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

World Day of Peace_Dove

Peace as a Journey of Hope

As we approach the year 2020, it seems important to stop and reflect on life. How is it going? Am I living the way I yearn to live—loving my God and my neighbor? Are we, as a society, organizing ourselves as Jesus directed—respecting the dignity of all, making decisions for the common good, offering special consideration to those who are most vulnerable?

I take seriously the call of our faith to participate in the pubic arena: In prayer, informed about current events and formed in faith, I seek to engage—to transform society in light of the Gospel of love. 

Yet, it is hard not to become weary. 

Each year, on January 1st, our Pope offers a message to celebrate World Day of Peace. Speaking to the deepest need of our shared humanity, he addresses realities of the day, through the lens of faith. 

In this year’s World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis offers profound hope, even as he articulates the broken and divided world in which we live. His message describes peace as a journey to be undertaken in a spirit of dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion. 

Pope Francis affirms that our lives are deeply damaged when we are subjected to conflict, violence or hate in any form. Personally, we are wounded. Collectively we are scarred. “Our human community bears, in its memory and its flesh, the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts….The terrible trials of internal and international conflicts…have enduring effects on the body and soul of humanity.”

Pope Francis describes a cycle of fear and division we are all subject to. “War…often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of aggrandizement and domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other.” 

This cycle of fear and destruction can be self-perpetuating. “Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace.”

Pope Francis asks, “How do we undertake a journey of peace and mutual respect? How do we break the unhealthy mentality of threats and fears? How do we break the current dynamic of distrust?”

To frame these questions, Pope Francis states: Peace is a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial. “Hope is the virtue that inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem insurmountable.”

We must identify and overcome our fears. We must shatter the culture of conflict through encounters with diversity. We must pray and repent of our own failures, finding healing and wholeness.

As we journey through these transformations, we will find hope. We will send ripples of compassion into our community. Together, we will find courage to speak boldly, in love, to power.

“The journey of reconciliation calls for patience and trust. Peace will not be obtained unless it is hoped for.” 

Just in time to move into 2020, we are reminded of God’s incredible love, forgiveness and steadfast presence. Pope Francis prays, “May the God of peace bless us and come to our aid.”

One of my nephews joined a very small non-denominational Christian church on Long Island. While the number of people who attend in person is about two dozen, their on-line following is in the thousands. One of the sermons I heard the leader preach used the Bible to build the case that there is no need for me to care about or address what is happening in our society and world. Indeed, he said, I simply need to care about my own individual salvation. And that salvation would be found between me and God alone.

The clarity and confidence in which he spoke was startling. As he ran through a litany of injustices and tensions in the community, he negated any call to action. They will have their own way to salvation. I will have mine. 

Our Catholic faith directly challenges and contradicts this detached understanding of our role in the world. Jesus teaches, and our Church echoes, the core need to see the other—to help the other—to know the other. To live compassion. 

The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean "to suffer with." In his book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Henri Nouwen suggests that the mystery of God’s love is not that our pain is taken away, but that God first wants to share that pain with us. God chooses to be with us, willing to enter into our problems, confusions, and questions. We, in turn, are asked to do the same.

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts and let go of power. We’re called to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion dares us to cry out with those in misery, and may challenge us to sacrifice personal freedom or even personal safety, in love. 

This is not a faith of isolation. This is a faith of radical relationship. It challenges us to create community that builds faith, hope and love “on earth as it is in heaven.” 
This is a faith that places a primacy on the “common good.” Pope John XXIII states, “The common good embraces the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families, and organizations to achieve complete and effective fulfillment.” (Mater et Magistra, 1961 #74) Indeed, it is our responsibility as Catholic Christians to engage in the public arena to work for the common good. 

It is imperative that no one...indulge in a merely individualistic morality. The best way to fulfill one's obligations of justice and love is to contribute to the common good… and also to promote and help public and private organizations devoted to bettering the conditions of life. (Gaudium et Spes, 1965 #30)

This is our faith. We know this. Yet, we are challenged to examine our hearts and actions: Who are we ignoring? What are we staying silent about? Where are we falling short? Let us commit to a life of prayer—opening our hearts, minds and arms to those most in need. Let us find courage in the Spirit to speak and act boldly about the injustices of our time, and work to create a world of justice and peace. 

Snack Pack

Basilica Serves

As we celebrate 150 years as a faith community, we recognize and honor the role of St. Vincent de Paul Ministries in our parish. In 1868, one of the first ministries organized by our parish community was St. Vincent de Paul. Since then, the virtues inherent in this work have been fundamental to the fabric of our community.
 
The spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul has five core characteristics. We are all invited to embrace and reflect these in our life and work. 
 
 
 
Simplicity
St. Vincent de Paul teaches, “Jesus…expects us to have the simplicity of a dove. This means giving a straightforward opinion about things in the way we honestly see them…It also means doing things without any double-dealing or manipulation, our intention being focused solely on God.” 
 
Humility 
With an attitude of a servant, St. Vincent de Paul says, “The poor have much to teach you. You have much to learn from them.” Humility can be described as a predisposition to respect and learn from everyone—especially those out of our comfort zone.
 
Solidarity
St. Vincent de Paul states, “We must love our neighbor as being made in the image of God and as an object of His love.” We’re called to recognize the gifts of diversity and listen to the voices of those in need. We find fulfillment as we heal broken relationships and find unity. 
 
