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At their annual meeting this past November, the Bishops of the United States approved a document on the Eucharist entitled: “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.” As part of their follow-up efforts, it was reported that the bishops have begun planning for a Eucharistic Congress in 2024. The goal of this effort is to rekindle an understanding of and devotion to the Eucharist. The bishops plan to set up a nonprofit organization to handle logistics and raise $28 million over the next two years to cover the costs of the event and all the work leading up to it.
Part of me is very excited about this idea. The Eucharist is at the heart of my faith. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist. Not present just in memory, not present just symbolically, and not present just spiritually, but really and truly present. How this can be we don’t know. That it can be is our abiding belief. It is an act of faith. And faith, as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, is “Confident assurance of what we hope for; conviction about things we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) In the Eucharist we receive the body of Christ so we might be and bring the Body of Christ to the world.
Unfortunately, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found most self-described Catholics don’t believe this core teaching on the Eucharist. In fact, just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that “during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.” This is very concerning. At a minimum it suggests we have our work cut out for us if we are to help people understand the beauty, the wonder, and the miracle of the Eucharist.
Now I have to admit candidly that a part of me questions whether one of the reasons for the lack of belief in our teaching in regard to the Eucharist is a lack of trust in those who proclaim and teach about the Eucharist. While I don’t think that a straight line can be drawn from the lack of belief in the Eucharist to a mistrust of priests and Bishops, I do think it is harder to believe the message, if you don’t trust the messenger.
Especially since the sexual abuse crisis, I think people have found it difficult to trust priests and Bishops in our church. Sexually abusive priests were routinely transferred from parish to parish at least until the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People which was initiated in 2002. Since then, while this practice has stopped, and while there has been a general acknowledgement of a failure on the part of church leadership, this came slowly and grudgingly. Also, and more importantly, personal apologies on the part of priests and Bishops have been nonexistent for the most part. I think this has led to a lack of trust in priests and Bishops, and in many instances a lack of trust in what they teach and proclaim. I don’t think this credibility problem is going away on its own.
Given the above, while I think we have much good and important work to do in helping people understand our teaching and belief in regard to the Eucharist, I believe that rather than a Eucharistic Congress, a better starting point might be an “apology” tour. By this I mean that dioceses across the United States should shut down their usual activities for 6 to 12 months, and priests and Bishops should visit every church, chapel and mission in their diocese and listen to people’s pain and sadness in regard to the way our church has handled the sexual abuse crisis. We should listen until we weep and our hearts break. Then we should apologize over and over again until people are ready to believe and accept our apologies. Perhaps if and when people start to trust us again and they see the love of Jesus in our words and actions, they might more readily believe that Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist.
Join us this Lenten season
Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these challenging times.
As I have mentioned previously, I will be retiring from The Basilica at the end of June, and on July 1 will become pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. While I will be very sad to leave The Basilica, I am very excited and very grateful that Fr. Dan Griffith will be following me as Pastor. Dan is a good person, a good priest, and a good pastor.
He has already met with some of the staff as well as our parish trustees and will continue to meet with staff and attend meetings as he is able in the weeks ahead. The Basilica is blessed that Fr. Griffith will be the next pastor.
Today I would also like to invite you to join us in person or via livestream for Mass, Stations of the Cross, and Vespers during this season of Lent. Our schedule of services is available on our website. We also invite you to participate in a small faith sharing or bible study group during the season of Lent. You can learn more about these groups on our parish website.
As I have mentioned before, we have taken several steps to promote the safety and wellbeing of those who will be attending any services or activities at The Basilica. While the city of Minneapolis has discontinued its facemask requirement, we still encourage those who will be coming to The Basilica to wear a face mask. We will do this until the CDC changes its guidelines. Wearing a mask is a concrete way to show your care and concern for your fellow Christians.
Today I also want to thank those of you who continue to support The Basilica financially. Please know your financial support is greatly appreciated. Your financial support makes it possible for to continue to offer the many ministries, services and programs that are at the heart of our Basilica community. Certainly, the last couple of years have been very difficult for all of us. Yet, despite the difficulties and the stress, there have also been moments of great grace, as God’s love has broken through and blessed us.
Joining us during the season of Lent and Easter is a wonderful way for us to gather as a people of faith to celebrate and thank God for the many ways God has blessed us in our lives. And, as always, if you are not able, or don’t feel comfortable joining us in-person for any of our liturgies, we invite you join them via livestream. A schedule of our livestreamed liturgies is available on our website.
Finally, I want to let you know of my ongoing prayers for our community. The Basilica is indeed a very special place—made so by our parishioners and staff.
As always, I would like to close today with a prayer.
Dear God –
You have made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son:
Look with compassion on the whole human family;
take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts;
break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love;
and work through our struggles and confusion to accomplish your purposes;
so that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne;
we ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.
News and Resources
I am sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Please accept my apology. Please forgive me.
I don’t know why it is so hard for so many of us to say these words. Perhaps it is our pride, or perhaps we worry that we will look weak, or will be perceived as being vulnerable. Whatever the reason, I’ve noticed that lots of us have trouble saying: I’m sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Please accept my apology. Please forgive me.
Sometimes people offer a pseudo apology, for example, by saying “I’m sorry that happened.” or “If I offended you, I’m sorry.” In reality, though, these are just pretend apologies. They lack sincerity and have no real meaning. A real and genuine apology comes with no strings attached. It is an admission that we have done something wrong or something that hurt someone, and we ask for their forgiveness.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on our seeming inability to apologize. My reflections started when retired Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI issued a statement on February 8 after a report, requested by the Munich Archdiocese, concluded that during his tenure as Archbishop of Munich there were four specific cases in regard to clergy abusers that he could be accused of mishandling. In his statement, while retired Pope Benedict acknowledged past failings of the Catholic Church in confronting clergy sexual abuse under his watch, he stopped short of a direct, personal apology. He did ask for forgiveness for any "grievous faults" in the Church’s handling of clergy sex abuse cases. And he did express his feelings of great shame and sorrow for the abuse of minors and requested forgiveness from all victims of sexual abuse, BUT he did not acknowledge any personal or specific wrongdoing. In other words, he did not say: I am sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Please accept my apology. Please forgive me.
Now, I suspect that his advisors told him that for legal reasons, or more likely because he was the retired Pope, he should not acknowledge any wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness. And yet, at the same time, I think that it would have sent a powerful message to Catholics and to people everywhere, if he had simply said: I am sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Please accept my apology. Please forgive me. These simple words would have sent a clear and unmistakable message that sin and failure are a part of each of our lives, and that we all need to seek forgiveness and healing when we have hurt others by our words and actions (or inactions).
Words are necessary and important, but they are heard best when they are accompanied by the witness of lives. May God grant to all of us—and especially the leaders of our Church—the ability to say more often and more sincerely: I am sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Please accept my apology. Please forgive me.
Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these challenging times.
Today I have some important personal news to share with you. After 15 years, I will be retiring as pastor of The Basilica of Saint Mary at the end of June. On July 1st I will become pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish.
Following me as Pastor and Rector of The Basilica of Saint Mary will be Fr. Dan Griffith, the current pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes. Fr. Griffith is also on the faculty of the University of St. Thomas School of Law and serves as the Wenger Family Faculty Fellow of Law. Additionally, Fr. Griffith is the founding director of the Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing (IRJH).
While I am extremely sad to be leaving The Basilica, I am incredibly excited that Fr. Griffith will be the next pastor of The Basilica. He has a pastor’s heart and has a vision for what a parish can and should be. He is a good man, a good priest, and a good pastor. The Basilica will be blessed to have him as Pastor and Rector.
This change in assignment was at my initiative. I will be 71 years old in June. This past year I came to the realization that I don’t have the energy that is necessary to continue to help move The Basilica forward, most specifically in implementing our Strategic Plan and the Master Plan for our parish.
I believe that Fr. Griffith has this energy and understands and shares the vision of our Basilica community. With the prayers and support of our staff, leadership, and The Basilica community, I believe Fr. Griffith will lead The Basilica into a future full of hope.
I will share more information about this change in the coming weeks. I wanted you to know about it now, though, and I ask your prayers as we move forward as a community of faith.
As always, I would like to close today with a prayer.
Loving God, we give all our cares and concerns to you this day.
I know you will provide us with everything we need and that you know all our needs, before a payer is ever on my lips.
Thank you for your abiding presence and your divine providence in this new beginning. Help us to trust that your grace will be with us as we step into this new beginning.
Help us always to rely on the riches of your love and your grace to provide for all that we need.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
January 22nd marked the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade. Legalized as a private act, abortion remains a very public and divisive issue. I understand that as a celibate male, my concerns and questions in regard to abortion can be easily dismissed by those who advocate abortion. I hope, though, that those who espouse a pro-abortion position would be open to dialoguing about some of the issues surrounding abortion. Below are five for your consideration.
1. In 1973 the Supreme Court ruled a woman’s choice to have an abortion outweighed the states concern for prenatal life-up until the point of viability, which in 1973 was deemed 28 weeks. Since that time, however, there have been significant advances in medical science. Children have been born as young as 21 weeks of pregnancy. I believe we can’t ignore this fact. Why are we using outdated medical information regarding viability? This doesn’t make sense to me, and we need to talk about it.
2. We need to continue to look for ways we can support women and men who are experiencing a problematic pregnancy and/or who are concerned about having the necessary resources to raise a child. As people who are pro-life, it is not enough for us simply to be opposed to abortion. We also need to be concerned about the issues of health care and nutrition for infants. We need to be concerned about paid parental leave, childhood education and food security. And we need to be concerned about safe housing for children and families. We need to talk with those who support the choice of abortion about how we, as individuals and as a society, can protect and enhance life not just in the womb, but after birth as well.
3. Many times when people who are pro-abortion talk about this issue, they use words like “safe” “legal” and “rare.” The use of the word “rare” has always concerned me. It suggests one of two things. Either people are using that word as a cynical concession to those who are opposed to abortion, or deep down they recognize that there is something improper and/or wrong about the procedure. In the case of the former, people who are pro-abortion need to fess up and acknowledge that they use the word “rare” as a verbal contrivance and not in any meaningful way. In the latter case, when they use the word “rare” they must realize that at root there is something wrong with the practice of abortion. In either case, we need to talk about it.
4. Likewise, polls continually indicate that people believe too many abortions are occurring. We need to talk with each other about how we can reduce the number of abortions. A woman should never feel that she must choose between her well-being and her unborn child’s life. We need to provide concrete, specific and practical services and programs to help women and men in problematic pregnancies. While our Church, and particularly our Archdiocese, have done much in this area, imagine how much more could be done if we worked with those who advocate a pro-abortion position. Let’s talk about this.
5. We need to tone down the rhetoric and eliminate the inflammatory language that increasingly has been part of the discussion of the issue of abortion. I think those of us in the pro-life camp need to take the lead in doing this. It is too easy for people to dismiss our position on the basis of our often volatile language. We need to invite people into dialogue, to make our case and demonstrate the moral rightness of our position. In this regard, I believe we are far more apt to convince people than we are to coerce them. Using language that is simple, direct, non-inflammatory, and open to dialogue is a step in this direction.
The above are my suggestions as to how, on the 49th anniversary of Roe v Wade, we might proceed. I believe that if we are ever to come to a resolution in 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.
Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these challenging times.
Today I would like to talk with you about our response to the Omicron variant here at The Basilica. As I hope you know, the city of Minneapolis has again instituted a mask mandate. Given this, we people are once again required to “mask up” at The Basilica and in any of our campus buildings.
We will have masks available at the entrances to The Basilica if you forget to bring one with you. We also have individual sanitizing packets available for those who would like one. And, as always, if you are not able, or don’t feel comfortable joining us in-person for any of our liturgies, we invite you join them via livestream. We livestream our 9:30am Mass on Sunday and our Noon Masses during the week.
Also given that the Omicron variant is so easily transmissible, we have temporarily gone back to virtual learning for our faith formation classes, and we are encouraging our staff to hold meetings via Zoom whenever possible. We are doing all these things in an abundance of caution and a desire to protect the safety and wellbeing of our parishioners.
