Luca Badetti, a 2015 PhD graduate in disability studies, is Chicago community life director for L’Arche, an international organization of residences for people who have intellectual disabilities.
L’Arche Chicago maintains two residences — Angel House on Chicago’s West Side, and Peace House in Forest Park — with a third scheduled to open this year. Each residence is home to four people who have intellectual disabilities, ranging in age from their 30s to 70s, and three or four assistants.
Financial support comes from state funding and contributions from donors.
In the L’Arche communities, “disabilities labels lose their hold, and the emphasis is on the person,” says Badetti.
Besides Chicago, he’s lived in L’Arche residences in Boston, Washington, D.C., Rome and Trosly-Breuil, France, where the organization began in 1964. Today, there are 147 L’Arche communities in 35 countries.
Badetti presented a TedX Talk in Bend, Oregon, last April, about his four years in L’Arche.
“You can learn to know what it is to be human, and to grow into that,” Badetti says. “There is a simplicity, a living from the heart rather than just the mind, an honesty, and a slower sense of time that I think pinpoints what are the great things about being human.”
As community coordinator, “my role is to support community life, spiritual life and quality of life of the people in the community,” he explains.
His duties range from training assistants to organizing celebrations. “We cook together, go to events in the city, watch TV, pray and hang out.”
Badetti grew up in Rome and Milan before moving to the United States with his parents. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville and a master’s from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences.
By living only with people who are like ourselves, “we’re missing a chance to open our hearts,” he says.
“I hope L’Arche can be a sign of peace, a sign that it’s possible and great to live together in our similarities and in our differences.”