Without defence or pretence, everyone there including support members showed a simple and honest acceptance of themselves and of each other.
Jean Vanier and Marie-Helene Mathieu founded Faith and Light in France 35 years ago, when Gerard and Camille took their profoundly intellectually disabled children on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. At that time they experienced subtle exclusions.
Reflecting on how society ‘viewed’ those different from themselves, 12,000 pilgrims (4,000 with intellectual disabilities) returned three years later and experienced inexpressible peace and joy while celebrating the Easter mysteries. This seemed to show a marked shift in attitude recognising that, although they may be disabled intellectually, the pilgrims were not disabled in their hearts and in their relationship with God.
Faith and Light has spread to 92 countries and has 1,400 communities worldwide.
Elaine Martin (now living in Hawke’s Bay) and Marcienne Waite RSJ established Faith and Light in Whanganui in 1994.
‘Our first meeting to provide a spiritual need for those with intellectual disabilities in Whanganui was held in the (now closed) St Augustine’s College staffroom and has gone from strength to strength,’ Marcienne said.
The meeting format has a relaxed structure encompassing prayer, scripture reflection, news items, songs and games, afternoon tea and of course time to wave to Wel-com readers before the raffle was drawn.