As Clinton Franciscan Sister Marjorie Wisor studied French in Paris in 1967, her superior, Sister Cortona, asked her to invite Jean Vanier to speak at the Federation of Franciscans. He declined saying that he spoke only to groups including “marginal people.”
In 1968, Sister Marjorie visited Trosly. “This visit left a great impression on me as I felt layers of me being stripped away as the handicapped people met me person-to-person. There were no barriers. Our ‘persons’ met at the deepest level.”
In 1972, Sister Marjorie met Jean Vanier in Chicago and spent three months at L’Arche in Trosly. She and Father Mottet of Davenport Catholic Social Services discussed the effects the Scott County Home closing. When a L’Arche home in Davenport did not emerge, Chet Swanson, Skyline’s director, suggested opening a L’Arche home in Clinton.
The First Presbyterian Church of Clinton donated a house and on June 6, 1974, Gerry Potter became the first core member of The Arch. Today The Arch has three homes and six apartments with 18 core members and 18 full-time and part-time, live-in and live-out assistants, as well as the community leader, community coordinator, office manager and administrative assistant. Our eight-member board of directors rounds out our community.
Core members at The Arch are the heart of our L’Arche community as they are worldwide. Members of our community with intellectual disabilities work at a sheltered workshop in Clinton, Skyline, Inc., or participate in the day program, affectionately known as “DayHab.” Three members of our apartment community have supportive employment at McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and the local recycling center.
Our community is known for our gatherings, trips and other activities. We gather monthly for birthday parties and anniversary celebrations. We have fully participated in recent regional L’Arche gatherings in St. Louis and Chicago. Many core members have taken vacations to visit family in other states and to simply enjoy the hot spots in the nation. We enjoy our preparation and participation in regional and state Special Olympics, with core members always hoping to bring back the gold, but promise to be good sports if they receive anything less.
Primarily what makes our L’Arche community thrive is God’s spirit that infiltrates our hearts and strengthens us so that we might be better servants, teachers and students.