Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier, CC, GOQ (September 10, 1928 – May 7, 2019) was a Canadian Catholic philosopher, theologian, and humanitarian. In 1964, he founded L'Arche, an international federation of communities spread over 37 countries,[1] for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them. Subsequently, in 1971, he co-founded Faith and Light with Marie-Hélène Mathieu, which also works for people with developmental disabilities, their families, and friends in over 80 countries. He continued to live as a member of the original L'Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France, until his death.[2]

Over the years he wrote 30 books on religion, disability, normality, success, and tolerance.[3] Among the honours he received were the Companion of the Order of Canada (1986),[4] Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec (1992),[5] French Legion of Honour (2003), Community of Christ International Peace Award (2003), the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award (2013), and the Templeton Prize (2015).

Jean Vanier
Jean Vanier in 2012
Vanier in 2012
BornSeptember 10, 1928
DiedMay 7, 2019 (aged 90)
OrganizationCatholic Church
Known forFounder of L'Arche
RelativesGeorges Vanier, father
Pauline Vanier, mother
Thérèse Vanier, sister
AwardsOrder of Canada, 1972
National Order of Quebec, 1992
Legion of Honour, 2003
Humanitarian Award, 2001
Pacem in Terris Award, 2013
Templeton Prize, 2015
Military career
Allegiance Canada
Service/branch Royal Canadian Navy
Years of service1941-1950
RankMidshipman, naval officer

Early years and background

Vanier was the son of Canadian parents, Major-General Georges Vanier, who became the 19th Governor General of Canada (1959–1967), and his wife Pauline Vanier (née Archer). He was born in Canada, and was the fourth of five siblings (including sister and brother Bernard Vanier), in his youth Vanier received a broad education in English and French first in Canada and then in France and England. During World War II, Vanier and his family fled Paris just before the Nazi occupation. He spent much of the War at an English naval academy. From age 13 he trained for a career as a naval officer at the Dartmouth Naval College (later renamed Britannia Royal Naval College).[6][7]

In early 1945, Vanier was visiting Paris where his father was Canadian Ambassador; he and his mother went to assist survivors of Nazi concentration camps. Seeing the emaciated victims, their faces twisted with fear and anguish, was a profoundly moving encounter for him, which he never forgot. He served in World War II with the Royal Navy and then with the Royal Canadian Navy. In 1947 as a midshipman, Vanier accompanied the Royal Family on their tour of South Africa aboard HMS Vanguard.[8]

In 1949, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy, at the carrier HMCS Magnificent. However, in 1950, feeling a strong inner spiritual calling to do "something else," he resigned his naval commission. Vanier travelled to Paris to study as an undergraduate. He eventually went on to complete a PhD in philosophy from the Institut Catholique de Paris, with a doctoral thesis on Aristotle which was published in 1966 as Happiness as Principle and End of Aristotelian Ethics; this was his first published work. He went on to write several books during his career and taught philosophy at the University of St. Michael's College, University of Toronto.[7] He left academia in 1964, seeking a more spiritual ministry. His research lives on at the Jean Vanier Research Centre located at King's University College in London, Ontario, Canada.[9]

Foundation of L'Arche

In 1964, through Vanier's friendship with a priest named Father Thomas Philippe, he became aware of the plight of thousands of people institutionalized with developmental disabilities. Vanier invited two men, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave the institutions where they resided and live with him in Trosly-Breuil, France. Their time together led to the establishment of L'Arche at Trosly-Breuil, a community where people with disabilities live with those who care for them.[10][11] Since that time L'Arche communities have been established in countries around the world. A governing philosophy of the communities is Vanier's belief that people with disabilities are teachers, rather than burdens bestowed upon families.[12]

Until the late 1990s, Vanier carried the responsibility for L'Arche in Trosly-Breuil in France, and for the International Federation of L'Arche. He then stepped down to spend more time counselling, encouraging, and accompanying the people who come to live in L'Arche as assistants to those with disabilities. Vanier established 147 L'Arche communities in 37 countries around the world which have become places of pilgrimage for those involved.[1][2]

Later life

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Vanier with John Smeltzer, a member of L'Arche Daybreak, 2009
Emblème de Foi et Lumière
Faith and Light emblem

In 1968, Vanier gave a Faith and Sharing retreat in Mary Lake, Ontario, the first in his movement of retreats where people from many walks of life are welcome.[13] The retreats continue today as part of the Faith and Sharing Federation.[14]

As of 2013, there are 13 communities in North America that organize annual retreats and days of prayer.[15] Faith and Sharing member Bill Clark, SJ, explains: "There is then a two-fold movement in Faith and Sharing: an inward movement towards God hidden in the depths of our own vulnerability, and an outward movement towards our brothers and sisters, especially those who are more poor and in need." [13] The organization's records are housed at the John M. Kelly Library, University of St. Michael's College.[16]

