Justice Making a difference in the city and the world

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Biblical justice directs us toward the elimination of oppression, poverty, and everything that keeps men and women from their full development as human beings.

  • Education to housing
  • Health care to environmental justice
  • Racism to global relations

"Lay people have the principal responsibility to transform the social order in light of the Gospel."

- USCCB 2002

Becoming Human: Dismantling Racism

During the season of Lent 2020, the University of St. Thomas and The Basilica of Saint Mary collaborated on an educational series toward dismantling racism that was called “Becoming Human.” The outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States made online delivery necessary. This "online portal" provides access to the series as well as some additional tools that will help to engage in the work of transforming our communities.

The theory guiding this series is that the racial history we all inherit is dehumanizing for all of us, though it is dehumanizing for white folks in different ways than it is dehumanizing for people of color. The only way to “become human” is to confront the legacy of white supremacy and undergo a process of transformation, even conversion, to engage more humanely in the world, especially across the color line.

A Lenten/Spring Program of Six Workshops (all online)

Course Details: 

Participants will individually watch six lectures outlined below. Every other Thursday, beginning February 23, we’ll gather virtually to discuss the content and related activities. “Gatherings” will be from 6-7:30 pm on Zoom.

  • Dates of the gatherings: February 23, March 9, March 23, (skip April 6 due to Holy Thursday) April 13, April 27, and May 11.

Workshop Content:

We’ll engage in the work of historical recovery, learning how white supremacy has been structured into the American legal system (workshop one), persisting beyond the era of Civil Rights through the “war on drugs” (workshop two), and leading to the contemporary reality of mass incarceration (workshop three). Learning the stages of racial identity development can disrupt the “White Savior” complex (workshop four). True social transformation can happen when there is a match between our unique gifts and the world's need (workshop five). Since theology is a carrier, too, of white supremacy, learning about the Blackness of God can help in recognizing the moral imperative behind this religious calling to engage in the work of social transformation (workshop six).  



St. Thomas Series

Preview Module One

Video: Welcome
Kimberly Vrudny, Chair of the Theology Department and Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of St. Thomas, welcomes participants to the first session of "Becoming Human."

Video: Civil War to Civil Rights
Dr. David Williard, Associate Professor of History at the University of St. Thomas, walks participants through a sequence of laws that structured white supremacy in the legal system in the United States from the time of the Civil War up to the Civil Rights Era.

Activity and Reflection
“Project Implicit” is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition—thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. This activity asks you to take a test related to implicit bias as it pertains to race. After taking the test through Project Implicit, take a few moments to reflect on the findings, and write down some initial reactions. If you have never taken the test before, consider your first test a baseline. You might return to the test in future years to see if the results have shifted.

Video: Q&A
Further Reading

Module Two

Video: Welcome
Kimberly Vrudny welcomes participants to the second session of "Becoming Human."

Video: The War on Drugs
Dr. Jessica Siegel, Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the University of St. Thomas, guides participants through the impact of the 1980s "war on drugs" on black and brown people in the United States of America.

Activity and Reflection
Play a game of Monopoly, using by the “Rules for Monopoly in a Stratified Society.” After playing the game of Monopoly using the rules for a stratified society, record your reactions. Describe what happened generally, and what happened to you specifically. How does this exercise influence how you think about the issue of the war on drugs and institutionalized racism in the United States?

Video: Q&A
Further Reading

Module Three

Video: Welcome
Kimberly Vrudny welcomes participants to the third session of "Becoming Human."

Video: Mass Incarceration
Dr. Amy Levad, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at the University of St. Thomas, describes the dozens of incremental steps that took us from the "war on drugs" to a crisis of mass incarceration that disproportionately affects people of color in the United States.

Activity and Reflection
“White Privilege” is a term that is difficult for some white folks to hear. In order to help situate where it came from and what was intended by it when it was initially coined, please read this short article by Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Then take this quiz on buzzfeed, “How Privileged Are You?” For a bonus activity, go on this social privilege Scavenger Hunt. After taking the quiz on Buzzfeed, record your reactions. Are you surprised by the results? If you found you are more privileged than you realized, how will this affect how you navigate the world from here? Do your degrees of relative disadvantage help you to empathize with those who experience oppression, and do your degrees of advantage help to identify where work for greater equity is needed?

Video: Q&A
Further Reading 

Module Four

Video: Welcome
Kimberly Vrudny welcomes participants to the fourth session on "Becoming Human."

Video: Defeating the "White Savior" Complex
Dr. Amy Finnegan, Associate Professor of Justice and Peace Studies at the University of St. Thomas, examines the "white savior complex," and identifies how it is inherently problematic.

Activity and Reflection
Begin an exploration of your own cultural identity. Write a reflection about the process of completing the cultural genogram in this week’s activity.

Further Reading

Module Five

Video: Welcome
Kimberly Vrudny welcomes participants to the fifth session on "Becoming Human."

Video: Mobilizing for Social Change
Dr. Michael Klein, Associate Professor of Justice and Peace Studies at the University of St. Thomas, searches his family's stories and Minnesota's history as a means to enter humbly into engagement across lines of difference.

Activity and Reflection
In order to find where your greatest gladness meets the world’s deepest need (Frederick Buechner), fill out this survey from Stanford University. You’ll receive a visualization that will help you know where to put your gifts and resources to work to end structural racism. Afterwards, translate your results onto the social change wheel. Reflect on how we will learn about the relationship between who we are (identity) and how we work for change (agency); how we will connect the work we do to the work of others across identities, strategies, and movements; and how we will connect intrapersonal, interpersonal, community, and systemic change.

Further Reading

Module Six

Video: Welcome
Kimberly Vrudny welcomes participants to the sixth and final session on "Becoming Human."

Video: The Blackness of God
Dr. Kimberly Vrudny, Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of St. Thomas, attempts to draw the series to a close by outlining stages of racial identity development, tracking the stages in lives of black folk as well as white folk. Then she discusses the "Blackness of God" by reference to a famous essay by AME theologian, James Cone.

Activity and Reflection
Write a  “Letter to the Editor,” or “Letter to an Elected Official,” following the advice in the Community Tool Box. Think about how you will craft each section based on what you’ve learned in “Becoming Human.” What do you most want the wider community to know? And what would you like to see happen in the community as a result of taking in this knowledge? Be as concrete as possible. Afterwards, reflect on the phrase, "Becoming Human," especially in conversation with Jane Alexander's sculpture depicting three monstrous men who represent (according to Vrudny's interpretation) "whiteness," insofar as they participate in the destruction of black and brown lives. Is it "monstrous" (i.e., "sinful" in theological vocabulary) for a culture to bestow privileges to some on the basis of ethnicity, do you think? Is it "monstrous" (i.e., "sinful" in theological vocabulary) for a culture to bestow privileges on the basis of gender, do you think—or is there a difference and, if so, why?

Further Reading

Can We Work Together to End Homelessness? 

Zoom recordings of our June 25, 2022 Experiencing Homelessness in our Community forum:

  • Cathy ten Broeke: Executive Director, Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness - Click HERE
  • David Hewitt: Director, Hosing Stability - Hennepin County - Click HERE
  • Katie Dillon: Director, Align Minneapolis - Click HERE

CLM Assessment Process Summary

Building upon our most recent strategic plan, we have initiated an assessment process that reviews our ministries through the lens of addressing homelessness.

Click HERE for an executive summary of the process starting in 2020 through March 2022 and next steps.

Zoom recording of our January 16, 2021 presenation:

Can We Work Together to End Homelessness? 

Listen to a recording of the program with presentations by:

  • Cathy ten Broeke: Minnesota State Director to Prevent and End Homelessness
  • Tyra Thomas: a leader of Street Voices of Change (SVoC), an Align Mpls program
  • Londel French: Minneapolis PA.kark & Recreation Board Commissioner

Align Minneapolis (formerly Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness, DCEH)

Align Minneapolis is an interfaith collaboration of 17 downtown Minneapolis churches, synagogues and mosques working together to end homelessness and poverty. Align Minneapolis focuses on shifting from an immediate needs approach to long term solutions through a combination of education, advocacy and action. Through learning and volunteer opportunities for congregants, community partnerships, and development of effective strategies and programs, Align Minneapolis is committed to impacting the community around us to end homelessness.

