Janice Andersen

Director of Christian Life
Christian Life

Janice Andersen has been on staff at The Basilica of Saint Mary since 1994, working with programs that serve our community and advocate for justice.  She currently serves as the Director of Christian Life, overseeing ministries that provide charity and care, justice formation, and volunteer ministry. She began her work as the Director of Social Ministry, working with Basilica St. Vincent de Paul to collaboratively build programs that offer relationship and service to those in need, and advocate for justice.  Janice serves on the Boards of City House and From Death To Life. She holds Masters Degrees in special education and theology, and is a certified Spiritual Director. 

(612) 317-3477

Recent Posts by Janice Andersen

Four year ago, Align Mpls (formerly Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness) facilitated the development of Street Voices of Change (SVoC)—a supportive and self-empowering advocacy community for persons experiencing homelessness. SVoC grew to hold sessions in four congregations, including The Basilica on Tuesday mornings (pre-COVID). Their agenda includes supporting one another and raising issues that might end their homelessness or save lives. Within 2 years they responded to harsh and unjust stories of living in the Minneapolis homeless shelter system by developing a Shelter Resident’s Bill of Rights (SRBOR). 
 
The SRBOR states that people in shelters should have a safe and dignified experience while staying at shelters. The rights they claim are simple: They assert every shelter resident has the right to be treated with respect and dignity. Shelters should have adequate space, be clean and safe. Case management should work to help exit shelter. Staff should be trained, compassionate, and create a safe welcoming environment. Shelters should provide secure property storage.
 
With Align Mpls’s support, Street Voices of Change connected with Hennepin County Commissioners and Shelter Providers. As a result of their advocacy, Hennepin County now requires implementation of the tenets of the SVoC Shelter Resident’s Bill of Rights in county shelters. Cognizant of the need for SRBOR’s implementation and enforcement across the entire state, SVoC has successfully secured the support of Homes for All Coalition, and tenets of the SRBOR are now included in their MN State Legislative Agenda for 2021
 
One of the dreams of creating Street Voices of Change was for our congregations to empower those who experience homelessness to advocate and work to support themselves—with the real possibility of bringing the tens of thousands of people in our combined congregations behind them—in support of them. They, more than anyone else, know what is needed. If they can name it and work toward it, we—as partner congregations—can use our voices to support them. 
 
It is very exciting to see this dream come to fruition, with SVoC’s Shelter Resident’s Bill of Rights. They have done the work. Now it is time for our congregations to support the changes that are possible. 
 
The Ask: 
We ask everyone in The Basilica community to engage in advocacy to move components of the Shelter Residents Bill of Rights through the legislative process. We need your voice to make this happen! 
 
Currently the MN House is moving a bill forward that would create a taskforce over the upcoming year to study state wide possibilities for shelter residents’ rights and shelter provider practices. A report will be generated and funds appropriated. Bill HF900 is gaining momentum. The MN Senate is moving  Bill SF1120
 
Contact your elected officials and offer your support for these bills. To find your elected officials, go to https://www.leg.mn.gov/ Let them know: 
• Everyone deserves a safe and dignified place to rest their head at night.
• 60% of unsheltered folks choose to be outside, on the train, or somewhere unfit for habitation because they do not feel safe in shelters.
• 30% of people in single adult shelters are under 18 or over 55 years old.
• Shelters should be regulated to protect the people they are charged with like every other sector.
 
Together we can support our brothers and sisters who are homeless and create a safe and dignified shelter system. 
 
 

Every New Year, the Pope offers the Catholic Church a message of peace. This year, the 54th World Day of Peace Message strikes a deep chord of resonance for our Church and our world. 
 
We live in a time of tension and division in almost all aspects of civic life. Conflict infiltrates families and faith communities, cities, states and countries. This tension seems to reflect fundamentally different views of the world: We comprehend events differently, as we interpret with different lenses, with different expectations and perspectives. 
 
Pope Francis cuts to the heart of the division and acrimony we feel, hear, see and—even unwittingly—often participate in. He names the reality: While there are many “testimonies of love and solidarity, we have also seen a surge in various forms of nationalism, racism and xenophobia, and wars and conflicts that bring only death and destruction in their wake.” 
 
Pope Francis calls us to align our lives with fundamental Catholic Social Doctrine. He offers these teachings as a compass to unite us, as we maneuver through these challenging days. Rooted in the deep knowledge of God’s steadfast love, we are called to remember “how important it is to care for one another and for creation.” Basic, yet challenging, Pope Francis lays out a template to restart our world ravaged by the pandemic and civic unrest.
 
Pope Francis invites us to use the principles of the Catholic Social Teaching as the basis for a culture of care. He refers to this as a “grammar” of care—principles and criteria that shape the way we interact and treat one another. He encourages us to unite: “A culture of care as a way to combat the culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time.” This “grammar” includes:
 
Care as promotion of the dignity and rights or each person.
Always called toward relationship not individualism, inclusion not exclusion, all human life has inherent dignity. As such, we are called to “welcome and assist the poor, the sick, the excluded, every one of our neighbors, near or far in space and time.”
 
Care for the common good.
“Every aspect of social, political and economic life achieves its fullest end when placed at the service of the common good.” The question should not be, What works for me? Rather, What social conditions will allow others to reach their full potential?
 
Care through solidarity.
We must recognize we each have an impact on and a responsibility to one another. This impact and responsibility extends beyond our family, state and country—to reach all corners of the world, and every person. 
 
Care and protection of creation.
All creation is interconnected. We are to look deeply into the tenderness, compassion and concern we hold back, to set us free to care for all of creation. 
 
We are invited to embrace this compass for our lives. And we are challenged to embrace a process of growing and learning—educating ourselves and one another. Individually and collectively, Now is the acceptable time. 

 

 

Trust God and Listen

I knew it would be a hard election. I didn’t allow myself to believe it would be this hard. As Christians, we have a fundamental call to see each other as sacred children of God. And that recognition beckons us toward action marked by the work of reconciliation and healing. 

Scripture continually centers us: The great commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, The story of the Good Samaritan, The image of the body in 1 Corinthians 12, The final judgement in Matthew 25. Over and over, we are challenged to embrace God’s love in our own heart and to share that love with others. Even more profound, there is a primary call to share that love with those we see as most undeserving. 

So, looking in the mirror, I am forced to ask myself: Am I seeing the other side of the election battle with love? How am I engaging others to foster reconciliation and healing?  Do I avoid joining the partisan battles and engage in a positive way?

It’s hard.

On November 4th, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin reflected on our election, “Whatever the outcome is going to be, we remain a deeply divided, polarized nation, more than at any time in our recent history.” Reaching out and working toward healing and reconciliation will not happen without intention and hard work. It will not happen without surrendering our own sense of superiority. It will not happen without being willing to see the glimmer of truth and gift in the other side. 

There is a concept central to BeFriender Ministry called Mutuality. Mutuality is the respectful give and take between and among two or more persons. It requires intentional willingness to engage. It requires a wise understanding that people make sense of the world through a complicated mixture of past experiences—interpreting life through the lens they have lived. While neither right nor wrong, it is their interpretation. It requires a willingness to hold oneself open to another—letting go of one’s own judgements or agendas. Mutuality can exist on two levels—both valid, sacred ways of connecting. 

Level One Mutuality calls us to actively listen to the story of another. With respect and dignity, “we listen not to judge, probe, evaluate, or advise but rather to hear and understand from that person’s perspective.” This takes work. It requires commitment to surrender the desire for rebuttals. It requires remembering the sacredness of the other. It opens us up for possible transformation. In the wisdom of BeFriender Ministry, this Level One Mutuality is to be 90% of our communication. Ninety percent of our time is actively listening, staying willing to engage.

Level Two Mutuality, only 10% of this sacred communication, is experienced when trust is built through non-judgmental listening of Level One. It is in this moment that we respectfully offer our perspective. The reality: you may stay at Level One and never enter Level Two—and that can be enough. 

Can we listen to understand? Trusting that God is present, actively listening in a non-judgmental way, makes room for the miracles of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, our God is active among the division and brokenness. We are all called to trust God and listen. 

 

 

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.

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