Dear Friends in Christ,
Over the past several months I and other parish leaders have taken part in several listening sessions at The Basilica of Saint Mary – “Voices of the Parish.” These sessions have been very helpful to me as a new pastor and have communicated the great love that parishioners have for The Basilica. Important perspectives, ideas, and views have been communicated through these gatherings which have helped me to listen and learn as I seek to serve you well as pastor. One of themes that was consistently conveyed throughout this process is the respect and gratitude that our parishioners and friends have for the staff at The Basilica. Approximately 11 months into my service as pastor, I share your admiration and gratitude – the staff at The Basilica is excellent – they are committed, knowledgeable, hardworking, and passionate professionals who pour themselves out for those they serve. I am proud to call them colleagues.
Parallel to the listening sessions, parish leaders also engaged Jocelyn Hale, a strategic and organizational consultant, to meet with the parish staff to elicit their views on what they find life giving about their ministry, what they find burdensome, ideas they have regarding the current structure of the staff, and to initiate conversations regarding succession planning at The Basilica. I would like to convey three quick points which emerged from those staff conversations – the staff deeply values their work at The Basilica and knows that their work is consequential in the lives of those they serve. Additionally, many staff members voiced the need for a staff realignment to better meet the present and future needs of the parish. These views coalesced with my own view that our present structure needed to be realigned to meet the moment.
The current staff structure has been in place for twenty years. In that time, the world has changed, the pope has changed, the archbishop has changed, the parish has changed, and the pastoral leadership at The Basilica has changed. Currently, the strong headwinds which parishes face in the midst of a global pandemic and its effects have presented many challenges, among them – Mass attendance, parish income, parish expenses, and the titanic shift in the labor market. The Basilica has not been immune from these effects and there is little doubt that many of you are also experiencing these realities and dynamics in your own homes, lives, and workplaces. Given these realities, I entered into dialogue with several parish leaders and parish committees and councils regarding the possibility of a staff realignment to better meet our present and future needs as a parish. These changes were presented by me as a way of informing parish leaders about the path on which we would likely soon be heading.
In these conversations with trustees, senior staff, and members of the finance and parish council, and Landmark board, I received support for these changes. I would like to make clear that these staff structural changes do not change our mission, vision, values, and strategic priorities at The Basilica. Indeed, these positive dimensions of our common life have no doubt drawn or kept you rooted at The Basilica – these strengths drew me to The Basilica as well. The staff realignment announced below is necessary to best advance our mission and strategic priorities and position us to positively and effectively meet the moment as we continue to make God known and loved in our community and world.
Effective July 1, 2023, The Basilica of Saint Mary will move to a three Managing Director Model which will anchor responsibilities and authority in three highly competent, well-respected, and long serving staff members – Terri Ashmore, Johan Van Parys, and Audra Johnson. Terri will serve in a new role – Managing Director of Mission Advancement – which will have development, communications and marketing, parish engagement, and external relations under this new role. Terri will also assume the role of Executive Director of The Basilica Landmark. Johan will move to Managing Director of Ministries where he will work with Janice Andersen and others to help align all of the ministries of the parish in greater unity and mission focus. Audra will move to Managing Director of Parish Operations where she will continue to have the responsibilities of finance and HR, but now will also oversee parish operations, security, and facilities. I very much appreciate the openness of my three talented colleagues in taking on and embracing these additional responsibilities. Their gifts and experience are well suited to these expanded roles and responsibilities – please congratulate and thank them when you see them.
Lastly, the Learning Department will enfold into Christian Life and Liturgy and the Arts – with life-long learning merging into Christian life and all sacramental preparation merging into Liturgy. In the listening sessions it was communicated consistently that the strengths of our parish ministries are – Liturgy and Music and Christian life. This is due, in large part, to the commitment and vision of both Johan and Janice. By enfolding learning and sacramental preparation into Christian life and Liturgy, respectively, I believe that learning will also be lifted to a place of excellence for the good of the parish.
The Basilica of Saint Mary is on a positive trajectory indeed and I can feel our strong momentum. Our recent Landmark Spark event was a rousing success, our new challenge match campaign is off to a great start, and Mass attendance is significantly up from last year. Our parish is growing and vibrant, notwithstanding the challenges we face. Among our most significant strengths is all of you – the faithful and gifted people of God who love the Lord, lean into your faith, and generously support this terrific parish as we continue our journey together – a community grounded in faith and rooted in God’s abiding grace and love.
I ask for your prayers for the parish staff and parish as we implement these structural changes in the coming weeks and months and I ask for your prayers, through the intercession of our patron, Saint Mary, that our venerable parish would meet the moment and be all that God intends us to be.
Fr. Daniel Griffith
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary