Jean Vanier, 1928 – 2019

A portrait of Jean Vanier, founder of L'ArcheAs the world mourns the passing of Jean Vanier and we consider his message, I find myself acknowledging that what his L’Arche communities provide is something each of us is actually capable of providing, though few of us do.

Indeed, societies have done a horrible job welcoming people with disabilities – intellectual or physical. Our ableist conditioning prevents us from embracing what Jean Vanier knew instinctively: that the members of the disabled community have so much more to give society if we would only give them the opportunity.

Community, companionship and validation are the fundamental longings of every heart, and when Vanier first visited an institution for people with intellectual disabilities in 1963, he recognized that no devices enabling physical advancement would fill the space left empty for want of community. Deeply founded in Christ’s message of “the least of these,” L’Arche, the worldwide network of communities for adults with intellectual disabilities has provided fullness of life for thousands of men and women.

We at Rifton stand in awe and thankfulness before this generous heart, and hope that we can incorporate into our work the values of community and compassion so beautifully demonstrated by Jean Vanier.

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