To make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, revealed through mutually transforming relationships.
The primary mission of each L'Arche community is to be a medium for revealing the gifts of people with disabilities so that the world may benefit from them.
L'Arche was founded in a small home in Trosly, France in 1964 by Canadian Jean Vanier and Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, two men with developmental disabilities who had been living in an institution nearby. Jean invited them to live with him and together they formed the first L’Arche home with the support of Fr. Thomas Philippe, a Dominican who was Jean’s life long spiritual guide. They called the house ''L'Arche'' after the French word for ark referencing the biblical story of Noah and the flood.
From these humble beginnings L'Arche has spread around the world. The international Federation of L'Arche Communities now includes over 140 L'Arche communities in 35/40 countries on six continents. L'Arche Canada was founded in 1969 with the opening of L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto, Ontario and now includes 27 homes across the country. Closer to home, L’Arche was established in New Brunswick when McKim House opened its doors in Saint John in 2005.
Who is Jean Vanier?
Jean Vanier is widely known as the founder of the L’Arche and cofounder of its sister
organization, Faith and Light. “He is a humanist, philosopher, theologian but first and foremost
described by his companions as a man with heart, a man of compassion.”
He was born in Switzerland to Canadian parents, Major-General Georges Vanier and Madame
Pauline Archer Vanier and spent his early years in Canada. His career has been varied
including a time as a in the the Royal Canadian Navy and as a professor of philosophy at the
University of Toronto. He is well recognized as a social visionary and humanitarian receiving
the Paul VI International Prize for his lay ministry work and the Templeton Prize in 2015. These
prizes recognize his contribution as moral leader and social visionary and his commitment to
building a more compassionate society.
Jean continues to be a spokesperson for L’Arche and for his vision of an inclusive and fully
human society. He gives talks, lectures and retreats around the world reaching out to
thousands of people each year within established L’Arche communities and in the wider global
community. He takes time to address small groups and individuals as well as larger religious
and political bodies such as the Central Committee of the World Council or Churches in Geneva the bishops of the Anglican Communion at the Lambeth Conference. In 1998 he delivered the Massey Lecture series entitled "Becoming Human" which was broadcast across Canada on CBC radio and subsequently published and became a national best seller for many weeks.
He has stepped down from the day-to-day responsibility for the original L'Arche community in
Trosly, France, but continues to live in one of the homes there.
For more information visit:
Faith and Light
At Easter in 1971 Jean Vanier and Marie Helene Mathieu organized and led a pilgrimage to
Lourdes for 12,000 people, including 4,000 people with a disability. The goal was to confirm the place of people with disabilities within their churches and society and to allow people with
disabilities to participate in the spiritual journey from which they had felt excluded.
This was the beginning of Faith and Light: an ecumenical christian organization which continues to bring together people with developmental disabilities, their family and friends for monthly gatherings of prayer and celebration. Every ten years since the founding pilgrimage the organization has lead another major pilgrimage to Lourdes or Rome.
Today there are over 1,500 Faith and Light groups in over 80 countries run mostly by volunteers. The mission of the organization is to create bonds of friendship and to bear witness to God’s love for all people. Faith and Light is founded on the belief that each person has the
right to be loved, recognized and respected for himself or herself.