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

Since 1914, The Catholic Church has been celebrating the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This day is an occasion to highlight concern for people, vulnerable and on the move; to pray for them as they face many challenges; and to increase awareness about opportunities migration offers. The World Day of Migrants and Refugees is this Sunday, September 26, 2021.

The message of Pope Francis on this 107th Day of Migrants and Refugees is entitled “Towards an Ever Wider We.” In his message, we are challenged to see “that we are all in the same boat and called to work together so that there will be no more walls that separate us, no longer others, but only a single ‘we’, encompassing all humanity.” We are invited to embrace and recognize our 
broken and fragmented relationships. We are called to reclaim a deep commitment to one another. We are asked to sacrifice—to let go of an individualized “feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation” that can pull us through life. 

On September 26, 2021 we have a unique opportunity to live this “ever wider we” in our community. 

In mid September, there were about 12,500 Afghan refugees staying at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. Flown in suddenly, with the collapse of the Afghan government and the departure of U.S. support, families were brought to Fort McCoy with nothing but what they were wearing and what they could carry over thousands of miles of movement. Local news reports that life at Fort McCoy is challenging, with food and clothing shortages and overcrowding. On top of this, people are experiencing deep grief and fear. Their individual bodies have been transported. But extended family and all remnants of their life in Afghanistan were left behind. 

Since 2015, The Basilica has had a partnership with Lutheran Social Services Refugee Services, co-sponsoring twelve families from around the world who received refugee status. With the support of LSS, we have accompanied families, offering Circle of Welcome Teams that walk with them as they make Minnesota their home.  
This September, The Basilica is being invited to co-sponsor Afghan families through LSS. The people who have come from Afghanistan have risked their lives to support the mission of the United States. Now, we are being asked to extend a warm welcome and to keep them safe. 

With a strong commitment to “an ever wider we” and a strong infrastructure of our Basilica Immigrant Support Ministry, The Basilica was able to quickly mobilize and commit to co-sponsoring up to four families from Afghanistan. More opportunities may follow. 

Pope Francis states, “Today’s migration movements offer an opportunity for us to overcome fears and let ourselves be enriched by the diversity of each person’s gifts. Then, if we so desire, we can transform borders into privileged places of encounter, where the miracle of an ever wider ‘we’ can come about.” May we gracefully embrace this opportunity to grow towards a wider “we.”  

 

 

The Basilica offered various iterations of committees to address racism, over the past few decades. But if we are honest, they were initiatives that sat on the margins of our parish life. Without intentional malice, they allowed our community to remain comfortable, while offering opportunities to learn about racial diversity. 

In 2018, The Basilica prayerfully embraced a new strategic plan. This plan identified inclusivity as a core commitment for our whole parish—crossing all ministries, penetrating all communications for volunteers, donors and community partners. With prophetic courage, this strategic direction responded to the signs of our times. It compelled us to begin anew, our commitment to address racism.

Racism is a reality with deep roots and wide misunderstanding. Fr. Bryan Massingale, in his book Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, frames the discussion with important definitions. He clarifies that “racism is a cultural phenomenon, that is, a way of interpreting human color differences that pervades the collective convictions, conventions, and practices of American life.” He importantly emphasizes that while “the commonsense understanding discusses racism as personal acts of rudeness, hostility or discrimination,” the focus on individual behaviors and attitudes misses the crucial and fundamental reality of racism as “a communal and learned frame of reference that shapes identity, consciousness, and behavior—the way a social group understands its place and worth.” 

American anthropologist Edward T. Hall explains: “Culture is the logic by which I have learned to give order to the world. And I have been learning this logic little by little since the moment I was born… I learned to breathe this logic and forget that I learned it—I find it natural.”
 
We are called to see the implications of living in a country founded with the legal institution of human chattel slavery and all the underlying spoken and unspoken assumptions this rested on. Even after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, threads of slavery remained. 

