Sage and Time

By John Guido

Paulette Audette was a determined woman. For 30 years, after being welcomed by L’Arche Sudbury from an institution, she was a community builder, worked three jobs, and volunteered in a soup kitchen. Slowed down by health issues, she didn’t want to work anymore, yet was determined to do something meaningful in retirement. My friend Paulette died in October 2018, but not before helping launch the Sage and Time Art Project.

Of course, Paulette was not alone. Audrey, Eddy, and others are also aging, facing increasing support needs and the lack of options for meaningful activities. For many people, the intersection of aging and disabilities is a lonely, unfulfilling place. But the L’Arche Sudbury seniors have friends and allies who heard their concerns. They began to dream of a project built around making art that could create a better path forward.

Sage and Time is a great name for this project. There’s the wisdom that comes with age. And the title also suggests the value of herbs to bring flavour to the meals we share, zest to our life together. These words remind me of Paulette, Audrey, Eddy and other senior friends. Native elders tell us that sage is burnt to purify, heal, and remind us of the Creator who moves through everything. This also is what this project is about.

Designing a project to make a difference

Responding to the changing needs and dreams of its members is a key part of the L’Arche mission. In fact, this capacity is so well developed that it doesn’t leave much room for the opposite strength of long-range planning for impact. But today, there is a culture shift happening in L’Arche as we increasingly balance our gift for responding to people with the practices of strategic change.

With the Sage and Time Art Project, L’Arche Sudbury has become a leader of this person-centred approach to strategic planning. In order to receive a New Horizons for Seniors grant (from Employment and Social Development Canada), the project needed to “be led or inspired by seniors” and meet program objectives such as senior volunteering, mentoring, and social inclusion. They’ve accomplished these goals and many more.

L’Arche Sudbury designed a year-long art project where each piece fit together to deliver intended outcomes with greater impact. Each month:

  • Artists (mostly seniors, professionals or passionate amateurs) with a wealth of knowledge and life experience facilitated a group session using different media such as watercolours, paper mache, and songwriting;
  • Each piece explored a different theme such as health, Franco-Ontarian and Indigenous cultures, remembrance, welcome, and abuse and reconciliation;
  • The groups were intergenerational with people of all ages from small children to elders and included people with and without disabilities;
  • Different groups attended from all walks of life from kindergarteners to Special Olympians to members of the Irish Regiment introducing the seniors to many new people (250 artists over the course of the year);
  • Each artist explored their individual creative expression while contributing to the creation of one, large group piece;
  • More than 60 senior and other volunteers helped out doing various jobs such as making soup and cleaning brushes;
  • The group ate lunch together, being nourished by food and fellowship as well as the creative act of making art together;
  • Each collective artwork was photographed and printed by a professional photographer then framed; and
  • Each print was displayed in different community spaces in the wider community: a seniors’ centre, a school, a church, a cultural centre, a public health unit, a hospice, the offices of the mayor, MPP and MP, a military base, and the airport (all together, seen by an estimated 10,000 people).

In March, the prints were collected and an exhibition (including the original pieces) was held at a community centre near Science North overlooking beautiful Ramsey Lake. A gala evening and art sale drew a diverse crowd of friends old and new to appreciate the art and be inspired, to celebrate the success of the project, and to raise funds to make it sustainable.

Making art builds bridges

From the beginning, this project was about social connections. Since Audrey loves children, a project with a grade school was essential. Mrs. Beaton (Kelly), the teacher, said, “There’s an openness with children and also with a lot of people with intellectual disabilities. You don’t have to break down any walls. Immediately, everybody was engaged in making art. Each person had their own piece and they came together.” As soon as the children saw a figure in a wheelchair, they knew it was for Audrey and were eager to see her make it her own.

At another session, high school students took part. One 15-year old was intrigued by one of the seniors. She asked, “Is it okay if I talk to Eddy?” Soon they were chatting about their shared love of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Manitoulin Island. They were making art but also making a connection over the differences in age and abilities between them. Pat Montpetit, a senior volunteer and long-term L’Arche board member, put it this way, “It was a great leveller – everyone was on the same level of ability. And we were having a good time together.”

Insights from some of the art facilitators

Artist Ruth Reid who facilitated “Butterflies,” said, “For me, the most exciting aspect was seeing how the art brought people together. They would be saying, “What colour are you using?” And then they’d laugh and say, “My leaf is purple.” And someone would say, “There are no purple trees!” It started this wonderful conversation, and fun and connection and relationships. There’s no wrong or right way to do art…it’s just an expression of your heart.”

Kim Mullin who facilitated “Family Day,” said, “Each person painted themselves as a flower, each unique but part of the big wonderful L’Arche garden. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from; everyone has a place, everyone is welcome. The members have a joy and lack of self-consciousness. I always try to get artists to let go. With L’Arche there is no need for that. It’s freedom from the get-go. When people live in an environment of acceptance and non-judgment, it lets them be more open and creative.”

Carolyn Ludgate who facilitated “Words of Wisdom,” wrote, “One of the intentions of the Sage and Time Art Project is to invite members of the Sudbury community to participate… The Senior Sudbury Rising Stars performed a skit named “Positive Attitude” which was a delightful way to precede a group discussion… I asked them to think about what gave them Joy and what advice they may give to others… The pieces were quite beautiful, and the words were inspiring.”

Andrew Lowe who facilitated the “Sage and Time Song,” said, “Everything flowed. We were all in the right space together so we could all work together to write the lyrics… Remarkably, the ideas were coming thick and fast… We came away after a four-hour workshop with the basic idea of the song and the chorus. The most important thing was everybody contributed. I knew we could get something, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that good.”

Seniors making a difference

In her letter of congratulations, the Hon Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors, wrote, “Through the New Horizons for Seniors Program, the Government of Canada is committed to helping seniors benefit from and contribute to the quality of life in their communities through active living and participation in social activities. This is why I am so proud that the Government of Canada supports organizations like L’Arche Sudbury. Because when seniors are invited to participate in all aspects of society, everybody benefits.”

New Horizons for Seniors is a good fit for L’Arche because we know the power of friendship and belonging, welcoming the gifts of difference, and including all people as valued contributors. We need to create spaces and build partnerships that bring people who are different together in order for this vision to take root for more people. Darrell Marsh, the program director who organized the Sage and Time Art Project, summed it up this way, “It demonstrates the power in everyone working together whatever their age or capability. There’s a lot of power in that.”


Nomination of Jeff Gilbreath as Ontario Regional Leader

The Mandate and Selection Committee for the Ontario Region, chaired by Jenn Power, is at the end of its mission. The committee unanimously recommended the appointment of Jeff Gilbreath as Regional Leader for the next 4 years, a recommendation that I confirmed, and that Jeff enthusiastically accepted.

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.