Continuing the Journey in Unity and Hope

With people around the world, the family of L’Arche mourned the death and celebrated the life of our founder, Jean Vanier. We are called to stay on his path.

From the words of Louis Pilotte, Annissette Sauvé, and Stephan Posner

We have been deeply moved by the outpouring of testimonies and articles written about our friend, brother, and founder, Jean Vanier since his death on May 7. We take comfort in being united with so many people who have been inspired by the life and legacy of this extraordinary man. We are also aware that there will be challenges on the road ahead (as there always have been) and that we will no longer have Jean here with us to face them. Here are words that will help us find the way ahead.

Words of Louis Pilotte, L’Arche Canada Leader

Before heading to France for the funeral of Jean Vanier, Louis Pilotte wrote the members of L’Arche in Canada:

Although Jean had withdrawn from L’Arche’s governance structures for many years, his presence remained a source of security and inspiration to many of us. He knew how to put words to an experience of transformation that still remains revolutionary today.

The death of the founder is always a very special time in the life of an organization. It can be a time of insecurity, division and fear. We all know that no one will replace Jean; no one can claim this charism. It is therefore up to each of us to assume some responsibility. Whether we are core members, young assistants, former assistants, Board members, relatives, friends, donors, each of us bears a share of responsibility to build unity, to be attentive to one another, to be attentive to signs and calls. Each of us has the responsibility to transmit the vision of L’Arche.

What struck me in the photos that have been circulating since Jean’s death is his smile and his gaze. It gave me the feeling of a happy and caring man. I call on each of us to be happy to be who we are, with our limits and our strengths, and to be attentive to each other.

Words of Annissette Sauvé, Friend of Jean

Jean was very nice to me. He invited me to his house to eat once a month with him and Odile. And it was good! They were good meals! Jean was very brave. And his life was precious. He was so gentle, so thoughtful... I was happy to know Jean, because he was good to me. At our home, Jean is no longer there. He is in heaven. But we are going to stay on this path – with what Jean has done. We’ll continue the journey, because it’s important for all of us.

Word of Stephan Posner, L’Arche International Leader

(From the simultaneous translation of Jean Vanier’s funeral celebration)

Jean’s departure really marks a new era. Referring to his role in L’Arche, Jean wrote the following: “People say that I am the ‘founder’ but at the end of the day, I was just the first to arrive.”

“The first to arrive,” that is a good definition of a founder. In many respects, Jean was much more than just the “first to arrive.” And yet, he’s pointing out an important truth. This truth is that even though the founder creates something original, something radically new that did not previously exist, a founder is “one among others.” Jean often said, “I am the messenger, and not the message. I am the witness, and not the testimony.”

And although Jean embodied, in the most astonishing way, the message and the testimony – to the point of being identified with both the message and the testimony – he also said that he spoke and acted as one who was inspired by something greater than himself.

In the same way, we in L’Arche, inspired by Jean, are inspired by this something greater. Fifty-five years ago, a few hundred metres from here, Jean founded L’Arche. Many others came to join him, and along with him, they were the founding generation. Along with him, they were the first to arrive.

I would like to say a special word of welcome to Gabriel and Anne-Emeline from the house of L’Hermitage. And I’d like to welcome them and greet them because they are among the last to arrive in the Trosly community. I would have liked to have them next to me, but there is not enough space here. But actually, the space I’m talking about is far bigger than the one we are in this room. Each of us who are the people of L’Arche spread throughout the world, as Jean leaves us, we are in a sense, all the latest to arrive, we are the successors.

We have the responsibility and the privilege of receiving the legacy of the founding generation that Jean is handing on to us, the responsibility and the privilege of receiving the messenger’s message, and of carrying this message and this legacy forward into the future. We are the successors, but it’s up to us now to clear new paths, to sing new songs. We are the heirs, yes, but it’s also up to us now to be founders in our own ways – founders who are both faithful and free.

The achievement of the founding generation, and Jean first of all, was to found L’Arche. The challenge for us who come afterwards, Jean’s successors and their successors is no less great. It is the challenge of extending L’Arche into the future, of receiving the message, of which Jean was the messenger, and carrying it forward, living the mission well.

Jean, you were the first to arrive. We who are here, we your successors, we say thank you.

Read also the many testimonies in the Book of Condolence:

L’Arche International also has a page of messages:

To view Jean Vanier’s funeral mass, visit:


A Hero Behind the Scenes

Beyond firefighters, medical staff, social workers and police officers, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that there are even more heroes among us. Truck drivers, grocery store clerks, cooks and couriers now rightfully hold an esteemed place in our collective consciousness as they put their health at risk to keep society functioning.

From Hyderabad to Lethbridge Who Would’ve Thought?

After Roop Chittineni finished high school in his hometown of Hyderabad, India he moved to Southern Ontario to pursue a degree in Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo. He liked exercising and thought that if he learned more about the human body he could use that knowledge to elevate everyone’s life experience.

Memory Box: Pinewood Floorboards

What does a set of 1940s floorboards have to teach us about COVID living?

Stepping Up

When Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer stated that non-medical masks limit the transmission of COVID-19, L’Arche Saskatoon’s artsy residents also got to work. Out came the fabrics, scissors, thread and needles. Brock wanted to contribute using two of his greatest assets: his feet.

A Light Ahead

The social distancing caused by the pandemic has been trying. Thankfully, aside from those who have donated their time, money and ingenuity to help L’Arche, there are the health care workers, grocery store clerks and all those on the front line who are helping the L’Arche community get through this crisis. With their help, it won’t be long until the Gathering Place opens again and the community starts making new memories.

Second Life

Kris first met Joanna in L’Arche London, Ontario. She encouraged Kris to join L’Arche, and he did. They lived and worked side-by-side for six years until Kris moved to Nova Scotia. Still, they managed to see each other a few times a year and occasionally called one another about matters of life and faith. But this call was different.

The Gift of Dance

Dance is a profound gift; it’s an artistic expression, a mood enhancer, a workout, a surefire way to impress a date and a form of magic. A dancer can transform into a flower, a lion or their favourite pop star. Above all, dance is an act of joy. (We dare you to wiggle around for a minute and not feel happier than you were before.) The gift of dance, and all it provides, has found its way into L’Arche.

Life’s Tough Obstacles

It was late June. A park in Edmonton had been reserved. Food was stacked on picnic tables. Local students of all ages were dressed in taekwondo uniforms, preparing for their annual Break-a-thon. The Break-a-thon is an innovative fundraiser where martial arts students showcase their skills by breaking boards. For each broken board, donations are pledged and raised for L’Arche.

Taking our place in the inclusion movement

It is an important time for the accessibility and inclusion movement in Canada and the world, and L’Arche Canada is developing our capacity to take our place.

Silent encounter with the “man who repairs women”

Denis Mukwege begs us empathetically to remain attentive, to listen deeply to what is inherent in our human condition: our sensitivity and vulnerability.

L’Arche Canada’s monthly e-mail review of news, stories, and commentary about what is happening in L’Arche, with our partners, and within Canadian society.

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