Living in Solidarity
For John O’Connor, the idea of the body of Christ exemplifies solidarity – “each member of the body is important and we would be incomplete without each other,” he says.
John is an assistant at L’Arche and a co-leader of the L’Arche GWDC’s Solidarity Committee, which exists to call us into deeper relationships with our sisters and brothers in other communities within the L’Arche International Federation as well as people on the margins of society. Through prayer, connection building, and fundraising for communities in need, the Solidarity Committee helps us reach out to others. (It also brings a lot of joy and laughter through our annual SolidariDay Fundraiser for L’Arche communities in need!)
The Committee is led by two John’s – John O’Connor and John Schofield. John Schofield, who also goes by Johnny, has been a core member at L’Arche for many years and has a track record of successful fundraising that he brings to the Solidarity Committee. He has goals to raise money via the Solidarity Committee to help open more houses like L’Arche, especially in Cuba. Johnny is generally concerned about people experiencing homelessness. “That’s not right,” he says. He hopes the Solidarity Committee can help people who need homes to get them.
Johnny is a prolific painter and he often sells his paintings to fundraise for various causes.
Image description: Johnny holds up a colorful painting as he sits at his desk.
Solidarity is also about internal growth and expansion to John O’Connor: “I think about the internal work of ‘what do I have to do to be in solidarity with marginalized peoples, persecuted peoples’, and the hardest thing for me is to be in solidarity with people who irk me. It’s all about expanding…learning how to grow our inner compassion to find relationships with people who we may not first choose to be in relationships with.”
The Solidarity Committee recently led a L’Arche Prayer Night focused on the image of the body of Christ (using Ephesians 4:1-16). As he co-leads the Solidarity Committee, John wants to ensure that the connections and work are genuine – that each member of the body is truly valued – and there isn’t any “tokenism.”
Eva-Elizabeth Chisholm, our Human Services Leader, joined the Solidarity Committee because: “I like that sense of belonging to the wider community of the international body and seeing the ways that we are similar…our expression of community life is different, but also rooted in shared values and mission.”
Molly Leblanc-Medeiros, of L’Arche Boston North, agrees. Molly is the Community Outreach and Development Coordinator of L’Arche Boston North and has had the opportunity to connect with L’Arche communities around the world, including volunteering for 6 months in a L’Arche community in India. To Molly, solidarity “means that our community and the members of our community are part of something bigger than just what we have here in Haverhill, and it means that we are connected as brothers and sisters, with people around the world, and that those relationships are more than financial, they’re about a real sense of sharing the same journey.”
Molly (center top) celebrates Holi with L’Arche in India. Image description: 8 people covered in colorful, mostly green, dust, sit together and smile for the camera.
As we slowly emerge from over a year of living in a pandemic, solidarity in a shared journey is more meaningful than ever. L’Arche communities all over the globe have had a shared struggle of staying safe at home and connecting across social distances. Together, we’ve raised money for communities in need, helped each other source needed items, and shared advocacy ideas. In years prior, assistants from communities in the USA have been able to spend time in Belfast, Mexico City, India, and other countries, to connect and learn from each other.
As Molly said, “It’s good to remember that we’re part of the world, we’re part of a movement and that you know, we can help and be helped by people who are doing what we’re doing and believe what we believe.”
The concept of solidarity can push us to be mindful of how we are connected to others. “How are we living our lives, how are we making decisions, in a way that connects us to the bigger picture beyond ourselves?” Eva-Elizabeth asks. This includes a connection to humankind in general, she specified, not only to other L’Arche communities – a connection that became even clearer during the pandemic.
We’re grateful for the work of so many people in the L’Arche Federation that push us to live in solidarity, and for our own Solidarity Committee that reminds us “we would be incomplete without each other.”
Featured image: L’Arche community members enjoying an outdoor “October Fest” in 2020. Photo by Brian Taylor