Now, it goes without saying we had hoped that at this point in the pandemic we would be back to more normal operations at The Basilica, but sadly this is not the case. We will continue to monitor the situation and make decisions that will protect the safety and well-being of all those who come to The Basilica.
I’d like to shift gears now and talk about our Parish Finances. At the half-way point of our fiscal year, The Basilica’s year-to-date revenue is down five percent. While we are tightening our belts wherever we can, we still need your help. I’d like to ask for your financial support our parish and all its programs.
I ask you to consider a gift to the 2022 Basilica Fund, whether you are participating in our community in person or through livestreaming masses and virtual programming. You can give online at mary.org/give.
It would be especially helpful if you could let us know if you will be able to give regularly (weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually). This information allows us to budget more accurately for the year ahead. Also, Electronic recurring gifts through your credit card or checking account mean less paper and lower administrative costs. Thank you in advance for your generosity.
As I have mentioned previously, if you are experiencing financial difficulties, please contact our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. We may be able to help you.
I’d also like to invite you to join us for a presentation by Dr. Liz Lev on Sunday January 30 at 1:30pm in the lower level of The Basilica. Her presentation is entitled, Women Who Rocked Rome: Saints, Sinners Artists and Influencers in the Eternal City. Dr. Lev is a well know and engaging speaker, so this promises to be a great presentation.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns I invite you to contact me at the parish office. My contact information is available on our parish website.
I’d like to close today with a prayer.
Oh God, we are frightened,
Worried for our loved ones,
Worried for our world.
We feel Vulnerable and confused,
And so we turn to You
Seeking comfort, faith and hope.
Teach us God, to turn our anxiety into patience,
And our fear into acts of kindness and support.
Help each one of us to do our part to halt the spread of this virus.
Send strength and courage to the doctors and nurses
In the frontlines of this battle,Fortify them with the full force of their healing powers.
Send wisdom and insight to the scientists
Working day and night across the world to discover healing treatments.
Bless their efforts, God.
Fill our leaders with the wisdom and the courage
To choose wisely and act quickly.
Help us, God, to see that we are one world,
One people, who will rise above this pandemic together.
Send us health God,
Watch over us,
Grace us with Your love,
Bless us with Your healing light.
Hear us God,
News and Resources
At daily Mass a few weeks ago, the Gospel focused on John the Baptist. After reading the gospel, I told the story of a priest in our diocese many years ago who loved to talk. I had only been ordained a year or so when I first experienced this priest. At any and every opportunity he never missed the chance to share his thoughts and ideas concerning just about anything. He liked to think of himself as akin to John the Baptist—a prophetic voice for his time. It didn’t take me very long to realize, though, that he really wasn’t much of a prophet. Rather he was just an irascible man who, I think, enjoyed irritating people. I never learned the backstory of this priest. I suspect, as with all of us, there was a reason for his behavior. I did learn, though, never to sit anywhere near him whenever there was a gathering (large or small) of priests.
I do believe that prophetic voices still exist in our midst. These voices call to us in each of our lives. In helping to distinguish these voices, I’d like to suggest that there are at least three things that are common to these prophetic voices. The first is that their call comes from God. To be a prophetic voice it isn’t enough that an individual has something to say. Rather the impetus to say something comes from outside themselves. It comes from God. And if the prophets from the Old Testament are any indication, most often the person who receives a call to be a prophet is, at least initially, reluctant to respond to that call.
The second thing that is common to prophets is that while their message may irritate or upset people, there is a sense that there is something “right” about what they are saying. For myself, there have been numerous times in my life when I have not much liked what someone has told me, yet in the depth of my heart, I knew what they were saying had a truth for me and that, much as I disliked it, I needed to hear it.
The third thing about prophets is that they call people to see things in a new/different way, or to see a bigger reality. It is very easy for us to get so locked into a particular perspective or view of things/people. Prophets, though, call us to set aside our beliefs and presumptions, and to see things differently. They invite us to reformate our way of thinking/living and see things from a new perspective.
