Our Lady, Queen of Peace Lenten supper offers food for thought

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Last Friday night at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington, parishioners reflected on diversity and community as they sipped steamy vegetable soup and enjoyed Lenten-themed crafts - chatting and laughing while dabbing glue and snipping ribbon.

The Stone Soup Suppers, offered each week during Lent, feature Mass, a simple meal and a presentation. This year's theme is "Embracing Diversity," and Feb. 27 members of L'Arche led a mini-retreat for the parish.

Founded in 1964 by Catholic Jean Vanier, L'Arche are interdenominational Christian communities that include individuals with intellectual disabilities and encourage members to deepen their spiritual life. There are two L'Arche homes in Arlington, and about seven residents attend Mass weekly at Queen of Peace.

The retreat focused on three areas: community, service and advocacy. For each area, a member of L'Arche read a Scripture passage and shared a story about a L'Arche resident. The nearly 65 attendees then were asked to meditate upon questions such as, "Who are the strangers in your life?" and "How have you helped give someone else strength to believe in themselves?"

To complete each section, participants made a small piece of art, such as a cut-out sheep to represent the lost sheep in Jesus' parable. In the well-known story Jesus asks, "Wouldn't you leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it?"

Spiritan Father Timothy J. Hickey, pastor, said the soup suppers help keep parishioners engaged in Lent throughout the entire 40 days. They also provide an opportunity for individuals to conduct a spiritual check-in, to ask themselves, "How is my relationship with God and others?" he said.

Parishioner Gerri Noble-Martocci said the evening allowed her to fulfill her Lenten responsibility in unique ways. "For me, tonight is a fast from watching TV; it's giving alms not by actually giving, but humbly receiving the gifts of the L'Arche members; and praying through the Scripture readings," she said.

Noble-Martocci said the presentation was especially meaningful because she has a nephew with special needs, adding that the night reflected the everyday culture of the parish.

"Our Lady, Queen of Peace makes room for everyone, whether they are in wheelchairs, intellectually disabled or have other differences," she said.

Sitting next to Noble-Martocci was her son, Joe Martocci, who is responsible for parish maintenance. He said that many people might think there are better ways to spend a Friday night, but he felt the Stone Soup Supper was a beautiful way to close the week.

"Everyone knows each other here, and there's such a sense of community," he said. "It's what this parish is all about."

Find out more

To learn more about L'Arche, click here.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015