|Homes for the Mentally Disabled
VATICAN CITY, 1 JUNE 2006 (ZENIT)
Here is the description of
International Federation of L'Arche Communities which appears in the
Directory of International Associations of the Faithful, published by
the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
* * *
Official name: International Federation of L'Arche Communities
Also known as: L'Arche International
History: L'Arche was founded as a result of a chance encounter. In 1963,
Jean Vanier, then a philosophy teacher in Canada, went to visit
Dominican Father Thomas Philippe, his former professor who had become
the chaplain of the home for the mentally disabled in Trosly-Breuil, a
village in northern France.
He saw the pain suffered by those men due to their disability and the
dependency that it created
but due above all to the rudeness, rejection and humiliation to which
they were subjected because of it. And in their pain he heard God
calling him to leave his country and to give up teaching to go and live
Vanier returned to Trosly-Breuil in 1964 with Raphael and Philippe, two
mentally disabled men who had been rejected by their family, to create a
small community that he called L'Arche: "The Ark."
His house rapidly attracted people of all different backgrounds who
wished to share that experience, and in 1969 this experience began to
spread nationwide and internationally.
In the first part of the 1970s, the need to guarantee liaison and unity
between the communities scattered throughout the world led to the
constitution of an international council, which marked the birth of the
Federation Internationale des Communautes de l'Arche.
In 1999 the eighth international meeting was attended, for the first
time, by more than 200 mentally disabled people.
Identity: The L'Arche Communities, each of which comprises one or more
houses, and sometimes a workshop where the disabled can work at various
tasks, are designed to restore their dignity, based on the conviction
that a society can never be truly human unless its weakest members are
permitted to find their own place in it.
These communities are based on human relationships marked by unity,
drawing strength from the weakness, the fragility, and the intelligence
of the hearts of people with mental or physical disabilities, who,
according to the founder, are "among the most oppressed and the poorest
of this world."
L'Arche Communities are made up of married and single men and women,
from diverse countries, Christian backgrounds, faiths and cultures,
sharing their lives with the disabled, who are also from different
origins and of different faiths. By welcoming Jesus in them, they give
to these "the least" a family, with stable loving relationships.
The ecumenical and interfaith character of L'Arche International is seen
as an opportunity to deepen one's own faith in respect for other
The L'Arche Communities see themselves as prophetic signs of the
communion in God shared by all humanity. The commitment of the
assistants, initially for a fixed period of time, is the object of a
long-term vocational discernment, at personal and community level. They
are assisted by professionals who provide their own skills to help the
disabled to move forward and recover their potential capabilities.
The communities work together whenever possible with the families of the
disabled, and always with the social services and other structures
working in that field, and are happy to welcome the contribution of any
volunteers who wish to share the experience for a period of their lives.
L'Arche International pursues its objectives in close cooperation with
Faith and Light International.
Organization: L'Arche International is headed by the International
Council. The communities are privately funded autonomous legal entities,
and in some countries they receive government subsidies.
Membership of the federation is ratified by the International Council
which admits the communities as a "project," a "community on trial" or
as an "approved community."
Membership: The federation is divided into zones, and has 121
communities in 30 countries around the world.
Publications: Les Lettres de L'Arche, a quarterly magazine; and Lettre
de Jean Vanier, and Nouvelles internationales, newsletters
Web site: www.larche.org
Fédération Internationale des Communautés de l'Arche
10, rue Fenoux
75015 Paris - France
Tel. (33) 1.5368.0800
© Copyright 2006
Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted]