Four years ago, we experimented with a new kind of event to spread the message of L’Arche in St. Louis. We decided to serve breakfast to hundreds of women and men on their way to work, and while they ate, to share about our lives and relationships, our mission and identity, and our hopes and dreams.
Those of you who were with us that first year will remember that while registration was a little chaotic, and the tables were a little mixed up, the food was delicious and our message was clear. Since then, the number of attendees has grown (over 400 this year!) as our community as expanded, and our impact on the city of St. Louis and the lives of many people – with and without disabilities, students, retirees, and family members – continues to spread.
This year, our keynote speaker was Joe Egan. Joe came to L’Arche in the mid-70’s. He jokes that he showed up for his first day at L’Arche Daybreak, at that time a farm north of Toronto, in a three piece suit.
Since coming to L’Arche 46 years ago, Joe has lived the roles of assistant, House Leader, Community Leader (Daybreak), International Leader, Regional Leader, and National Leader (Canada). He shared with us the wisdom that comes from living L’Arche, daily, through not only years, but decades. He challenged us by asking simply, “What kind of world do you want to live in?”
We also heard from Jeff, our newest core member, who, with Madeline, shared what he loves about living at L’Arche.
Then, we shared a short film about daily life in L’Arche St. Louis, and how assistants from all different walks of life are drawn to L’Arche, and share life in true mutual relationships with the “core” members – the people at the heart of our community.
As the morning grew later, our board member Danielle Harrison guided us to consider, as Joe had, what kind of community we wanted to live in — what kind of community we want St. Louis to be.
She suggested that L’Arche, with its unique values and mission, might have the very gifts our city needs to move forward.
As we closed, our core members and assistants led the whole room in the song, “Peace Like A River,” a community favorite that is sung many nights after dinner.
I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river in my soul. (2x)
I’ve got joy like a fountain…
I’ve got love like an ocean…
Thank you to all of you who showed up that morning, and for our many other friends who support us through service, prayer, friendship, and financial resources. Four years ago, we had just opened our second home and served 5 core members. With your friendship, we have been able to fill the second home, and open a third. Today, 10 people with developmental disabilities live in L’Arche St. Louis in community and mutual relationships. With your sustained support, we know we will continue to expand our impact on many lives, and our wonderful city.
photo credits: Jackie Lee