“Loving life in its fragility”

Emelie Lartosse, in her 2nd year of novitiate with the Daughters of Jesus, shares her experience as a trainee-assistant at l’Arche d’Aigrefoin, Yvelines, France.

My experience in an Arche community

The first l’Arche community opened in Trosly-Breuil in the north of France in 1964 when the Canadian founder, Jean  invited Raphaël Simi and Philippe Seux, two men living in an asylum for the mentally handicapped, to come and live with him in a small house. Very quickly, many people from different backgrounds, with and without mental disabilities, joined the shared life project, and L’Arche rapidly developed both in France and internationally.

In l’Arche d’Aigrefoin, mentally handicapped people, volunteers and assistants live and work together. During my placement, from the 3rd to the 16th of December 2023, I had the chance to live in the midst of various forms of poverty. I also had the opportunity to work with a wonderful team who helped me to live a very powerful experience of loving life in its fragility.

 “These people are like doves full of humility, respect, and with a heart full of incredible love.”

My mission in this environment of poverty was to share in the taking charge of daily tasks: meals, outings, games, painting, embroidery, preparing cards for families, friends, and people living alone.

What I discovered

This experience of living together with the residents helped me to make a journey of disappropriation. I allowed myself to be touched, in my flesh, my heart and my mind, by the face of Christ. In what I lived, I came to see in others a brother and a sister, as I listened at length, and tried to understand and respond to the needs of each person.

As Jean Vannier, the founder of the Arche communities, said,

“A relationship of mutual trust leads to a communion of hearts”.

This trust has enabled me:

– “to move forward into deep water at the heart of my vulnerability“.

– “to collaborate with courage in the mission of Resurrection “.

(extracts from the Orientations of the General Chapter 2022)

– to dare to give myself fully in service, and to be free and responsible in my mission in everyday life.

– to “take care of” and “humanise in the way of Jesus“, according to the charism of the Daughters of Jesus.

The experience with the association enabled me to get out of my comfort zones, and to let myself be helped. I learned to be patient and loving. As I lived it out day by day, it became a way of “giving and receiving”.

Everyone has something to bring to the table

With the differences in age and culture, I learned to welcome and discover the richness and value in each person. This opened my heart and my eyes to others who are different from me. In day-to-day life, each person brought their own talents and abilities to the table.

Living with the most disadvantaged has strengthened my faith and my everyday spiritual life. I’ve discovered another way of praying, in that every gesture in our daily lives unites us with God, even in the smallest details of our lives.

At l’Arche, I discovered that people with disabilities are people who bring a lot to the table in terms of relationships. They helped me to deal with my fears, my personal points of resistance, and to live with people who have a mental disability. Thanks to them, my outlook has changed!

When I went off to the work experience, I thought I was going to humanise others, but it was I who left humanised.

Emelie Lartosse

Novice Filles de Jésus de Kermaria

Pavillon-sous-Bois, France


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