Balance between prayer and action
The more St. Vincent de Paul embraced the discipline of prayer the greater his ability to act in love. Through prayer, we receive what we need to be bold in service. Through action rooted in relationship, we find God. St. Vincent de Paul says, “Service without reflection is just work – just another task.”
 
Creating lasting systemic change 
St. Vincent de Paul continually asked the hard questions: Why is there such inequity? Why are so many in need? We are challenged to meet immediate needs. Yet we are also challenged to go beyond service and accompany another to understand their story, and uncover systems that oppress or destroy peace and dignity. 
 
Basilica Serves: Rooted in the spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul, we are all invited to consider three service options this spring and summer. 
 
1. Join a service opportunity at The Basilica: We have organized service events for all ages. Come and learn about community needs and take direct action to respond. For example, join the Snack Pack event in the Lower Level today, providing food for summer programs at Ascension Schools or volunteer for Families Moving Forward in June. 
 
2. Participate in a service opportunity at a partner organization: Look for organized ways to serve at partner sites. For example, in June, gather to support the work of Bridging MN as we provide needed essentials for those moving out of homelessness, or participate in Habitat for Humanity in August
 
3. Serve in your own way that fits your life: Find ways to help in your neighborhood, family or work. Live the values of our faith in your everyday life. Share your stories at The Basilica. Let’s celebrate the ripples of love in our community. 
 
Go to www.mary.org/Basilicaserves for more information.
 

 

Lent is my favorite season of the liturgical year. It can easily be thought of as a somber or gloomy period, with a focus on giving things up or carrying a cross. We enter forty days of penance and prayer, as we prepare for Easter. Yet, there is great joy found in recommitting to our faith. Our hearts are renewed, as we are invited into the deep love of God.

In Lent, we are invited to embrace and practice the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Of course, these are disciplines we could practice every day of the year. Yet, so often we fall short—distracted or sidetracked. I know well the sentiment of St. Paul, in Romans 7:19: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.

Lent is an intentional time for individuals and communities to begin again. We gather together, hold one another accountable in a new way, and commit to pray, fast, and give alms. We commit to refocus and draw near to our God—seeking purification, enlightenment, and mercy.

A gift of Lent is the joy, comfort and grace we experience as we are called into a deeper relationship with God. As we are formed by God’s forgiving, redeeming love, we are transformed in the way we think, speak and act. During Lent, all things lead us toward this transformation.

In his 2019 Message for Lent, Pope Francis offers provocative encouragement and guidance on our Lenten journey. He reminds us Lent is a journey of conversion—opening ourselves ever deeper to the priceless gift of God’s mercy. “The path to Easter demands that we renew our faces and hearts as Christians through repentance, conversion and forgiveness, so as to live fully the abundant grace of the pascal mystery.”

Fasting: We are invited to take a fresh look at how we might fast this Lent: Pope Francis suggests that fasting is “learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts.” This experience of fasting is a challenge. It asks so much more than giving something up. It asks us to go deep into our attitudes, assumptions and actions—and to move concretely toward a love that can hold joy, as well as pain, in our relationships. 

Prayer: Our prayer can shape and change us. Pope Francis invites us to embrace “prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy.”  We are invited into a deep peace that recognizes our powerlessness—coming to believe the love of God will sustain, heal and save us. 

Almsgiving: What do we keep and what do we give away? Again, Pope Francis challenges us: “Almsgiving, whereby we escape from insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us.” Almsgiving brings us freedom. 

Let us not allow this season to pass in vain!” Let us embrace Lent together. Let us say “yes” to the disciplines of our faith—finding joy individually and collectively, as we are transformed by God’s love. 

Over the past few years, The Basilica of Saint Mary has prayerfully been developing a parish-wide, faith filled-response to racism. Rooted in our Catholic Faith, this effort will create a safe place for discovery and discernment, ritualizing respectful dialogue. It will provide multi-faceted learning experiences that include sharing stories/relationship building, art and media, speakers, workshops, and working with community organizations. It will be sustained over time, seeking to propel transformation and change individually and collectively.

The initiative on racism coincides with implementation of the new Basilica Strategic Plan. This new plan calls us to promote inclusivity as an institution—addressing cultural and religious divides. We are called to support and welcome those who have been marginalized and seek interventions in the systems that perpetuate marginalization. 

To fulfill these goals, we are beginning a partnership with the Penumbra Theatre. Penumbra Theater is the largest and among the oldest African American theatre companies in the country. They produce artistically excellent, thought-provoking, and socially responsible drama that illuminates the depth and breadth of the black experience. 

The partnership with Penumbra Theatre will begin this Lent. It will carry over several years, gradually folding in more and more of our parish community. Penumbra will customize each workshop to fit the unique needs of The Basilica. Its programming is rigorous and immersive. Together, we are grateful for the opportunity to build deep, ongoing relationships. 

The Penumbra RACE Workshop invites precipitants to Learn, Reflect and Act. Learn: Explore how race, gender, class and other identify markers shape our opportunities, success, safety and circumstances. Reflect: Become aware of how our intersectional identities determine how we see the world and how the world sees us. Act: Practice intervening in oppressive behaviors as they happen. 

Look for ways to get involved in the Basilica/Penumbra partnership. For more information contact Janice.

 

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