by Meghan Katzenberger, House Leader of St. James
It has been well over one year since the St. Louis L’Arche community opened the doors to its third house, “St. James,” named conveniently for the street on which it stands. This is also when L’Arche welcomed its newest core member, Mary Kate Agniel. What has made her transition especially exciting is that this is the first time Mary Kate has lived outside of her parents’ home. Her parents remember the day she moved in to St. James – “She hit the floor running and set the table for her first meal in her new home.” As the House Leader, I have been blessed to walk closely with, and eat at this table alongside, Mary Kate through her transition to greater independence.
The St. James house has been settled beautifully by its two founding core members, and evidence of Mary Kate’s influence can be found in the reuse of scrap paper into shopping lists around the house, small stacks of Laura Ingalls Wilder and American Girl books on coffee tables and couches, and brightly colored stickers on charts marking the progress of weekly routines.
Mary Kate is a lively woman in her thirties who is always on the move. She greets each person and each day with great energy. She keeps a full and active schedule of social events, sports, dates, and time with family and friends. As a true St. Louis woman she is a committed Cardinals fan and a frequent visitor of the Zoo and Science Center. Mary Kate is also as big a music aficionado as I have ever met, and can learn and remember the words to a new song before the first listen is even over.
Ever the social butterfly, Mary Kate has brought with her a network of friends and family whose lives she remembers in detail and whose love for her is evident in the enthusiasm and support they have shown for her house in the last year. On any given day one might find Mary Kate’s brother and nephews helping cook dinner, her friends swinging by to say hi, or a boyfriend reading with her in the living room. When her parents ask how she likes living in St. James, Mary Kate replies, “It’s fun!” or “I like it!” In response, they say, “Thank you L’Arche St. Louis for welcoming Mary Kate so very well!”
Perhaps the most impactful gift that I have gained from Mary Kate in the last year is her deep concern and intuition for those around her. She is deeply affected by people’s experiences, needing to talk through the painful parts of the stories we read and empathizing with those near her who suffer. She has a deeply loving and joyful spirit. I am so grateful to be sharing life at L’Arche with Mary Kate and so thrilled to see her grow in independence as she offers her gifts to the world in new ways.