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

“Nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is, and at the same time to seek elsewhere…for the solace to its troubles,” Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor).

It can be challenging to pay attention to what is going on in our world these days. We hear about war and unrest throughout our country and world. From violence in Iraq and Syria, to local demonstrations against racism and unfair wages, our communities are bubbling over with strife. It is tempting to turn off all media and put everything out of our mind.

Somehow our communities have regressed to a place that disregards respectful civil dialogue. The work that provides a glimpse of the kingdom promised “on earth as it is in heaven” is often hampered by power struggles, intolerance, and exclusion. Walls are built to keep people out. Communities are fractured. Lives are driven by the illusion of scarcity.

Our faith offers a framework to accept the challenges we face each day. Our faith offers us guidelines to maneuver those things that overwhelm us. It is not easy, but we are invited into the journey together, with the support and help of the Spirit.

First, we must pay attention to the world around us. We must know what is going on in our community so that we can respond appropriately and in love. If we don’t know the issues, we cannot be part of the solutions.

Next, it is important to identify and surrender our own biases about the issues in our midst. It has been said that “perception is reality.” In other words, what one perceives is often the reality that drives one’s life and actions. However, the “reality” that is shaped by one’s perceptions may have little to do with what is true. It may be distorted by assumptions that are false. It may be shaped by fear or ignorance.

We are called to look at the world as it is, and understand that our life experience shapes what we see. We are limited and cannot see the whole by ourselves. We are called to engage, learn, grow, and see more clearly.

Finally, our faith invites us to work toward a community shaped in every dimension by the Gospel of love. Can we imagine a world that has no political pressures distorting our discussion on poverty or hunger? Can we conceive of communities that are shaped by a concept of abundance? What would our neighborhoods look like? What difference would it make in our lives and our communities?

This fall there are many wonderful opportunities at The Basilica to learn about our faith. Consider attending the Sunday morning “Voices of Catholic Spirituality” series uncovering the teachings of Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Catherine of Sienna and Vincent de Paul. Growing in faith shapes our thoughts and actions.

This fall there are also powerful opportunities at The Basilica to learn about the world around us and engage in action shaped by politically unbiased and faith-filled discussion. Consider attending Basilica events on Economic Inequality in the U.S. and Creating A Climate For Solidarity.

We worship together and God’s love changes us. We open our eyes to the world around us, and courageously commit together to changing the world. This is our call. This is our challenge. This is our opportunity.


Breaking Down Our Walls

This June, I was privileged to join a group of women on a three-day retreat in northern Minnesota. This retreat brought together mothers of children who were murdered with mothers whose children are in prison for committing murder. They all carry deep pain in their lives. I was along as support staff, to cook and care for the women.

The three days began with awkward conversations and actions: Each woman trying to settle in, claim safe space, and be strong. They came from two different sides of a tragic experience. They held deep resentment and anger. They had great trepidation, yet, courageously choose to attend together.

Once everyone arrived, the first group activity was prayer. Trusting God, ground rules were set: the women were all in this together. The women were willing, and the retreat unfolded. In various forms, the women were invited to honestly and courageously share their story with one another. They were challenged to respectfully listen and hear one another.

Through the simple, yet profound experience of sharing stories and deep listening, tears were shed and walls broke down. I witnessed a transformation from division and brokenness to solidarity, love, and support. Each woman gained a deep respect and admiration for the other. Each woman understood that there was more in common than different. They were filled with compassion for one another. Bonds were formed that were deep and profound. Grace abound.

This retreat was facilitated by From Death To Life, an organization that brings families impacted by the tragedy of homicide together for healing and forgiveness. Their work offers hope to families and transforms the entire community through healing, reconciliation, and peace. You can learn more at www.fromdeathtolife.us.

The work of reconciliation and healing is happening all around the world. The Catholic Relief Services is doing powerful work in Rwanda with victims of genocide. They are bringing together Hutu with Tutsi to share stories, make amends, and heal communities. Through this sincere work, solidarity is born. You can learn about this incredible work at www.storiesofhope.crs.org.

Reconciliation and healing is happening in current war zones in the Middle East. Organizations such as Churches for Middle East Peace bring together Israelis and Palestinians to hear one another’s story and listen with respect. In this process, they find solidarity and compassion for one another. Participants speak about the power of understanding how the ongoing conflict undermines the lives and livelihoods of both peoples. They aspire to become an advocate for an end to the violence and better futures for all. Learn about this important work at www.cmep.org.

While the specifics of these situations are unique, the experience of division, resentment, or hatred is not. These can be found in our own lives. We all build walls around us to protect and separate us from hurt. Families can be estranged, and siblings can become alienated. Neighborhoods can be destroyed, and churches can become divided.

As we seek to make sense of a world of division and violence, let us look into our own lives and find healing and reconciliation. Where are our walls? Who are we keeping out? Whose story do we need to hear? And who needs to listen to our story? Healing and reconciliation are fruits of the Spirit. Let us be inspired by the women at the retreat. Let us all find ways to recognize our own anger and fear, yet, courageously choose to show up together. God will be there, waiting.


