Jean Vanier is the founder of L’Arche, an international organization which creates communities where people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them share life together. He is the son of ex Governor General of Canada, Major-General Georges Vanier and was born in Geneva.. In his youth and during World War II he served with the Royal Navy and then with the Royal Canadian Navy.
In 1950, he left the Royal Canadian to study philosophy, he taught at Toronto University In 1964, through Vanier’s friendship with a priest named 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.
Faith and Light Ireland group visiting L’archeFaith and Light Ireland group visiting L’arche
In 1964, 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. Until the late 1970’s, Jean Vanier carried the responsibility for L’Arche in Trosly-Breuil in France and for the International Federation of L’Arche. He stepped down from these responsibilities, to spend more time counseling, encouraging and accompanying people who come to live in L’Arche as assistants to those with disabilities. Vanier still makes his home in the original community of Trosly-Breuil, France. He also travels widely, visiting other L’Arche communities, encouraging projects for new communities, and giving lectures and retreats. In the view of many of those who know him, Jean Vanier has demonstrated a lifetime of commitment to those who have been marginalized in our world, the lonely and the dispossessed.
On monday 18 May 2015, in London, Jean Vanier received the Templeton Prize during a beautiful and moving ceremony. Jean Vanier has determined that 100% of the €1.5 million Prize money will be used to benefit people with intellectual disabilities, who are among the most oppressed people on the planet.
The Prize money will be gifted to L’Arche, Faith and Light, and through them to other organizations in financially poor countries who are working to lift up the lives and reveal the unique gifts of people with intellectual disabilities.
You can visit Jean Vaniers website here
Marie Hélène Mathieu
As a special teacher she created the Office Chrétiendes Personnes Handicapée (Christian Office for disabled people) in 1963 In 1968 she created the Ombres et Lumiére magazine which she ran until 2000 In 1971 she founded Faith and Light with Jean Vanier. In 1979 she became international co-ordinator of the Faith and Light movement. In 1984 she was nominated member of the Pontifical Council for laity. In 1988 she was the first woman to give Lent conference at Notre Dame de Paris. She holds French honours-Chevalier dans l’ordre du mérite and Commander of the Legion of Honour