RECAP: L’Arche GWDC 35th Anniversary Symposium on Compassionate Living

©Brian A Taylor

The balloons were out front of the beautiful St John Paul II National Shrine and the greeters were ready at 9:30am Saturday September 29th as the L’Arche GWDC community prepared to celebrate 35 years of living intentionally in Washington DC!

Many joined from near and far including people new to L’Arche, church friends, former assistants and long-time community members, the L’Arche Project in Fredrick, a group of friends from Buffalo, NY, founding community leader Kathy Bruner, #AsIAm filmmaker Michael McDonald, and we even had a virtual guest, Richard Rohr!

 

©Brian A Taylor

Lauren Palmer, Kelly Deroy, Melissa Xavier-Berry, and Michael Schaff MC’d the event with humor, fun facts and gusto! They honored L’Arche GWDC co-founder Dottie Bocksteigel and her dedication to compassionate living at L’Arche by sharing some of her spiritual autobiography:

 

 

 

 

“L’Arche has proven to be a wonderful choice and it is great to live and work in an atmosphere that feels so right to me.  It has encouraged me to use a great variety of gifts, some of which I didn’t know I had. The importance the community places on valuing everyone has helped me to also value myself as well as others and to see the special beauty of people who are not generally valued anywhere.  There is so much caring and love for the core members and among everyone else that I continue to feel that L’Arche is a sign of how God wants us to be together. Of course we all have our moments of stress and strain, and it is a continual struggle to live together well, but there is also much forgiveness and acceptance there.” –-Dottie Bocksteigel

Guest speaker Michael McDonald, the filmmaker behind L’Arche’s award-winning docu-series, As I Am, shared the five of these videos about L’Arche members from around the world. He added stories from his personal encounters in L’Arche. His videos reminded us of our interconnectedness and deep longing to be loved. McDonald’s authenticity and insight of L’Arche drew in the crowd and left everyone feeling inspired!

Linked below are the videos he shared and the order in which he shared them. Please take a look if you were unable to attend the event and check out others on the L’Arche International youtube channel.

“5,000 Broken Gifts”

“Google Larry”

“19 Paper Cranes”

“No Lions in Paris”

“Take Care of You”

 

We took a break for lunch catered by That’s a Wrap Deli which employs people with developmental disabilities. The lunch was incredibly tasty and provided a great chance to connect with old and new friends.

 

After lunch, we heard from founding community leader Kathy Bruner and were joined by Father Richard Rohr on the big screen. We were so thankful for their presence and sharing!

We finished out the program with a closing prayer liturgy lead by the Spiritual Life Committee. Crisely reminded us of a line we say in the L’Arche anniversary celebration liturgies and extended it to L’Arche GWDC.

©Brian A Taylor

“We honor you today and in all the ways you have changed since you first arrived.” We closed hoping that our time together at the event honored our community in all the ways we have remained the same through simple invitations to belong and in all the diverse ways we have seen come to pass.

A BIG thank you to everyone who came and supported the event!

 

 

Poem By Dottie Bocksteigel for the 30th Anniversary

It’s hard to think since we began that thirty years have past.
The dream we had to create L’Arche as something that
would last
Has now become a reality and we can often see
Reflections of a vision of how we were meant to be.

Ontario was first in line in 1983.
For many folks it soon became a special place to be.

In ’89 the Euclid house began to show its face.
And those who came to fill this home found it a lovely place.

We wondered where we would go next, what new place would there be?
Perhaps Virginia, Maryland or just stay in DC

Virginia seemed to welcome us and so we went that way.
And after learning its new ways we looked for where to stay.

We found a home in Arlington, a place on Highland St.
And finally our sixth street home would make our group complete.

To show that all are valued is a dream for which we pine

And just like the days before—ones filled of making home and sharing life, today we continue to gather in God’s love.

And wow, is it beautiful.