“I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.”- Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche
Inspired and encouraged by his friend and mentor Father Thomas, a Dominican Priest, Jean Vanier founded L’Arche in Trosly, France, where people with and without obvious disabilities could share life together in an intentional faith community. In 1964 Jean welcomed Philippe and Raphael from an institution to live in the first true home they ever knew. Though Jean was sure he had much to give, it became clear that he received much more in return from the two men than he himself could ever give.
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 147 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.”
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