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In Memoriam - Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier
September 10, 1928 – May 7, 2019

Jean Vanier, CC, GOQ, was a Canadian Catholic philosopher, theologian, and humanitarian. In 1964 he founded L’Arche, an international federation of communities for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them; and he co-founded Faith and Light with Marie-Hélène Mathieu, a Christian charity for people with learning disabilities. Today L’Arche (“the ark”) has 150 communities in 38 countries, supporting 3,500 people with learning disabilities with day services as well as residential homes. Most of the communities are small and residents often stay for decades.

“I had no plan,” he said. “I just met people and people with disabilities awoke my heart.”  Nor did he intend to found a network: “I had no idea of starting a movement or establishing communities outside Trosly, even less outside France. At one moment I even said we should stay the size of one carload, so if no one came to help me I could at least continue to travel by bringing everyone in the car.”

Vanier wrote 30 books on spirituality and community, including Community and Growth (1979), Becoming Human (1998), Befriending the Stranger (2005) and Life’s Great Questions (2015). In 2015 he was awarded the £1.1m Templeton prize for making “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension”.  He was also made a Companion of the Order of Canada, Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec, and a member of the French Legion of Honour.

He continued to live as a member of the original L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France, until his death.