A dear friend and former assistant of L’Arche Erie, Anetka, came for a brief visit recently and I was reminded of the beauty and depth of authentic, or true relationships formed within L’Arche. For many of us, L’Arche is family. We have felt truly accepted and celebrated in community. Each of us comes to L’Arche from a different background, with gifts and challenges. Somehow, we are able to welcome one another in our differences and even live together to keep the boat afloat (with God’s help of course)! We have cooked and enjoyed meals, laughed, struggled, worked toward completing daily tasks and goals, offered hospitality, celebrated, mourned losses, prayed, created artwork, drank lots of coffee and Diet Coke, traveled the world, and have spent time just being.
As I sat talking with Anetka and other past long term L’Arche assistants, I felt a special quality that each person in L’Arche possesses. It’s difficult to articulate but there is a presence that I can best describe as caring joy.
I began to reflect on the L’Arche friends who are my family in Erie, Chicago, Boston North, other communities in the region, US, and the world! These friendships have provided a safe space to be authentic. They have allowed for imperfection, empathy, creativity, and silliness. They have celebrated diversity and inclusion. In these relationships, we have wrestled in the tension and richness of questions regarding how to be truly inclusive of one another. Being together in L’Arche has provided opportunities for personal growth, grace, and forgiveness in relationship to myself and others. Being in the space of togetherness has taught me about deep listening to those I am in the presence of and the sweetness of committing to journeying together.
Recently, on Memorial Day, many L’Arche Erie core members and assistants gathered for the annual tradition of remembering and honoring past community members who have passed on. It was lovely to learn more about one of our founders, Sr. Barbara Ann, who was lively and fun; dressing up in costumes, even once as the Statue of Liberty! We shared stories about the beauty that each member brought in their own way. On that hot, sunny morning, I looked around, noticing friendships formed over the past 20+ years. Friends who have been faithfully present to one another with caring joy thorough both sunny and cloudy skies alike.
I remember the words of a beloved friend and core member from L’Arche Chicago, Mikey Marino, who has since passed, our now angel, who called fellow community members his “L’Arche sisters, brothers and siblings”…
The presence of caring joy embodied in authentic relationships in L’Arche is one that is recognizable, if not palpable. I am so grateful to have been formed and continually taught by this special caring, joyful presence.