A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
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.
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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 with them.
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 religious traditions.
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 — Fax 1.4250.0716
© Copyright 2006 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted]
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