Refugee/Immigration Ministry Rooted in our Catholic faith

The Immigrant Support Ministry (ISM) is a volunteer group with the Basilica of Saint Mary that assists refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. 

Rooted in our Catholic faith, we assist by partnering with community organizations; fostering long-term relationships with our new neighbors in Minnesota; offering financial assistance and other support; and providing education and advocacy on behalf of those we serve.

How can I help immigrants in Minnesota?

Join a team

Circle of Welcome and Accompaniment Teams

Circle of Welcome Teams and Accompaniment Teams work directly with refugees and asylees. Circle of Welcome Teams offer guidance and support to refugee families as they build new lives in our community. Accompaniment Teams walk with and support families seeking asylum in Minnesota.

Teams are groups of four to six volunteers paired with a family. Required trainings are offered for both teams. The Basilica partners with Lutheran Social Services and Advocates for Human Rights to be paired with families.

The Basilica has welcomed twenty-two families to Minnesota since early 2016 and is preparing to welcome more. Our Circle of Welcome and Accompaniment Teams make it possible.

This map illustrates where the families have traveled from.

The Education & Advocacy Team plans thought-provoking presentations on immigration issues to educate our community, including film nights and hosting guest speakers.

We also act on Catholic Social Teaching to advocate for immigrants through legislative lobbying, acting as prayer witnesses at Immigration and Customs Enforcement sites, and participating in trips to the U.S. southern border to meet with deportees.

Attend an ISM meeting

Not sure about joining a team just yet? Attend our monthly meetings to learn more about the ISM’s mission and activities. Email Glen Boerboom, ISM committee chair, or Janice Andersen, the Basilica’s director of Christian Life, for more information.

Donate money, goods, time or talents

Donate to St. Vincent de Paul

Funding is raised through the Basilica St. Vincent de Paul ministry to help families, including those supported by the Basilica ISM. These funds have supported families with basic living expenses for one year, including rent, furniture, food, household items, clothing, transportation, education, and health needs.

Attend a prayer vigil

Stand in prayer and solidarity with immigrant detainees the second Tuesday of each month, 7:30-8:30 a.m., at the Whipple Federal Building at Fort Snelling. This hour of prayer and song is hosted by ICOM and a rotating group of faith communities, including the Basilica. Learn more on ICOM’s website.

Donate clothing

Please donate clothing to the Minneapolis St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store or Central Lutheran's Free Store (located at 333 S 12th Street) or the St. Olaf Catholic Church (located at 215 S 8th Street.)

Donate furniture

Please donate furniture to Bridging or the Minneapolis St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.

Donate household items

Please donate other items (such as trash cans/wastebaskets, silverware drawer organizers, etc) needed to set up homes for the refugees to the Minneapolis St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.

Seeking writers, storytellers

Do you have experience as a writer or telling stories through video, audio or online mediums? Donate your time to help the ISM share the team’s experiences with the wider community.

Frequently asked questions

Who are the Basilica ISM’s partners?

Lutheran Social Services enables the Basilica to partner with and be in relationship with refugee families. LSS has the infrastructure to help place refugee families in supportive environments; the group has worked with refugees since the end of World War II.
Learn about how LSS supports refugees

Advocates for Human Rights offers legal counsel to people in Minnesota who are actively seeking asylum. The Basilica provides support for basic living expenses until they are able to work and provides emotional and spiritual support as we accompany them through their journey.

Learn more about the Advocates for Human Rights

The Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM) stands in solidarity with immigrants, refugees and their families and our active volunteer network provides a variety of compassionate support while advocating for systemic justice through policy change. Their three main mission areas include Vigils and Courtwatch, Accompanying Immigrants in Detention (AID), and Advocacy and Action.

Learn more about the work of ICOM.

How do I volunteer for a team or get more information?

Email Glen Boerboom, ISM committee chair, or Janice Andersen, the Basilica’s director of Christian Life, or call Janice at 612-317-3477.

What is the Basilica’s relationship with refugee families?

We are co-sponsors working with Lutheran Social Services to facilitate a partnership with refugee 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 for one year. Over this year, we 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. 

What is the Basilica’s relationship with asylee families?

We support families that are working with lawyers provided by The Advocates for Human Rights. Our relationship with families seeking asylum is similar to those who come as refugees, as they help families get acclimated to life in the United States. However, the support needed is greater as the families must wait for their work permit and can, therefore, have trouble finding housing etc. The partnership with families seeking asylum lasts for one year. 

What is donated money used for?

One hundred percent of the money donated goes directly to support the families The Basilica is partnered with: families who are refugees, asylum seekers, or are struggling with family members being deported. The funds support these families with basic needs such as rent, food, household items, transportation, or crucial medical care.

What is a refugee?

Learn about the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and the criteria for being considered for refugee resettlement on the State Department’s website.

What is an asylee?

Learn about the criteria for being considered an asylee on the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement’s website.

How many refugees and asylees are there worldwide?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has facts and figures on the more than 32.5 million refugees and 4.2 million asylum seekers around the globe – people forced to leave their homes because of conflicts and persecution.

Global Solidarity Partnership

The Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis has a formal partnership with the diocese of Kitui, Kenya. This partnership was formed in 2004 in response to the US Catholic Bishops’ document, “A Call to Solidarity with Africa.”

The Partnership Mission Statement, written by teams in Kitui and Minnesota, defines the relationship as existing “in recognition of our communion in the Body of Christ for the mutual sharing of our faith, our experiences, our cultures and our resources – gifts to us from God.” Rooted in mutuality, the solidarity partnership provides opportunities for building relationships, strengthening faith, and sharing resources through many shared activities and projects.

In 2024, the partnership will celebrate its 20-year anniversary. To commemorate this milestone, in the fall of 2024 delegates from Kitui, Kenya will travel to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. They will encounter local Catholics, parishes, and liturgies and continue to build relationships—cornerstones of the partnership over the last two decades.

The Basilica has been asked to help welcome the delegates. We are excited for this opportunity to connect and learn from them—joining in worship, breaking bread, visiting our city, and sharing our life together. 

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…