Founding Story of L’Arche in Rhyme

Dottie Bockstiegel, founding member of L'Arche GWDC, remains active in the life of the community. Photo by Brian A. Taylor Photography

Dottie Bockstiegel, founding member of L'Arche GWDC, remains active in the life of the community. Photo by Brian A. Taylor Photography

by Dottie Bockstiegel

In 1977 Jean Vanier came into town.
He spoke so eloquently that some people sat right down
And said that we must have L’Arche here in Washington D.C.
And so they started meeting just to see how things could be.

At first they thought of Georgetown as a place where we might start,
And Georgetown University could have a central part.
This didn’t seem to work out, so things took a different turn,
And for a L’Arche director this group soon began to yearn.

When Dennis Calderone arrived, we scooped him up quite fast,
And everyone was certain that we had someone at last.
But then his marriage plans kept his directorship on hold,
And Kathy Brunner came along to help things to unfold.

The Church of the Savior had a house they thought that they could share,
So we all cleaned and painted it in hours we could spare.
A board was formed according to a plan that L’Arche had stated.
It started raising money and got us incorporated.

L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C., founding members (from back left) Mo Higgs, Glenn Houser, Gene Sampson, and Michael Schaff. Mo and Michael still live in L’Arche. Glenn lives in his own apartment in D.C.; Gene passed away in 2011. Photo by Anne Holzman

Dolores, Dennis, Kathy, our assistants come on board,
And into finding core members our efforts soon were poured.
And Michael Schaff became our first to come for respite care,
But we decided he was ours. He had that special flair.

Then Glen and Gene, with eagerness, from Forest Haven came.
There was no doubt for all of us—this was their home to claim.
Nathaniel came to be with us as our lifestyle he tried.
We came to terms with pain and grief when in a year he died.

And Mo Higgs came the next year just to stay a little while.
But we could never let him go; we really like his smile.
When Kathy left it was discerned that Dennis now would be
The one who would direct and lead our young community.

Before long it was time to try to start another home.
We picked out Euclid Street so we would not have far to roam.
The rules for starting houses were incredible to see,
Especially since the agencies themselves could not agree.

Though renovating, decorating left us rather beat,
We opened late in eighty-eight our home on Euclid Street.
Then Glen and Gene and Dottie, Fred, and Wendy all moved in
And formed a bond together so a new home could begin.

John Schofield joined Ontario, and later on came Ray.
At Euclid, Melanie and then Eileen came here to stay.
When Ray moved on, Elizabeth came knocking at our door.
With zest and vim she moved right in; we could not ask for more.

A few core members came and went according to their plan.
They were Barbara, Laura, Deborah, Charles, Willie, and Diane.
Glen Houser has moved also now to follow his own dream;
Elizabeth has died, but we still feel her special gleam.

Ontario House expanded, and we moved out for a while.
When we returned our houses had more roominess and style.
Then new core people—Sonny, Walton, Deborah, Andrew—came.
With each one adding something, life is never quite the same.

To add to L’Arche beyond D.C. became another dream.
And starting homes in Arlington, Virginia, was our scheme.
So after lots of work and prayer and learning this new game,
Our new core people—Hazel, Fritz, Eduardo, Linda—came.

Now Highland House has settled down and in its life has grown.
Eduardo left and Eric came and new seeds have been sewn.
But still they needed one more house to build community,
And so they started making plans to see where it would be.

They picked a handy place that was just right around the block
And built a very lovely home for adding to our flock.
On 6th Street in two thousand ten our new home did begin,
And finally Eva, Charles, Bruce, and Francene all moved in.

A host of good assistants have arrived and gone or stayed.
And we’re so grateful for the many roles that they have played.
To live together day-by-day and letting lives entwine
Has been at times exhausting, but most folks have liked it fine.

For several years John Cook’s directorship has kept us humming,
And we appreciate the volunteers that keep on coming.
We thank our board, who through the years have helped us all so much
And given us so many gifts, each with their special touch.

Our days and years have gone quite fast, sometimes in quite a tizzy.
So many things have happened that it almost makes us dizzy.
Birthdays and anniversaries we always celebrate,
And also holidays or any special kind of date.

We’ve valued every Prayer Night and community event
And in gatherings of the region all the good times that we’ve spent,
The sessions at the U of M, the buddies that we met,
And wonderful art classes that we never could forget.

To have friends over and to visit others has been fun,
And all the things we like to do have kept us on the run.
We’ve had a lot of meetings—five or six most every week—
And we’ve worked hard to bring about the values that we seek.

We’ve had hard times with illness and with things that went awry,
And when a person leaves us something in us seems to die.
We’re not so fond of paperwork or courses we must take
Or various inspections that our cities like to make.

But when we look at where we’ve been and what has happened to us,
We hope that in our floundering sometimes God is shining through us.
And certainly we know that it is worthwhile to keep going,
And with your love and help we will be able to keep growing.