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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

JEAN VANIER AND L'ARCHE (CATHOLIC) AND THE SISTERS OF MERCY IN MINSK: (ORTHODOX):THE GLORY OF GOD SHINING THROUGH BROKEN PEOPLE

THE GLORY OF GOD SHINING THROUGH BROKEN PEOPLE: JEAN VANIER AND L'ARCHE

Jean Vanier, Founder of L’Arche



For nearly four decades, Jean Vanier has travelled the world fashioning a network of homes where people with developmental disabilities, volunteers and a sprinkling of staff live together in community. Those we lock away and think worthless, he says, have the power to teach and even to heal us. We are all “broken” in some way, he believes. (…) “When you start living with people with disabilities”, he says, “you begin to discover a whole lot of things about yourself.” He learned that to “be human is to be bonded together, each with our own weaknesses and strengths, because we need each other.” (…) Tall and stooped, Vanier radiates the strength of a man who has fought his own inner battles and surfaced with peace. (Maclean’s/September 4, 2000, p.33)

Jean Vanier was born on September 10, 1928, in Geneva, Switzerland, where his father, General Georges Vanier, was on a diplomatic mission. Most of his early schooling was in England where he lived until World War II when his parents send him and his four brothers and one sister back to Canada.

Two years later, the young Jean decided to enter the Royal Naval College in England. Too young to become a soldier, he assisted his mother in her Red Cross work in Paris after the liberation, helping with those returning from the concentration camps. In 1945, Jean received his officer’s commission and began his naval career. 

Despite the promising career that lay in front of him, he was more and more drawn into prayer and reflection on what might be God’s call for him. In 1950, he resigned from the Navy to study philosophy and theology at the Institut Catholique in Paris. It was there where he met Father Thomas Philippe, a Dominican priest and professor who was to become Jean’s spiritual mentor and friend.

In 1963, having published his doctoral thesis on Aristotle, he returned to Canada to teach at the University of Toronto. Again, he decided against the security of a career and left job and homeland to join Father Thomas Philippe who had become chaplain to a small institution for men with developmental disabilities, the Val Fleury, in Trosly-Breuil. In 1964 Jean decided to settle in Trosly to live with people with an intellectual disability. He bought a small house and named it “L’Arche”, the French word for Noah’s Ark.

Though heavily involved in the rapidly growing community, Jean began to give conferences and retreats around the world. In 1969, following a retreat he gave in Ontario, the first community of L’Arche in North America was founded. The next year, again after a visit by Jean, the first L’Arche community in India was founded. In 1968 Jean Vanier also co-founded Faith and Sharing. In these communities, families who have a member with a disability and their friends meet once a month for prayer and mutual support and celebration. Three years later, the organisation of a pilgrimage of 12.000 people with developmental disabilities, their friends and families to Lourdes led to the co-founding of Faith and Light with Marie-Hélène Mathieu. This sister pilgrimage movement unites people with an intellectual disability and their family members and friends for regular gatherings and periodic pilgrimages of friendship, prayer and celebration. In the early 1990s, Jean Vanier founded Intercordia, which provides university students with an accredited cross-cultural experience in social education and personal growth among poor or marginalized peoples in the developing world. 

L’Arche was spreading rapidly, and aware that it was important to call forth others who could lead, Jean handed over the leadership of the International Federation of L’Arche communities to the first International Coordinator in 1981. Jean Vanier continued to sit as Founder on the International Council of L’Arche. He also continued to travel a great deal encouraging L’Arche communities and giving spiritual accompaniment and guidance to the many people who come to him from within and beyond L’Arche. 

Jean Vanier has received numerous awards, amongst which are the French Legion of Honour, Companion of the Order of Canada, the Rabbi Gunther Plaut Humanitarian Award 2001 and the recent Chicago Catholic Theological Union “Blessed are the Peace-makers” award, 2006.