In 1971, Vanier co-founded Faith and Light with Marie-Hélène Mathieu. This is an international movement of forums for people with developmental disabilities, their family and friends. Today there are over 1,500 Faith and Light communities in 81 countries around the world.[17]

Vanier continued to live in the original L'Arche community of Trosly-Breuil, France, until his death in 2019. He continued to travel widely, visiting other L'Arche communities, encouraging projects for new communities and giving lectures and retreats.[18][19] He was the 1998 Massey lecturer, focusing on the theme of "Becoming Human".[20] During one of his lectures he touched on his distaste for barriers around people with intellectual disabilities, a motivating philosophy behind L'Arche: "We must do what we can to diminish walls, to meet each other. Why do we put people with disabilities behind walls?"[12]

Vanier died on May 7, 2019. A week before his death, Pope Francis called Vanier to personally thank him for his years of ministry and service.[21] Following his death, Pope Francis, who was flying back to Rome from North Macedonia, told a group of journalists, "I want to express my gratitude for his testimony" and stated Vanier could read and interpret not only the Christian gaze on "the mystery of death, of the cross, of suffering", but also "the mystery of those who are discarded by the world."[22]

Awards and honours

He received numerous awards for his work, including the Companion of the Order of Canada, the Legion of Honour (France, 2003)[23] and many awards from faith groups, among them the Paul VI International Prize, the Community of Christ International Peace Award, the Rabbi Gunther Plaut Humanitarian Award, and the Gaudium et Spes Award, named after the Second Vatican Council's Gaudium et spes document.[24]

In 1993, he received the Loyola Medal from Concordia University.[25]

In November 2004, a CBC poll ranked him as number 12 in a list of Greatest Canadians.[24]

In 2010, the asteroid 8604 was officially named Vanier in his honour.[26][27]

In 2013, he received the United States-based Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, established by the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.[28]

In March 2015, Vanier was awarded the Templeton Prize in recognition of his advocacy for people with disabilities and his contributions to a broader exploration of helping the weak and vulnerable.[29][2]

On September 27, 2016, Jean Vanier received The Peace Abbey Foundation (USA) International Courage of Conscience Award in Trosly-Breuil, France, for his lifelong commitment to building a world of inclusion for individuals with disabilities.[30]

Schools named after Vanier

Schools have been named in his honour in Whitehorse, Yukon; London, Ontario; Scarborough, Ontario; Collingwood, Ontario; Richmond Hill, Ontario; Welland, Ontario; Sherwood Park, Alberta and, most recently, Milton, Ontario.[31]



  1. ^ a b ""L'Arche – Worldwide"". Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Templeton Prize" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Jean Vanier: Philosopher who dislikes the 'religion' of success wins £1.2m Templeton Prize for promoting spiritual awareness". The Independent. March 11, 2015. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  4. ^ "Order of Canada: Jean Vanier, C.C., G.O.Q., D.Ph". The Governor General of Canada website. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  5. ^ "Grand Officer, National Order of Quebec". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  6. ^ Freeman, Mac (February 3, 2008). Jean Vanier (online ed.). Historica Canada. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Brief Chronology". Jean Vanier – Becoming Human. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  8. ^ "Templeton Prize bio of Varnier" (PDF). Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Pensamientos de Jean Vanier: JEAN VANIER y El Arca". Pensamientos de Jean Vanier. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  11. ^ "Notre histoire | L'Arche en France". (in French). Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Scrivener, Leslie. "Canada's disciple to the disabled". Retrieved July 28, 2015. He is wary of institutions. The theme in last night's lecture was his fear of the walls that separate people. 'We must do what we can to diminish walls, to meet each other. Why do we put people with disabilities behind walls?'
  13. ^ a b "The Grace of Faith and Sharing" (PDF). Faith and Sharing Federation. July 1988. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  14. ^ "Faith and Sharing Federation". Faith and Sharing Federation. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  15. ^ "L'Arche, Faith and Sharing, Faith and Light" (PDF). Faith and Sharing Federation. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  16. ^ "Faith and Sharing Federation fonds". John M. Kelly Library Archival and Manuscript Collections. University of St. Michael's College. Archived from the original on October 7, 2014. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  17. ^ "Overview, Faith and Light". Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  18. ^ "Entering into Silent Prayer, Jean Vanier & Laurence Freeman – YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  19. ^ Saint Vincent College (January 29, 2009), On Retreat with Jean Vanier, retrieved June 20, 2017
  20. ^ Nagy, Elizabeth. "The 1998 CBC Massey Lectures, "Becoming Human"". CBC. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
  21. ^ "Pope Francis called Jean Vanier to thank him before his death". National Catholic Reporter. May 7, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  22. ^ "Pope pays tribute to Jean Vanier". Vatican News. May 7, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  23. ^ "Awards to Canadians". Canada Gazette. Archived from the original on April 30, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  24. ^ a b "Top 100 Greatest Canadians". Archived from the original on July 22, 2010. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  25. ^ "Jean Vanier". Concordia University. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
  26. ^ The citation and more information are found by entering this number or name in the JPL Small-Body Database.
  27. ^ "Asteroid (8604) Vanier | RASC". Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  28. ^ Deirdre Baker (June 17, 2013). "Award presentation to be in France". Quad-City Times. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
  29. ^ "Current Winner". Templeton Prize. John Templeton Foundation. March 11, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  30. ^ DeMarco, Donald (August 21, 2017). "Jean Vanier… To Love And Be Loved". The Wanderer Newspaper. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  31. ^ "Board Announces Name for New Catholic Secondary School in Milton". Halton Catholic District School Board. March 6, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  32. ^ Expanded edition released July 2018; Living Gently in a Violent World (InterVarsity Press, 2018).

