By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Visit to L'Arche

This morning I had the opportunity to visit L’Arche Edmonton. For a long time I have admired this movement founded fifty years ago by the Canadian, Jean Vanier. It is dedicated to the care of persons with mental and other developmental issues, and offers them communities of love and support. Staff and volunteers are people of extraordinary dedication. It is clear they cherish deeply the persons entrusted to their care.

L’Arche Edmonton began forty-two years ago, and now operates six homes in the city, together with an administrative and programming centre. It is the latter I was privileged to visit this morning. After I was greeted and treated to coffee and cake, we all gathered together for the “morning circle”. We sang together, and then each one of us took turns offering prayers for one another and for whatever needs we wanted to bring before the Lord.

During the prayer I was struck by the number of times prayers were offered to God in thanksgiving. There was a lively sense of the goodness and providence of God, and that we can trust that God will – and does – give us great things, especially family and friends, and provides for all of our needs. When I arrived for the visit I was thinking that this kind of outreach is a beautiful example of the Christian call to go out to the “peripheries” with the joy and beauty of the Gospel. While this is obviously true, as I listened and offered my own prayers I found myself wondering: who really is on the “periphery” here? A self-reliant society such as ours places itself on the periphery, even outside, of the joy and peace that come from trust in God. This is a terrible alienation that gives birth to sadness and despair. At L’Arche I found persons who, in respect of communion with God and his people, are very much at the centre of things and are joyful as a result, even in the midst of quite remarkable challenges. We need their example. I am grateful to God for this world-wide movement, and in particular for their presence in this Archdiocese.

If you are not familiar with L’Arche, I invite you to get informed. You can visit them at‎.