Jean Vanier

by Helen of Wodonga, Australia

"When one is in pain or weakness or close to death, one begins to share ideas about what is essential, one's deepest concerns and hopes. No one is a threat to anyone. On the contrary, people begin to open their hearts to one another." Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier- (born September 10, 1928) is the founder of L'Arche, an international organization that creates communities where people with developmental disabilities, and those who assist them, share life together. Jean Vanier was born in Canada, the son of the diplomat and later Governor General Georges Vanier and his wife Pauline Archer. He served in both the British Navy and the Canadian Royal Navy, and in 1950 resigned his commission to pursue studies in France where he received a Doctorate in Philosophy after completing his thesis on Aristotle. In 1964, through his friendship with a Dominican order priest, Father Thomas Philippe, he became aware of the plight of thousands of people institutionalized with developmental disabilities.

Jean Vanier felt led by God to invite two men, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave the institutions where they resided and share their lives with him in a real home in Trosly-Breuil, France. He named their home L'Arche, a French word referring to the Noah's ark. From this original community in France, 130 other communities have been founded throughout the world in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, North and South America. Although L'Arche communities are found in many different cultures, they reflect the ethnic and religious composition of the locales in which they exist; they share a common philosophy and approach. The goal of L'Arche is to bring together people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them to live and work to create homes, recognizing one another’s unique value and gifts.

In 1968, inspired by his belief that community can change the world, Jean Vanier founded Faith and Sharing, a worldwide movement of annual retreats where people from all walks of life are welcome. In 1971, he co-founded Faith and Light with Marie Hélène Mathieu. Faith and Light groups, composed of people with developmental disabilities, their family and friends, meet regularly to discuss hopes and difficulties and to pray together. Vanier points of that when confronted with human brokenness and weakness, people often find a God whose love is without limitation. Today there are over 1400 Faith and Light communities around the world.

Jean Vanier has demonstrated a lifetime of commitment to those who have been marginalized in our world, the lonely and the dispossessed. In recognition of his humanitarian contributions and dedication to the marginalized, Jean Vanier has received numerous honours and awards including the Companion of the Order of Canada, the Legion of Honour(France) and many awards from faith groups, among them the Paul VI International Prize, the International Peace Prize, the Rabbi Gunther Plaut Humanitarian Award and the Gaudium et Spes Award. Referring to Jean’s work in creating L'Arche, Pope John Paul II stated, "Over the past 30 years L'Arche has grown to become a dynamic and providential sign of the civilization of love."

Page created on 12/20/2008 3:03:31 PM

Last edited 1/9/2017 4:33:49 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Jean Vanier - A biographical sketch
L'Arche Lethbridge - "L'Arche is an international organization of faith-based communities creating homes and day programs with people who have developmental disabilities."
Jean Vanier - Becoming Human

Related Books