JCU Students Join L’Arche in Last Leg of Bicycle Pilgrimage
On October 15, a group of 12 John Cabot students participated in a bicycle pilgrimage alongside a group of tandem cyclists from the communities of L’Arche in Italy. L’Arche is an international network of communities for people with and without intellectual disabilities.
The ride took place along the Lungotevere, the last leg of the Bologna-Rome bicycle pilgrimage, and was carried out in collaboration with other biking groups and several Italian civil society organizations active in the disability community. Organized by the communities of L’Arche in Italy, the pilgrimage was designed to emphasize common values and experiences by facilitating inclusive encounters with Italian communities along the way. Cyclists journeyed the ancient Via Francigena route with a 16-person team consisting of 10 bikes whose riders, both with and without disabilities, pedaled in tandem.
John Cabot students cycled out to the small city of Castel Giubileo, a 1.5 hour ride, where they joined the L’Arche team. Together the groups cycled to Saint Peter’s Square before continuing to the Colosseum along the historic Via della Conciliazione and Corso Vittorio Emanuele through to the Fori Imperiali. The pilgrimage came to its close at the University of Notre Dame’s Villa, where the group celebrated the journey.
The participation of university students in this unique project was intended to foster reflection together with members of the disability community. Diego Gerena, a third-year JCU student intern with L’Arche, helped mobilize Notre Dame students for the event. He sees his and fellow students’ involvement in the pilgrimage as “a chance to prove that with unity, love, and respect, communities can come together to impact the world and acknowledge the worthiness of all.” Professor Michael Driessen, who is on the board of directors for L’Arche-Rome, hopes that in welcoming this other-abled team to Rome, participating students like Diego might have been provoked to think about “what it means for a group of people with and without disability, to pedal together on the same bicycles, in tandem, all the way from Bologna to Rome.”
After their 39-kilometer adventure, John Cabot students had an opportunity to discuss the importance of inclusion and the building of common-life-together with Luca Errani, one of the members of the L’Arche team who had organized the trip. JCU students’ participation in the pilgrimage, and the public presence of disability at large, illustrates this crucial element of human solidarity to the community.