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

The World Day of Peace is an annual celebration by the Catholic Church dedicated to universal peace, held on January 1. Established by Pope Paul VI in 1967, this special day is an occasion on which Popes share timely declarations, shining light on important facets of our collective lives.

Pope Francis continues this tradition by offering his message for the 56th World Day of Peace: No One Can be Saved Alone: Combatting Covid-19 together, embarking together on paths of peace.

In this short yet provocative message, Pope Francis cuts to the heart of the underlying realities of our day. He states: “Covid-19 plunged us into a dark night.” He articulates the challenges faced at every level including healthcare and political systems, economic and social order, individuals and families, as we maneuver through Covid, social unrest, and escalating global war. 

True to a life grounded in the steadfast love of God and committed to remaining alert and connected to the suffering of the world, Pope Francis startles us by calling today “a privileged moment.”  He states, “we never emerge the same from times of crisis: we emerge either better or worse.” He encourages us: Today is the right time “to question, learn, grown and allow ourselves to be transformed as individuals and as communities.”

Pope Francis suggests “the greatest lesson we learned from Covid-19 was the realization that we all need one another. That our greatest and yet most fragile treasure is our shared humanity as brothers and sisters, children of God. And that none of us can be saved alone.”

Given this, he asks, “What then is being asked of us?” Faced with continual and evolving disaster, pain, injustice, what are we called to do?

Embrace reality and be changed by it: Pope Francis suggests we must be vulnerable and allow “our hearts be changed by our experience of the crisis, to let God, at this time in history, transform our customary criteria for viewing the world around us.” 

Embrace the common good: He states, “we must think in terms of the common good, recognizing that we belong to a greater community... We cannot continue to focus simply on preserving ourselves; rather the time has come for all of us to endeavor to heal our society and our planet, to lay the foundations for a more just and peaceful world, and to commit ourselves seriously to pursuing a good that is truly common.”

Embrace the interconnectedness of all: “We cannot ignore one fundamental fact, namely that the many moral, social, political and economic crisis we are experiencing are all interconnected, and what we see as isolated problems are actually causes and effects of one another. Consequently, we are called to confront the challenges of our world in a spirit of responsibility and compassion.” Health care, poverty, climate change, immigration: “Only by responding generously to these situations, with an altruism inspired by God’s infinite and merciful love, will we be able to build a new world and contribute to the extension of his kingdom, which is the kingdom of love, justice and peace.”

Together, let us commit our lives to act in this privileged moment for peace. 

 

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love…Let us love one another.”                                                           1 John 4: 7,8

 

During Advent, we reflect on and anticipate God’s incredible love for us. God, manifesting love as a small, vulnerable child. Christ, reaching out to the marginalized and broken, modeling radical love. Spirit, present in every facet of our lives. We know, through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, our daily life is not separate from our faith. Our whole life—every thought and action—can bring love into our world.

 

During Advent, we embrace a journey to learn and grow in love each and every day. In small and big ways, in everything we do, think, or say we are challenged to know and live love. Indeed, we are invited to be part of a revolution of love and tenderness—transforming the world through love.

 

There are three facets of life to consider as we grow in love. They are all crucial and all connect. Like ripples, they affect one another. We are called to grow in love attentive to our internal, individual, and institutional life.

 

Internal: What is going on in our heart and mind, as we live each day? Our prayers continually call us to reflect on and become aware of the state of our heart. The psalmist cries out, “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Are there ways we have become consumed with hatred or fear? Have we been hurt, and do we seek retribution? Have we become overwhelmed or numb to the suffering in our world? We are invited to bring these to prayer and find healing, comfort, and strength. God calls us to renewal and peace. Let us open our hearts to this call.

 

Individual: The way we interact—person to person— reveals the individual facet of our life. Whatever condition we find our heart, we are called to reach out and engage with compassion. Seeking spiritual progress, not perfection—and always considering one’s safety and care—our faith challenges us: If we are afraid, can we find a way to be kind? If we find ourselves consumed with hatred, is there a way to be humane? If we are hurt and alienated, can our faith give us strength to find a place to engage? Our actions matter. Jesus reminds us, “All will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35.

 

Institutional: Our lives don’t end with one-on-one interactions. We are part of systems and organizations. Our lives are shaped by policies and laws. Pope Francis states, “A good Catholic meddles in politics.” In his provocative way, he affirms this “is one of the highest forms of love, because it is in the service of the common good.” We share a responsibility for the way our institutions are organized. We are challenged to consider ways to impact society with love—ensuring all develop to their full potential. Collectively, we must consider how love can influence our family, church, neighborhood, city, country, and world. This is not easy work, but it is crucial work.

