Newly professed MSC brother Giacomo Gelardi spent some time working with the community at L’Arche Cork during the course of his novitiate year. Here, he shares his thoughts on the experience.
My life-giving experience at L’Arche “Le Cheile”, Cork
L’Arche “Le Cheile” in Cork was the best place I could have spent my pastoral placement. As soon as the door was opened to me, I was embraced by a gentle and loving welcome from the people who share their lives here, with beautiful smiles and real friendship.
I had not been at L’Arche before, but it felt like being at home. The community here opened their arms to me, a stranger in their lives, and received me as a friend. Thus, I soon realised that I was not there for them, but they were there to show me a different way of living – a way of loving and welcoming each other as precious gifts, enriched by our differences.
It took just a couple of days for my tiredness, worries, and anxieties to disappear, and I started to see the beauty of God’s presence in my life through them all. What impressed really me was their genuine nature, and the spontaneity that comes with being with one another.
The week started with a gathering of all members in a prayerful atmosphere. The community leader introduced the theme, then the members of different houses cheerfully performed songs and dances. “This must be a special day,” I thought. However, my new friend Maria explained, “This is how we start every week here at L’Arche – we come together and exchange our wishes for a good journey for the days ahead.”
My week was organised so that I could experience the different projects underway, and that day, it was time to visit the allotment. With Mike and Barry, two pillars of L’Arche Cork, we walked to the place where fruits and vegetables such as salads, tomatoes, and strawberries are grown. We watered and sowed the radishes; then, we all enjoyed a nice coffee at the nearby pub, before going back and sharing lunch together. Lunches and coffee breaks are fairly important social events here!
Over the course of the week, I spent time in the relaxation room listening to soft music with those who wanted a quiet moment. I had the chance to work with the younger lads who were making clocks and bird-houses in the woodwork course; I was also able to chat to and get to know some of the ladies while drawing cards or making candles, and I performed in improvised plays.
The week went by in the twinkling of an eye, and ended with a Mass where everyone took part, followed by singing and dancing together as a group.
During my three weeks at L’Arche, my experiences taught me that being with people is more important than doing. I learned that difference is our strength; difference is a gift.
Br Giacomo Gelardi MSC