The Spirit of L’Arche is A Family Affair

Mic Altena

Published 20 April 2016

Early Introduction to L’Arche

Growing up in Toronto, Canada, I was so lucky to have spent so much of my childhood in and around L’Arche. It was the single greatest influence in teaching me about belonging – that we all belong together. And that belonging  is the way to a happy life. At a time when people with diverse intellectual and physical abilities were still being institutionalized, my Uncle Brian and Aunt Arlene were including my cousin Denise in the family and community. Her brother Doug was mentoring for all of us kids what it is to be brothers and sisters.

A couple of other Canadians, Steve and Ann Newroth, were inspired to buy a farm just outside of Toronto and L’Arche Daybreak became the second L’Arche community, starting an international movement of establishing communities in 80 countries all over the world.

Gratitude for my “L’Archies”

Gratitude is an essential component of the Spirit of L’Arche and I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my parents, Marnie and Mike Bell for driving us all to Daybreak for community nights, coffee houses, dinners, weekends, and summers. My heart is filled with gratitude for Daybreak and eventually it’s off-shoot L’Arche Toronto for giving me and my family such a vibrant experience of community and belonging. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to core members, especially Mel Kirzner and Patsy Ramsey for becoming family. My family’s closest loved ones are “L’Archies” and Mary Jane Kelley is foremost among them.

Let me says thanks to L’Arche Vancouver, especially Kenneth, Rick, and Judie Leckie for welcoming me as a young assistant leaving home for the first time. I am so grateful for all of the L’Arche communities I have visited, and L’Arche Antigonish will always have a special place in my heart. I am thrilled I got to fall in love for the first time at L’Arche. I know many people who have met the love of their life living as a core member or assistant at L’Arche. Thanks for all the gatherings and fun and music and worship and bowl-a-thons and golf classics that keep communities going and growing.

I am grateful to L’Arche Chicago. When I recently immigrated to the United States on Thanksgiving Day 2015 (talk about the spirit of gratitude!) and settled in Illinois, I naturally sent an email to make a connection with the closest L’Arche community. I received an immediate invitation to dinner and community night. I met other guests  who are neighbors of the community, people finding out about L’Arche for the first time, lifelong friends of the community, family of core members, former assistants, parents of a young assistant living at L’Arche Washington, and medical school students, We heard from community leaders Luca and Mic. There was great discussion about community, lots of laughs and I even got to play a tune with Noah and Elbert. And we were spoiled with a meal prepared by Mujeres Unidas, women from the local parish who brought their children with them

Join in the Spirit of L’Arche

As I watched those kids experience L’Arche for the first time, I felt most grateful to know that the future of L’Arche will be in good hands, as the latest generation of young people experience the Spirit of L’Arche and will carry it on. The #SpiritOfLarche offers us different ways to belong within the L’Arche Chicago community. I am so glad to have this chance to encourage other families to join in because the Spirit of L’Arche is the best inheritance my parents have given their children and grandchildren. We love them and are so grateful to them for our family’s Spirit of L’Arche!

Here’s how you can be a part of the Spirit of L’Arche

  1. Join the L’Arche Chicago Impact Society, a dedicated community of monthly donors that ensure the health of the community for core members and assistants.

  2. Sponsor or Register for the Golf Classic where you can golf, network, and make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

  3. Attend the Spirit of L’Arche Awards Dinner where we celebrate and honor the friends of the community that have demonstrated what it means to live out the Spirit of L’Arche.

  4. Thank your friends for their gifts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with #SpiritOfLarche and