1980 Murmurings of L’Arche

1980 Murmurings of L’Arche

In 1980 in Quincy, Massachusetts, a community south of Boston, three families and Sr. Pat Murphy gathered as a group of Faith and Light (see faithandlight.org).  Their history states: “Faith and Light was born of a desire to help people with an intellectual disability and their families find their place within the Church and society.”

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1982 Incorporated & Finding a Location

1982  Incorporated & Finding a Location

In 1982 Sister Pat continues “we received incorporation.  No turning back.  At this point we named the community Irenicon, which means ‘a message of peace and hope.’  There has always been hope in this community, even in our darkest moments.”  The LaSalette Shrine in Ipswich offered them the house with 5 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, 2 baths, a dining room and a large kitchen for a rent of $150.00 per month, completely furnished.  No doubt at all according to Sr. Pat, that God lead them to the North Shore.

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1983-1984 Creating Community

1983-1984 Creating Community

During this 2 year span 16 applicants had met with the admissions committee and the home in Ipswich was filled with Core members, assistants, part time assistants…as well as the sentiments of love, friendship and family.

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1988-1992 Growing Pains

In 1988, the community had begun to outgrow its living space.  Because taxes in Ipswich were high, the Irenicon Board decided to look elsewhere.  They located and purchased a house on Lamoille Avenue in the Bradford section of Haverhill – this house would later become Nazorean House.  This transition was difficult for the community.   The homes were half an hour apart and it became hard to foster good communication between the two.  The house in Ipswich remained stable, but Bradford was experiencing growing pains.  Community members and board members worked diligently to support the people in Bradford. 

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1992-1996 Stable Time

L’Arche continued to flourish. The (now) 3 homes continued with their mission to create home where the gifts of people with developmental disabilities are revealed through mutually transforming relationships.

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1996 A Time of Change

In 1996, after five years as Director, Barbara McEndarfer, who loved Irenicon, left the community.   Up until now our community had been part of Canada’s Eastern Region, and for logical reasons, our zone affiliation was changed and we became part of L’Arche USA’s Eastern Region.

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1998-2001 Transitions

In 1998, we bought a 3-decker home on 9th Avenue in Haverhill, which was ultimately named Peace House, after the original in Ipswich (which was no longer a residence). It was also necessary to find office space and two apartments were located in a building on Washington Street, Haverhill.  One became the office and the other became the Pastoral Minister’s home with a time-away place for assistants.  In 2001, we welcomed Peg Neuman as our Director.   On our anniversary, Peg made her commitment to help us live our mandate for the next three years.

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2002-2003 Expansion

An expansion to an additional house was needed, so a new house was purchased on Johnson Street in Haverhill, but needed significant renovations and required jumping through a few hoops before occupancy could be allowed. The move took place on November 8 2003 and its given name was Gandhi House.  This was another great time for celebration as a community, another opportunity to experience God’s grace.

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2004-2005 Leadership

2004-2005 Leadership

In November of 2004, we relocated the Irenicon offices from Washington Street to 57 Wingate Street in Haverhill, where we remain today though we moved from the 3rd floor to the ground floor in 2008. Swanna Champlin became our Interim Director/Program Director in December, 2004 by then in community over two years.

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2006-2008 Further Changes

2006-2008 Further Changes

In September of 2006, Swanna accepted the mandate of Director on our 23rd Anniversary as a community.  Another outcome of evaluation of community’s needs was the purchase and renovation of 9 Sussex Court in Bradford to potentially accommodate handicapped residents. The office staff grew as well, with the addition of Pam McGrath, as Director of Development and Outreach, fulfilling a dream of Irenicon, and Tom Murphy, a former Head of House, as Recruitment Specialist.

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2009-Today

2009-Today

With 17 core members and 35 assistants (everyone is considered an assistant, including the community leader, assistant director, etc.), several volunteers and countless friends, L’Arche Irenicon is a healthy community of people leading simple lives in the L’Arche tradition. Like all L’Arche communities in the United States, L’Arche Irenicon in Haverhill, MA is an ecumenical community and welcomes people from all faith and traditions as well as atheists. Life at L’Arche Irenicon is busy and active. At the center of community life are the Thursday night gatherings for prayer and special celebrations. Celebrations and rituals have and always will anchor the community in the L’Arche traditions.

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2015-2016 New Handicapped Accessible Home

2015-2016 New Handicapped Accessible Home

In fulfillment of our “mission’s promise” we opened a new home in September 2016. This new fully handicap accessible home will enable us to safely and comfortably provide for our aging core members. This home replaces “Gandhi House” which was part of our community homes for over 15 years. We are excited to start making long lasting memories in this home, which we have named Pat House, after Sister Pat Murphy, our beloved founding assitant Sr. Pat Mur. This home was needed for our aging core members who need easy access entrances to come home to and the accessibility of one level living. This home is located in Merrimac, MA, close to the Haverhill border. It is home to 5 core members and the assistants who share time with them.

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