Early in 1982, Mrs Marion Allen, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish died, leaving her house in 40 Pirie Street to the Church to be used for charitable purposes. So the question arose of how the house could be used to best fulfil Mrs Allen’s wishes. The local priest at the time Fr Terry Yard had an interest in L’Arche and had a dream to see a L’Arche Community be formed here in Hobart.
Then in 1984, Eileen Glass (founding member of L’Arche Australia) brought Jean Vanier to Hobart to conduct an Easter Faith and Light Retreat. This visit also included Public Meetings, meetings and shared meals with parishioners and Media Interviews. A number of people expressed interest in becoming part of a group to decide on the future of 40 Pirie Street after this visit. One of the most faithful of these people was Margaret Wilkinson, who was later asked by Jean to become the ‘Shepherd’ of the Community after it was established.
It was after this Retreat, that the future use of the house began to be discerned –a L’Arche home would fill a definite need in the wider community and because L’Arche was an already established organisation, it would help and support the group getting started. The Guidelines and Charter would help the Community avoid many pitfalls so that the future health of the Community would be more assured, it would enjoy the benefits of belonging to a world-wide family and we would be blessed by the gifts that the future core members would bring.
An Executive Committee was established and the hard work to find funding and fulfil the required criteria for becoming a L’Arche began. Eventually, in January 1986, Emmanuelle Wacrenier, the then Regional Coordinator of L’Arche in Australia, appointed Peter Ryan as Founding Director with Anne Huxley and Greg Burles as founding Core Members. L’Arche Beni Abbes had been born.
Today Beni-Abbes is a small but vibrant Community with three households, where 12 members with disability share home with a number of live-in assistants (across the three homes). Each house is supported by: live-out House Coordinators, part-time Assistants and a group of committed friends.
We spend time together living the “everydayness” of life together but also spend time socializing together attending Community gatherings and fun social outings together.