Up until today, Jean Vanier continues to travel the world to give retreats and conferences; the 1998 CBC Massey Lectures are just one prominent example. In 2006 he travelled, amongst other areas, to Africa, Indonesia and the USA. He also continues to write; his books have been translated into 29 languages. Jean continues to live in the first L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France.
Respectful terminology to describe the people who are at the heart of L'Arche and for whom L'Arche was founded varies from one country to another. We invite you to substitute the terms used on this website with those that are used and accepted in your country.

Jean Vanier, Founder of L’Arche
Return | Print

For nearly four decades, Jean Vanier has travelled the world fashioning a network of homes where people with developmental disabilities, volunteers and a sprinkling of staff live together in community. Those we lock away and think worthless, he says, have the power to teach and even to heal us. We are all “broken” in some way, he believes. (…) “When you start living with people with disabilities”, he says, “you begin to discover a whole lot of things about yourself.” He learned that to “be human is to be bonded together, each with our own weaknesses and strengths, because we need each other.” (…) Tall and stooped, Vanier radiates the strength of a man who has fought his own inner battles and surfaced with peace. (Maclean’s/September 4, 2000, p.33)

Jean Vanier was born on September 10, 1928, in Geneva, Switzerland, where his father, General Georges Vanier, was on a diplomatic mission. Most of his early schooling was in England where he lived until World War II when his parents send him and his four brothers and one sister back to Canada.

Two years later, the young Jean decided to enter the Royal Naval College in England. Too young to become a soldier, he assisted his mother in her Red Cross work in Paris after the liberation, helping with those returning from the concentration camps. In 1945, Jean received his officer’s commission and began his naval career. 

Despite the promising career that lay in front of him, he was more and more drawn into prayer and reflection on what might be God’s call for him. In 1950, he resigned from the Navy to study philosophy and theology at the Institut Catholique in Paris. It was there where he met Father Thomas Philippe, a Dominican priest and professor who was to become Jean’s spiritual mentor and friend.

In 1963, having published his doctoral thesis on Aristotle, he returned to Canada to teach at the University of Toronto. Again, he decided against the security of a career and left job and homeland to join Father Thomas Philippe who had become chaplain to a small institution for men with developmental disabilities, the Val Fleury, in Trosly-Breuil. In 1964 Jean decided to settle in Trosly to live with people with an intellectual disability. He bought a small house and named it “L’Arche”, the French word for Noah’s Ark.

Though heavily involved in the rapidly growing community, Jean began to give conferences and retreats around the world. In 1969, following a retreat he gave in Ontario, the first community of L’Arche in North America was founded. The next year, again after a visit by Jean, the first L’Arche community in India was founded. In 1968 Jean Vanier also co-founded Faith and Sharing. In these communities, families who have a member with a disability and their friends meet once a month for prayer and mutual support and celebration. Three years later, the organisation of a pilgrimage of 12.000 people with developmental disabilities, their friends and families to Lourdes led to the co-founding of Faith and Light with Marie-Hélène Mathieu. This sister pilgrimage movement unites people with an intellectual disability and their family members and friends for regular gatherings and periodic pilgrimages of friendship, prayer and celebration. In the early 1990s, Jean Vanier founded Intercordia, which provides university students with an accredited cross-cultural experience in social education and personal growth among poor or marginalized peoples in the developing world. 

L’Arche was spreading rapidly, and aware that it was important to call forth others who could lead, Jean handed over the leadership of the International Federation of L’Arche communities to the first International Coordinator in 1981. Jean Vanier continued to sit as Founder on the International Council of L’Arche. He also continued to travel a great deal encouraging L’Arche communities and giving spiritual accompaniment and guidance to the many people who come to him from within and beyond L’Arche. 

Jean Vanier has received numerous awards, amongst which are the French Legion of Honour, Companion of the Order of Canada, the Rabbi Gunther Plaut Humanitarian Award 2001 and the recent Chicago Catholic Theological Union “Blessed are the Peace-makers” award, 2006.

Up until today, Jean Vanier continues to travel the world to give retreats and conferences; the 1998 CBC Massey Lectures are just one prominent example. In 2006 he travelled, amongst other areas, to Africa, Indonesia and the USA. He also continues to write; his books have been translated into 29 languages. Jean continues to live in the first L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France.
Respectful terminology to describe the people who are at the heart of L'Arche and for whom L'Arche was founded varies from one country to another. We invite you to substitute the terms used on this website with those that are used and accepted in your country.

