L’Arche began in France in 1964 when Jean Vanier, inspired by his friend and mentor Father Thomas Philippe, invited two men with developmental disabilities, Philippe and Raphael, to share a small home with him in Trosly-Breuil, France. L’Arche International.
Having met them in an institution, Jean hoped that providing a warm and loving home would have a significant impact on the lives of these men. He soon learned that sharing their daily life together had a significant impact on each of them – a transformation of the heart.
From L'Arche's humble beginnings in a village north of Paris, L’Arche has now grown into an international network of communities. Today, there are 140 L’Arche communities in 37 countries throughout the world. There are 18 L’Arche communities in the United States.
While its founding roots are in the Roman Catholic tradition, L’Arche has developed in many cultures and religious traditions throughout the world, and has been called one of the most significant lay ministries of our time. In 1997, Pope John Paul II granted Jean Vanier the International Paul VI Award. In recognizing Jean’s work, Pope John Paul II stated, “On the path it has followed for more than 30 years…L’Arche has become a providential seed of the civilization of love.”
Seven Calls for Living the Identity and Mission of L'Arche International
1. To announce the gift of people with developmental disabilities and to empower them to take their rightful place in our communities and in our societies.
2. To create flexible models in response to the needs and vulnerabilities of all community members and the needs of people with developmental disabilities in our local cultures.
3. To encourage, support and sustain membership and commitment of new and long-term members.
4. To foster an environment where we can live out in our daily lives our identity as communities of faith.
5. To integrate and harmonize our faith, community, and professional lives.
6. To be fully involved in our culture, engaged in dialogue with it and to value and to bridge religious and cultural differences.
7. To announce and be a witness to the vision of our common humanity, i.e. everyone is of unique and sacred value, and everyone has the same dignity and same rights. (Charter)
From International Identity and Mission Process, 2005
For more information visit the International website L'Arche International