By: Laura Benar
As a college counselor at Saint Ignatius High School, Amy Carroll guides students on their academic journey, but as the co-moderator of Friends with L’Arche, she invites students to be part of an even bigger story.
L’Arche is an international organization that works alongside adults with and without disabilities to create mutual, communal relationships and to make known the gifts of each individual person. Carroll says, “L’Arche is one of the tougher service ministries—you have to open yourself to be vulnerable.”
Groups of students, with adult accompaniment, visit four different homes in the Cleveland area that house the L’Arche adults, known as core members. Carroll became involved after one of her sons, Christopher ’14, had started going. She attended a Christian Action Team (C.A.T.) meeting in which then-Theology teacher Jim Skerl ’74 asked if she would consider joining the next monthly home visit.
She says that participating in L’Arche with her son was a beautiful thing. “We compared notes and shared our separate and joint experiences.” Carroll recalls a core member who had Down’s syndrome and was later diagnosed with dementia. Members of his household came to spend and spent time sitting around his hospital bed. “I saw how the most vulnerable member of the community draws everyone together,” she says. “We are reminded how complicated we make life and how simple it needs to be.”
During the monthly L’Arche visits, students share a meal with the core members, then talk and transition into a spiritual activity that focuses on one of the ten pillars of the program, which include forgiveness, celebration and authentic relationships.
“You see the face of God in the faces of the core members,” Carroll says.
She has seen students form close relationships with the members through thoughtful gestures or making time for visits before they leave for college. “It doesn’t take long for them to realize that everyone has the same value and has the same experiences,” says Carroll.
Two of her children, sons Patrick ’11 and Christopher ’14, were involved in Ignatian service through the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearer Ministry and went on mission trips to Louisville, Kentucky and the Dominican Republic respectively. Both sons were also Arrupe counselors, mentoring children from the near west side of Cleveland.
“Their time at Saint Ignatius formed their hearts toward service,” says Carroll, adding that they both continue with service today: Patrick teaches sports to children with disabilities, and Christopher serves on the associate board for the West Side Catholic Center.
Volunteering is how Carroll started her own Saint Ignatius journey. She was involved in the Loyola Society Mothers’ Club, and then began working in the school’s College Counseling office in 2012. After a department transition, she stepped up to become a full-time College Counselor in 2018.
One of her favorite parts of L’Arche is the joy of watching students grow within the program. “It’s rare that a student doesn’t keep coming back,” she says.