Jean Vanier, (born September 10, 1928) is a Canadian Catholic philosopher turned theologian, humanitarian and the founder of L’Arche, an international federation of group homes for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them.

Early years

Vanier is the son of the 19th Governor General of Canada, Major-General Georges Vanier and was born in Geneva, while his father was on diplomatic service in Switzerland. In his youth and during World War II he served with the Royal Navy and then with the Royal Canadian Navy. As a midshipman, Vanier accompanied the Royal Family on their tour of South Africa aboard HMS Vanguard in 1947.

From 1950, Vanier travelled to Paris, France to study as an undergraduate. He eventually went on to complete a PhD in philosophy from the Institut Catholique de Paris, with a doctoral thesis on Aristotle. He subsequently taught philosophy at the University of Toronto.

Foundation of L’Arche

In 1964, through Vanier’s friendship with a priest named Father Thomas Philippe, he became aware of the plight of thousands of people institutionalized with developmental disabilities. Jean Vanier invited two men, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave the institutions where they resided and live with him in Trosly-Breuil, France.

Later life

In 1968, Jean Vanier gave the first Faith and Sharing retreat, a worldwide movement of the retreats where people from many walks of life are welcome. In 1971, he co-founded Faith and Light with Marie Helene Mathieu,an international movement of forums for people with developmental disabilities, their family and friends. Today there are over 1,800 Faith and Light communities in 80 countries around the world.

Until the late 1990s, Jean Vanier carried the responsibility for L’Arche in Trosly-Breuil in France and for the International Federation of L’Arche. He stepped down from these responsibilities to spend more time counseling, encouraging and accompanying people who come to live in L’Arche as assistants to those with disabilities. Vanier still makes his home in the original L’Arche community of Trosly-Breuil, France. He also travels widely, visiting other L’Arche communities, encouraging projects for new communities, and giving lectures and retreats.

Published works

  • In Weakness, Strength
  • Tears of Silence
  • Eruption to hope
  • Followers of Jesus
  • Be Not Afraid
  • Community and Growth
  • The Challenge of L’Arche (anthology)
  • I walk with Jesus
  • Man and Woman He made them
  • The Broken Body: Journey to Wholeness
  • I meet Jesus
  • Images of Love: Words of Hope
  • A Network of Friends: letters of Jean Vanier to the Friends
  • and Communities of l’Arche
  • From Brokenness to Community
  • Jesus, The Gift of Love
  • An Ark for the Poor: The Story of L’Arche
  • The Heart of L’Arche
  • Our Journey Home
  • The Scandal of Service
  • Becoming Human
  • Door of Hope
  • Seeing Beyond Depression
  • Made for Happiness, Discovering the Meaning of Life with Aristotle
  • Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John
  • Finding Peace
  • Befriending the Stranger
  • From Brokenness to Wholeness
  • Welcoming “the Other”
  • Living Gently in a Violent World, coauthored with Stanley Hauerwas

Awards and honours

In recognition of his contributions and humanness to the marginalized, Jean Vanier has received numerous distinctions and awards including the Companion of the Order of Canada, the Legion of Honour (France) and many awards from faith groups, among them the Paul VI International Prize, the Community of Christ International Peace Award, the Rabbi Gunther Plaut Humanitarian Award and the Gaudium et Spes Award. There are high Schools named after him in Whitehorse, Yukon; London, Ontario; Scarborough, Ontario; Collingwood, Ontario; Richmond Hill, Ontario; Welland, Ontario and a to be constructed school in Milton, Ontario. In November 2004, a CBC poll placed him number 12 in a list of Greatest Canadians.

In 2003, he was made an Officer of the Order of the Legion of Honour.

In 2010, asteroid 8604 was officially named Vanier in honour of Jean Vanier.



From Wikipedia – Extracted March 7, 2013.