Sitting with a twenty-first century heart and mind, it is tempting to soothe my discomfort and simply claim: This is no longer relevant. Slavery is gone. I yearn to claim to be beyond the cultural pull of racism. But facing the reality of centuries of oppression and generations of persecution, we see racism cannot be healed by denial or “just moving on.” 

Healing requires deep, community-wide acknowledgement of ways this fundamental and sinful paradigm gives order to our world, even today. We are called to recognize our complicity in enabling racism to persist: In 2021, can we reconcile the dissonance of living in Minnesota, with some of the highest racial disparities in the nation, despite being ranked one of the best places to live? 

The Basilica is committed to wrestle with, expose and eliminate racism in our community. It is hard work we must do together. It calls the white community to take a lead in anti-racism work, along with the discomfort this brings, and provide healing spaces for our brothers and sisters of color. 

The Basilica has commissioned an Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity Leadership Team. With parish leadership, it has identified core goals to work on together. We need your partnership and help to work on these goals and to grow together. Look for ways to engage at mary.org/edi. Come Holy Spirit; give us strength, courage, and guidance for this journey. 

As Christians, the season of Easter is a time to celebrate new life. We recognize a call to embrace reconciling, forgiving and healing love—in our own hearts and in our interactions with others. This love transforms our individual lives, as well as our community and society.
 
This is our call, yet we fall short: as individuals and as a community, we fail. 
 
One of the ways our failure is manifested is racial injustice. The shocking public murder of George Floyd focused a light on Minnesota, exposing the realities of racial inequity so often ignored or hidden. National and international media told the story: 
 
  • While Minnesota is often ranked one of the best places to live, it has some of the highest racial disparities in the nation: income inequality, education achievement, poverty rate, home ownership, unemployment and incarceration rates—all tragic gaps between white and black Minnesotans. (NPR, June 2, 2020)
 
These facts represent systems that are complicaed. But this Easter, we have another story to hear—a story of racial injustice right here at The Basilica. Just as ignored and hidden, it eats away at the dignity of our brothers and sisters.
 
A few days after Easter I received a call from a Basilica parishioner who is a black woman. She shared a painful experience she had on Easter Sunday. She gave me permission to share it, as it is an important teachable moment—a chance to shine the light on racial realities within our own Basilica community. 
 
  • With an opportunity to celebrate Easter Sunday Liturgy in-person, our sister followed pandemic protocols and pre-registered. Sitting in her assigned seat, she was quietly praying before the Liturgy began—excited to be at The Basilica for the first time in over a year. An usher came down the aisle and proceeded to seat a white woman in the same pew—socially distanced. The white woman looked at the black woman, and refused to sit down. She demanded a different seat. This white woman would not sit near the black woman. 
 
The parishioner who shared this experience was hurt, disappointed, and angry.  This was not The Basilica she longed for. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated experience. After many conversations with people of color in our Basilica community, I have come to learn that many have personal stories of being called out, kept out, excluded or omitted at The Basilica, at some point. While they all share their love for The Basilica and the Basilica community, this is their reality. 
 
It is important for us—especially those of us who are white Basilica parishioners—to know these experiences happen. They are not just in the past, not just isolated, not just happening “out there.” 
 
When we hear these stories, we get uncomfortable. We are invited to embrace this discomfort, acknowledge the hurt and pain, and work together so we can always respond with compassion and clarity, when faced with racial injustice. We are called to be Easter people; people of reconciling, forgiving and healing love
 
On Pentecost Sunday, The Basilica will share a parish-wide Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity (EDI) Position Statement. This Statement will guide the work of The Basilica community in the area of equity, diversity and inclusivity over the next few years.
 
Look for ways to get involved in The Basilica Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity initiative. Together, with guidance and strength from the Holy Spirit, we will work to eliminate racism within the parish and the broader community—choosing not to be neutral in the face of injustice.  Contact Janice for ways to get involved or for more information. 
 

For more information visit mary.org/edi.

 

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. 

 

 

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