Printed in the October/November Bulletin
After it was announced that I was appointed the next pastor of The Basilica, I expressed the goal of listening and learning during my first year so I could best serve the parish as a new pastor. To that end, beginning in January of 2023 and throughout the spring, we hosted multiple listening sessions as a way of helping me and other parish leaders understand what is on the minds and in the hearts of parishioners and friends regarding the broader Catholic Church and our parish community at The Basilica. I found these listening sessions very helpful and illuminating about important areas which need greater attention in the broader Catholic Church and here at The Basilica.
Additionally, parishioner Mark Detorre led multiple focus groups which also gathered important perspectives and information, including bringing forth complementing and confirming themes that emerged in the listening sessions. Below, I highlight a number of these themes and offer some ways we are responding to what we heard. As we continue to unpack these forums and the information gathered, a next step will be a parish survey which will be distributed this fall. I am most grateful to all who participated in these listening sessions and focus groups and to parish leaders who helped staff and conduct them, including Mark Detorre and Jill Reilly.
First, there was an omnipresent theme among many who attended the listening sessions and focus groups, that The Basilica cannot wait for people to come to us –
we need to go out into the community and engage with different institutions and communities – including other faith communities. In addition, many were concerned that we do not see as many young Catholics, noting that there has been a steep drop off nationally in young adults who are actively engaged in organized religion. I agree and believe strongly that we need to engage the broader Twin Cities community in key partnerships and with young adults where there are natural connection points in shared values and goals, including in serving our sisters and brothers on the margins. One dream I have is to find a space in the north loop of Minneapolis where The Basilica could be actively and creatively present. Join me in discerning how this dream can become reality.
Second, many who attended the listening sessions raised the issue of women in the Church and the need for a more vital role for women. This concern was raised at almost every listening session, and at one session in particular, was the dominant theme expressed. One way in which we are responding is by inviting four women to offer reflections at The Basilica on the readings at the weekend liturgies over the weekend of September 23/24. I am excited that our community will benefit from their wisdom and faith. A similar initiative is taking place at several parishes in the Archdiocese this fall and has the approval of Archbishop Hebda. In addition, on the first Saturday of December, The Basilica will host listening circles on the role of women in the Church, which will follow a restorative justice model of open, respectful, and inclusive dialogue. I look forward to this important gathering, which has my full support as pastor.
Third, another consistent theme expressed was the need for more education and catechesis regarding what the Catholic Church believes and teaches, including accessible explanations for why we celebrate the liturgy and the sacraments in the manner we do and the history and wisdom which underlie our tradition and practices. One recent exciting initiative which flowed from the listening sessions is a new Basilica podcast – BASILICAST which will focus on modern Catholic discipleship and an emphasis on catechesis, Catholic spirituality, Catholic social teaching, and the Arts. We are excited to launch our new Basilica podcast this fall. I thank the parish couple for their very generous gift which has made all of this possible. Thank you also to my staff colleagues Melissa Streit, Johan Van Parys, and Janice Andersen for helping shepherd this initiative with professionalism and upon a strategic trajectory.
Fourth, many who attended the listening sessions expressed concern about safety and security in Minneapolis and at The Basilica. While the recent trends regarding crime in Minneapolis are positive, there is still an understandable perception among some parishioners and friends that The Basilica that the community in which The Basilica is located is not safe enough. Some have also expressed concern about security at The Basilica, including during the weekend liturgies. Given our history and prominence as a Landmark in Minneapolis, security and safety is the issue that wakes me up in the middle of the night – more than any other. This is not to say that we are failing in the area of security. Rather, we live in a challenged, polarized, and unstable world and thus must be increasingly vigilant in our safety and security protocols. My first duty to you as a pastor and shepherd is your safety and well-being. To that end, we recently hired Joe Cybert as our new Director of Safety and Security. Joe has a background as a law enforcement professional and recently completed a safety and security assessment for The Basilica which will guide our important work going forward. Welcome Joe – we are happy you have joined our team!
Finally, the two areas of the parish which were affirmed consistently for excellence were: liturgy and music and Christian life and outreach. I wholeheartedly agree with these affirmations. Our recent parish realignment and restructure was aimed at breaking down communication silos, fostering organizational effectiveness, and lifting the learning and sacramental preparation ministries to excellence by enfolding them into liturgy and the arts and Christian Life, respectively. This structural realignment, notwithstanding the hard work that it calls forth from staff, is beginning to bear fruit, including in the robust collaboration that is taking place among staff members and the various ministries they lead. I thank my staff colleagues for their hard work and openness in implementing these changes for the good of the parish.
As I have learned through restorative justice, listening is a sacred ministry – modeled first and most perfectly by Jesus who listened to the needs of all those who approached him. Parish leaders and I will continue to listen to the needs and wisdom of our parishioners and friends of The Basilica and we will respond as best we can to what we have heard. This important process has begun and I am grateful for the journey of faith that lies ahead. The future of The Basilica is bright and manifests a firm hope in God who sustains us in all that we do and makes all things new!
Fr. Daniel Griffith