College Students Spread the Word about L’Arche
Two or three times a year, groups of college students stay a week at L’Arche Boston North, learning lessons the classroom cannot give, experiencing what words cannot adequately describe.
From Boston College, Holy Cross, Iona, and most recently Stonehill College, students come and live in our homes, sleeping on spare beds, couches, and floors, and sharing community life. (In the photo above, John plays cards at Pat House with Stonehill College students Julia Adams and Emily Rowland.)
The students help out—in the office and around the house where they are staying—but by the end of the week, they learn that they were here not to help but to be inspired, not to teach but to learn.
Together, they return to their campuses and communities and spread the word of L’Arche.
HOPE Comes from Stonehill
Seven undergraduate women from Stonehill lived in community with us for five days in January. They came representing Stonehill’s HOPE Service Immersion Program. HOPE is an acronym for Honoring our neighbor, Organizing for justice, Practicing peace, Encountering God.
The Stonehill College students offered a powerful presentation to a meeting of assistants on their last day. They came up with a list of words “that come to mind when we hear the word L’Arche.” The list included genuine, compassion, mindful, love, joy, listening, friendship, hope, prayer, community, beautiful, belonging, welcoming, respect, and solidarity.
In an article for Stonehill’s Odyssey Online, Stonehill sophomore Karyn Cotter wrote, “I’ve never set foot in such a welcoming community. The moment I walked into any of the households, I felt immediately welcomed and as if I were part of their family, which by the end of the week, I considered all of us to be.”
One student noted that some of them “struggled with free time,” thinking that they didn’t have enough to do. But there was a lesson here.
“L’Arche values time being,” said senior Allison Faraclas. ” We all stepped back and said, Let’s just be. Let’s spend time together. That was valuable for us.”
College Outreach at L’Arche Boston North
Vanessa Henry, L’Arche Boston North’s community coordinator, coordinates the college program. With her team, she reaches out and invites groups, then orients and guides them during their week in community.
Reflecting on her own experience as an assistant, Vanessa noted how perceptive the Stonehill students were, immediately recognizing both the challenges and the rewards of life at L’Arche.
“When I first came to L’Arche,” Vanessa said, “I felt heavy pressure to entertain people, in a sense, and it took a long time to realize that I didn’t need to do that, that I would be loved even if I didn’t do that.”
So much of community life is communicated and experienced non-verbally. Vanessa said, “A couple of former assistants still talk about their times with Devin and Tom being the most meaningful time in community, and of course Devin and Tom are both essentially non-verbal.”
Fruits of L’Arche’s College Student Program
Vanessa has seen many fruits of our college outreach program. One of these is Todd, a longtime L’Arche Boston North assistant and a graduate of Holy Cross. Todd did not take part in a student week at L’Arche Boston North, but a Holy Cross friend did so and told him about it.
Another Holy Cross student spent spring break at L’Arche Boston North, graduated from college, and went to work in New Jersey. “Last year,” Vanessa said, “we received a check for $500 from her company, which makes a charitable donation to a charity of the employee’s choice. The student chose us.”
Another Holy Cross group is expected during spring break in March, while a group from Boston College will be “coming but not staying,” according to Vanessa. They were, she said, “so moved” by an earlier visit that “they want to keep the relationship going,” so they will be showing up for bowling night or an ARC dance, “just to hang out.”
We hope that the Stonehill women will visit us again too. Who knows? Perhaps one of them will be an assistant with us in years to come—or tell a friend about L’Arche.
Viewing L’Arche from a social-justice perspective, Stonehill senior Allison Faraclas summed things up well, saying, “I love what you have here at L’Arche and I would hope some day that there would not be a need for this, that it would just happen, would come together.
“But we’re all going to have to act if we want to see that happen.”