on this path to reach the peace that He himself will give us."
The message of World Day of Peace varies from year to year. However, the theme is always fixated on creating a culture of radical care in our relationships. The exact focus each year changes to meet the needs and rising issues of that particular year
On January 1, 2022 Pope Francis calls us to stop, pray, learn about and act for peace by reflecting on his World Day of Peace Message entitled Education, Work and Dialogue Between Generations: Tools For Building Lasting Peace.
In 2022, Pope Francis invites us to consider three challenges:
1. We are invited "to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith, so that the direction of this change awakens new and old questions with which it is right and necessary to be confronted." In other words, we are called to hear the challenging facts, speak the hard truths, move toward the demanding actions. Denial is not an option for us.
2. Pope Francis seeks to answer questions about education and how it contributes to lasting peace. He addresses how work can "respond more or less to the vital needs of human beings on justice and freedom."
3. This Message also looks at the extent to which generations are in solidarity with each other and whether governments "succeed in setting a horizon of peace."
Rooting ourselves in the saving and reconciling love of God, we are invited to ask ourselves these questions:
· Does work in the world respond to the vital need of humans for justice and freedom?
· Are the generations truly seeking solidarity with each other?
· Do all generations believe in the goodness of the future?
· Do governments succeed in setting a horizon of peace through education and work?
In 2022, let us seek answers to these questions through prayer and take action: action big and small, personal and corporate. Let us trust God and work together to find the power of peace in our lives and world.
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
It is poignant that in the middle of a deeply divided election season, amid a world-wide pandemic, and against the backdrop of nation-wide civil unrest fueled by racial inequity and oppressions, The Catholic Church celebrates The 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
On September 27, 2020, we are invited to stop and reflect deeply on the state of our lives and our community. Pope Francis offers a message: Like Jesus Christ, who was forced to flee, we are called to Welcome, Protect, Promote, and Integrate all those who are forced from their home.
On January 2020, Pope Francis pointed to the tragedy of internally displaced people as one of the greatest challenges of our contemporary world: “Situations of conflict and humanitarian emergencies, aggravated by climate change, are increasing the numbers of displaced persons and affecting people already living in a state of dire poverty. Many of the countries experiencing these situations lack adequate structures for meeting the needs of the displaced” (January 9, 2020).
Today, in 2020, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees aims to inspire and encourage the people of God to embrace works of charity and justice in the area of immigrant resettlement and care. Pope Francis acknowledges that this humanitarian emergency, affecting millions of lives, has been “relegated to the bottom of national political agendas… But this is not a time for forgetfulness. The crisis we are facing should not make us forget the many other crises that bring suffering to so many people.”
Pope Francis calls us to respond to this pastoral challenge with the four verbs offered in the Message for this Day in 2018: we are called to welcome the migrant, protect them, promote their needs, and integrate them into our community. What a radical call this day!
In 2020, Pope Francis adds another six pairs of verbs that deal with very practical actions and are linked together in a relationship of cause and effect. He challenges us to go deeper, living out our faith.
Pope Francis urges:
You have to know in order to understand.
It is necessary to be close in order to serve.
In order to be reconciled, we need to listen.
In order to grow, it is necessary to share.
We need to be involved in order to promote.
It is necessary to cooperate in order to build.
Pope Francis states, “Displaced people offer us this opportunity to meet the Lord, ‘even though our eyes find it hard to recognize him: his clothing in tatters, his feet dirty, his face disfigured, his body wounded, his tongue unable to speak our language’” (Homily, February 15, 2019).
Let us see our God in our brothers and sisters most in need. Let us act, give, love, and vote in ways that respond to this challenge of love, understanding and compassionate engagement.
Pope Francis gives us clear and concise direction on how to live a faith filled life. Now is the acceptable time!
Core to the mission of The Basilica of Saint Mary is our parish commitment to respond to the needs of the vulnerable in our community. Our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry (SVDP) is a cornerstone of this response. In a two-fold approach, we seek to provide compassionate and effective assistance to those in need and to provide a way for parishioners to engage in service. At the heart of this work is a priority to build relationships and an absolute belief in the dignity of all.
During these days of COVID-19 illness and unemployment, and unrest after the death of George Floyd, work of our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry is more important than ever. Yet, our work is more challenged than ever. The rhythms of daily life and the infrastructure of our community have shifted or disappeared. This is felt most urgently by those who are vulnerable. Our response requires new thinking and imagination—and steadfast commitment.
The work of Basilica St. Vincent de Paul provides a broad spectrum of care. It supports people who live in homeless encampments across the street from The Basilica. It supports people who are recent immigrants to Minnesota—working to establish their lives in our community. It supports parishioner families who lost their job during Stay-At-Home orders, and families in North Minneapolis who are struggling. Indeed, the need is great.
As we weave our way through the impact of COVID-19, SVdP provides basic care by ensuring our neighbors who are homeless have a bathroom available. While The Basilica is closed, we installed 2 portable toilets on 17th street for people to use. Using technology and creativity, Basilica SVdP volunteers continued in long-term relationships with students at Minneapolis College who experience homelessness or generational poverty. These students are persevering against great odds to make a change in their life. In May 2020, one student shared the impact of this mentoring relationship: “I am very grateful for having the mentoring program. It has been a rough year for me and my mentor helped me through it. This program is great for people who struggle like me.”
Our daily St. Vincent de Paul programs held in the Lower Level of the Church—programs that serve thousands of neighbors each year—have been suspended, due to COVID restrictions. However, through ingenuity, perseverance and compassion, we are finding ways for volunteers to connect with and assist people in the community with rent assistance through phone and email contact. We are working to bring back more services to the community utilizing technology—ways to provide assistance effectively, but not in-person.
Our immigrant support teams partner with families seeking asylum through a variety of on-line methods. The volunteers who provide meals to the hungry in our community continue with special safety protocols.
These are among many changes we are working through with our volunteers and our community partners. Our commitment to respond to those most in need has never been stronger.
Look for a special collection to donate to Basilica St. Vincent de Paul in upcoming weeks. Consider supporting this important work. One hundred percent of your donation goes directly to people in need. To find ways to get involved, call my office at 612.317.3477.