FAITH AND LIGHT – celebrating the gifts of people with intellectual disability
On Saturday 3 August, the Canberra Faith and Light community celebrated their Announcement and Sharing Day at the Holy Spirit Church in Gungahlin. The day was hosted by Father Mark Croker and many local parishioners and visitors joined the community on the day to learn more about Faith and Light.
Faith and Light is an international Christian association of people with intellectual disability, and their families and friends. It was established in 1971 by the late Jean Vanier who also established the L’Arche community in France a few years earlier. After hearing about the experience of a French couple with two severely disabled sons who were not permitted to join a parish pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1968, Jean Vanier joined with Marie-Helene Mathieu to organise a pilgrimage to Lourdes especially for children, young people and adults with an intellectual disability. Through word of mouth, the idea spread widely and quickly – and at Easter 1971, 12,000 people from 18 countries made the first Faith and Light pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Faith and Light has since grown into a worldwide organisation that now has around 1,500 communities operating in 80 countries. The Canberra community was established in 1984.
The Coordinator of the Canberra Faith and Light community, Peter Frazer, explains that Faith and Light communities are not live-in communities like L’Arche. “Rather, we come together every month to share and celebrate the gifts of one another and to pray for each other – and in between, we are on hand to provide help and support for each other as needed”, he said.
“In each Faith and Light community, including the Canberra community, children and adults with an intellectual disability are at the centre of what we do – we call them ‘heart people’. Faith and Light is all about celebrating the precious gifts and rich inner life that our heart people bring with them. Our monthly meetings provide a place of close friendship and respect between and towards our heart people”.
Peter adds that for the parents and families of people with intellectual disability, Faith and Light provides a place to share experiences with and draw strength from other families dealing with similar issues. “In Faith and Light you are not alone, you are part of a supportive and understanding community,” he said.
Peter explains that Faith and Light also welcome other people to join the community as friends. “For these people, Faith and Light provides the opportunity to be enriched by the gifts, the warmth and the incredible insights that our heart people bring to the community.”
Peter indicated that Jean Vanier saw the spirituality of Faith and Light as being essentially about compassion. “He says it is a call to descend the ladder and to be close to those on the lower rungs. It is opposite to seeking power; it is to serve and discover the beatitude of humility in the same way that Jesus did when washing the feet of his disciples”.
“But overall, the experience we seek to provide through Faith and Light is one of joy”, Peter said. “In our monthly celebrations, we aim to combine prayerful seriousness and reflection on the lessons from the gospels with plenty of fun, laughter, and song”.
The Canberra Faith and Light community meet from 2.00-4.00pm on the first Saturday of each month between February and November. On most months the meetings are held at two venues: St Matthew’s Marian Hall, 12 Chewings St, Page, and St Peter Chanel’s Hall, Weston St, Yarralumla. The community also holds a members’ Christmas party each year.
Faith and Light is happy to welcome new members to join the community, especially families of younger adults with intellectual disability as well as other people interested in joining as friends. To find out more, please contact Peter Frazer on 0410394954 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.