Jean Vanier, right, is pictured at an event with Donald Taylor, who was a member of L’Arche Comox Valley. Photo supplied

Vanier remembered as a selfless, humble person

Philanthropist was a voice for the vulnerable, marginalized

It was in the French village of Trosly-Breuil where Jean Vanier, in 1964, invited two men with intellectual disabilities to live with him in what became the first L’Arche home. Since that time, 154 L’Arche communities have evolved in 38 countries on five continents. Canada has 30 of the communities, one of them in the Comox Valley.

Vanier — the son of former governor general Georges P. Vanier, after whom the Courtenay high school is named — passed away Tuesday, May 7 at age 90. He had been suffering from thyroid cancer.

“There’s a sadness but there’s also an immense gratitude for his life, for his inspiration, for what he created — these communities of belonging,” said L’Arche Comox Valley executive director Christine Monier, who knew Vanier on a personal level, having lived four years in Trosly-Breuil, north of Paris. She has been invited to attend Vanier’s funeral, May 16 in Trosly-Breuil. She will be representing L’Arche Western Canada.

Monier remembers Vanier as a selfless, humble person, and a good listener.

“He was a peacemaker, he was a philosopher, a risk taker,” she said. “He broke down barriers and walls. He looked at what brought people together, like our common humanity.”

Though he came from a privileged background, the Swiss-born Vanier decided to befriend people with intellectual disabilities, and became a voice for the vulnerable and the marginalized.

“I think Jean Vanier, in many ways, helped us to evolve, and get to a point where we could see that each person has an inherent value and gift — how they inspire us to be better people, to be more patient, to be more welcoming,” Monier said. “He didn’t align himself with the powerful.”

But he did meet with a number of well-known figures, including the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Desmond Tutu. Vanier was also an Order of Canada and French Legion of Honour recipient. In 2015, he received the Templeton Prize for spiritual work.

“(But) Nothing was about him,” Monier said.

The origins of L’Arche Comox Valley date back to 1983, when a group of people heard Vanier speak at a retreat in Victoria. Ten years later, L’Arche Comox Valley became a non-profit. The Jubilee House supported residence opened in 2000, and the I Belong Centre opened in 2017.

“His legacy lives on,” Monier said. “He wanted to make a difference in the world. Our L’Arche community is very much shaped by his vision, his philosophy. It’s about creating bridges, honoring and recognizing the gifts and contributions of everyone.”



reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Editorial: Time for action on national pharmacare plan

The report calls for a basic plan for essential medications by 2022, and comprehensive list by 2027

Island farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted near Parksville

Juan de Fuca Marine Trail re-opens after lengthy repairs

The trail has been closed since February

Fish closure in Port Renfrew has endangered more than 40 per cent of businesses

YouTube video challenges residents to remember when election comes around

Vancouver Island’s Brind’Amour reflects on year one as NHL coach

Hurricane legend speaks about the season, the Storm Surge and life in Carolina

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Man to be sentenced for sexual abuse of young girl in Nanaimo

Stephen Mark Castleden also sentenced for child pornography-related charges

Ginger Goodwin’s Cumberland cemetery grave desecrated

Just days before the Miners Memorial weekend, Ginger Goodwin’s grave has been… Continue reading

Police make arrest after report of a man brandishing a gun at Campbell River-area lake

43-year-old man from the Comox area has since been charged with multiple offences

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Most Read