Jean Vanier, born in Canada, was educated in England, Canada and France, and he received his doctorate in philosophy. As well, Jean Vanier has taught philosophy at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto.
In 1964, Jean Vanier invited two men with mental handicaps to set up a home with him in Trosly-Breuil, France. The home was named L'Arche, which translated to the Ark; a symbol of life, hope and covenant with God and Man. From the beginnings of this single home, the Federation of L'Arche has now grown to over 100 communities in 18 countries all over the world. L'Arche communities welcome adults with mental handicaps who belong to various Christian denominations and diverse religions.
Although L'Arche communities are found in many different cultures, they share a common philosophy and approach. People with mental handicaps and those who help them live and work together to create an atmosphere in which everyone achieves a level of dignity and happiness not possible in an institution. The main function of L'Arche is to provide homes where mentally handicapped adults and assistants can share life together, living as family and friends not as clients and staff.
In 1968, Jean Vanier founded Faith and Sharing, an annual retreat where people from all walks of life are welcome to gather together in their communities and share the Gospel. In 1971, he founded Faith and Light along with Marie Hélène Mathieu. Faith and Light groups, comprised of people with developmental disabilities, their parents and friends, meet regularly to discuss hopes and difficulties and to share prayer.
Jean Vanier has demonstrated a lifetime of concern for the less fortunate, the lonely and the dispossessed. He recognizes that what emerges from human brokenness is a God whose love is without limitation.