History

Faith and Light

The Province of the Northern Lights

An international Christian association for people with intellectual disabilities, their parents and friends.

 

The Province of the Northern Lights consists of

Faith and Light groups in Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Sweden.

photo: Bud Kuenzli

Faith and Light

Faith and Light was born out of a desire to help people with an

intellectual disability and their families, find their place within

the Church and society. This was the main purpose of the organized

pilgrimage to Lourdes at Easter of 1971.

 

God has chosen what is foolish in order to shame the wise,

and what is weak in order to shame the strong.

(1 Corinthians. 1:27)

1968

It all began very quietly. Faith and Light was inspired by two little boys

with profound learning difficulties, Loïc and Thaddée. Their parents,

Camille and Gérard, wanted to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes with their

boys, but there was no room on the diocesan pilgrimage. Camille and

Gérard were told that the boys were "too handicapped', 'would

not be able to understand' and 'would upset everybody'.

So the family set off by themselves. The reception at the hotel left much to be desired 'Your meals will be served in your room!'. They overheard people saying 'Children like that should be kept at home'. People looked away or crossed the road when they saw the boys coming. There is no doubt that people with learning difficulties can frighten us and make us aware of our own vulnerability - but it was a terrible pilgrimage for Camille and Gérard and the boys in 1968.

1971 All this gave rise to the idea of a pilgrimage with children, adolescents and adults with learning difficulties. In 1971 Jean Vanier and Marie-Hélène Mathieu organised a pilgrimage to Lourdes, after three years of preparations. At Easter, 12 000 pilgrims from 15 countries, 4 000 of whom were persons with an intellectual disability, accompanied by their parents and friends, particularly young people, assembled again.

It became three days of indescribable peace and joy. The people of Lourdes gradually moved from fear (when some of them pulled down the metal shutters of their shops!) to surprise, to a sort of astonished welcome.

How on earth could so much hope come from such a lot of suffering, and how could one explain the happiness of this huge crowd, singing 'Alleluia' from morning till night? There was a real outpouring of the Holy Spirit and an extraordinary unity created between us, so that on the last day people were saying 'it can't end here!' Jean Vanier replied 'Do whatever the Holy Spirit inspires you, to create loving communities around people with learning difficulties'. This is how Faith and Light started.

1975

Pope Paul VI welcomed Faith and Light at Saint Peter’s basilica."You are loved by God just as you are...You have a chosen place in the Church”. Faith and Light, which was still a very fragile seedling, received the confirmation of its vocation from the Holy Father.

 

1981

Second international pilgrimage to Lourdes with participants from 23 countries.

 

1991

At Easter, 13 000 pilgrims came together again in Lourdes, this time from 60 countries. Faith and Light has become ecumenical and continues to seek more unity around the small and the weak: “Father make us one”.

 

2001

In April more than 16 000 people from 73 countries stretching across 5 continents, came together in Lourdes. The theme of the pilgrimage was “Come and drink at the Source” in celebration of Easter.

 

2011-2012

Faith and Light celebrates its 40th anniversary in "Messengers of Joy", by two years of pilgrimages across the world. Each province is called to invite another province to take part in its pilgrimage.