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, as introduced by the founder of L'Arche, Jean Vanier, 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 and the basic themes of the book Becoming Human. 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.
"I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes."