Jean Vanier


Jean Vanier was born in 1928 in Canada. He first made a career as a naval officer, later studying philosophy and theology, and taught for a time at a university in Toronto.


In 1963, Jean Vanier visited his friend, the French Dominican monk Thomas Philippe, who was a priest at a small institution for the disabled, in the village of Trosly-Breuil outside Paris. He was very touched by Thomas Philippe's friendship with the disabled. Father Thomas asked: - Maybe you can start something new?


The time was ripe for something new, and although Jean loved to teach at the university, he knew that God wanted something different with him. In France, moreover, at this time there was a crying need for homes and workplaces for people with disabilities. In 1964 he made another visit to his friend outside Paris. That's when he decided to do something. He began visiting institutions for the mentally handicapped. What he saw and heard there only confirmed his calling. That same year, he ended his career at the university and bought a house in the village of Trosly-Breuil.


He had previously met Philippe Seux and Raphael Simi, who were both mentally retarded. Now they moved from the hospital to live with Jean Vanier in a shared residence. So started what is now called L'Arche (The Ark).


Gradually, more similar dwellings emerged in the same village. In 1969 one opened in Canada and in 1970 one in India. Today, there are L'Arche communities around the world. In Norway, there is Mariahuset, which was previously a L'Arche community, and which still has close contact with the movement.


In 1971, Jean Vanier founded Faith and Light together with Marie-Hélène Mathieu.


Jean Vanier passed away on May 7, 2019.



Due to what we learned about Jean Vanier after his death, we have received the following letters: