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

"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 came down to earth. God became human. God lived among us and modeled love each day. We know, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ, that our daily life is not separate from our faith. Our whole life—every thought and action—can manifest love in our world. 

During Advent, we are invited 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 a ripple effect, they effect one another. We are called to grow in love with a focus on 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 in 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 society is organized. We are challenged to consider ways to impact institutions 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 can 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 struggles for love and peace.

When things get out of balance, you begin to hear a call for revolution. In any sphere of life, when things lose their original purpose, or a system we are invested in becomes corrupt, there are cries for radical change.

Revolution is a powerful word, full of assumptions and expectations. It may conjure up fear of violence or loss of power. Yet, the word also contains seeds of comfort and hope. So much depends of what drives the revolution.

Revolution can be described as rolling back toward an original purpose. It can initiate dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized. Pope Francis offers a provocative and inspiring paradigm of revolution. He invites us to recognize the incredible, radical, and all-encompassing power of the forgiving, reconciling, and redeeming love of God. In a call for renewal, he invites us to start a “revolution of faith.” 

“Put Christ in your lives, put your trust in him and you will never be disappointed! You see, dear friends, faith carries out in our lives a revolution that we can call Copernican: it takes us away from the center and puts God there; faith immerses us in his love and gives us safety, strength, and hope. In appearance nothing has changed, but deep down inside us everything changes. When there is God in our hearts there is peace, gentleness, tenderness, courage, serenity, and joy which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Then our existence is transformed, our way of thinking and acting is renewed; it becomes the way of thinking and acting of Jesus, of God. Dear friends, faith is revolutionary, and today I ask you; are you ready to enter this revolutionary wave of faith?”  (World Youth Day, 2013)

Pope Francis highlights an important truth for our day: As we put God first in our life, we come to know and become love. As we know and become love, we act boldly and compassionately in the world. As we act compassionately in the world, the world is transformed and healed. 

This is, indeed, a revolutionary wave of faith—a revolution of love and tenderness.

Today, our world is experiencing pain, fear, hurt, misunderstanding, division, suffering, and violence. Rather than push these away, our faith calls us to the provocative response of encounter—we are called to stand in these hard places. The road of encountering human suffering, and the invisible and institutional dynamics that accompany it, is uncomfortable.  Our faith gives us strength. 

Together, through an encounter shaped by love and tenderness, we are called to see clearly all that needs healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We are called to see and stand with those experiencing grief, death, vulnerability, unemployment, disabilities, mental illness, and societal oppression. We face the questions as individuals and as a community.

Our faith in God, and the redeeming love of Christ, isn’t just for us. It is also for the transformation of our families, our communities, our Church, our country, and our entire world. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ invite us to reimagine and reconstruct human life and society once again.

Pope Francis states, “This is the moment of mercy. We are all sinners. All of us carry weight within.”  At a time of great division, fear, and pain, he calls us to intentionally encounter God’s love and tenderness—and to act on it. This vision of the common good is a powerful invitation to engage in what Pope Francis calls a “revolution of love and tenderness.” Together, let us open our lives to this call. 

One of the core elements of our Basilica community is the mission and work of our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. In many ways, each member of our parish community is part of St. Vincent de Paul at The Basilica. Whether you volunteer, donate money, pray for the ministry, or simply live the mission in your caring response to our neighbors who are suffering—you are part of our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. We are all Vincentians.  

Vincent de Paul faced challenges we can relate to. His life brought him both success and privilege. Yet he also experienced doubt and darkness. He came to intimately know we find Christ in the suffering and poor. He knew the joy and challenge of life choices that bring us toward Christ. Indeed, Vincentian spiritually invites us to see those who suffer as our teachers and mentors. Vincentians believe true religion is found among those who are often excluded—as we attend to their needs, they inspire us and evangelize us.

Vincent de Paul articulates five virtues that help us live the Gospel:

Simplicity
This is the virtue St. Vincent loved most. “It is my gospel,” he says. Hear how St. Vincent describes simplicity: “Jesus, the Lord, expects us to have the simplicity of a dove. This means giving a straightforward opinion about things in the way we honestly see them, without needless reservations. It also means doing things without any double-dealing or manipulation, our intention being focused solely on God.”

Humility
The Gospels teach the kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit. Provocatively: God resists the proud and raises up the humble. Vincent reminds us to stand before God humbly in our daily prayer, and have the attitude of a servant. Humility is understood as standing in awe and wonder. It is a stance where we can learn from everyone. 

Meekness
Meekness is often construed as weakness. Yet Jesus challenges—the meek will inherit the earth and find joy. St. Vincent takes this to heart and teaches that meekness develops as warmth, approachability, openness, deep respect for the person of others. Vincent tells us that he was irritable by nature. Continually, he implores God to change his heart: “Grant me a kindly and benign spirit…” 

Surrender and Willing to Sacrifice
Jesus calls us to follow him even unto death. He asks us to die to sin daily. St. Vincent challenges us to be faithful to our duties of serving those who suffer—to the point we prefer them when they conflict with other more pleasurable things.

Zeal
Vincent loved, with a burning love. “Let us beg God to enkindle in our hearts a desire to serve him…” We are called to persevere as servants of those who suffer—remembering always we are cooperating in the work of the Spirit. We must strive to live a balanced life, so that we might have the energy that nourishes zeal.

Together, we strive to grow in faith and live boldly the Gospel of love. We are all Vincentians. 

During this Year of Mercy, it seems particularly jarring to hear stories of families fleeing violence in Syria: The unimaginable terror at home turning into unimaginable terror on the trip toward safety. What state of desperation would lead a family on this journey? 

The whole experience of migration in the Middle East and Europe seems unreal, as I live safely in Minnesota. Vulnerable people fleeing for their lives. Countries welcoming—Countries closing their borders. Fear everywhere.

I want to help. But it seems unlikely that I can have any impact. So I wonder, what is the situation on the U.S. border? What is happening in my own country? How are we treating those escaping state sponsored violence or life threatening poverty?

To find answers to these questions, I joined a small group of Basilica parishioners on a trip to the Mexico/US border. We met with groups living and working on the border, and heard stories of people seeking shelter in our country. I learned so much about things I never hear on mainstream media. While I am still processing what I experienced, I am confident about two things: This is an issue our faith calls us to be actively engaged in.  And, this is an issue that is very relevant to us in Minnesota. 

To be sure, this is a complicated issue. The issue of immigration intersects with a myriad of laws and government policies. It taps into conflicting emotions on national identity. Yet, hearing people share their stories of desperation, and witnessing the physical drama of deportation, I became convicted of the simple truth that we must enter the confusion, learn, and get involved. We must act on behalf of the most vulnerable—to serve, accompany, and defend the migrants on our border. Complicated, yes. But through the lens of faith, a bit more clear.

I learned several things on this trip to the U.S. southern border:

I learned about harsh and punitive policies and laws the U.S. government has put in place, with the expectation that this will deter migration.

I also learned when one is desperate enough—fleeing violence or oppression—these policies or laws are not effective. It is absolutely beyond my imagination to understand the despair one must feel to cross the Mediterranean Sea, or the Sonora desert. Yet, this is the plight of our sisters and brothers all around our globe—including on our southern border. Our neighbors are desperate and need our help. How shall we respond?

I learned, while the Sonora desert is one of the most lush and beautiful deserts in the world, it has also become one of the deadliest corridors for migrants. Since the mid-1990s, at least 6,000 men, women, and children have died trying to cross the US/Mexico border.  In an attempt to deter migration, government policies have funneled migrants into the most dangerous and remote areas of the border.

I learned as immigration laws and borders have changed over time—it is now a felony to re-enter the United States without proper papers. A felony crime. As a first-generation American, I am troubled by the criminalization of migration. As a Christian, I am appalled. 

I invite you to join me over this next year to learn more about immigration, and to find ways to get involved. Together with migrant brothers and sisters in our community, we can work our way through this complicated issue. Pope Francis states, “Migrants trust that they will encounter acceptance, solidarity, and help, that they will meet people who will sympathize with the distress and tragedy experienced by others.” Let us live up to this trust. 

Are you interested in working on the refugee family committee, but a don't quite know what to expect? Cate Anderson, the Volunteer Coordinator for Refugee Service within Lutheran Social Services, has provided some answers to some of the common questions that volunteers may have.

  • What is something that people might assume about working with refugees that is usually proven wrong?

 One common assumption about working with refugees comes from the image that many of us have of people in refugee camps. It is easy to feel like refugees are weakened by their experiences or think of them as being exclusively sad or damaged. It doesn’t take much to fall into thinking about refugees in a two-dimensional way because of how they are portrayed in the media. While this assumption comes from a place of compassion and care, the reality that we see every day in this work is refugees’ amazing resilience.

Many refugees we meet have been strengthened in many ways by their experiences in the camp. Families may have drawn closer in their relationships with one another. A person’s faith within their own religious tradition may have been deepened. I certainly don’t want to underplay the gravity of the difficulties and dangers of living in a camp. However, we also constantly witness the beautiful paradox of refugees who, after going through such loss and suffering, find joy, laughter, and love in their lives. This complexity is hard to imagine until you meet someone who happens to be a refugee. We’re so grateful that your community at the Basilica has courageously said, “Let’s get to know our newest neighbors and challenge our assumptions head on!”

  •  How do you work through language barriers?

 Language barriers often play a big role in the relationships built between co-sponsors and the families they are matched with. Running into this particular issue is a good exercise for those of us who speak English fluently because it shows us how incredibly frustrating it can be. While it is difficult, we do our best to equip the mentoring team with training and tools to work with language barriers. Oftentimes, volunteers remark that after the first couple visits where there isn’t a common language, things get easier. You get used to it and find ways to make it work together. Adults will also be attending English Language Learning (ELL or ESL) classes and the kids will attend public school. The practice with the mentoring group can make a big difference in the progress made by the family in hurdling over a major barrier in their lives.

  •  What's the most rewarding part about doing this work?

 One of the most rewarding parts of working with refugees is that we get to actively participate in building our community together. The connection we make with a family going through the whirlwind transition of rebuilding life here in the United States is a precious one. It’s a privilege to walk alongside families as they figure it all out. It satisfies a moral calling to help those in need – in a different turn of events, we could be in their position and they could be in ours.

But beyond that, working with new Minnesotans gives us the opportunity to learn about different cultures, religions and values and to find our common ground as neighbors. Together, we can make our Minnesota community that much stronger and connected, simply by getting to know each other on a one-on-one basis. The most rewarding part of this work is the opportunity to not only learn about and love your neighbor, but also to grow together and love your community as a whole!

  •  What should people know before they get started? 

 One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes this work gets a bit messy! Coming from a Norwegian-American heritage which likes to keep things organized, timely, and rule-abiding, I’ve learned first-hand how important flexibility and humor are in this line of work. Some of the resettlement program is very black-and-white. For example, there are certain time deadlines for tasks such as applying for a social security number for the refugee within seven working days.

 Most other parts are less clear. We usually only get notice of a family’s arrival about two weeks or so in advance. Language barriers can call for moments of creative problem solving. Poverty presents exhausting Catch-22s. So, as we run into the little things that frustrate us, we can learn a lot from refugee families about what is really important. These experiences (and the messiness, I admit it!) encourage us to let go and “go with the flow” in a way that can be both liberating and rewarding.

  •  What's the most common concern potential volunteers have? And how do you work around that?

 One common concern that potential volunteers have is that they don’t feel quite qualified enough. They wonder if they know enough about the public transportation system, the cultural norms of the family, or the county system. The first step, I remind volunteers, is twofold. We don’t expect you to know everything, and we certainly don’t expect you to fix everything. As long as you’re someone who has lived in the U.S. for a good amount of time and knows how to navigate the basics, you are well-qualified!

 While mentor groups provide lots of good guidance to their mentees, it’s also good to remember that your role is not meant to be a fixer of all problems. Instead, we hope it will be an exchange where both parties learn a great deal. We also work with this worry with the help of our case managers who take care of the human services side of helping out the family. They know how to navigate the system and will perform the core services which range from securing affordable, clean and secure housing to enrolling kids in school.

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