Now I mention the above, because as we begin a new year, I would like to suggest that it would be a good resolution for all of us to try to be open to those prophetic voices that speak and call to us in each of our lives. These are the voices that come to us from God. They call us to go beyond our comfort zones, to see things differently and to make some changes in our lives. And as noted above, we don’t have to like those prophetic voices that God sends into our lives. I do believe, though, that we will be better people if we hear and respond to them.
Last month the Bishops of the United States approved a document on the Eucharist entitled: “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.” The document is divided into two sections: “Christ’s gift of Himself in the Eucharist and our response to that gift.” The debate over the document was not without controversy, particularly around the issue of who is eligible to receive communion. In the end, however, the bishops decided (wisely) not to wade into those waters.
I very much liked the title of the document. In my initial reading of it, I was struck in particular by two sentences: “Having been sanctified by the gift of the Eucharist and filled with faith, hope, and charity, the faithful are called to respond to this gift. Indeed, it is only natural that we give thanks to the Lord for all that He has given to us.” I think the recognition of the Eucharist as a gift is not just significant, but of ultimate importance.
As Catholics, we believe that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist. Not present just in memory, not present just symbolically, and not present just spiritually, but really and truly present. How this can be we don’t know. That it can be is our abiding belief. It is an act of faith. And faith as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews is: “Confident assurance of what we hope for; conviction about things we do not see.” (Hebrews 11.1) In the Eucharist we receive the Body of Christ so that we might be and bring the Body of Christ to the world.
The Eucharist is truly Christ’s gift of Himself to us. And as we all know - or should know - we don’t earn gifts; we don’t merit them. We can only accept them graciously and with gratitude. Perhaps most importantly, though, we should never judge another person’s worthiness to receive a gift. Specifically regarding the Eucharist we need to remember that Christ is the host of the table. We are all guests. At best, priests are just part of the wait staff, and as John Whitney, a Jesuit priest in Seattle, wrote back in June: “The wait staff doesn’t get to exclude those who want to come.”
Now, I want to be clear. I am not suggesting that priests should invite anyone and everyone to receive communion. I am suggesting that priests (and others) should not make judgements about the worthiness of those who present themselves for communion. As a wise priest told me many years ago: “You don’t know what has happened in someone’s life in the past five minutes. It is not up to you to judge someone’s worthiness to receive communion.”
A few weeks ago a friend sent me a copy of an essay from The New York Times written by Michael O’Loughlin, a correspondent for a Catholic news organization and a gay man. Two sentences in the essay were very important for me: “With the U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore this week, following months of debate about the worthiness of some Catholics to receive Communion, I’ve realized that personally, I stay in the church mostly for the Eucharist, that ritual during Mass when I believe the divine transcends our ordinary lives and God is present. I haven’t found that elsewhere.”
While there are many things I disagree with about our Church, the Eucharist holds me bound. I can’t imagine my life without it. I can’t find it anywhere else. And so on the great Feast of Christmas, let us be mindful of the gift of the Eucharist. And let us pray that we might accept this gift with great humility and deep gratitude that Christ has chosen to share Himself with us in this wonderful sacrament.
From the Pastor
With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.
1. Archdiocesan Synod: A few weeks ago I received a report on how the Synod small group process was going at The Basilica. Below is a synopsis of that report.
The Basilica hosted three Synod session opportunities this fall. Each met for six two hour sessions—two on Zoom (Wednesday morning and Thursday evening) and one on campus on Sunday mornings following the 9:30am liturgy. We also had two groups which were ministry specific: a book club and a young adult Bible study. Approximately 35-45 people attended the sessions, down from a registration and early attendance number of about 65. A number of staff attended as well. The age range for the groups was 20s-80s. The sessions followed the Archdiocesan provided path, using prayer, teaching and individual sharing and discussion, followed by participant feedback which was sent to the Archdiocese. As you might expect, reactions to the process were varied. Some people were pleased with the Synod process and content, and others were disappointed. Concerns were expressed that the “listening” promised by the Archdiocese failed to materialize.