Being Called to Love

I am inspired on Holy Thursday, as I witness and experience the sacred act of washing one another's feet: All types of people of all ages—being served, and kneeling in humble service. This year, my experience at Holy Thursday Mass was compounded when I connected with Jackie—a homeless woman I have known for close to twenty years (name changed for privacy). Jackie and her fiancé sat down in the pews, and I joined them.

When I first met Jackie, she was living with her children and sister under the highway directly across the street from The Basilica. They came to The Basilica every morning. I could smell gasoline on their bodies—gasoline, seeping down from cars passing overhead on highway 94, being absorbed by their bodies and clothes.

Over these twenty years, Jackie and her family have experienced frequent homelessness. She is homeless again, and has cancer. She is in pain and afraid. As I held Jackie at Mass on Holy Thursday, she wept and repeated a question that she asks a lot lately, "What should I do, Janice? What should I do?"

As Jackie struggled with grief and despair that evening, my heart wanted to respond, “Love, Jackie. Love yourself, love your family, love your friends, love God.” Ultimately, we are all called to love. Love: so easy to say, so hard to live.

Jackie is a good woman. She has a sparkle in her eye and a contagious laugh that exposes a deep joy amid incredible suffering. Deeply committed to her family, she has witnessed tragedy since she was a child, moving to Minneapolis from the Red Lake Reservation. She knows tremendous grief, having lost several children to death on the street. She is a matriarch to a struggling family. What will happen when she is gone? 

Jackie asks a question we are all to ponder this Easter Season: What are we to do? When death and betrayal can be found around us each day, what will we do? What will mark our lives, our actions, our attitudes, our choices, our thoughts, and our assumptions? What difference will it make that we have been given the gift of new life through resurrection?

As we washed one another’s feet, my experience with Jackie raised deep and difficult questions in my heart. Brought face-to-face with my own judgments, biases, and fears, I wrestled with reconciling the life I have watched Jackie live and my own actions—as well as the actions of our community.  

What does love look like in our community? Our faith calls us to acts of charity and justice. We are called to hold Jackie when she is afraid. And, we are also called to advocate for more affordable housing. This may be the harder part. There are not enough shelter beds, and not enough affordable housing in our community to protect Jackie and her family. We must join the advocacy efforts of Minnesota Coalitions for the Homeless and St. Stephen’s Human Resources to provide safe and secure housing options.

Pope Francis encourages us to “Let the joyous wonder of Easter Sunday radiate through your thoughts, looks, attitudes, gestures, and words.” Let us be inspired by Jackie, and live a life of joy through charity and justice. 

The realities of our world today can be overwhelming. Local and global news show catastrophes and disasters each day. Yet, we also know there is kindness and healing in the world. People have tremendous capacity for good.

One of the greatest challenges of living faithfully today is reconciling the good we know is possible with the often harsh realities of the world around us. We are invited to stand in this “tragic gap” between the heartbreak of our world and the inherent goodness of creation. The tension can be exhausting. It is easy to fall into a corrosive cynicism when we hear the constant pain of the world. We can become bitter or numb to misfortune experienced around us. Conversely, we can shut out the news and the real struggles and become disengaged through an irrelevant idealism. We can shut everything out and live simply without knowing what is going on around us.

A challenge of our faith is to stay in the “tragic gap” between the world as it is and the world as we believe it should be. We are invited to find a way to stay there for the long haul, resisting the slide to either extreme. As people of faith, we are called to stay engaged—to be drawn into the darkness while holding the light of hope, love, and reconciliation.

How can we avoid “compassion fatigue?” How can we avert the experience of indifference or disconnect with all that makes us uncomfortable. The challenge is to stay engaged, to remain compassionate amidst the constant bombardment of pain.

At a daily Mass on May 22, 2013, Pope Francis addressed this struggle of the faithful. He suggested that our answer can be found through a simple guideline: create a “culture of encounter.” Pope Francis encourages everyone to engage in the world together. Simply see what needs to be done in front of you today, and respond by doing good. Rooted in the knowledge that we are created in the image and likeness of our God, Pope Francis encourages everyone to do good, and to meet one another there.

Pope Francis states that this “culture of encounter” is created when all humanity simply seeks to do the good that presents itself.  This uncomplicated act unites all humanity. It creates the “culture of encounter” that is the foundation of peace. He states, “If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”

Simple, but not easy. When we feel compelled to withdraw or ignore—engage. When we are tired or weary—do good. Rooted in prayer, strengthened by community, we commit ourselves to the “culture of encounter” and stay involved and engaged.

On February 9th The Basilica will hold a Local Stewardship Fair from 10:30-1:30 in the Lower Level. Representatives from organizations will be present to highlight ways we can be engaged in our community through Liturgy, Sacred Arts, Social Service partners, environmental and community organizations. Together, in small acts of love, we can transform the world.