L’Arche Chicago Fall Retreat 2022

Keli Miller

Published 28 October 2022

This past weekend we gathered for a community retreat at Loyola’s Ecology and Retreat center. This retreat was extra special because 2022 marks the end of our Community Mandate.

What is a Community Mandate, you ask? It is a declaration of how we want to live out our values and how we want to grow or change as a community in the next 5 years. This is a practice done throughout the L’Arche federation, each community having a mandate of their own. With a community that changes as quickly and dynamically as ours, the 5 year mandate helps us ensure that our community is still operating in a way that is reflective of our values and identity. It’s a beautiful process of gathering all the voices in our community and collaborating together.

With the brightly changing colors of leaves, and a crisp fall air, evidence of seasons changing was all around us. It was the perfect backdrop as we prepared for a season change of our own.

On Saturday, Thomas Marquis from L’Arche USA invited us to all close our eyes and imagine L’Arche Chicago in 2028. Who was around? What do homes feel like? We then broke the group into small groups and spent time reflecting on ideas of spirituality, leadership, community presence, and home life. At the end of the day we had a very long document that included every single idea and hope that was brought to the table.

At the end of the weekend the Mandate Team presented a proposal for our new mandate. As a community we read through the proposal together and asked questions. At the end, we all affirmed it by declaring together, “May L’Arche Chicago be a true place of belonging.”

As part of our process we reflected on Scott Erickson’s artwork (shown below), a piece called “House of Belonging” inspired by the story of the prodigal son in the new testament. What struck me with this image was the way the people move towards each other in both moments of joy and maybe frustration or fear. It is a house where the doors are always open and all can return. Demonstrating that belonging is an ongoing process and a continued choice. May we continue to declare over and over,

“May L’Arche Chicago be, a true place of belonging.”