There will always be people who are homeless. But, we can change the system so fewer people fall into homelessness and more people move out of homelessness quickly.

  • Prevention costs less and is more humane than allowing people to become homeless and then addressing shelter needs.
  • People need safe, affordable housing before services can effectively address life issues.


Advocate for Afghan Refugees 

From our partner Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services

The tens of thousands of Afghans who have arrived in the U.S. need a pathway to real and lasting safety.

Most Afghans brought to the United States through Operation Allies Refuge entered the country on humanitarian parole, which only temporarily allows people fleeing danger to remain in the U.S. These Afghans will need to find another pathway to safety before their parole expires.  

Currently, one pathway available to newly arrived Afghans is asylum, a paperwork-intensive process with years-long backlogs that have prevented thousands of people from finding safety in the U.S. In order to make successful asylum claim, these Afghans will be asked to provide proof that a person would face violence in their home country – in relation to their work with Americans, with women’s rights groups, with reporting on corruption, and more. These documents are the same ones that Afghans were advised to destroy in order to escape or elude the Taliban during the evacuation.

Afghans should not be penalized for how the U.S. evacuated them and the means by which their family was able to reach safety.

To ensure that Afghans find real, lasting safety in the U.S., Congress must pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would allow Afghan humanitarian parolees to seek legal permanent residence in the U.S. Send a message to your Representatives in Congress today and urge them to support the Afghan Adjustment Act!

From our partner Catholic Charities USA: Action Center

More information about Afghan immigration status:

Ways to Help Families in Minnesota:

The most needed items for refugee families as they resettle:

A Prayer for Our Country

We know, Lord, that you yourself are a migrant.

You experienced the trials of the refugee, having fled as a child with your parents, Joseph and Mary, to Egypt. We know your special love for those with no other possession but one another, and you.

Move our hearts, Lord, and the hearts of our leaders to love them as you do, to love them with your love, to be your love for migrants at the doorway of our country.

  • I promise to pray for Immigrants and Refugees, and to help my parish plan an activity to raise greater consciousness about this issue on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
  • I promise to invite my family and others in my parish to also pray for this intention.

The Basilica of Saint Mary is proud to partner with Lutheran Social Services to co-sponsor refugee families who are starting new lives in Minnesota after living in refugee camps throughout the world. We are also grateful for our partnership with Advocates for Human Rights, as we support families in the community seeking asylum in the United States. 

Since entering this partnership in December 2015, the Basilica’s refugee committee has:

  • Welcomed families to Minnesota. Circle of Welcome Teams have developed relationships with each family, helping them learn about and assimilate to life in the U.S. Financial contributions from the Basilica community have helped support each family. 
  • Collected 126 backpacks full of school supplies to benefit refugee families in the area.
  • Hosted educational talks and films, including discussions led by the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota’s executive director and documentaries looking at realties faced by immigrants.

How you can help

  • Join the committee. Committee members are invited to monthly meetings (1st Saturday of each month) and notified when volunteers are needed. Volunteer opportunities include setting up families’ apartments, welcoming families at the airport, letter-writing campaigns, packing supplies and organizing events. Time commitments for volunteer opportunities vary; they can be weekly, monthly, quarterly or one-time functions.  
  • Join a subcommittee. Four subcommittees work on different projects:
    • Circle of Welcome Teams: Groups of four mentors work directly with each refugee or asylee family to help families adjust to and learn to navigate life in their new community. Circle of Welcome team members go through training with Lutheran Social Services and Advocates for Human Rights, as well as basic Safe Environment training of Archdiocese. They are required to make a one year commitment with the family.
    • Advocacy: This subcommittee is also a subset of Voices for Justice. It organizes educational programs and community action on issues including immigration, racism, homelessness, prison reform and faithful citizenship.
    • Collections: This group organizes collections to benefit refugee families, like the fall’s school supply drive.

Communications: This group promotes the committee’s work through website and bulletin updates.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Basilica’s relationship with the families?

We are co-sponsors working with Lutheran Social Services to facilitate a partnership with families. The Basilica’s role is to help families get acclimated to life in the United States.

We help with rent for the first six months and provide basic grocery and household items. We also help the family get acquainted with aspects of living in the United States such as finding work, enrolling in school, making appointments and navigating the public transportation system. 

The Basilica has welcomed twenty-two families to Minnesota since early 2016 and is preparing to welcome more. 

Why are we working with Lutheran Social Services?

Lutheran Social Services already has the infrastructure to help place refugee families in supportive environments; the group has worked with refugees since the end of World War II. The Basilica thought this partnership would make for the most efficient and fulfilling use of resources and time.
Learn about how LSS supports refugees.

How much money has the Basilica raised? What is the money used for?

In December 2016, the parish raised more than $17,000, enough to sponsor two or three families.  Most of the money is going toward basic living expenses for each family's first six months here: rent, furniture, food, and other household items.

How have refugees been vetted?

The State Department's website describes how refugee families were vetted prior to January 2017. 

How many refugees are there worldwide?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has more facts and figures on the nearly 34,000 people forced to leave their homes each day because of conflicts and persecution, and the more than 21 million refugees around the globe.

Our declaration as a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation provides transparency to our work. It allows us to intentionally partner in a deeper way with people in need of support and other congregations doing this work.

Why did The Basilica become a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation?

As Disciples of Christ we are called by our faith to help those in need. Pope Francis reminds us that “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age. (Matthew 25:35-43) ” A Sanctuary Supporting parish cares for those most at risk and those living in fear.

We have encountered those living at risk and in fear at our sister parish, Church of the Ascension in North Minneapolis. Many in their congregation have lived, worked and raised their families in the US for decades. Close to 50% of the Ascension parish identify a fear that they, or someone they love, could be impacted by the threat of deportation. Besides basic needs, we have learned that they need assistance from lawyers and from notary publics to prepare guardianship papers for their children. Declaring our willingness to do this work allows The Basilica to develop deeper relationships and trust with The Ascension Church community.

In addition, The Basilica has already been doing the work expected of a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation. Our Liturgies, Sacramental programs, Caring Ministries and St. Vincent de Pau Ministries receive and respond to all people—regardless of their status. There is integrity in naming what we do as a faith community.

Finally, declaring our parish as a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation is grounded in our faith. It is a direct response to the call to compassion by Christ, articulated by Pope Francis. It seeks to place our faith above any considerations of politics or division.

Let your voice be heard.

Get involved two ways:

1. Join a leadership team that provides resources and tools to empower our community to work for justice through education and formation.

2. Join an e-network and receive one or two e-mails each month inviting you to contact your elected officials about justice issues relevant to our community. You’ll also learn about upcoming justice activities related to our advocacy work.

Sign up for Voices for Justice e-mails.

Raise your voice for these issues:

How does our faith connect to advocacy?

Tools for Advocacy

Advocacy Partners

We work for peace and justice in our world

The Basilica was dedicated as a Peace Site on April 19, 2008.

Restorative Justice

Help The Basilica engage in local restorative justice efforts.

Every Church a Peace Church

The mission of Every Church A Peace Church is to call every church to embrace the form of power taught and demonstrated by Jesus, the power of nonviolent struggle.  Join them for monthly potlucks, workshops, retreats, and more.

Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP)

MAP is a non-partisan, ecumenical coalition of 69 peace, justice, environment, and U.N.-advocacy organizations. MAP plans workshops, speakers, and other events during the year. The Basilica’s Justice Teams are a member of MAP.

11th Day Prayer for Peace with the Sisters of Saint Joseph

The 11th Day of each Month 6:30pm-7:15pm 
Presentation of Our Lady Chapel, 1890 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
Free and open to all 

Join together with others for Peace Prayer on the 11th day of each month.  A variety of groups and people have been planning monthly Peace Prayer since 9/11. The theme is selected by those preparing for this special time to gather in prayer for peace in lives and situations throughout the world.  The Prayer for Peace is sponsored by the Justice Commission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates.  

Questions? Please Contact:

Janice Andersen

Director of Christian Life

Janice Andersen has been on staff at The Basilica of Saint Mary since 1994, working with programs…