Jean has touched me deeply and I remember my first meeting with him was at a retreat which he was leading at the Dhyana Ashram at Bangalore, India in 1973, meeting him and listening to his words of compassion transformed my life and my journey completely, now after 35 years of walking with people with disabilities, I am deeply grateful to Jean for showing me the way and I am looking forward to meeting him again and to thank him for everything..
Jean Vanier and l’Arche have been part of my life and work for more than four decades. Finding words for how I understand this is difficult; a beginning would be the consciousness, awareness and a readiness to witness that has become part of the way that I experience the world. This understanding and experience of the world is linked to experience of Jean Vanier and the l Arche communities. One example is when the earth quake struck in Haiti; there was a community of people that my group of special adults could reach out to. In Japan there was also a l’Arche, and in India, and Uganda, and here in Montreal- a metro stop away, all linked by people that value being present. This brings the world to a size that can be understood and responded to; that on every continent and still in ones own neighborhood there is this link to a shared humanity.
I have been touched by Jean's commitment to connect with young people. At a youth conference in London, ON I was witness to a profound message of Hope and peace that inspired young people to gather and changes in our unique communities, families and circles. Jean, through his presence inspires humility, reflection, celebration and authentic love for all people.
Jean is a symbol of wisdom, strength, and peace. Jean's journey and message is an encouragement, and a strong reminder of the precious gift of belonging, to humanity and to community. Although I haven't met Jean, the stories of experiences among friends with those who have are thoroughly enjoyed and shared again. May it be that we will all live in Community, be it our L'Arche homes or our family homes, as a model for Jean's foundation.
I remember the first time that I saw Jean was at a retreat which he was leading. I remember walking into a group which was unlike any retreat group that I had seen before. There were old people and young people, priests, religious and lay people, people who couldn’t walk, people who couldn’t talk. There were people with PhD’s and people with intellectual disabilities, people from different Christian traditions and people of different cultures. They were united in wanting to listen and to share about the Gospels. It seemed to me that this was a foretaste of Heaven and Jean was the remarkable person who had drawn such diversity together.
When Jean visited the London community in 2006 I was struck by how he listened first. When he did talk he measured his words and responded thoughtfully from his experience and his faith, then encouraged us to trust and to do the same. A humble man of faith, an example for us all to follow.