Jean Vanier

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Jean Vanier
702524260 txjiQ-O.jpg
Jean Vanier with John Smeltzer, a member of L'Arche Daybreak
Born (1928-09-10) September 10, 1928 (age 85)
Geneva, Switzerland
Known for Founder of L'Arche
Religion Roman Catholic
Relatives Georges Vanier, father
Pauline Vanier, mother
Awards Order of Canada
National Order of Quebec
Legion of Honour
Humanitarian Award 2001
French Legion of Honour

Jean Vanier, CC GOQ (born September 10, 1928) is a Canadian Catholic philosopher turned theologian, and humanitarian. Beginning with a community in France, he is the founder of L'Arche, an international federation of communities for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them.[1] Among the honors he has received are the French Legion of Honour in 2003 and the 2013 Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award.

Early years[edit]

Vanier is the son of Major-General Georges Vanier, who became the 19th Governor General of Canada, and his wife Pauline Vanier. He was born in Geneva, while his father was on diplomatic service in Switzerland. In his youth, Vanier received a broad education in English and French first in Canada, and then England and France. During World War II, Vanier and his family fled Paris just before the Nazi occupation. He spent much of the War at an English naval academy, preparing for a career as a naval officer.[2]

In early 1945, Vanier was visiting Paris where his father was Canadian Ambassador; he and his mother went to assist survivors of concentration camps. Seeing the emaciated victims, their faces twisted with fear and anguish, was a profoundly moving encounter for him, which he never forgot. Shortly thereafter, at age seventeen, with World War II still raging, he served with the Royal Navy and then with the Royal Canadian Navy. In 1947 as a midshipman, Vanier accompanied the Royal Family on their tour of South Africa aboard HMS Vanguard.

From 1950, feeling a strong inner spiritual calling to do “something else,” he resigned his naval commission. Vanier travelled to Paris 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.[3] Vanier left academia in 1964 seeking more spiritual work.

Foundation of L'Arche[edit]

Main article: 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 institutionalised 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. He also assisted in institution schools.

He expanded his efforts and established L'Arche at Trosly-Breuil, a community for people with disabilities to live with those who cared for them. He helped develop such communities in other places 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 to spend more time counseling, encouraging and accompanying the people who come to live in L'Arche as assistants to those with disabilities.

Later life[edit]

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. It is 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.[citation needed]

Vanier still makes his home in the original L'Arche community of Trosly-Breuil, France. He travels widely, visiting other L'Arche communities, encouraging projects for new communities, and giving lectures and retreats.

Published works[edit]

Books[edit]

  • 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[edit]

He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Companion of the Order of Canada, the Legion of Honour (France, 2003)[4] 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.[5]

Schools have been named in his honor in Whitehorse, Yukon; London, Ontario; Scarborough, Ontario; Collingwood, Ontario; Richmond Hill, Ontario; Welland, Ontario and Milton, Ontario. In November 2004, a CBC poll ranked him as number 12 in a list of Greatest Canadians.[5]

In 2010,the asteroid 8604 was officially named Vanier in his honour.[6] In 2013 he received the United States-based Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, established by a coalition of Catholic dioceses in the Midwest.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ L'Arche Page
  2. ^ "The Man: Early Years", Jean-Vanier Official Website
  3. ^ [1], Jean-Vanier Website
  4. ^ "Awards to Canadians". Canada Gazette. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Top 100 Greatest Canadians". Archived from the original on 2010-07-22. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  6. ^ The citation and more information are found by entering this number or name in the JPL Small-Body Database.
  7. ^ Deirdre Baker (2013-06-17). "Award presentation to be in France". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 

External links[edit]