The above was in contrast to the Archdiocesan listening sessions in 2019 which were well attended. Those sessions were vibrant and crowded, and surfaced many important issues for our local church. Those attending the Synod small groups felt that what was said at the earlier listening sessions was not included in the Synod’s main themes, and thus not discussed in the small groups. Additionally, there was almost no opportunity to submit original ideas or responses. Many of those who signed up for the Synod small groups did so because of their concerns for our Church. And one of their major concerns was that bishops need to listen to all the people, not just the people they want to hear from.
People from The Basilica who attended the Synod small groups did so because they love our church and they have true and serious concerns for our Archdiocese and the global church. Whether the Synod will deliver on the promise many felt was possible remains to be seen. I am grateful for the efforts of those who participated in the listening sessions, or a Synod small group, as well the overall Synod process.
2. The Basilica Fund: During the months of October and November we ask all parishioners to make a pledge of financial support for our parish. While I am very much aware of the many requests for financial support we all receive, I am hopeful that The Basilica will be near the top of your list in terms of your financial support. It is your ongoing, consistent financial support that makes it possible for us to offer the many programs, services and ministries that are at the heart of our Basilica parish.
The Basilica has been, and will continue to be, a place that welcomes all those who come through our doors, a place that reaches out to those in need, a place that helps us grow in our understanding of and relationship with God, and a place where we recognize and celebrate the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in each other.
I want to thank to all those who have made a commitment of financial support to our parish community during our financial stewardship campaign this fall. Please know your commitment of financial support to our parish community is greatly appreciated.
In regard to our parish finances, as I write this column we are behind in our anticipated income at this point in our fiscal year. Our Finance Committee monitors our income and expenses closely, so if it becomes necessary, we can make the appropriate decisions about balancing our parish budget. I am hopeful that with our collections at Christmas and with year-end giving we will be back on track with our projected income. Thank you to all of those who support our Basilica community financially. Please know of my great gratitude for your ongoing financial support.
3. Staff Changes: On a sad note, a few weeks ago we said 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, I am pleased to report that Ramónd Mitchell has accepted the position of Coordinator of Liturgical Celebrations. Ramónd is a native of the Bahamas. He studied at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. While there he interned at The Basilica during his two last summers. He spent a year studying and working in Rome. Currently he is Director of Liturgy at a church in London. Ramónd loves the liturgy, and he has a great passion for working with volunteer ministers.
4. Maintenance at The Basilica: This summer and fall we have been busy with a variety of maintenance projects at The Basilica. Some of the smaller projects have included adding more needlepoint bipolar ionization units in the Church, The Basilica School and in other rooms on our campus. These units clean and sanitize the air of Covid-19 allergens and other molds and allergens. We have also installed a permanent desk in The Basilica for our livestreaming equipment. Additionally, we are adding more exterior security cameras with upgraded technology. We have also added livestream capabilities to our chapel and have made some tech upgrades in some of our other meeting rooms. Going forward, we want to offer high quality virtual and hybrid ministry experiences. These upgrades are 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.
In addition to these smaller maintenance projects, we also have two significant projects. The first is re-grading and installing drain tiles around the exterior of our school building. We have had water infiltration issues for years in the lower level of our school building. By changing the grade and adding drain tiles, 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 should be completed by the time you read this.
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 will ensure that The Basilica will remain a beacon of hope on the Minneapolis skyline for many years to come.
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 in the 1970s. 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. We are grateful that these projects will be funded by The Basilica Landmark.
5. EDI: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: As I mentioned in a previous bulletin, 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 continues to invite people to engage with the EDI Position statement and 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.
6. Revisit, Renew, Reconnect and Revision: As I mentioned in an earlier bulletin, 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 revision 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.
In regard to the above, I am happy to report that after many months of doing ministry virtually, at the beginning of November our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry resumed in-person ministry on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. While our rental assistance program will remain virtual on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, we will help people with bus cards for new jobs, gas cards, I.D. vouchers, and clothing and household items vouchers. I am excited that we are able to resume this ministry and I am hopeful that it will be a blessing both for those it serves and for the volunteers.
We have also resumed hospitality after the 9:30 and 11:30am masses on Sunday. While we won’t be serving doughnuts just yet, we will serve coffee and lemonade. We hope this will once again offer people the opportunity to visit with their “church buddies” in a safe environment.
