Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
June 25, 2001
L'Arche finds new leader
Loescher is only third head in Calgary group's 28 years
SPECIAL TO WCR
What do you want of me, Lord?
- Servant Song by Donna Marie McGargill
CALGARY— With the words to the Servant Song serving as an introduction, Calgary's L'Arche community installed a new community leader in early June, only their third leader in 28 years.
The installation of veteran member Peggy Loescher permitted the community to do what it likes to do best — celebrate.
The 90-minute installation was a quintessential L'Arche celebration, rich with ritual, symbolism and caring words.
As about 125 people looked on, outgoing community leader Pat Favaro explained the four-month discernment process that lead to a new mandate and a new leader for the community during the next four years.
"Tonight is the night I entrust the role of community leader to Peggy," Favaro told the community of 75 people and their guests.
Founded by Jean Vanier in 1964, L'Arche now has more than 100 communities — including three in Alberta in Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge — in more than 30 countries. The Calgary community has 27 members with disabilities, 20 assistants who live with them, 20 people who support the community in other roles and eight board members.
Favaro, community leader for 11 years, explained the various roles a community is called to perform from administering community structures, to being attentive to the details of daily life, to serving each individual member, to leading the community in fulfilling its mandate.
With each role, he bestowed a symbol — a baseball cap, an apron, a pitcher used for washing feet, a lit votive candle.
Following the installation, he invited each segment of the community from members of Marymount, its first home, to the board of directors to affirm Loescher's call.
Coming in pairs, representatives spoke simple words of welcome issued with gifts each representing a different quality — flowers, a model of a small home, quotes from Jean Vanier, a large quartz crystal, an open invitation to dinner, a simple wooden cross made from twigs.
"What a treasure," Loescher responded. "The gifts, the sharing, most of all yourselves. I've been ministered to."
Loescher, 41, who joined the community as an assistant in 1986, explained the questions that came to mind as she contemplated succeeding Favaro.
"I love our community and I love each of you," she said. "I know I have a place here and that I am loved by you. That gave me the peace to stay in the process and even say, 'Yes.'"
Then Loescher was taken to the centre of the hall at St. Anthony's Church where a handcrafted sky blue and grass green prayer shawl was wrapped around her shoulders. Each person in the room was then invited to come forward and say "Yes" to Loescher in her new role.
Among those who embraced Loescher were Delphene Lemire, mother of Emile Lemire, L'Arche Calgary's first member, and Pat and Jo Lennon, who founded the community in 1973 and now direct L'Arche in Lethbridge.
"We'd say Peggy's been given the charism of L'Arche," Favaro said in an interview. Favaro, who joined L'Arche Calgary 16 years ago, replaces Loescher as L'Arche's coordinator for the western prairie region, which includes the three Alberta communities and one in Winnipeg.
"She's been called to L'Arche. That's pretty clear," he said. "She brings many gifts - her belief in people, her giftedness in people. She calls the best out of people. She has a vision of who we are to be in community."
With stable leadership and a mature membership, L'Arche Calgary has several older members - both people with disabilities and assistants who are either middle-aged or seniors.
It has a strong spiritual core, says Favaro. During the past 10 years, it has become increasingly active ecumenically, from monthly Taize prayer gatherings in churches around the city to the Good Friday Way of the Cross.
"We've intentionally tried to work with a variety of Christian traditions and work ecumenically in the community," he said.
L'Arche Calgary isn't finished celebrating this month. The community will hold a celebration of thanks for Favaro on June 29.
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