1. Organization of presentations
Employees of Emmaus Centre have regular presentations in higher educational institutions, schools, NGOs, parishes, etc. The goal of the presentations is to witness the value and dignity of each person, to reveal the gift and vocation of people with special needs. During the presentations the Centre’s employees invite the audience to ponder over the attitude of the society to the persons with mental disability, to think about the reasons of such attitude.
Participants of the presentations have a possibility to know more about persons with disability, their needs, as well as about the task they are called to fulfill in the society – through their sincerity and spontaneity, through life “without masks”, through their vulnerability, openness and defenselessness – to transform it, make it more human.
The presentations include a documentary film about the way friendship with disabled persons changes the lives of people, reveals the things which truly matter, reveals the value of human heart.
Then the presentations’ organizers tell about Jean Vanier, about the activity of “L’Arche” and “Faith and Light” communities, invite everyone to visit the communities, to become friends of people with disabilities, to cooperate with “Emmaus” Centre, or simply, when next time they come across a person with special needs, not to turn away from them but to accept them as they are. At the presentations there are always present core members, young assistants, and often parents. They all share their experience of community life, tell stories of their lives, answer questions of the audience.
2. Organization of educational events “Let’s discover the gift of disabled people!” in Ukraine
The purpose of these activities is to promote humanity of society and to open the gift of disabled persons in Ukrainian society, to support their families.
Such events are a great opportunity to draw the attention of many people to gifts of persons with disabilities and to break social stereotypes in relation to these people and provide information about the community for such people and to promote the establishment of such communities in regional centers of Ukraine.
Another type of activity aimed to attract attention of the society to people with special needs is organization of film shows on the relevant topics in the framework of the UCU Film Club. Every time after the films the audience is invited to active discussions and debates, at the cup of tea and sweets.
4. Spiritual evenings for young people
There are regular retreats for young people interested in the spirituality of “Emmaus” Centre. The meetings are conducted by the Centre employees, as well as guest priests and psychologists. Every meeting focuses on a topic, rooted in the spirituality of Jean Vanier, and is aimed at deepening of spiritual life, opening of the heart to God and each other, revealing the value of each person, as well as the value of friendship, communication, forgiveness, and reconciliation. The meetings’ hosts invite the young people not to be afraid of their weaknesses, imperfections, limitations, to accept themselves as they are – because this is the basis for growth and finding inner peace. They also invite them to find a place in their life for the weak, disabled people – to accept their gift, to allow them to touch their heart, to become their friends, to walk together on the road of life.
After the presentation of the topic, there is group sharing – everyone can share the things which touched their heart, which was the most memorable, striking, or surprising.
Each meeting is started and finished with a prayer and spiritual songs.
5. Publishing activity
In order to acquaint the Ukrainian society with the conceptual ideas of Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen, “Emmaus” Centre carries out translation and publication of their books in Ukrainian. It also publishes books by other Ukrainian authors with a similar message. Since the establishment of “Emmaus” there have been published the following books in Ukrainian: “Community and Growth” by Jean Vanier (2001), “The heart of L’Arche: A Spirituality for Every Day” by Jean Vanier (2002), “From Fear To Love. Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen (2002), “Blessed are the poor in spirit” by Taras Zheplynskyi (2005), “Adam: God’s Beloved” by Henri Nouwen (2005), “Nightingale with one wing” by Oleh Romanchuk (2009), “Seeing Beyond Depression” by Jean Vanier (2010), “When you dream about music” by Oleh Romanchuk (2010).
Every year “Emmaus” Centre supports the publication of “Faith and Light” “Guidelines” – a collection of materials and recommendations for the meetings of “Faith and Light” communities. It is important for the persons with mental disability, their families and friends to get together, deepen their relationships, share their life experience. The “Guidelines” contain various ideas how to organize community meetings, include topics for the meetings, meditations, word of the month, which is a spiritual nourishment for communities and contribute to the growth of their members in faith, hope, and love. The “Guidelines” propose topics for sharing groups, as well as various creative tasks – pantomimes, games, ideas for celebrations, etc. They are compiled by the international team of “Faith and Light”, and their text is identical for all communities of “Faith and Light” movement on 5 continents. This ensures unity between the communities, united around the same topics throughout the world.
– Newsletter of “Emmaus”
Every second month “Emmaus” Centre publishes a newsletter. It covers spiritual topics, as well as contains interviews, personal stories, news of “Emmaus”, information about life of “Faith and Light” and “L’Arche-Kovcheh” communities, and other topical materials.
