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Jean Vanier- In Memoriam

Jean Vanier- In Memoriam
Posted on 06/03/2019
Jean VanierWritten by Carter Watkinson, Student Journalist

We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.
― Jean Vanier

It was announced with great remorse that the namesake of Jean Vanier Catholic High School in Collingwood passed away on the 7th of May, 2019. Though he has moved on to a better place, his life’s work and legacy remains. His memory will live on in the various l’Arche communities which he founded across the world. But just who was Jean Vanier?

Jean Vanier was born to Georges and Pauline Vanier on September 10th, 1928. His father Georges served as governor general of Canada, a diplomat whose travels introduced a young Jean Vanier to England and France, where much of his childhood was spent. At the age of 13, Jean Vanier enrolled in the Royal Navy College in Dartmouth. During the Second World War, Vanier served an eight year career under both the British and Canadian branches of the navy. In 1950 Jean Vanier left the promise of a career in the Canadian navy and entered a period of reflection. This time deepened his faith, and allowed him to reflect on how he could live the Gospels each day.

Jean Vanier Family

He joined Eau Vive, a theological organisation and began writing his doctorate on the ethics of Aristotle. It was published in 1966, and became the first of many published works, as he took on the roll of theologian, philosopher, and author.

By the end of 1963, Vanier began his work at Val Fleuri, an institution which hosted some 30 adults living with disabilities. This institution laid the foundation for Jean Vanier’s own project, l’Arche. In 1964, with the encouragement of the chaplain of Val Fleuri, Jean Vanier founded the first ever l’Arche community. There, he lived in a small home with two men with disabilities, Raphaël Simi and Philippe Seux. The three men did everything together: shopping, cooking, cleaning, and learning from each other. Jean Vanier felt as though Raphaël and Philippe were helping him as much as he was helping them. He realised that adults with disabilities had much to offer the world, and the concept of a worldwide network of l’Arche communities was born. It was not long before branches were founded in Canada, India, and countless other communities around the globe. L’Arche provides adults with and without disabilities a vibrant living community, as well as opportunities to learn from one another.

L'arche logo

Because of this compassionate spirit l’Arche communities thrive across the world. Today, there are 149 communities in 38 countries.

Besides the l’Arche foundation, Jean Vanier authored over 30 books on ethics, philosophy, and theology. In 1971, he co-founded Faith and Light with Marie-Hélène Mathieu, an organisation that also works with people with disabilities. Today, it exists in over 80 countries.

Students at Jean Vanier Catholic High School in Collingwood will proudly honour their namesake and will always be an accepting and welcoming community for everyone.

Jean Vanier lived a long and prosperous life dedicated to the betterment of others. His works and passionate spirit will live on in the hearts of so many across the world. The l’Arche website is currently accepting donations and messages of condolence in honor of Jean Vanier.

One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth