Companions on the Journey: Part Two

Painting by artists of the atelier Le Pot-en-Ciel of L’Arche Montérégie

By Greg Lannan and John Guido

As we saw in the first part of our presentation to the Deeper Communion conference, the journey of friendship and belonging in community – with all of our differences – is the foundation for growth and discovery, for deep personal transformation. The road of transformation has its breakthrough moments, yet it takes many twists and turns along the way. That’s why we need to nourish ourselves and the fellowship we share.

The sacrament of everyday life

John explained, “The table is an essential space for building a vibrant community. It’s the place where we share our days and our lives, our laughter and our tears, as well as food and drink. It’s a place of welcome for visitors and new friends, as well as saying goodbye to those who are moving on. It’s a place for celebrating not only holidays and special events, but also the life-giving power of our ordinary days, those thousands of moments of risk-taking and trust-building between us.”

Greg named an important ritual of the table. “On birthdays and anniversaries, we pass the candle. We celebrate each person for who they are. We say what we like about the person. It helps you believe in yourself.” John added, “Henri Nouwen reminded us that the Latin word for blessing, benediction, mean to say a good word to a person, a word that blesses them to heal and grow.”

With support and affirmation from others, Greg discovered that he has a gift for walking with people in loss. He helped Jane Powell create a grief group and share her learning with others in talks and on the Aging and Disability website. It’s a gift that flows from the loss he lived as a child. Another ability he discovered as a child was his gift for art. “I can say what I want to say better through drawing than words,” he says. On the Aging and Disability website is a painting that brings these two gifts together as Greg explains a painting he created about grief.

Expanding the table

John also discovered his gifts for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary things of daily life and using words to write about it through his own struggles. He reflected on the need to make the circle at our table more inclusive. “Greg and I are different, yet we also share our lives with people who have more significant disabilities like Tilly who lives with Greg and my buddy Michael.

Michael cannot speak with words though he does communicate what’s important to him. He expresses gratitude that we welcomed him from the institution and for his mom who fought to get him home. He has grown more secure and peaceful. He has a tremendous capacity for friendship and notices what people need before they ask. When I’m stressed, he helps me get grounded.

Michael also makes sure that we keep the traditions of the table. He brings the candle for prayer and when we pass the candle on special occasions, he always takes his turn to say his good word to the person. Like Greg, Mike knows what it’s like to be left out; he makes sure that we never forget to nourish community around the table.

The truth is that our L’Arche table can be boring; we can just be going through the motions. It takes commitment to celebrate the ordinary or we can miss its power. Our tables can also be chaotic or filled with tension. It isn’t always easy to be together with all of our differences. Forgiveness is just as important as celebration to community life.

With attention, a deeper truth is revealed. In order for each person to be welcomed to their rightful place at the table, we must stop trying to change people and instead change the table. We still want to respect each other and make the table safe for all to be present. Yet when we get the balance right between the needs of the group and our desire that each person’s unique light shines, the table changes. It’s transformed.”

The journey to freedom

This journey of friendship and belonging takes us to a place of deeper freedom to accept ourselves and others as we are with all of our strengths and all of our limitations, to accept life as it is with all its joys and all its sorrows. Greg said, “Freedom is when you can tell each other about yourself. Not to be afraid of being you – which is the hardest person to be sometimes.”

For the past few years, Greg has been thinking and talking to John about freedom in a new way – and he is beginning to live with a greater freedom to be fully himself. Here is an image he has used to explain what he is thinking about:

“I drew the picture of the butterfly and the tree to talk about Freedom.

  • We have to be free to be the butterfly. It’s small, sometimes weak. It can fly around. it’s beautiful.
  • We have to be free to be the tree. It’s tall and strong. You can’t miss it. It’s out there. It can’t move because it has roots. It’s beautiful too.”

John asked, “Are you saying that when we’re free we can be both the butterfly and the tree?” Greg responded, “They need each other. We need each other. We can’t do it alone.”

John asked, “Are you saying that we are sometimes the butterfly and need others to be the tree, and sometimes we’re the tree and need others to be the butterfly?” Greg said, “We can’t always be strong, but sometimes we can.”

John said, “When I think back all those years ago to when you were there for my family when my sister died, I always thought you were like the butterfly with a small and beautiful presence because that is what you could do and that is what we needed. But today, I also think you were like the tree because it took courage to sit with my father; you were strong for us when we were weak and in pain.” Greg said, “I didn’t know I had that power in me.”

A deeper communion

This journey to inner freedom is about learning and growing together, discovering our gifts and sharing them with other people. Yet growing in our capabilities is not a pathway to independence. Because we are human, we always need each other – we’re made for each other. Inner freedom allows us to see that our limitations are not a barrier to becoming fully alive, but the pathway to greater unity and a deeper communion with each other and with God. Greg reminds us, “We’re from the same God who gave us our life.”

Since we gave our talk, Jean Vanier has died. “If it wasn’t for Jean Vanier, we wouldn’t be here today,” states Greg. “It took one person to make it happen. And everything he did, he did it out of love.” We feel called to stay on the path he created for us, companions on the way.


Announcement - L'Arche North Bay

L’Arche Canada acknowledges with sadness that the L’Arche North Bay Board of Directors has determined that the current state of L’Arche North Bay is unsustainable and not viable into the future. As a result of this decision, the Board has resolved to cease operations and dissolve the corporation.

Presenting Michael McDonald, new Communications Coordinator for L’Arche Canada

We are very pleased to announce that after a thorough search, interview and selection process, Michael McDonald has been hired as the Communications Coordinator for L’Arche Canada.

Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, receives Royal Assent

The Accessible Canada Act is now law. The government and the disabilities community have lots to do together to make it effective.

Celebrate the Gift gathering

Celebrate the Gift, August 5-9, 2019, promises to be an amazing gathering to learn together, celebrate, and create friendships and community.

Jean Vanier Research Centre at King’s University College UWO

King’s University College at Western University has announced the creation of the new Jean Vanier Research Centre under the direction of our good friend, Dr Pamela Cushing.

Announcing a major investment in L’Arche Canada

The Social Development Partnerships Program – Disability Issues – Grant

Program on the abuse of religious women in the Church airs in Canada

L’Arche Canada reiterates our deep compassion for the victims of abuse and our commitment to a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment and abuse.

L’Arche Greater Vancouver launches ‘We All Belong’ campaign

The $30 million project to build a fully-accessible, three-story building is the organization’s most ambitious dream in its 45-year history.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities visits Canada

Ms Devandas Aguilar was invited by the Government of Canada and visited 5 cities across Canada looking at themes related to the articles of the CRPD.

Jordan Hart introduces “L’Arche Sundays” to his 100-day busking challenge

“I have never learned how to love more purely and profoundly than through people with intellectual disabilities.”

Dr Pamela Cushing, friend of L’Arche, to receive Tanis Doe Award

This award honours an individual who dares to “speak the unspeakable” in advancing the study and culture of disability, and who has enriched through research, teaching, or activism the lives of Canadians with disabilities.

Accidental Friends: Stories from My Life in Community

This book by Beth Porter, long-time member of L’Arche Daybreak, will be available soon in North America.

Families in Canada Conference 2019

The Vanier Institute of the Family held the Families in Canada Conference 2019, gathering leaders to deepen understanding of family diversity, expedite research to practise and enhance family well-being.

Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Closure of the Institutions in Ontario

Flying to Freedom was presented by institutional survivors, People First of Ontario, the Council of Community Living Ontario, Community Living Ontario, the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, and L’Arche Toronto.

Zoom Media produces the official video for the Quebec week of intellectual disabilities 2019

It was Zoom Media’s inclusive team that prepared the content, filmed the video clip and edited it, accompanied by the Approprimage team.

Conference on love and inclusion

L’Arche Agapè will host a public conference on inclusion at the Université du Québec en Outaouais on March 21, 2019.

Federal Budget continues Ready, Willing, and Able Across Canada

“This investment allows RWA to continue working toward the vision of an inclusive and effective labour market with an employment rate for people with intellectual disabilities and ASD on par with the national average.”

Québec Recruitment Campaign

New recruitment video online!

BROKEN: Institutions, Families, and the Construction Intellectual Disability

A new book by Madeline Burghardt, long-time member and former assistant of L’Arche Toronto and L’Arche Daybreak.

Mon Ami Gil returns!

Following the success of Mon Ami Gil in the spring of 2018, a new series of short videos will delve more deeply into the story of Gil Frois – how he came to be the man he is today, sharing his life and gifts within L’Arche Agapè in Gatineau, QC, and in the other places where he belongs in the wider community.

Michael McDonald Speaking Tour

In four L’Arche communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan in the next two weeks

Bringing the VPS into 2019

From the Vulnerable Persons Secretariat

L’Arche Tova Café in the News

L’Arche Tova Café is featured in a review of 27 cafes that are social purpose businesses employing persons with disabilities across Canada.

L’Arche Beloeil becomes L’Arche Montérégie

On December 10, L’Arche Beloeil announced that it was becoming L’Arche Montérégie. The choice to make this big change was made to educate people across the region about their cause.

Measuring the Impact of Federal Legislation to Promote Inclusion

On December 3, the International Day of Person with Disabilities, L’Arche Canada participated in the 9th annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion hosted by the Canadian Association of Community Living and People First of Canada.

Canada accedes to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Accession to the Optional Protocol means that Canadians will have additional recourse to make a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, if they believe their rights under the Convention have been violated.

I Believe in You

“This book brings something new and surprising (...) I hope each reader can discover in a new way what it means to be human.” – Jean Vanier, from the foreword

Accessible Canada Act passed third reading

L’Arche Canada has joined the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA) and supports its recommended changes.

Le Sacrement de la Tendresse (the Sacrament of Tenderness) a new film about Jean Vanier

One of the film’s assets is the enthusiasm of the director, whose strength of conviction is real.

Letter from Jean, October 2018

“90 years old! My God, I can scarcely believe it. I have such a desire to shout out my thanks!”

Louis Pilotte, new National Leader

“From my very first days in L’Arche, I was convinced that I was living an experience that was part of a project for society, part of a vision of the world.”

New Community Leaders in Saint John and Wolfville

… and celebrating Homefires Community Leader Ingrid Blais

Second Reading for Accessible Canada Act

The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) legislation to ensure a barrier-free Canada

L’Arche Canada Foundation’s Fall 2018 Impact Bulletin

Top Story: Support for L’Arche Lithuania

Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying Regulations Fall Short

September 6, 2018 – L’Arche Canada supports the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) in urging the federal government to strengthen the system of monitoring Medical Assistance in Dying.

A new Community Leader for L’Arche Daybreak

L’Arche Canada and the Board of Directors present Trish Glennon, as the new Community Leader for L’Arche Daybreak

L’Arche Saskatoon’s 10th Anniversary video is amazing!

To celebrate their first ten years, L’Arche Saskatoon produced a wonderful 8-min video on “What is community?”

Third Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada

The Government of Canada has released the third Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) in Canada (July 1 to December 31, 2017)

Minister Duncan introduces the proposed Accessible Canada Act

June 20, 2018 – This historic legislation would enable the Government of Canada to take a proactive approach to end systemic discrimination of people with disabilities.

L’Arche Canada Newsletter Summer 2018

“Community is built as we become interdependent, humbly recognizing and welcoming our need of one another.”

Letter from Jean, May 2018

“Every day, I take a walk in my little garden, with my eyes looking down because I have to be careful where I walk: this means I notice the primroses.”

L’Arche Canada Foundation’s Spring 2018 Impact Bulletin

Top Story: L’Arche Toronto’s Trying It On For Size (TIFS) project for young people with intellectual disabilities

Summer in the Forest is coming to Canada

“Summer in the Forest is an extraordinarily tender documentary that asks what it means to be human. Here, even the most gentle scenes raise mighty questions.” (New York Times)

The Courage to Listen and Speak Out

As part of the campaign on fundamental values, the L’Arche Canada communications team recently published an online, illustrated account of a person who has lived through abuse. In very simple words, the account expresses a universal reality, the truth that not being heard is a source of immense suffering.

Jean Vanier Interview on CNN

Christiane Amanpour interviews Jean Vanier following the release of Summer in the Forest

First Nations – The Courage to Meet Face to Face

At L’Arche, we are all experimenting with what it means to find “the courage to truly meet difference.” We are on this journey whether we’re encountering a new person, or group, or any culture other than our own.

“Nineteen Paper Cranes”, a Film in Homage to the victims of Sagamihara, Japan

L’Arche International is launching the 9th film in its #AsIAm web series, filmed at L’Arche in Japan, in homage to the 19 victims of the Sagamihara massacre.

Growing as we Learn: The L’Arche Canada Growth Initiative

“A learning organization is an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights.” – Harvard Business Review

Leadership Spring Trainings take off

The L’Arche Canada leadership development has entered a major new phase. After years introducing a model based on the core values of L’Arche and tools for reviews and team building, a comprehensive formation and training program – through over 100 online training modules – is being delivered across the country.

Communicating the Work of Outreach and Communications

It has been a challenging year of transition in the L’Arche Canada Outreach and Communications team and its work. As we move forward, new initiatives and new partnerships are emerging that promise increased impact in this important work.

Contributing Our Voices

On February 8, members of L’Arche attended an “in person” session of the accessibility consultation, as several L’Arche folk from other communities had done in their cities.

Meeting with the Minister

On April 6, 2017, representatives of L’Arche Canada met with the Hon. Qualtrough, Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities, to share our hopes and concerns – and express our gratitude and support – for new federal, accessibility legislation.

Revelations of Abuse in Trosly, France

In a letter dated March 24, 2015, the Leaders of L’Arche International informed the communities of L’Arche around the world of the results of a canonical (Church) inquiry into accounts of sexual abuse by Père Thomas Philippe who was involved in the beginnings of the first community of L’Arche in Trosly. (Père Thomas died in 1993 so there was no trial.)

Love at Second Sight

AboutFace, an organization providing supports to individuals with facial differences and their families, as well as public awareness and education to increase understanding and acceptance, recently hosted the Toronto premiere of this powerful film that transforms attitudes about appearance and encourages students to accept themselves and others. It’s about difference and belonging, judgment and inclusion.

What does an Accessible Canada mean to you?

The Government of Canada has launched a consultation process that will be open until February 2017. Canadians are encouraged to participate in the consultation by visiting:

L’Arche Canada response to Bill C-14’s

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Physician-Assisted Dying, and as the Federal Government works on drafting legislation on this issue, L’Arche in Canada has re-committed itself to providing the best possible supports for the people with intellectual disabilities in our communities, both in life and as they approach death.

Jean Vanier: Logician of the Heart

An excellent new book on Jean Vanier by Michael W. Higgins is available from Novalis.