In our continuing series on Jean Vanier, Annie Ruckdashel offers this window into her experience of Jean:
Jean Vanier has left a lasting impression on my life through the gift of L’Arche. Jean received a “calling” from God back in 1964 that led him to invite two men with developmental disabilities to move from an institution to a home with him – simply to share life together. I can only imagine that this would have been a wild idea in that day! Jean trusted and pursued the calling and today it is known as L’Arche (the Ark). Homes like this first one have grown to exist all over the world where people with and without disabilities are living life together in mutually transforming relationships. L’Arche became an international federation and currently has 153 communities and 21 community projects in 38 countries on 5 continents!
I was just a young practicum student in Disability Studies (17 years ago) when I briefly encountered L’Arche. Years later following a devastating personal life experience, I found myself returning in 2014. It is a privilege being in the L’Arche Calgary community today and what Jean so often writes about, I get to live.
Our core members (persons with disabilities) are the mystics; they know how to love, welcome, trust, teach patience, laugh, celebrate and just live their truest selves – the good, bad and ugly! When I came to L’Arche, I felt like a train wreck and I carried a lot of shame. Rosie was the first to greet me on my first day and shouted her signature greeting “welcome home!” (as she shouts to everyone including the bus drivers) and I was overcome with the feeling that I truly was coming home. My brokenness didn’t matter at all to the core members, they seemed to see something more, something beyond and taught me how to live on with it joyfully.
Jean received a calling, he courageously led the way, and as he would say… he was just the first to arrive. Alongside thousands of other core members and assistants, the collective WE are the next to arrive and get to carry on this incredible calling that is L’Arche.
I included a photo of Jean and I in September 2017 and a card I got to hand deliver!