Leading Together

An exciting new exploration of national inclusion!

Published 13 February 2024

Leading Together

Mic Altena


As we planned our regular, twice-yearly Council of Community Leaders (a week that we spend together discussing life and leadership in our local L’Arche communities), we decided to break the mold. Instead of only inviting Community Leaders/Executive Directors for the meetings, we imagined a new and different way of being together that would be far more inclusive.

With that in mind, we planned a week to explore the topic of inclusion while also experiencing it first hand by inviting core members, assistants, leadership people, and board members to attend.

In the end, twenty two participants signed up, and we met together for a week at the Marillac Retreat Center that the Sisters of Charity host. (As icing on the cake, we unexpectedly met our former Regional Coordinator, Fr. Kevin Cullen, who just began a new role at the Retreat Center.) We were also joined by our new L’Arche USA National Leader Laura Giddings!

Our week began by exploring the topic of inclusion to help us better understand inclusion on a national level as L’Arche. We did this by meeting in small groups. I was paired with Aron from L’Arche Twin Cities and learned, among other things, that he knows almost every song that contains references to Chicago (including from the band, Chicago).

Next we took time to refresh our memories on the new L’Arche International Charter and then brainstormed ways our local communities are living out the values in it. This took the form of an hour-long presentation from each of our communities that included lots of questions and answers, sharing traditions and innovations we’re working on, and places we could use some support or help.

Lastly, we ended our work together by celebrating together with bowling and barbeque. While I had fun bowling, I was clearly no match for our group, which included Brad who effortlessly knocked down not three but four consecutive strikes!

It was a joy being together, learning what inclusion looks and feels like. I’m especially grateful for Anders and Cassie who jumped in on the trip, shared their expertise from the L’Arche USA inclusion team, and happily tolerated my desire to tour three(!) prisons while there.