My Spiritual Journey
I was manager of Ozanam Industries ( a sheltered workshop ) when I first heard of L'Arche. Tony Neylan invited me to listen to Jean Vanier when he was speaking At Santa Sabina in the 70's.
Although I was fully involved with running the factory,I knew of the inadequate living situations of a number of my employees and it was wonderful to hear Jean talk about a concept of living that was not known in Australia.However I was not ready to be a part of L'Arche at this time and it was a few years later when Tony Neylan suggested I join the Board of L'Arche Sydney. After much soul searching I agreed and became a Board Member about 1988
Initially I found it very difficult as I did not understand the L'Arche language and could not see the need for all the meetings,but I found out very quickly as within the first 12 mths I became Chairperson and remained in that position for the next 8 years.
Although all of the above has been part of my spiritual journey, it has been the involvement with the core members and in particular Gazaroo that has enabled me to grow.
Gazaroo (real name Garry John) moved into the Burwood House of L'Arche Sydney Community in 1983 and at the same time he began work at Ozanam Industries in West Ryde. Garry would have severe seizures on a regular basis but refused to let them stop him from going to work where he was an excellent worker. At the beginning Garry John turned up at the workshop carrying 3 full and heavy bags,as because of his experiences in his earlier years he was afraid to leave anything behind. As time went on his bags became a good indicator of his mood and sense of safety.When he felt good he was able to take only one small bag.
When it became more difficult for Garry John to visit his mum on the South Coast for holidays and weekends away from the Community,Veronica and I asked Garry if he would like to stay with us on weekends and he agreed.
My relationship with Garry John was slow in developing but gradually he taught me about being patient and less selfish.When he first came to stay on the weekends,I would not let it interfere with my saturday golf,but as his seizures became too difficult for Veronica to manage alone,I decided that as he was our guest,I should spend the whole time with him. I thank Gazaroo for showing me the need to think of others first.
The experience I had of accompanying Garry John on a retreat for people with a disability was a wonderful experience for me and was very significant for my personal growth.
I thank God for L'Arche and pray that it will continue to be a sign of hope for years to come.