Jean Vanier passes

Shortly after VE Day he accompanied his mother, his father now ambassador in Paris (and eventually Governor General of Canada), on a trip to assist Nazi concentration camp survivors. It was a profoundly moving encounter.  Subsequently he transferred to the Canadian Navy in 1948 as an officer on an aircraft carrier.  However, he left “in response to Jesus'” invitation of love to leave everything behind to follow him. Less than 60 years later, “l’Arche” — named after Noah’s Ark — is a network of 154 communities in 40 countries on five continents, welcoming “10,000 members, with and without disabilities.” As family homes and centers of social integration, communities are also places of cultural and social diversity because of the diversity of employees, volunteers.

Jean Vanier, founder of the l’Arche and Faith and Light communities, as well as a great friend of people with disabilities, has died. He was 90.

Vanier, who celebrated his 90th birthday last September, was for several months in a Paris hospital. Having suffered from a heart attack in 2017, he alternated between rest periods and short stays in hospital.

He died May 7 at 2.10 a.m. surrounded by friends from the l’Arche community.

A former Canadian naval officer, Vanier founded L’Arche in 1964 when he bought a small house in Trosly-Breuil near Paris and decided to dedicate his life with the disabled.

Vanier was a well-known philosopher and writer and founder of two international community movements: “l’Arche” and “Faith and Light,” to help people with intellectual disabilities.

Living with the mentally handicapped for 52 years, Vanier was known as a deeply committed protector of the poor.

Vanier was born in 1928 in Geneva, where his father was posted as a diplomat. His family fled to Britain just before the Nazi occupation of Europe and Vanier enrolled at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth at the age of 13. He graduated in 1945 and served in the British Navy.

Shortly after VE Day he accompanied his mother, his father now ambassador in Paris (and eventually Governor General of Canada), on a trip to assist Nazi concentration camp survivors. It was a profoundly moving encounter.

Subsequently he transferred to the Canadian Navy in 1948 as an officer on an aircraft carrier.

However, he left “in response to Jesus'” invitation of love to leave everything behind to follow him.

Less than 60 years later, “l’Arche” — named after Noah’s Ark — is a network of 154 communities in 40 countries on five continents, welcoming “10,000 members, with and without disabilities.”

As family homes and centers of social integration, communities are also places of cultural and social diversity because of the diversity of employees, volunteers.

They also rely on the Faith and Light movement, created in 1971 with Marie-Hélène Matthieu, to gather and support the families and friends of people with disabilities.

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