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Day 14: Stood Before the Manger

Advent Blog Headers 2023 (16)

Editor’s Note: For day 14 of our Advent series, “The Day of Joy Drew Near,” Executive Director Elizabeth Hughes shares farewell with the FMS family after 7 years of service to the organization.

It is early Advent, and I join my friend’s 5-year-old in setting up their nativity from Cote d’Ivoire, comprised of the Holy Family, the shepherds and wise men, and a few farm animals.  We are in Morocco, and I can’t help but think that St. Francis would smile to see this nativity in a Muslim country that has offered incredible hospitality to the Franciscan family centuries after Francis’ meetings with the sultan.  This beautiful nativity mirrors how I often imagine the first Christmas to be: full of awe and wonder, and sparse on people.

In contrast, FMS’ Advent card, designed by DC Service Corps alumnus Alessia Catena, depicts a different imagining of the first Christmas, as Francis recreated it at Greccio in 1223.  Rather than the sparsely populated stable of most home creches, this is a crowded scene, full of people who are standing shoulder-to-shoulder before the manger.  The adoration at Greccio depicts a theological truth, even as it differs from the original night in the manger.  Aren’t we all standing in front of the manger as we try to live our lives in a way that reflects the awe and wonder of Christ’s birth?  Isn’t the invitation to each of us to walk in community through the forest, amplifying our voices as we strive for justice in the world?

After 7 sacred years, I will depart FMS in mid-January.  This season with FMS has been an incredible gift because I have had the honor of standing before the manger with all of you.  You are profound examples of wise women and men, following the invitation of the bright star in each of your lives, even when the path is challenging or unclear.  You are inspiring models of the shepherds, sharing the good news of the incarnation through the way you live your lives.  I am filled with gratitude for your witness, and I am inspired to deepen that witness in my own life.  Like St. Francis, I stand before the manger this final Christmas season with FMS, and I am overcome with joy.   

Seasons inevitably bring transitions, and after significant prayer and discernment, such a transition time has arrived.  A bittersweet farewell, I am responding to an invitation toward the next professional season in my life with a return to federal service.  FMS is in a healthy place for a transition with an incredibly talented staff and Board, stable finances, and flourishing programs.  FMS’ reality has never been a sparsely populated manger, but rather an abundant creche in which the “forest amplifies with [your] voices” with Jesus at the center.  

Thank you for the honor of standing with you before the manger these past 7 years.  It has been such a sacred and transformative season for me personally.  The Franciscan charism is an important part of my life, and I’m looking forward to praying with and supporting the FMS family in new ways in the time ahead.    

If you would like to exchange personal contact information with Liz, you are encouraged to email her at liz@franciscanmissionservice.org by January 10.  She would love to remain in touch and she asks for your prayers during this time of transition.  

Question for Reflection: Who are the people in your life who “stand before the manger” with you?

Liz is thrilled to lead FMS. It is an honor to partner with individuals living and serving in solidarity with individuals in economically poor communities. Liz’s own mission commitment was shaped through serving as a 4th grade teacher in Birmingham, Alabama with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and later as a teacher in a bilingual Catholic elementary school in Juticalpa, Honduras.

Liz comes to FMS from the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where she served as the Director of the International Program for three years. Previously, she dedicated over a decade to serving in internationally focused positions with the U.S. government, including two years in Mexico City. Liz graduated with an M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame and a B.S in International Studies and Management from Boston College.

In her free time, Liz enjoys tutoring DC junior high students, learning languages, reading, exploring hidden gems of DC, traveling, retreats, and sharing time with family and friends. She is pictured here with her nephew, Benjamin!