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Faith and Light about families, love

Group for people with developmental disabilities and their families celebrates 40 years in St. Albert.
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Faith and Light is a faith-based organization for people with disabilities and their families. The St. Albert chapter celebrated its 40th anniversary over the weekend. FACEBOOK/Photo

St. Albert - A group for people with developmental disabilities and their families held a special gathering on Sunday for the 50th anniversary of its work internationally, and its 40th locally.

“They saw a need for families just to have support and a place for spiritual nourishment as well as just an opportunity to share the joys and the tribulations and trials of raising a person with a disability,” said Faith and Light group co-ordinator Julian Di Castri.

“It’s a real faith base, where you see the value in a human being, regardless of their IQ. That's the real fundamental difference from both LoSeCa and Transitions and places like that. Our organization, Faith and Light, is more … people who (are) either living at home or living in group homes, but want to have that monthly support, where we get together for community-building and activities and a bit of spirituality.”

Those regular gatherings are real bonding experiences, he said.

The international organization was started in the 1970s by Marie-Hélène Mathieu and Jean Vanier. Now, it can be found in more than 1,400 communities in 86 countries and in 38 different languages. It represents different Christian traditions with one single purpose: love.

“Jean Vanier, back in the 60s, decided to take a whole new look (at) how we deal with our people with disabilities and get them out of warehouses. Back then, institutions were brutal,” Di Castri said, adding Vanier’s earlier French movement was called L’Arche, the idea behind which was to form communities with people with and without disabilities.

Typically, the North American groups celebrate each anniversary with a pilgrimage attended by people from all over Canada and the United States. With the lingering pandemic, Di Castri noted, things needed to shift to be semi-virtual over the course of last weekend, ending with a fiesta on Sunday evening.

“The logistics of this were just mind-boggling,” he said, noting the combination of Zoom and in-person events included craft kits and musical performances.

Organizers worked tirelessly, he said.

“It's a big deal. A lot of planning went into it.

“The philosophy being that folks with disabilities can often teach us a lot of things: those of us that are scheduled and manic with our to-do lists and (this is) just about being and just enjoying being in the presence of people and not being preoccupied with all the stuff that we're preoccupied with.”

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