On October 29, L'Arche Portland and the University of Portland's Garaventa Center partnered to lead a community-wide discussion on the topic of vulnerability. Over 120 people - including faculty, staff, and students from UP; daily life members from L'Arche Portland; leadership from L'Arche USA; and many others from the larger Portland community - explored the concept of Becoming Human, and the challenges and opportunities that it presents us in our personal and professional lives.
Participants were presented with a series of testimonies, each leading to questions and prompts for personal reflection and small group discussion. Andy Noethe, Executive Director of L'Arche Portland, began the event by introducing L'Arche. Beth Barsotti, Board member of L'Arche Portland and former assistant at L'Arche Greater Washington D.C., shared a personal experience of vulnerability from her time living in a L'Arche community. She and Andy then invited participants to consider the questions: "What communities in your life allow you to be vulnerable?" and "How do you create space for others to be vulnerable?"
Marilyn Petruzzelli, core member at L'Arche Portland, and Tamara Yates, Director of Development & Communications, spoke about authenticity and what they have learned from one another. Marilyn and Tamara shared touching stories of personal discovery, bringing both silence and laughter to the room, before offering the prompt, "What prevents you from being authentic?"
Dr. Karen Eifler, co-director of the Garaventa Center, bridged the topic of vulnerability with the participants' personal and professional lives by exploring our mutual need for one another. Karen then challenged everyone in the room to commit to an act or ongoing action of being more vulnerable and publicly sharing it at their table.
Rev. Claude Pomerleau, C.S.C., close friend of Henri Nouwen who visited L'Arche Daybreak on multiple occasions, finally led the room in a closing reflection and prayer, before the event ended with everyone singing happy birthday to L'Arche, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of L'Arche International. Candles from L'Arche Seattle were offered as gifts to participants as they left.
L'Arche Portland and the University of Portland's Garaventa Center are excited to have begun this conversation on Becoming Human, and hope to partner in offering ongoing community discussions on this theme in the future.
What a night we had! A great gathering of old and new friends of L'Arche Portland came together for fun, inspiration, and celebration. Together, you succeeded in raising over $61,000 to support L'Arche's mission of creating home and building community as people with and without intellectual disabilities. I am deeply grateful for your support.
Throughout the evening, we focused on our connection with the 145 L'Arche communities across the globe in celebration of 50 years of announcing and engaging the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities. Chef Shannon Poynter (who is core member Erin Wheeler's sister) started us off at the soiree with her delicious international hors d'oeuvres. The wine, generously donated by Cynthia Chrystal, was flowing, as was the Droptop beer donated by Widmer Brothers Brewing. Many bidding wars ensued over the silent auction items--especially the weekend at the coast and some of the wine packages.
Joan Mahler, Executive Director of L'Arche USA and a founding member of our Portland community, spoke about how our celebration linked us with the Jubilee events in L'Arche communities across the world.
Later, we moved over to the church for another stunning performance by Julianne Johnson and Michael Allen Harrison. Julianne and Michael were joined by special guests Jordan Ackerson, and PHAME student performers Aaron Hobson, Lea Mulligan and David Hutzler. Aaron sang a beautiful rendition of "Bring Him Home," and received a standing ovation.
We watched a beautiful film from L'Arche Kenya about the extraordinary joy of Musa (you can watch it here), and then L'Arche Portland volunteer Faythe Aiken spoke about the vulnerability of L'Arche. She asked, from that place of vulnerability, for attendees to give generously--which they did! From the paddle raise, along with ticket sales, donations from those who could not attend, and the silent auction, donors exceeded the $30,000 challenge match made by Howard Hedinger and the Hedinger Family Foundation. Generosity was overflowing!
The concert was a beautiful celebration of 50 years of L'Arche worldwide, complete with photos of and artwork from communities all over the world, given to us as symbols of friendship. It was also an expression of the love and acceptance that flow so freely in L'Arche--here in Portland, and in the 35 countries where L'Arche exists. Thank you for being a part of L'Arche and our mission.
The event could not have happened without enormous support from so many people. I am filled with gratitude to all of you who came together to create this incredible evening. For those of you who could not join us, thank you for the support you offered in spirit and be sure to mark your calendars for next year's event, on Saturday, October 17, 2015!
Andrew J Noethe
Executive Director | Community Leader
by Grace LeChevallier
I was blessed to be a part of the International Federation Council to "take the temperature" of the federation in the middle in our current international mandate. About 30 people from L'Arche Communities varying from leaders, coordinator, assistants, core members and board members came from Kenya to Canada, from Solvenia to Argentina, gathered to share their daily experiences in L'Arche. We meet for 3 long days to review key aspects of our current mandate and share how we are or are not living out our current International Mandate.
