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Ada Simpson


Lifting up the lowly: Facing challenges
in ministry

My daughter got a new job a few years ago — one that required her to move to another part of the world. I never dreamed she would live so far away, and I never imagined that we would be separated for such long periods of time. She came for a visit recently to celebrate my birthday; it had been nine months since I last saw her. I spent months eagerly anticipating her arrival, and I spent weeks preparing for her visit. I stocked the pantry with her favorite foods, and I cleaned and polished the house so that everything would be just perfect on her arrival. Our visit seemed all too brief; no sooner had I picked her up at the airport than I was retracing my route and bidding her good-bye. As she collected her bag from the back of my car, she begged me not to cry and assured me that she would return soon. I drove home from the airport wiping tears from my eyes, realizing that one of the most challenging and difficult situations that any mother faces is letting go of her children as they make their way in the world.

As we enter into the season of Advent, our thoughts turn to Mary, our mother in heaven; a mother who prepared her heart and her home for the advent of her son, the savior of the world; a mother who faced the scorn of being pregnant and unwed; a mother who sought safety and shelter for her newborn baby; a mother who ultimately had to let her own son go into the world and witness him giving up his life for our salvation. In this month's issue, we name some of the challenges that we face on our ministerial journeys, and we explore ways that we can reach out to those who, like Mary, find themselves in search of hope, shelter, acceptance, and consolation. Javier Bustamante reflects on the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and reveals how her apparition to Juan Diego can serve as a model for ministers to young adults who seek a church that understands the complexity of their lives and the problems they face in an ever-changing world. Calling on her extensive pastoral experience, Rose Sweet assists us in understanding the church's intricate process of annulment. Todd Flowerday presents a framework for a day of staff renewal in preparation for the Advent season and a new liturgical year. Mary Beth Walsh addresses the concerns of families with children who have autistic spectrum disorders, offering suggestions for inclusive liturgies that welcome them to the table of the Lord.

As we prepare for Advent, we must turn our eyes to the mother of God. As Mary prepared her heart for the coming of the Son of God, so must we. As Mary joyfully cried out, "My soul magnifies the Lord, / and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, / for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant," so must we (Lk 1:46–48). As Mary recognized God's wonderful power in her prayer, though her faith, and by her witness, so must we. Following the example of her son, we must live out our faith by lifting up the lowly, filling the hungry, and being God's love and compassion to the world.

"May Christ dwell in your heart through faith and may charity be the foundation of your life" (Eph 3:17, paraphrase). ML