 

Together, we attend to all these facets of our lives. As a community, we sponsor refugee families, accompany the grieving, assist the unemployed, protect the marginalized, and serve those in need. Let us share, celebrate, and bless our community by our honest journey toward love and peace.

 

 

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?

 

 

In his powerful encyclical, Fratelli Tutti—On Fraternity and Social Friendship—Pope Francis challenges us to look deeply at our individual and collective lives. He articulates a paradigm of communal life shaped and upheld by the immense and steadfast love of our God. With life infused fully with God’s love, the possibilities for culture, connection, and creation are inspiring.

Directly addressing our local and global struggles, Pope Francis confronts us and inspires us to holiness. If you have not read this document, look for it online and read it!

A primary and deep-rooted struggle of our day is racial injustice. We are a country founded with the legal institution of human chattel slavery and all the underlying spoken and unspoken assumptions this rested on. In a myriad of ways, we are still healing from this history.

Sitting with a twenty-first century mind, it is tempting to ease my discomfort and simply claim: Slavery is gone—let’s move on. Yet, Pope Francis warns: “It is easy to be tempted to turn the page, to say that all these things happened long ago and we should look to the future. For God’s sake, no! We can never move forward without remembering the past; we do not progress without an honest and unclouded memory. We need to keep alive the flame of collective conscience, bearing witness to succeeding generations to the horror of what happened, because that witness awakens and preserves the memory of the victims, so that the conscience of humanity may rise up in the face of every desire for dominance and destruction.”

Pope Francis encourages to go into the struggle: ”When conflicts are not resolved but kept hidden or buried in the past, silence can lead to complicity in grave misdeeds and sins. Authentic reconciliation does not flee from conflict, but is achieved in conflict.” We are encouraged to stay in the dialogue—open, honest, and hard.  

Over the past year, The Basilica staff and leadership have been learning to address racial injustice in our individual lives and our parish community. We are working on four parish goals.

  1. Increased understanding of implicit/unconscious biases and its effect on each of us and our parish community
  2. Increased opportunities to listen to voices from the community, underserved and marginalized populations in our parish and in the community
    • This fall we will share, in respectful and healing ways, stories of racial injustice right here at The Basilica. Ignored and hidden, it eats away at the dignity of our brothers and sisters.
  3. Increased opportunities for personal transformation to support staff and parishioners in working toward systemic change 
  4. Increase diversity at all staff levels and in volunteer ministries

You are invited to join in this work, wherever you find yourself on this issue. If you are struggling, come to share your concerns. Come and learn how you can get involved in our parish work.

If we believe “God created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters,” as Pope Francis states, let us engage together and continue the hard work of love.

 

It seems any direction you look, these days, there is trauma, grief, loss, and sadness. More than ever, life seems colored by weariness and struggle. While people continue to hold on to threads of gratitude and faith, life is hard. Whether it is division or loss within families, violence in neighborhoods and cities, discord in local and national politics, or international suffering and brutality, these are days that call us to dig deep into our hearts to find strength.

In February 2019, the UN General Assembly set up The International Day of Human Fraternity to commemorate the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayyeb. In this document, “the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.” All people were called upon to “rediscover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence in order to confirm the importance of these values as anchors of salvation for all, and to promote them everywhere.”

This document “reflected on the level of poverty, conflict and suffering of so many brothers and sisters in different parts of the world as a consequence of the arms race, social injustice, corruption, inequality, moral decline, terrorism, discrimination, extremism and many other causes.”

With profound hope for the future of all human beings, the idea of “fraternity” was advanced. This document invites all persons to unite and work together. It seeks to be a guide to evolve a culture of mutual respect: “Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved.”

The UN General Assembly called for a Second International Day of Human Fraternity in February 2022. So great is the threat to the social order—and so high the desire “to build fraternity as a bulwark against hatred, violence, and injustice,” Pope Francis calls all people to attention.

“Now is the fitting time to journey together…Do not leave it to tomorrow or an uncertain future…This is a good day to extend a hand, to celebrate our unity in diversity—unity, not uniformity, unity in diversity.”

“Now is not a time for indifference: either we are brothers and sisters, or everything falls apart. This is not to be melodramatic; it is the truth! Either we are brothers and sisters, or everything falls apart.”

Truly, the only answer to the suffering and trials of our day is found in our willingness to trust God and find the grace and strength to stay “committed to the cause of peace and to respond concretely to the problems and needs of the least, the poor and the defenseless.” Pope Francis warns, “the path of fraternity is long and challenging, it is a difficult path, yet it is the anchor of salvation for humanity.”

Let us walk side-by-side, in the harmony of differences, with respect for the identity of each. With concrete actions, let us be brothers and sisters, all.

 

 

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