Jean Vanier, Founder of L’Arche
Return | Print

For nearly four decades, Jean Vanier has travelled the world fashioning a network of homes where people with developmental disabilities, volunteers and a sprinkling of staff live together in community. Those we lock away and think worthless, he says, have the power to teach and even to heal us. We are all “broken” in some way, he believes. (…) “When you start living with people with disabilities”, he says, “you begin to discover a whole lot of things about yourself.” He learned that to “be human is to be bonded together, each with our own weaknesses and strengths, because we need each other.” (…) Tall and stooped, Vanier radiates the strength of a man who has fought his own inner battles and surfaced with peace. (Maclean’s/September 4, 2000, p.33)

Jean Vanier was born on September 10, 1928, in Geneva, Switzerland, where his father, General Georges Vanier, was on a diplomatic mission. Most of his early schooling was in England where he lived until World War II when his parents send him and his four brothers and one sister back to Canada.

Two years later, the young Jean decided to enter the Royal Naval College in England. Too young to become a soldier, he assisted his mother in her Red Cross work in Paris after the liberation, helping with those returning from the concentration camps. In 1945, Jean received his officer’s commission and began his naval career. 

Despite the promising career that lay in front of him, he was more and more drawn into prayer and reflection on what might be God’s call for him. In 1950, he resigned from the Navy to study philosophy and theology at the Institut Catholique in Paris. It was there where he met Father Thomas Philippe, a Dominican priest and professor who was to become Jean’s spiritual mentor and friend.

In 1963, having published his doctoral thesis on Aristotle, he returned to Canada to teach at the University of Toronto. Again, he decided against the security of a career and left job and homeland to join Father Thomas Philippe who had become chaplain to a small institution for men with developmental disabilities, the Val Fleury, in Trosly-Breuil. In 1964 Jean decided to settle in Trosly to live with people with an intellectual disability. He bought a small house and named it “L’Arche”, the French word for Noah’s Ark.

Though heavily involved in the rapidly growing community, Jean began to give conferences and retreats around the world. In 1969, following a retreat he gave in Ontario, the first community of L’Arche in North America was founded. The next year, again after a visit by Jean, the first L’Arche community in India was founded. In 1968 Jean Vanier also co-founded Faith and Sharing. In these communities, families who have a member with a disability and their friends meet once a month for prayer and mutual support and celebration. Three years later, the organisation of a pilgrimage of 12.000 people with developmental disabilities, their friends and families to Lourdes led to the co-founding of Faith and Light with Marie-Hélène Mathieu. This sister pilgrimage movement unites people with an intellectual disability and their family members and friends for regular gatherings and periodic pilgrimages of friendship, prayer and celebration. In the early 1990s, Jean Vanier founded Intercordia, which provides university students with an accredited cross-cultural experience in social education and personal growth among poor or marginalized peoples in the developing world. 

L’Arche was spreading rapidly, and aware that it was important to call forth others who could lead, Jean handed over the leadership of the International Federation of L’Arche communities to the first International Coordinator in 1981. Jean Vanier continued to sit as Founder on the International Council of L’Arche. He also continued to travel a great deal encouraging L’Arche communities and giving spiritual accompaniment and guidance to the many people who come to him from within and beyond L’Arche. 

Jean Vanier has received numerous awards, amongst which are the French Legion of Honour, Companion of the Order of Canada, the Rabbi Gunther Plaut Humanitarian Award 2001 and the recent Chicago Catholic Theological Union “Blessed are the Peace-makers” award, 2006.

Up until today, Jean Vanier continues to travel the world to give retreats and conferences; the 1998 CBC Massey Lectures are just one prominent example. In 2006 he travelled, amongst other areas, to Africa, Indonesia and the USA. He also continues to write; his books have been translated into 29 languages. Jean continues to live in the first L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France.
Respectful terminology to describe the people who are at the heart of L'Arche and for whom L'Arche was founded varies from one country to another. We invite you to substitute the terms used on this website with those that are used and accepted in your country.






BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Forty-two years ago, in a village south of Paris, a French-Canadian named Jean Vanier created a home where the mentally disabled could live in dignity and where others could learn from them the value of sharing and acceptance. There is now a worldwide network of these communities called L’Arche, the French word for Arc, a symbol of hope. Vanier rarely leaves his community in France, but he did recently come to Chicago, as Judy Valente reports.

JUDY VALENTE: These are the people Jean Vanier calls his friends. People he describes as “pushed aside, with broken hearts.” People, he says, who have “transformed” him.

JEAN VANIER (Founder, L’Arche House): My life is to live with them — to be with those who are fragile, vulnerable and weak. I’m not sure that we can really understand the message of Jesus if we haven’t listened to the weak.

JEAN WILSON (Core Member, L’Arche House): He’s my one man and my one man only — I love this man.

VALENTE: Those who came to greet him included the residents and staff of the L’Arche house he helped establish in Chicago. The mentally challenged here are called “core members” because they represent the “core,” or heart, of L’Arche.

Mr. VANIER (at microphone with Elbert Lott): We’re different. We have different backgrounds. But we’re together.

VALENTE: Vanier introduces core member Elbert Lott, who has a mild mental disability.

ELBERT LOTT (Core Member, L’Arche House, at microphone): I had a hard time. Rough times. Barefoot boy, down south. My father be mean to me.

Mr. VANIER (quoting Mr. Lott): “My dad was mean to me.”

Mr. LOTT: He was.

Mr. VANIER: (to Mr. Lott) Because Dad wanted a son who could maybe do big things, and he looked down upon you.

Mr. LOTT: He did.

Mr. VANIER: He was mean to you.

Mr. LOTT: He was. Well, all that now behind me now. Here I am, famous.

VALENTE: Jean Vanier talks about the loneliness of people who are different — how they can feel unwanted, unloved, and therefore unlovable. But, he says, the weak and wounded have a “secret power” to touch us. And that by opening our hearts to them, we become more human.

Mr. VANIER: We become more human with two realities. One, as we discover that we are able to love people — and when I say love people, it means to see their value and their beauty — and that we can love people who have been pushed aside, humiliated, seen as having no value. And then we see that they are changed. And at the same time, we discover that we too are broken, that we have our handicaps. And our handicaps are around about elitism, about power, around feeling that value is just to have power.

VALENTE: Before coming to L’Arche, these people were in institutions, or on the streets, or in families that couldn’t care for them or didn’t want to.

Mr. VANIER: The question is not just believing in God, but believing in human people, believing in ourselves, believing in ourselves as children of God and that we are called to see people as God sees them, not as we would like them to be.

VALENTE: The son of a French-Canadian diplomat, Vanier served in the British Royal Navy during World War II, then he taught philosophy in France. He has never married. For a time, he considered the priesthood. But in 1964, he found his calling, opening the first L’Arche home in a small village south of Paris.

LINNEA FIELDS (House Coordinator, L’Arche House, to Chris Abri): And where are these mugs going?

CHRIS ABRI (Core Member, L’Arche House): Jean Vanier!

Ms. FIELDS: Jean Vanier!

VALENTE: The Chicago L’Arche community owns a home on the city’s west side. The core members, with the help of the assistants who live with them, have prepared gift packages to distribute during Vanier’s visit to the city. Some have met Vanier during his previous travels.

VALENTE (to Ms. Msall): What’s he like?

CHRISTIANNE MSALL (Core Member, L’Arche House): He’s a wonderful man.

VALENTE (to Mr. Lott): What did you talk about?

Mr. LOTT: Well, he say — I say, “He ‘da man.” And he say, “No, I was the man.”

VALENTE (to Ms. Wilson): What will you say to him when he comes?

Ms. WILSON: Come on in, we’ll give you something to eat and drink.

Mr. ABRI: I’m very, very excited to meet Jean Vanier.

VALENTE (to Mr. Abri): Why?

Mr. ABRI: Because I like him, because he’s a big tall guy and got gray hair that I like.