External links

Eglinton East

Eglinton East, historically known as Knob Hill and unofficially Pringdale, is a residential and commercial neighbourhood in Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is bounded by Stansbury Crescent, Citadel Drive, and West Highland Creek to the north, Midland Avenue to the west, the CNR rail line, Brimley Road, and Eglinton Avenue to the south, and Bellamy Road North to the east.

Eglinton East is a working-class neighbourhood with a high percentage of immigration to the area. Sri Lanka has produced the most immigration to the area over the past decade and correspondingly the most spoken (non English) language is Tamil. There is a large number of East Indian, Filipino and Jamaican people living in this neighbourhood. While there is an equal number of Chinese the other figures are above average.

The residents of this neighbourhood primarily live in high rise buildings with only 22% of people owning their place of residence.

Emmanuel Serriere

Emmanuel Serrière is an educator, administrator, and advocate for people with developmental disabilities, researcher on autism.

Faith and Light

Founded by Jean Vanier and Marie-Hélène Mathieu in 1971, Faith and Light is a cross-denominational Christian charitable association. The purpose of the association is to assist those with learning disabilities, and their friends and family, by fostering friendship, prayer, celebration and sharing. There are approximately 1,612 communities organized into 50 provinces, in 81 countries.The Faith and Light’s international head office and secretariat are in France; there are three employees.

Halton Catholic District School Board

The Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) serves over 33,000 students at its 46 elementary schools, 9 secondary schools and 3 continuing education facilities. The HCDSB serves the communities of Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton, and Oakville, with the main Board office (Catholic Education Centre) located in Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

The Halton Catholic District School Board is the Catholic school board for the Halton region.

Henri Nouwen

Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (January 24, 1932 – September 21, 1996) was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian. His interests were rooted primarily in psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. Over the course of his life, Nouwen was heavily influenced by the work of Anton Boisen, Thomas Merton, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, and Jean Vanier.

After nearly two decades of teaching at academic institutions including the University of Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School, Nouwen went on to work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the L'Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Jean Vanier Catholic High School

Jean Vanier Catholic High School may refer to:

Jean Vanier Catholic High School (Richmond Hill), in York Region, Ontario, Canada

Jean Vanier Catholic High School (Collingwood), in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada

Jean Vanier Catholic High School (Collingwood)

Jean Vanier Catholic High School is a high school in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada administered by the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board. The school has about 770 students from Collingwood, Wasaga Beach and Clearview Township. The current principal is John Collingbourne and vice principal is Christine Vellinga-Cancilla.

The school is located at 160 Collins St. in Collingwood ON.

Jean Vanier Catholic High School (Richmond Hill)

Jean Vanier Catholic High School is a high school in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada administered by the York Catholic District School Board. It is a fragrance-free school. In 2009 it opened as a new school. It currently serves the Town of Richmond Hill district of York Region. Just a few hundred metres south of Jean Vanier, on Bayview Avenue, is another well known school, Bayview Secondary School.

Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School

Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School (JVCSS), simply Jean Vanier or Vanier is a Roman Catholic high school, part of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), in the Eglinton East neighbourhood of Scarborough in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The school was opened as Tabor Park Vocational School (1964-1986) by the Scarborough Board of Education and later owned by the Toronto District School Board, after which the building was leased to the TCDSB in 1989.

