By Jean Bormann
For The Catholic Messenger
Losing my job in August 2015, after 26 years, was one of the hardest life lessons I have had to experience. I felt hopeless and lost. I struggled for about two weeks and then told God I was putting my future in his hands. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Then I sat back and waited.
In early November, a good friend of mine called and told me of a job opening at L’Arche Clinton she thought would be perfect for me. I first heard of L’Arche Clinton 25-plus years earlier when my mother-in-law asked me to accompany her and her daughter to supper at what is now Arch II. I knew it was a provider of homes for those with intellectual disabilities, and that is pretty much where my knowledge ended.
I read the job description and figured, why not — never guessing by applying for this job that it could turn out to be so much more. The first thing that caught my attention was that L’Arche Clinton is an intentional, faith-based community where individuals with and without intellectual disabilities share life. L’Arche not only provides care, the program celebrates everyone’s good points with affirmations and praise.
L’Arche holds two celebrations a month: one for those celebrating their anniversary of joining the L’Arche community and a second one for those celebrating their birthday during that month. Everyone is welcome to attend either celebration as well as dinner at one of the L’Arche homes.
L’Arche is a very welcoming community that sees strangers only as friends they have yet to meet. During my first week I was welcomed warmly by each and every member of the L’Arche family I met. I was greeted with, “Hey Buddy,” “I know you,” “You’re beautiful,” and “I’m your brother.” Each smile, each hug and each warm welcome solidified the feeling that God indeed had plans for me, and I had found my home in L’Arche.
I still thank God for leading me to a place where prayer and spirituality are welcome and celebrated, where most of our core members attend church on a regular basis, and where many of our assistants are blessed to share life with such wonderful people.
Founder Jean Vanier says of L’Arche, “Our communities should be signs of joy and celebration … If we are accepted with our limitations as well as our abilities, community gradually becomes a place of liberation … this terrible place can become one of life and growth.”
I won’t say I don’t miss all the wonderful people I met, worked with and became friends with at my last job. However, being part of this wonderful L’Arche community, which has made its home in Clinton for the past 44 years, makes me know that I am loved and I am home.
(Jean Bormann is director of development and communications for L’Arche Clinton and a member of Ss. Mary & Joseph Parish in Sugar Creek where she serves as a lector and teaches first Communion students.)