VALENTE: Most of the core members have outside jobs. Here, they live family-style, helping with chores and with the cooking. The homes are grounded in the Catholic faith, but core members don’t have to be Catholic to live there. Vanier refers to L’Arche communities as “little places where love is possible.”

Ms. FIELDS: They know this is their home. I’ve seen the core members grow in their self-confidence a great deal.

VALENTE: But these small communities are not without their problems.

Ms. WILSON (to Mr. Abri): Chris, get the cups! What’s the matter with you? Gee whiz.

Mr. VANIER: There are explosions, there can be violence, there can be conflicts with other assistants. There’s a sort of constant paradox that through all this suffering and pain and fatigue, at the same time we are seeing incredible beautiful things. That is to say, people who are transformed and we are beginning to sense that we ourselves are transformed.

Ms. FIELDS: I think the prayer time is what sets us apart. That’s what drew me to L’Arche, the spirituality.

And, the core members give us a great deal of insight. They’ve taught me many, many things. I’ve learned generosity. I’ve learned just how giving each one of the core members are with their selves, and their time and how forgiving they are.

Core Members, L’Arche House, praying: Jesus, we thank you that you’re here with us now.

VALENTE: Prayer, says Jean Vanier, is really about listening.

Mr. VANIER: Prayer is a sort of opening of a door to something, which gives meaning to all the pain of the finite. And yet it’s something we can just rest in. I think fundamentally, prayer is to rest.

ELBERT LOTT (at microphone, introducing Jean Vanier): He ‘da man.

VALENTE: The 77-year-old Vanier was in Chicago to accept a lifetime achievement award. He dressed for this occasion as he always dresses: in an open shirt and his trademark blue windbreaker.

Mr. VANIER: People with disabilities are not in rivalry and competition. What is their cry? Their fundamental cry, which I had the privilege to hear, is a very simple question: “Do you love me? Do you want to be my friend?” So that’s what L’Arche is about. It’s becoming a friend.

VALENTE: Vanier told this well-heeled audience that generosity is good. But he challenges people to go beyond “giving.”

Mr. VANIER: Generosity must flow into an encounter, a meeting. But a meeting must go even further. It’s not just “tell me your story” — a meeting must grow into a friendship, and a friendship must grow into a commitment – because you are my brother, you are my sister.

VALENTE: Vanier expects L’Arche to thrive long after he’s gone. People will continue to be called to these communities, he says — not because of anything he’s accomplished, but because their hearts have been touched by the weak and rejected.

Mr. VANIER (at microphone): Living in community — L’Arche — it can be painful. But it’s super. I never understand why everybody’s not there. This is my problem. We have fun together. We laugh, we sing together. It’s great!

I can say that we have seen people rising from the dead — who arrived in there closed up in their anguish, their angers. And then discovering peace.

VALENTE (to Mr. Vanier): What’s left to be done in your life?

Mr. VANIER: Ah. To die quietly.

VALENTE: But on this day, he’s content to enjoy life — with his friends.

For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, I’m Judy Valente in Chicago.

ABERNETHY: There are more than 130 L’Arche communities in 33 countries



SAINT ELIZABETH'S CONVENT
MINSK - BELARUS
The Sisters of Mercy
(Orthodox)


There are now over 300 Sisters of Mercy and over a hundred nuns.  As a centre of spiritual vitality, it is known throughout the Orthodox world and beyond.

On the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus, lies a haven for the sick and suffering. This is the Convent of Saint Elizabeth, a source of joy for those who lay on hospital beds, those abandoned by parents, and those suffering from many other illnesses of both soul and body. In this country once run by godless communists, with millions of it’s faithful thrown into gulags to die, this place of sanctity is truly a beautiful rose bush that broke through the atheist concrete, blooming fragrant flowers in the souls of those who seek refuge there. Following in the footsteps of their Patron, Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr, the Convent works along with a sisterhood, the Sisters of Mercy, to give hope and care to those suffering in psychiatric wards, orphan edges, and even those facing death on hospital beds.

The Convent started out as a sisterhood in 1994 when two young women saw a need for people suffering in the Municipal Clinical Hospital and the Republican Clinical Psychiatric Hospital in Minsk. A Priest was asked to come and give communion to the sick. Many other women began to join in this otherworldly work, tending to the sick as if they were attending to their Christ. They were blessed to form the “Sisters of Mercy,” and were clothed in white vestments to shine the beauty of compassion and virtue to those they encountered. The first prayer service in the Republican Psychiatric Hospital was in 1996 when the words “Christ is Risen!” was shouted throughout the gray walls of the hospital, bringing light and joy to those suffering there. “As the Savior descended into hades and defeated death, so the darkness of hopelessness within the walls of the psychiatric hospital also disappeared.” After this service was the first formal meeting of the sisterhood, in which they chose to commit to the words of the Savior, “[…] Verily I say to you, insofar as ye did it to one of the least of my brethren, ye did it to me.” (Matthew 26:40). In the same year, the Divine Liturgy was held in the hospital. A year later, the sisterhood’s spiritual father, Fr. Andrei Lemeshonok, received a piece of the holy relics of the New Martyr Elizabeth from Jerusalem; in this same winter, many of the patients of the hospital came forth to receive holy baptism.

With no funds and no land, the sisters with their Fr. Andrei went to ask the Holy Elder Nikolai Gurianov  for the blessing of the construction of a church. When they approached his secluded island, he suddenly appeared running on the coast and said to them, “So glad, so glad! The white nuns are swimming to me!” This was a prophecy and was fulfilled when the Church they were planning to build would become a convent. The Elder gave the first coin with a picture of a Church on it for a donation saying, “The people will bring the rest!” During Holy Week in 1997, the sisters, clothed in their white vestments, took to the streets, radiating the love of Christ and reminding people that this life is only temporal. They collected donations from all those who wanted to help. They say that, “every brick of our church is somebody’s sacrifice, somebody’s pain or joy, a request for help or a prayer.

Sister “Z” shares her experience of collecting on the streets:

“I passed by foot from Victory Square to October Square with my collection box on my chest and couldn’t find a single place to stand. All around there was a crowd and everyone was in some strange way. I clearly realized that I wouldn’t find any place to stand. It was a dead end, I couldn’t do anything. I put my back against the wall of a building. It was near the Department Store. And suddenly out of the blue three boys approached me, putting money in my box and giving me carnations. I stood all day in that place with those carnations.”

On the streets, the sisters also endured mocking, rude words and swearing for the sake of their cause, some were even spit at. In these situations, the would whisper the prayer of Christ before His executioners, “Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). On abandoned land near the hospital, Fr. Andrei and the sisters, to the mocking of the lovers of this world, went and prayed an Akathist to Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. Fr. Andrei pointed to the rubble on this land and exclaimed, “these will be the first bricks of our Church!” And so it was. On the feast day of the Holy Great Martyr Catherine in 1997, Metropolitan Philaret blessed the ground breaking and construction began on this site. Grateful patients who had been healed in the various hospital wards helped throughout the Church’s construction. The Liturgy was soon celebrated in the Church while it was still unfinished and although the attendance was supposed to be very low, the unfinished Church was packed full. Since this first Liturgy, the Liturgy has been held their every Sunday and almost every day.
Father Andrew, a nun and some of the children in costume

From then until now, the Church bells continue to ring, bringing joy to those in the nearby hospitals. The nuns along with the Sisters of Mercy, continue to treat those around them with the love of Christ. Not wanting to deny even one of the sick, the Convent and the Sisters now give the care of Christ to those in the Republican Clinical Psychiatric Hospital, the Municipal Clinical Hospital, the Tuberculosis Unit, the Boarding Home for Mentally Handicapped Adults, the Boarding Home for Mentally Handicapped Children, and own a farmstead nearby to house recovering alcohol and drug addicts.
The community of ex-mental patients, ex-prisoners, ex-drugaddicts, alcoholics
and others who stay because they are welcome.
They are looked after by two nuns from the convent.




