Faith and Sharing Retreat

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Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, felt everyone, regardless of ability, should be given an opportunity for spiritual growth and expression. Out of that conviction came a retreat and small group experience called Faith and Sharing. In many cities in which there are L’Arche homes, there is also a community in which individuals can share a faith experience.

The belief in the inner beauty of each and every human being is at the heart of L’Arche…and at the heart of being human… We do not discover who we are, we do not reach true humanness, in a solitary state; we discover it through mutual dependency, in weakness, in learning through belonging.
—Jean Vanier, “Becoming Human”

The Faith and Sharing group in Cleveland holds a retreat each summer at Ursuline College. We just found out about this treasure this year and Monica was able to attend part of the weekend.  The meditations were given by Fr. Gillick, a Jesuit priest, spiritual director and retreat master at Creighton University. He is also blind, which may add to his heart for people of all abilities.  The retreat was attended by a very diverse group of people, many with some type of identified disability, others who have a loved one or an occupation involving people with disabilities, the rest, like every one of us, is imperfect in some way.

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Monica arrived at the dorm Friday morning, unpacked her belongings and got a quick tour.

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Then she headed for the dining hall to meet the fellow retreatants getting breakfast. It is so nice that Monica is aware of her own dietary restrictions and can make food decisions for herself now. Everyone was so welcoming and so cheerful and excited about the day ahead. I left her there to experience the retreat without any family around. She didn’t miss me for a moment!

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When I arrived to join the Saturday afternoon Mass, I was delighted to see how many people Monica had already built a friendship with. She was also totally confident in navigating the facilities, finding a hymn book for me and a place to sit.  Everyone participated in the Mass, and the exchange of peace was beautiful. Afterwards, Monica gave me a tour of the craft room and the adoration chapel and told me more about the activities. She was able to participate in the rosary, in praise and worship, in small group discussion, go to the adoration chapel and participate in a reconciliation service. She had such a wonderful time.

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I am so grateful to the organizers for presenting a program so accessible and that Monica was adequately supervised and included.

Next event: the group is organizing a Year of Mercy pilgrimage to the Lourdes shrine in Euclid, Ohio. The whole family is invited. Monica is looking forward to seeing her new friends again and having a shared experience of praise and worship with them. It will be October 8, 2016, from 10-4. More information is at the Cleveland Catholic Charities Disabilities Ministry webpage.

Community is mutual vulnerability and openness one to the other. It is liberation for both, indeed, where both are allowed to be themselves, where both are called to grow in greater freedom and openness to others and to the universe.  – Jean Vanier

I strongly believe that God is hidden in the heart of the smallest of all, in the weakest of all, and if we commit ourselves to him, we open a new world.  -Jean Vanier

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