by Dan Morris-Young
When Sue Mosteller graduated from high school in 1952 and entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Toronto, Canada, little could she have realized that 20 years later her life path would merge with that of the then nascent L’Arche Movement.
Founded in 1964 when college professor Jean Vanier welcomed two men with disabilities into his home in Trosly-Breuil, France, L’Arche today is an international federation of homes and programs to support persons with intellectual disabilities. It operates 154 communities in 38 countries.
Now 85, Mosteller began her work with L’Arche in 1972 at L’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto, which will mark its 50th anniversary this year, including a March 5 premiere of an original play at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts near Toronto, “Journey to the Greatest Gift.” The stage production portrays how persons of differing intellectual, social, religious and cultural backgrounds can live and learn together.
Working closely with Vanier, the Ohio native would hold several top leadership positions in the worldwide federation over four decades. She would become a friend and confidante of the late Fr. Henri Nouwen, well-known Dutch theologian, spiritual writer and educator who lived the last 10 years of his life at Daybreak. Only after his death did Mosteller learn that Nouwen had named her executrix of his literary estate.
In 2012 she returned to the Sisters of St. Joseph convent in Toronto where she now volunteers with the Henri Nouwen Legacy and with Nouwen’s archival collection at the University of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto. Mosteller, a sought-after speaker and retreat leader, has published three books, the most recent: Light Through the Crack: Life After Loss. She spoke recently with Global Sisters Report.
GSR: You have been involved in L’Arche since its earliest days. Please share core observations on what you have learned and experienced.
Mosteller: I would say I couldn’t have asked for more with respect to the kind of life that I chose and wanted. It has been wonderful, difficult, fantastic and amazing. I wanted to become as fully human as I could, and I wanted to grow in my humanity and in my spirituality. L’Arche really was an answer to that, although of course I didn’t know that early on. It has been a place of deepening and expanding my insights and my sense of the gospel, as well as transformational for my heart. I really had a lot to learn about loving more broadly. I had to keep growing, and learning to work with conflict, new growth, and resistance, and all kinds of things. Thankfully, I had tremendous mentors along the way, with a lot of support both from my congregation and the wise people in L’Arche. I have been very fortunate.