UNITED BY COMMON PAIN AND COMMON JOY
by Tatiana Shimko (an excerpt from some testimonies)
my source: St Elizabeth's website
Thursday is a special day for the members of the Road to Christ support group for those whose relatives suffer from various addictions (alcohol, drug, or video game). They push aside all their daily routines and come to St Elisabeth Convent from various neighbourhoods of Minsk. On entering, someone greets the group as though they are her friends and relatives, united by common pain and common joy, however strange this may sound. Someone else has come here only recently and feels uneasy and uncomfortable, not quite sure why she, not her ill relative, has to attend that group.

"I came to a meeting dedicated to the first birthday of the Road to Christ group. That meeting was a special one. It was important for the participants to be able to speak honestly and openly about the results of the first year of the group's existence. They recalled some memorable moments, shared their impressions, summed up the results, planned for the future, wept and laughed together.

"IThought SheWouldn't Pull Through"

Irina was the first to start. She has attended the Road to Christ group since the early days of its existence. She had known Tatiana Makarova, the group's facilitator (they had previously attended another support group together). When Tatiana told her that a new group was soon to open in St Elisabeth Convent, she was very excited and did not doubt, even for a single moment, that she needed to go there. By that time, she had learned the hard way that such support groups are a must. Each person chooses a group that suits her best.

Irina recollects, "My daughter is addicted to drugs. My doctor advised me to go to one such group during a difficult period in my life. He told me that I would certainly feel better; the only thing I needed was courage. I felt so very depressed at that time! It seemed to me that I would never be happy again. We went to a meeting of that group together: my husband, my son, and I. I was shocked since the very first moments: many people turned out to have difficult situations like mine. I saw several addicts, and some recovering addicts who managed to change their lives. No doubt, such groups are necessary for people to realise that they are not the only ones who are in such a trouble. One needs these groups, these attentive, concerned and experienced people, their help, advice and friendly hugs in order to be able to help herself and her dependent relatives.

When I learned that my daughter was into drugs, I grappled with that painful discovery for two months, I could not help crying all the time. My daughter felt relieved because she no longer had to conceal anything. Terrible and unthinkable things were going on in our life! Our daughter and her husband who was an addict, too, were no longer shy of anything. I keep asking myself whether they were human at that time, whether they were worthy of that name at all. They tried to seek medical assistance several times but they either did not come to the hospital at all, or did not finish the treatment.

My daughter quit a well-paid job; her husband was jailed for robbery. I recall one of my acquaintances say very important but literally painful words to me, "It would be mean if you don't use strict measures towards your daughter." I could not get it for a long time: how can I, a mother, do harm or even be mean to my child?

I am grateful to our Road to Christ group. It has taught me a lot. They explain how we should behave with our dependent relatives: for instance, how to coexist with a drug addict, how to help them fight their illness, how not to enable their drug use. I have changed — and my entire family has changed a lot, too. I have learned to live with God in my heart, to enjoy life; I have learned to build better relationships with my relatives. Most importantly, my daughter is recovering! She has gone a year without using drugs, and she helps other addicts to overcome this deadly passion, too. I am so proud of her! Every day without drugs is a huge victory for her. She has gone through so much! Our recovering children are so robust, so beautiful, so attentive! They hurry to help as soon as they learn that someone is in need. My daughter visits her husband in jail. They struggle against this dreadful vice together.


I want to improve and become a better person. This is why I attend this group — my other family — every Thursday. This is why I learn to accept my weakness and trust God, hoping for his mercy."


They are all brothers and sisters: monks, nuns, Sisters of Mercy, lay helpers, workers, drug addicts, patients and hangers on.  They form a wonderful extended family.   The photo shows Anton, Sister Olga (I think) and me.   It is one of the holiest places I have been to: I put it on a level with Lourdes, even though they couldn't be more different.  They have one thing in common: grace is almost visible.  The glory of God shines through.
please click on



 
Western, Catholic L'Arche or Orthodox St Elizabeth's Convent? Catholic or Orthodox, it is the same Holy Spirit.


A FILM MADE BY ST ELIZABETH'S CONVENT AS PART OF THEIR CATECHETICAL WORK



 HAPPY CHRISTMASTIDE
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