Brief Chronology

1928Canadian, born in Geneva; son of the late Governor General of Canada George Vanier and Pauline Archer-Vanier. After Georges Vanier's death in 1967, Madame Vanier moved to the original L'Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France, where she lived until her death in 1991 at 93.

1942Joined the Royal Navy as a cadet at the Dartmouth Naval College in England at age 13.

1948Transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy and was appointed to the carrier "Magnificent".

1950Felt called to leave the navy and became a student at L'Eau Vive where he met father Thomas Philippe.

1962He earning a doctor of philosophy degree 'cum maxima laude' at the Institut Catholique. His thesis was on 'Happiness as Principle and End of Aristotelian Ethics'.

1964Taught philosophy at the University of St. Michael's College, University of Toronto.

1964Founded L'Arche with Fr. Thomas Philippe in Trosly, France. He rented a small home and welcomed Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, two men with a developmental disability who had been living in an institution to live with him. Today there are over 135 L'Arche communities in 30 countries, including 27 in Canada. Fr. Thomas died in 1993.

1968Gave the first "Faith and Sharing" retreat at Marylake in King, Ontario, bringing together lay people, religious and people with a disability. Since then there have been hundreds of Faith and Sharing retreats given across North America by various people.

1971Founded, with Marie Helene Mathieu, Faith and Light: an organization which brings together on a monthly basis people with a developmental disability, their family and friends. Today there are 1,800 Faith and Light groups in 80 countries.

1971Organized and led the first Faith and Light pilgrimage to Lourdes for 12,000 people, including 4,000 people with a disability. Every ten years since then there has been a major pilgrimage to Lourdes or Rome.

1970'sBegan traveling extensively throughout the world to give talks, lectures, retreats, and to establish and support L'Arche and Faith and Light communities. This continues to this day, with a special interest in speaking with young people.

1981Stepped down from the day-to-day responsibility for the original L'Arche community in Trosly, France, and for the International Federation of L'Arche, allowing others to take over.

1983Delivered the major address to the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Vancouver.

1987At the invitation of Pope John Paul II, participated in the Synod of the Laity in Rome.

1998Addressed the Central Committee of the World Council or Churches in Geneva; was invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to address all the bishops of the Anglican Communion at the Lambeth Conference; delivered the Massey Lecture in Convocation Hall in Toronto. The complete Massey Lectures were subsequently broadcast across Canada on CBC radio. The lecture series entitled "Becoming Human" was also published and was a national best seller for many weeks.

2004Jean continues to live in one of the homes in Trosly but is called to travel a great deal to visit communities of L'Arche and Faith and Light, to encourage new projects and to give talks, lectures and retreats. Jean speaks to thousands of people each year.


  • We Day

  • About Intercordia

  • Jean Vanier explains how he set up L'Arche in 1964

  • The Wisdom of Tenderness: an interview with Krista Tippett for On Being

  • Video Clips for Canadian Schools

  • Raphael

  • Jean Vanier in Bethlehem

  • Seeing God in Others

  • Shelagh Rogers in conversation with Jean Vanier about his epistolary memoir (HarperCollins). On CBC radio Canada 2009

  • Living in Community

  • To live with our limits