Reader's Retrospective: Dan and Elaine Bassano

This story appears in the Readers' Retrospective feature series. View the full series.

by Julie Gunter

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Editor's note: Introducing NCRonline's blog series "Reader's Retrospective": A special project that commemorates NCR's 50th anniversary by telling the stories of readers who have been faithfully subscribing to the National Catholic Reporter since its beginning. ​Read about the project's origins here.​​​​​​

Elaine and Dan Bassano, who first met in 1963 near Syracuse University, share two commitments: one to each other and their family, and one, in Elaine's words, "to the reform of the institutional church so that it lives what it proclaims."

Back then, Dan had recently arrived as a doctoral student in physics. Elaine had returned to her hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., in 1961 and was teaching at area schools after spending more than five years with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet near Albany. Describing her time in the convent as "some of the happiest days of my life," Elaine also came to the realization during that "intimacy with God in prayer and service to God's people did not require the sacrifice of human love and family as I had believed."

For Elaine, the reforms set in motion by the Second Vatican Council represented the work of the Holy Spirit "cracking open some of our most narrow concepts of God and humanity, and moving us towards a more expansive understanding of church."

Both she and Dan have subscribed to NCR together since 1967. Calling NCR "the open, searching community I'd been looking for," Elaine added that the publication "articulated and validated my changing understanding of what it meant to be 'Catholic' by challenging the institutional church with the writings of theologians like Hans Küng, Charles Davis and Gregory Baum."

Elaine and Dan are vocal advocates for inclusivity within the church, such as articulated by a banner stretched above the entrance of their current inner-city parish in Syracuse, St. Lucy: "Sinners welcome." The Bassanos are formerly members of St. Andrew the Apostle Church, which was closed in 2009. It was merged with the congregation at St. Lucy as part of a diocesan consolidation plan.

"We love [Catholicism's] sacramental view of the world," said Elaine, "we love its tradition of social justice, and we love that it keeps alive -- along with other Christian churches -- the story of Jesus and his Gospel of good news which is a Gospel of hope."

A version of this story appeared in the July 31-Aug 13, 2015 print issue under the headline: NCR a reader's retrospective: Dan and Elaine Bassano.

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