One such workshop that revealed several truths was a workshop on partnership. The council was divided into four groups and were asked to rotate around that room, spending 20 minutes with a particular issue. Each person in the group used a prop to signify a role they would play: an enthusiastic assistants (necklaces), community leaders and office workers (glasses), Board members (fedoras) and core members (backpacks). Participants were asked to role-play different situations at each table, and were not allowed to wear the same prop twice. The scenarios differed: a core member is sick, the community had to deal with officialdom (instance, buying new land, needing a new building etc.- who will go?), community members had to deal with opening a new place in the community and finally participants were asked to discuss (and draw) how they got information and how decisions are made.
The workshop revealed variance in roles that are played in the community across the federation, especially in the community leaders and board member role. It also revealed underlying assumptions of members of the community. Who shares what information with whom? Who is the first the step in to solve a problem? When and how are the core members informed? How are they involved in decision making? What structures do some community members have that others do not?
Another fruitful workshop was focused on leadership each group shared stories of good or a bad leader in their experience. They groups were asked to draw three or four portraits on a poster to describe different examples of leadership that they have experienced. We were divided into three with one group of just core members than their accompaniers. All of the stories from the core members were of the community leaders. I saw this as revealing of the importance of the role of the community leaders in the eyes of the core members. We know what we have experience with and it is clear the our core member's experience of leadership is that of a typical community leader.
Patrick Fontaine, L’Arche International Leader, shared with us that it was clear 2 1/2 years ago that the federation was dissatisfied with leadership throughout all levels. He felt challenged because there was a lot of frustration but few examples of why the federation was dissatisfied. We were each asked to stand on a line in the middle of the room to express our level of satisfaction with leadership. This could be within your community, your region, your country and/or internationally. Council members were asked to share why they stood where they stood, where they find gifts and challenges in L’Arche Leadership. After many had a chance to share, Patrick Fontaine applauded our input. He stated that our experiences gave him more details as to where L’Arche Leadership could grow.
I was impressed by the way that the international staff designed our work time to expose several aspects of mission, solidarity and leadership. The weekend was filled with storytelling and skits that displayed the realities of the L'Arche federation. Our time together was created in a manner that allowed core member to be fully engaged. The team challenged the groups to be creative in their expression. This both allowed core members to included and for language barriers to be minimized.
[Text and photos: El Arca en Querétaro]
El Arca en Querétaro celebrates the Jubilee with pilgrims from El Arca de México and L’Arche USA
For a little over a year, we knew that L’Arche communities around the world would be celebrating in 2014 the Jubilee of the foundation of the first community, 50 years ago. We decided it would be wonderful to celebrate with members of sister communities from the Western Region of the USA with whom we share links of solidarity since 2008.
We started dreaming together, planning on both sides, deciding on dates, events and places, then later, raising funds, getting passports ready etc… As the date grew closer, a blog was created (http://queretaropilgrimage.blogspot.mx) to document all the preparations and excitement involved, T-Shirts were printed, and special buttons for the pilgrimage made.
Four pilgrims from L’Arche Spokane (Xavier), Tahoma Hope (Pat and Doug) and Portland (Patty) arrived one Tuesday evening to Mexico City. We spent the night in Texcoco on the east side of the megapolis and visited the archeological site of Teotihuacan before heading North to Querétaro where the pilgrims received a very warm welcome. The next two days were spent getting to know each other, telling our respective stories, preparing for the pilgrimage, relaxing one morning in geothermal pools, sharing meals, dancing, and even speaking about L’Arche on two radio shows. Friends from a day program (for individuals with intellectual disabilities) in Mexico City, “Los PACOS”, joined us on Friday as we painted the banners, baked and decorated the cupcakes.
On Saturday October 4th, on L’Arche Family Day, under a gentle and continuous morning rain, pilgrims met at the crossroad planned and started walking towards the Sanctuary of the Lady of Schoënstatt. Despite the rain, many people came and joined us as we walked hand in hand, wearing the cool T-shirts brought all the way from the USA, singing and chanting, waving little L’Arche colorful signs, and carrying banners with the Jubilee logos and phrases. Truly a joyful L’Arche crowd! Members of El Arca en México arrived too and walked all the way to the sanctuary where we later participated in a beautiful liturgy accompanied by even more friends and members of the extended community. Father Cristobal who had arrived from Chile a year ago confided that the L’Arche Jubilee celebration was the best gift he received on his first anniversary in Mexico! Mass was followed by a simple and delicious lunch and a lot of talking, laughing and sharing.
We have lived intensely during almost a week the true spirit of L’Arche, communicating beautifully despite language and cultural differences, where each individual was him/herself offering gifts to the others and finally feeling as one body as we celebrated the life of L’Arche in the world. Thank you Jean for responding to the call and starting this movement 50 years ago! Thank you for all the leaders and every person who has shaped the Federation and allowed it to grow and flourish! Thank you
for all who joined us in our celebration and every person who made this pilgrimage possible.
In joyful gratitude,
El Arca en Querétaro, México.