Our Learning Ministry is also back with our youth religious education and sacramental preparation programs, and our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Our Liturgical Ministers and Choirs are back and continue to grow. Also returning this year will be our Children’s Advent Musical: Light of the World on Sunday, December 19. Check our website for details. Finally, Taize prayer, with the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, will be celebrated in the lower level of The Basilica on Tuesday, December 14.
While we have a ways to go yet in regard to getting all of our ministries back to full strength, I am pleased with the progress we have made thus far. While there are many aspects of our “new” normal that will be familiar, it is not clear what our “new” normal ultimately will be. 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.
As pastor of The Basilica, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider in what way you can volunteer to help our Basilica community as we emerge from the pandemic into a future full of hope.
7. Special Collections: While no one is fond of special collections, it is heartening for me to report that the people of The Basilica have been very generous to the last few special collections here at The Basilica.
- On the weekend of June 12 and 13, $830 was contributed to help defray the cost of air conditioning The Basilica during the hot summer months.
- On the weekend of July 31 and August 1, $9,227 was contributed to help fund our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry.
- On the weekend of August 28 and 29, $4,623 was contributed to help fund earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.
The contributions to these collections testify to the generosity of the people of The Basilica. Please know of my gratitude for your generous response to these collections.
8. An Invitation To Come Home for Christmas: It goes without saying that the pandemic has had an impact on all of our lives and on almost every aspect of our lives. We have had to forgo favorite activities and/or learn to do them in new ways. This has been particularly true in regard to church and worship. During the height of the pandemic when The Basilica was empty for our masses, I missed babies crying in church. (I always tell people that if you never hear a baby crying in church, your congregation is probably dying.) I missed being able to check-in with people to see how they were doing. I missed gathering with people to sing God’s praises, and to be and bring the peace of Christ to each other. Most importantly though, I missed celebrating and sharing the Eucharist with people like me—sinful and weak and in need of God’s grace.
In the past few months while we have seen more and more people returning to worship, we are still not at pre-pandemic attendance levels. There are, no doubt, many reasons for this. As my mother used to say though, sometimes people just need a personal invitation to do something. So for anyone who needs a personal invitation, please know that I extend that to you. Come home—come to The Basilica for Christmas. Come and celebrate the birth of our savior with your fellow parishioners. We miss you and want you to be part of our community again.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary
Bulletin December 2021/January 2022
One of my favorite movies is a 1983 film entitled Tender Mercies. The movie stars Robert Duvall as Mac Sledge, an alcoholic country music singer/songwriter who, after going on a bender, finds himself in a small town in rural Texas. There he slowly turns his life around as he develops a relationship with a young widow and her son.
I like the movie for several reasons. One reason in particular, though, is that it reminds me that sometimes “redemption” is a process. Now, let me be absolutely clear about this. We believe that Jesus, suffered died and rose again to redeem us, once for all. Our redemption has already been accomplished. It is certain and sure. There is absolutely no question about that. Sometimes, though, it takes us a while to realize and accept the redemption that has been won for us, and that is freely offered to us.
In the film Mac does not change his ways immediately. It takes him a while to accept that he has been saved. His understanding is a gradual process and takes place over a period of time, as he fluctuates back and forth between his old life and drinking days, and the new life he was beginning to live. It takes him a while to let his new way of living become his new life.
And so I think it is with us sometimes.
Sometimes we find it difficult to accept truths that are simple, real and at the same time, profound. For many people I suspect the redemption Jesus won for us is one of those truths. We are so used to making our own way—to working hard to earn or merit the things we have accomplished. It is hard for us to realize that there are some things we can’t earn, we don’t merit, and we can’t work to accomplish. Very specifically I believe our redemption is one of those things we don’t earn, merit or work to accomplish. Our redemption by Jesus Christ is a freely offered gift. And as we all know, we don’t earn gifts, we simply accept them.
For us, as humans, understanding that our redemption is a gift and then accepting that gift, is often a process. We don’t have to worry, though; it is not a process for God. Christ has redeemed once for all. Sometimes it just takes a while for that message to get through to us.