Today we’d like to introduce you to Luca Badetti, PhD.
Dr. Badetti, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’d be glad to share some of my story with you – and how it speaks to where I am today. I was born in Rome, Italy. I had some great childhood friends and have some beautiful memories of living in Ostia, the Roman seaside. Growing up, I often exhibited a certain interest towards people at the margins, those considered somewhat “different.”
I did middle school in Milan and then moved to the United States. Throughout these transitions, I have remained a friendly and sensitive person, while also experiencing a bit what it meant to be outside of the “mainstream.” For example, in Milan, I had interests quite different from other people my age and as a teenager, in an American high school I sat in the cafeteria with the “international group”, those English as a Second Language (ESL) students like me that communicated through gestures and a broken English.
During college, I discovered about L’Arche, an international movement of communities in which people with and without intellectual disabilities live together in a spirit of simplicity. Upon learning about it, I sensed an interior invitation to join L’Arche as a school of life and, more than ten years ago, I began living in one of their homes near Boston. I have remained involved with L’Arche communities ever since, in the US, France and Italy. In L’Arche, I discovered how people with intellectual disabilities, who are often marginalized and oppressed, can reveal to us what it means to be human and can, therefore, transform society.
My community journey went hand-in-hand with my academic formation. In college, as I sought to understand the human person in a holistic way, I double majored and double minored, combining theological, psychological and philosophical studies. In grad school, I obtained a master’s in Clinical Psychology, a doctorate in Disability Studies from UIC, which brought me to Chicago and afterward did a fellowship in Psychoanalysis.
These, of course, are just a few elements of my story. I believe in the essential importance of “just being,” and my story includes pleasant moments of solitude, beautiful moments of leisure over coffee with loved ones, good food shared, many poems that I had to let out on paper, touching songs heard many times on repeat and so on.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In my journey thus far, I have had both delightful and life-giving moments as well as challenges. Life brings both – it is so delicately vulnerable and yet so surprisingly resilient. Joy and suffering can arise quite unexpectedly. Somewhere within the challenges, however, I have noticed how “new life” often emerged through, even without seeing it right away. I found growth there.
Luca – what should we know about your work and expertise? What do you focus on and how is it relevant today?
In my work, I promote personal wholeness and social transformation through the encounter with a disability.
I do this through teaching, community work and consulting.
In a society that emphasizes individualism, intellectual “normalcy” and ability, people can be afraid of disability. It is easy to hide behind ideas, self-reliance and achievement. I seek to bridge the gap between people with and without intellectual disabilities, by showing how encountering disability can actually lead us all to live more complete and connected lives – from the heart, in a spirit of interdependence.
Currently, I am the Director of Community Life at L’Arche Chicago, a multi-cultural faith community on the west side comprised of three homes in which people with and without intellectual disabilities live together ordinary life (sharing meals, going on outings, praying together, etc.). In my role, I support community life across its different layers: hiring and training assistants/staff, leading team meetings, events and retreats, accompanying, listening and walking with people as they grow through their community journey. Together with a resident of the community, I have co-founded the national L’Arche USA Inclusion Team, providing reflection and training on inclusion work.
I teach at Loyola University of Chicago and at DePaul University. In my teaching, I integrate interdisciplinary reflection with experience in the disability world. At Loyola, I am an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Institute for Pastoral Studies; at DePaul University I teach in the Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies program. I enjoy teaching and engaging with the students in a way that I hope helps them become critical thinkers with a compassionately human outlook on themselves/others and with a thirst for inclusion.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
There are various moments that come to mind, some even more “ordinary.” Most recently, however, I am quite excited about my upcoming book, “I Believe in You,” which will be published this November by New City Press. It has been a great experience writing it and has just received the foreword for it by Jean Vanier, a sage man who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In the book, I seek to help people believe in themselves and believe in those around them. I do so by inviting them on a journey, page by page, grounded in stories involving people with disabilities met in community and interdisciplinary reflection.
The title of the book was inspired by a friend with down syndrome. As I was talking to her after a community event about faith, looking for a word of wisdom, she looked at me directly from behind her glasses and before I even finished my sentence, she repeated twice, with a profound tone: “I believe in you. I believe in you.” I have not forgotten that moment since.
“To believe” actually means “to trust.” People journey through life facing questions about who they really are and what they are here for, as well as questions about those they encounter day in and day out. I hope this book can provide them with relevant insights that help them believe in themselves and in others.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
One of the childhood memories that comes to mind is of me finding and eating pine-nuts with friends in the pinewood behind my Roman house.
Sally O’Donnell Photography, TEDxBend 2016, Roberta Dupuis- Devlin