Kate Recently Visited Some Sister Communities in Europe and Found Joy and Family
Jean Vanier says, “Our lives in L’Arche are alarmingly simple.”
This was illuminated for me this past summer when I was given the opportunity to visit a few L’Arche communities in Europe. I stayed in two different communities: L’Arche Brugge in Belgium and L’Arche Kilkenny in Ireland. I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging the instant I walked into those communities. The daily rhythm of community life was essentially the same and I felt at home.
Similar to L’Arche Chicago, the core members come home from their day programs anxious to get their afternoon routines started. Assistants and core members would cook and clean together. When gathered around the dinner table, I experienced the same authenticity and love that I experience every day at Peace House. There was laughter and joy but also some tears and complaints about the food (completely average day in all L’Arche communities.)
A Warm Welcome from Core Members
I was touched by the welcoming we received from the core members. One core member spent her afternoon showing us “Americans” her village. She introduced us to her friends, work and church. Her ability to open up her life and show complete strangers her routine made us feel loved. The simple action of inviting us to walk with her created a bridge between her life and ours, allowing us to share in her experiences regardless of the language and culture barriers.
Connecting Through Stories
I was also amazed by the openness of assistants. I have found that a common L’Arche ice breaker question is “so how did you come to L’Arche?” Through the sharing of our stories we realized that although we had never met, we shared many of the same experiences. Lived community life is not always easy, and it offered peace to know that we faced many of the same challenges.
I spend a lot of time trying to conceptualize what it means to belong and be a part of L’Arche. But what I have realized is that L’Arche is simply that we share our lives. No matter where I go in the world, I will always have home not only in L’Arche but anywhere that mutuality can exist.
(This article was in our Fall 2015 issue of Two by Two, our twice a year publication highlighting the L'Arche Life in Chicago. Don't get the Two by Two? Subscribe today to have it delivered right to your door twice a year.)
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