The school is named after Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche in 1964. The school is informally known as New Tabor Park to avoid confusion with Georges Vanier Secondary School and is also sometimes referred to as the Maverick Ranch, a type of unbranded horse. The school educates 1002 students as of the 2016-17 academic year and it is ranked 331 out of 725 schools in the Fraser Institute report card. Its motto is "Through Knowledge Toward God".

Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School (Milton)

Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School also known as "Vanier" or "JV" is an educational Catholic high school in Milton, Ontario, Canada. The 191,000 square foot building was founded by the Halton Catholic District School Board in 2013. The school has been accepting enrollment for grades 9 through 12 since September 2013.

The school was named after the late Jean Vanier, a Canadian Catholic philosopher turned theologian, humanitarian and the founder of L’Arche.

Kirkland Lake District Composite School

Kirkland Lake District Composite School is a public elementary and secondary school located in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada. It was established in 2006 to replace the building that housed both Kirkland Lake Collegiate and Vocational Institute and École secondaire catholique Jean Vanier.


L'Arche is an international private voluntary organization that works for the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities. It was founded in 1964 when Jean Vanier, the son of Canadian Governor General Georges Vanier and Pauline Vanier, welcomed two men with disabilities into his home in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Today, it is an international organisation operating 147 communities in 35 countries, and on five continents.Worldwide, L’Arche is organized into regional and national groupings of independent, locally operated agencies which it calls “communities." Each L'Arche community normally comprises a number of homes and, in many cases, apartments and day programs as well.

List of high schools in Ontario

This is a list of high schools/secondary schools, including public, private, parochial, and independent schools, in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Miller Comprehensive High School

Miller Comprehensive Catholic High School is a Catholic high school located in the Core Group neighbourhood in the central area of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. It was the first high school built by the Regina Catholic school system. Its namesake, Joseph P. Miller, was a longtime member of the school board.Miller offers several academic and extracurricular opportunities to its students, including an advanced placement (AP) program, a regular program, as well as a modified alternative academic program. The AP courses offered at Miller are: Calculus, English, Computer Science, Psychology and Studio Art. A number of specialized courses, including automotive, baking, commercial cooking, construction, cosmetology and welding are also available.Its feeder elementary schools include Jean Vanier School, St. Augustine Community School, St. Catherine Community School, St. Dominic Savio School, St. Gabriel School, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys School and St. Theresa School.

Milton Transit

Milton Transit is the public transit system in the town of Milton, Ontario, Canada. Milton is in Halton Regional Municipality, part of the Greater Toronto Area.

Milton Transit began its present service on August 16, 2004 and expanded from 3 fixed routes to 5 fixed routes on September 5, 2005. It replaced the former dial-a-bus and GO Transit local connector, which used school buses. The fixed route service was operated in partnership with Oakville Transit, which, however, never provided services connecting the municipalities.

Oakville Transit also originally stored and maintained the buses at their garage. Buses were later stored and serviced at the Mississauga Truck and Bus Collision (MTB) facility, in Milton. That eliminated unnecessary travel to/from Oakville, as the buses previously had been deadheaded to and from Oakville each day. Prior to the agreement with MTB, Milton's buses were stored at GO Transit's Milton garage. The Town of Milton extended the contract for conventional transit services with Oakville Transit for a further three years, effective March 1, 2008.In early 2010, the Town of Milton announced that it would be ending its agreements with Oakville Transit and Mississauga Truck and Bus, and that Pacific Western Transportation would be taking over all aspects of service beginning March 8, 2010.Since the inauguration of the service, there have been major adjustments in order to connect with the growing population of this town, and to the Milton line commuter train and bus routes operated by GO Transit.

Neil McNeil High School

Neil McNeil Catholic High School is an all-boys Roman Catholic secondary school of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Tabor Park Vocational School

Tabor Park Vocational School (Tabor Park HS/VS, TPVS or Tabor) is a Toronto District School Board facility that operated as a public and vocational high school established in 1965 until 1986 to meet the needs of the large baby boom generation in the newly and rapidly developing area of the city operated by the Scarborough Board of Education until its merger with the Toronto District School Board in 1998. The motto of the school is Forward Step by Step.


Trosly-Breuil is a commune in the Oise department in northern France.

In 1964, Canadian Jean Vanier invited two men, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave the institutions where they resided and live with him in Trosly-Breuil. Their time together led to the establishment of L'Arche at Trosly-Breuil, a community for people with disabilities to live with those who cared for them. Since that time L'Arche communities have been established in fifty countries around the world.

Vijay Thanigasalam

Vijay Thanigasalam is a Canadian politician, who was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 2018 provincial election. He represents the riding of Scarborough—Rouge Park as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

Thanigasalam was educated at Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School until 2007.

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