About the creation of a Faith and Light community in Florianópolis*
During my first year in the seminary I had a one-month experience in a farm of the ARCHE, the movement that Jean Vanier founded to host mentally disabled adults to work and live in for the rest of their life. It was for me a founding experience. Later, while the pastor of Tréguier, I was chaplain of a Faith and Light community for six years, another movement created by Jean Vanier.
Faced with a person who has profoundly diminished faculties, the spontaneous reaction is often to flee. Very often, this reaction stems from fear, but it could also reveal some hardness of heart. However, disabled people can teach us many things to our materialistic and individualistic world.
When arriving in Florianopolis, several times during masses I noticed families with mentally disabled young or children… Therefore I wanted to begin a Faith and Light group in the diocese.
What is it about?
“Faith and Light” was born in the 70’s, in France, from the desire to help disabled people, and their families, to find a genuine place in the Church and society. It is formed of communities who gather people affected in their minds, their relatives and friends and most particularly young people.
Today, there are 1470 Faith and Light communities in 70 countries, on the five continents. In Brazil, there are 74 communities in 9 states. Even though the Faith and Light movement is ecumenical, existing communities all belong to the Catholic Church.
The Faith and Light’ spiritual charter defines every community of the movement as a community of feast and celebration. Those who come to Faith and Light to meet people with intellectual disabilities must come in a spirit of receiving from them their specific gifts while sharing their own gifts with them.
Faith and Light believes that each person, even with an intellectual disability, is called to be a source of grace and peace for the Church and for the whole humanity. Through the radiance of their poverty, the intellectually disabled people can bring Christians to the Beatitude of heart’s poverty, which is necessary to find God Spirit.
What do we do during community meetings?
The meetings are prepared by a coordinating team, which is composed by some of the community members. Each year, at an international level, the Faith and Light movement publishes a summary of the meetings with ideas for the different moments of the meeting.
Communities meet monthly to celebrate life, to pray and to share one’s hopes and one’s difficulties, in a friendly and faithful atmosphere. Sharing in small groups enables each person to express him/herself through words or other forms of communication (e.g. drawings, modeling, mimes, gestures…).
These communities should be made up of ten to thirty people. The ideal is that a community is made up of people with an intellectual disability surrounded by family members and friends in more or less equal numbers. Meetings are characterized by moments of joy when we sing or dance or share a meal. The meeting and the celebration’s fulfillment lie in prayer, communion with God and in the celebration of the Eucharist and (or) other forms of worship.
The communities may have many activities other than the regular meetings, such as holiday camps, retreats, pilgrimages, welcoming and animating activities for people with intellectual disabilities in order to give their parents a break. While keeping the spirit and mission of Faith and Light, it is important that the communities cooperate as much as possible with other associations and movements which are at the service of people with an intellectual disability and their families.
Our meetings have begun nine months ago: approximately forty people, including approximately fifteen disabled people, attend these meetings. A recent evaluation meeting has shown that they have already been fruitful: a profound and long-lasting joy flowing from all the participants. During and after the meetings, a progressive openness of intellectually disabled people who were the most withdrawn, the vanishing of feeling of embarrassment, or even shame, which some families could feel, discovery by the friends of the therapeutic virtue for the latters of the contact with the weaknesses of disabled people. The group has chosen the name « Saint John the Baptist and Saint Yves » and has made, thanks to the gifts of all its members, a wonderful banner.
Many positive results and a challenge!
We have a challenge before us: there is an indisputable need of a renewal of the room where we meet. This room is not accessible to wheel chairs (we must carry them), it is raining inside the room, the toilets do not suit disabled people, there is neither air conditioning or ventilation, and the temperature could be so extremely warm inside that we have to shelter under the shade of a tree in the garden !
The refurbishment of the room costs 70 000R$ (18 000€).
We thank you in advance for the help you can give us, whatever it is, it will be invaluable!
* According to the rules of Faith and Light, our St. John the Baptist and St. Yves group should wait a few more months to be fully recognized as a community of this movement.
Father Philippe Roche