By means of the newsletter “Emmaus” seeks to cover and spread various aspects of spirituality, in particular the spirituality of Jean Vanier, and also to attract attention of the society to the persons with disability, their role and place in the life of mankind.
6. Informative-educational films
“Emmaus” Centre contributed to the preparation and production of two informative-educational films “The Road of Heart” and “To See a Person”.
The film “The Road of Heart” tells about suffering of persons with disability, how their birth is often considered to be a tragedy, and their life is full of despair. It tells the story of Myron – a mentally disabled man from Lviv, who spent his childhood and youth in deep loneliness, having no friends, having nothing to do. It tells how he started to come to the meetings of a “Faith and Light” community, went to the community summer camp and met there people who wanted to be his friends. At the camp he discovered for the first time that life is beautiful, that he is worth living, that there are people who believe in him. The film also tells about other persons with mental disability, their families, their road to healing through acceptance, relationships, and friendship.
The film “To See a Person” starts from the story of the philosopher Diogenes, who was walking with a candle, peering into the faces of people. It tells about the barriers that people create between themselves and their own heart, about the damages that prejudices can cause and about the need of relationships and communion of every human being, in particular persons with mental disability.
In the film, people with disabilities talk about how society seeks to dissociate itself from them, how they feel when they are rejected and people are afraid of them when they see only their disability and do not notice their hearts, their gifts and abilities. The film calls for us to be open to each other, not looking at each other through the prism of prejudices and stereotypes, but accept everyone with each of his gifts and limitations.
7. Support of families
Parents, raising children with special needs, encounter many difficulties. The society offers very few possibilities for them. Such families often feel isolated, lonely. They need support and spiritual nourishment.
– Individual support
“Emmaus” offers spiritual support for families with disabled persons. In order to ensure such support “Emmaus” cooperates with priests.
– “Parents’ coffee”
One more way of families’ support is a regular “Parents’ coffee” – thematic meetings for parents, where they focus on a topic, share their experience, communicate, mutually support each other, have common prayer.
8. Pastoral activity
Not every organization taking care of persons with disability has its own chaplain. Therefore, “Emmaus” Centre offers spiritual support to the organizations in need of it. In particular, “Emmaus” organizes Liturgies, invites priests for confession, catechization, conducts spiritual discussions, retreats in such organizations as “Dzerelo”, “Contact”, “Open Heart”. “Emmaus” invites members of these organizations for common monthly Liturgies at UCU, for retreats and other events.
9. Organization of retreats
In response to the need of regular spiritual formations for people working or involved in the social sphere, “Emmaus” Centre contributes to the organization of retreats and spiritual meetings for assistants and chaplains of “Faith and Light” communities, assistants of “L’Arche”, and members of other organizations. If possible, “Emmaus” invites guest lecturers for these events from other countries (for example, Joe Vostermans from Canada, who has 35 years of experience in “L’Arche”). About 150 people from different parts of Ukraine (Lviv, Ternopil, Kamyanets-Podilskyi, Trans-Carpathians, Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Rivne, etc.) have a possibility to participate in the retreats annually.
Jean Vanier visited Ukraine several times (his last visit in 2007 was dedicated to the 15th anniversary of “Faith and Light” movement in Ukraine).
10. Contributing to the integration of people with special needs into the society
Realizing the importance of such integration not only for persons with disability but for every person in particular (since acceptance of disabled humanizes the whole community), “Emmaus” started an integration program by involving several people with special needs into volunteer work at the Ukrainian Catholic University, with the aim to include them into the society, involve in various activities, give possibilities for development and growth.
The Ukrainian Catholic University plays a significant role in the Ukrainian society and Church and is a good ground to start integration programs.
Core members from “L’Arche” workshops work as volunteers at the Rectorate and library, doing simple technical work. Also people with disabilities serve on the Liturgies at UCU. Participation in the life of the Ukrainian Catholic University brings them satisfaction and joy.
Several times a year “Emmaus” supports organization of exhibition-fairs of handicrafts from “L’Arche” workshops – candles, postcards, icons, beaded necklaces, etc. These exhibition-fairs are very popular among UCU employees and students.
11. Integration theatre
It has been over 10 years that “Emmaus” hosts the integration theatre “Laughter and Tears”, which is a wonderful tool to render the message about the value and beauty of persons with disability.
By means of their performances the group of actors, including people with and without disability, seeks to spread their vision of life and reality, which is much deeper than the one we can observe with our eyes.
“Emmaus” Centre encourages members of the theatre to active development and studies, as well as to the participation in various theatre festivals to exchange experience, get new ideas and inspiration, and to spread their own vision