Faith Matters

QUB Catholic Chaplaincy partners with L'Arche

Maria, Tracy, Ross and Katriona, core members of L'Arche Belfast, pictured at the main entrance to Queen's. L'Arche has entered into a partnership with the Catholic Chaplaincy at the university. Picture by Molly Campbell

THE Catholic Chaplaincy at Queen's University has partnered with L'Arche Belfast to provide them with shelter and space to continue their activities over the winter months.

L'Arche, part of a worldwide voluntary organisation, is a care provider situated in south Belfast offering vital supports to adults with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders.

When lockdown was announced in March, the young adults who benefit from L'Arche support struggled greatly with the upheaval and services moved online.

When restrictions were eased, L'Arche decided to take small steps and open some of their sessions again, developing their garden space and using small cabins.

This enabled them to offer sessions in exercise, dance, and performance skills.

However, as the days shortened and the less favourable autumnal weather set in, the arrangement could not continue.

The Chaplaincy was happy to provide a solution, enabling L'Arche's important outreach programmes to continue in a warm, comfortable, and secure environment.

Project leader Alison Pettigrew said: "Our projects put an emphasis on the idea that all people have something meaningful to contribute to the community.

"Our programmes encourage participation from other marginalised groups in society, such as individuals who are homeless."

She added that the new arrangement with the Catholic Chaplaincy helps young people with learning disabilities to take care of their mental health, grow in confidence, enhance their skills and hobbies, utilise social networking and improve their job chances.

L'Arche's range of programmes include cookery, catering projects, gardening, art, and social evenings.

Chaplain to Queen's, Fr Dominic McGrattan, said: "Chaplaincy is happy to provide L'Arche with a home for the winter months and to welcome young adults who might otherwise struggle to access third level services to be part of an inclusive university family which values everyone".

Fr McGrattan said "we have much to learn from the members of L'Arche".

"Our university students are an impressive bunch, committed to service and care for others," he said.

"I have every confidence they will be keen to get involved and volunteer."

A group from the L'Arche Community in Belfast take a stroll through Botanic Gardens, close to Queen's University. L'Arche has entered into a partnership with the Catholic Chaplaincy at the university. Picture by Molly Campbell

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