Jean Vanier lives in l’Arche ("the Ark") community in Trosly-Breuil, France, a village 50 miles northwest of Paris. He began l’Arche in his home in 1964 with mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed people. There are l’Arche homes in Canada and the United States in Toronto, Ontario; Erie, Pennsylvania; Syracuse, New York; Mobile, Alabama; Clinton, Iowa; Missoula, Montana; and Cleveland, Ohio. (See "L'Arche: Community with the Handicapped,"Sojourners, October, 1976.) Jean Vanier is the author of Be Not Afraid (Paulist Press: New York, 1975).
On the evening of October 4, 1977 Jean Vanier spoke to members of the Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. and answered their questions about community. The following excerpts are adapted from his remarks. --The Editors
You know as well as I do about the history of communities. They begin with great enthusiasm, they level off, then they start going down. The process raises a fundamental point in our community and in every community: the point of fidelity. God has called us to do and be something and to be really faithful about that. If we lose our focus on that call, that point of fidelity, we will deviate from God's purposes, which threatens the whole basis for community.
The point of fidelity which distinguishes us from institutions and hospitals is the call to live with marginal, wounded, and handicapped people. This living together involves much more than coexisting under the same roof and eating at the same table. We discover that we are members one of another, that we share a mutual commitment and mutual concern.