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Blessings are abundant as we come closer to Jesus and Mary, our church and our faith family — Maureen Pratt

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A blessed, light-filled Advent to you! I am certainly enjoying my Advent wreath, the warm glow from the first-week, first-lit purple candle, and the sparkle of votives on either side of my creche.

Because of some scheduled eye surgery, I put up my Christmas tree early, blending ornaments from childhood with those I’ve acquired as an adult. The added glitter and variety, along with the many-colored lights, add a profound sense of home.

It is not an easy Advent. Despite the light, there is illness, challenge and, sadly, the end of my column with Catholic News Service. But through it all, there is a constant refrain in my heart, that simple, beautiful prayer, “My Jesus, I trust in you.” (Along, of course, with a hearty dose of “be not afraid!”)

And there is a core certainty, a peace beyond “all measure” that with every flare of illness something good results and for every difficult ending, something good emerges, too. From this time of waiting and endings, new Holy Spirit-inspired surprises will appear and carry life forward along the unfolding new pathways.

Pathways are already unfolding. I will update my website (www.maureenpratt.com) regularly about planned new books and speaking engagements (caregivers, I’m here for you, too!), a new column, and more unique jewelry and other pieces reflecting faith and the beauty of God’s world (through Galilee Road Jewelry). A recent visit to a museum inspired thoughts of designing monstrances and chalices — and my pencil is already busy!

Perhaps most exciting is the emergence of an answer to long-lifted prayer, years in the waiting — development of parish-based, small, spiritual and faith support group for persons living with chronic pain and illness.

Not long ago, I was contacted by someone looking for my out-of-print book, “Beyond Pain: Job, Jesus, and Joy.” Pat Calanca had assembled a wellness group at her parish (St. Aloysius in New Canaan, Connecticut) and, with the support of the parish’s parochial vicar, Father David Roman, had used my devotional “Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain and Illness” (Image/Penguin Random House) as their discussion and prayer resource for nearly a year and a half! Now, they were going to start on “Beyond Pain” but needed copies.

I had to know more! So, across miles and time zones, Pat, Father David and I emailed and met via Zoom. I have learned much from them about their nurturing the group and am greatly encouraged by what they have witnessed.

Starting small, the wellness group has grown and flourished. Each meeting blends prayer, faith sharing and selections from “Peace in the Storm,” with occasional healing masses led by Father David.

The blessings, I’m told, are abundant, as members come closer to Jesus and Mary, our church and our faith family. This, I was grateful to hear, not only benefits the individuals, but the parish. Truly, the stronger we are in faith, the more we want and are able to serve!

My conversations with Pat and Father David have resulted in a joy-filled fellowship as only the Holy Spirit can bring. They have also sparked a plan for the growth of the ministry to more parishes in Connecticut and beyond. A group discussion guide and more information will be available in early 2023. Please email me — maureen@maureenpratt.com — if you would like more information or are interested in starting a group at your parish.

Our dear Lord lavishes us with opportunities to live well. So, we are hopeful that endings, although difficult, do not end with sadness, but become beginnings with blessings, grace and goodness, and always abundant light!

Maureen’s website is www.maureenpratt.com.