My critical attitude was nullified

It was 1974, I was an aimless twenty-year-old living in my parent’s house in Victoria, B.C. Canada. Somehow, through coercion, or perhaps the Holy Spirit, my mother, a person of strong faith and an exuberant Sister Margaret O’Donnell, co-conspired to have me attend a Jean Vanier retreat being held in Vancouver. So rather than attending the Van Morrison concert that was scheduled at that time, I found myself at a four-day, live-in, Jean Vanier retreat in a high school in Vancouver.

At that time, I was rather a negative, apathetic individual so this retreat initially was completely out of my comfort zone. I reluctantly trudged down to the first session in the gymnasium amidst a mob of uninhibited, joyful slice of humanity. As he loped to the stage, carrying his well-thumbed red RSV bible and no other notes, this tall, lanky individual sat down into a chair and proceeded to talk about faith, human dignity, inclusion, Jesus’ message of love and the agony experienced by those marginalized by their disabilities. The misgivings I initially harbored soon dissolved as I sat transfixed by Jean’s open address. In his gentle, compassionate, intelligent presence, Jean Vanier completely drew me in and has been a force in my life ever since. His vision for the world was so compelling, his radical commitment to forming community with people with disabilities and his deep faith and familiarity with scripture and matters of the faith all contributed to my sense of discovering Truth.

One evening while trying to process this retreat, I was walking the hallways of the school we were staying in when a door opened, and it was Jean. He beckoned for me to come in however, after such a schedule I insisted he probably needed his sleep more than a chat with me. Undeterred, he invited me in and we had a very engaging conversation sitting on the end of his bed. What a blessing!

That was forty some years ago and throughout my life I have managed to stay connected to L’Arche, either visiting communities in different cities, advocating for people with disabilities, attending Jean’s retreats and reading his many books. I am currently on the Board of L’Arche Edmonton and for the past five years have been privileged to serve our six homes and the day program.

I am now retired from a wonderful career in education in Catholic schools and looking back over those thirty-odd years, I can honestly say that Jean Vanier and his L’Arche vision informed many of my decisions in working with students, families and teachers.

As a twenty-year-old know-it-all, my critical attitude was nullified by this man who spoke so persuasively to my heart. Now as a seasoned sixty-four-year-old, I look back on all the many blessings Jean Vanier has inserted into my journey and as he faces his mortality, I will keep him deep within my heart in prayer.

Julian Di Castri
St. Albert, Alberta


Those were the days my friend

Avec toute la fougue de notre jeunesse nous vous avons suivi dans la folle aventure de L’Arche

Hope and love born through relationships

My first encounter with Jean was through his book Tears of Silence at the impressionable age of 16

We had an arm wrestle

I got to meet Jean in person. I introduced myself and where I was from.

This gift of truth and authenticity

I first met Jean in 1973, when I was a university student and he came to speak in Kingston, Ontario.

Happy 90th Birthday, Jean! Bonne Fête!

Hard to believe that ten years has already passed since we were together

We are the “ancients” on the earth

I could never have imagined that we would be coming to this time in our lives

What Jean has meant to Brian

Brian is a happy, content and energetic person who enjoys a blessed and full life.

Our lives intertwined with yours

One of the great graces of our lives has been how they have been intertwined with yours for over 45 years now.

This trust in the Spirit, extended by Jean, was pure gift

After a few years of searching for a way to follow Jesus we encountered Jean at Faith and Sharing Retreats in Edmonton

Some libations in honor of the occasion

Jean Vanier dropped in to visit at the farm in Harlowe, Ontario, Canada on July 30-31, 1985

J’écoutais avec une très grande attention chaque mot

Ma première rencontre avec Jean était au foyer de charité de Tressaint en 1974, alors que j’étais jeune adulte

You have changed my life in many ways

But I would like to tell you the story of the first time I realized why you are so beloved.

Best wishes on the occasion of your 90th Birthday

You and L’Arche have been so much a part of our lives that it’s impossible to separate the memories

Laurie et Jean

Laurie est une personne très accueillante.

You invited me into an amazing world of friendship

I give thanks for the blessing you have been and continue to be for me and for so many others.

My critical attitude was nullified

It was 1974, I was an aimless twenty-year-old living in my parent’s house

Holes in his jacket

This is a photo of Jean Vanier with L’Arche Arnprior’s founding core member, Ian Squires

A start of a healing journey

Those 20 days were not easy for me.

You are a gift and an inspiration

In 2013, I was blessed to meet Jean during the Community Leader Formation program in Trosly.

Il sait dire « Tu es important pour moi »

Parmi les nombreux dons de Jean, nous voulons souligner particulièrement sa capacité de présence attentive

A moment of extreme privilege

This picture was taken at the International Gathering of Priests and Bishops

A dream come true!

I have found my peace, my pleasure and my place in L’Arche.

I feel special and safe and all because of him

Jean is a special person, he is kind, and loving; polite and he has a big heart.

Jean has paved the road of my personal journey

I valued Jean’s gentle guidance as I’ve been seeking to discern the stirrings of the Spirit in my life

A beautiful realization

Listening to Jean the few times I met him opened a new reality for me

Tendre rencontre

Flavie Nadeau-Larouche, tout juste 6 ans, est attendrie par le charisme de Jean Vanier

Vœux de L’Arche Abitibi-Témiscamingue

Vidéoclip de 13 mins. realisée par les membres de la communauté

From Jean Vanier Catholic High School

He reminds us to be selfless and inclusive and to love generously.

Un sentiment de confirmation

Encore aujourd’hui, des gens nous racontent combien ils ont été touchés de sa présence

With love and gratitude

I celebrate with so many around the world in the gift that you are to our world!

For all the fruitfulness of your life so far

Congratulations on your 90th birthday!

Belly laughs

Each of those retreats has been filled with inspiration, empowerment, spiritual nourishment and laughter.

A precious and joyful memory

This is a photo of you Jean, with Patrick when you came to lead our Community Retreat in 2004

The gift of friendship

Thank-you for your continued friendship and all the wisdom imparted.

A profound impact

Since my first Faith and Sharing retreat with Jean in Naramata, B.C.

Such laughter and joy!

I remember stopping in Trosly on my way to India in 1991, visiting you and listening to your stories

Hearts full of gratitude

We are so blessed to be a part of this one L’Arche family that you were called to start so many years ago.

Birthday wishes from L’Arche Stratford

Members of L’Arche Stratford created a special photo collage for Jean

A hug from Dan

It was great to meet you at the International L’Arche Formation

Une première rencontre avec Jean

Une de mes premières expériences avec Jean était quand j’avais 16 ans en 1969.

Love, thoughts and cherished pictures

We are so blessed, and so happy on the occasion of your 90th Birthday.

Ordinary but also extraordinary

I have very fond memories of being Jean’s “personal assistant” many years ago

Jean sat on a blanket eating potato chips

I spent time with Jean when Toronto hosted World Youth Day.

Our guest at the Eucharistic Congress

This is one of my very favourite photos of all time!

Making relationships possible

Thank you for your “yes” to the call of L’Arche!

Love and more love

I loved dancing an Irish reel with you in Québec

‘It’s all about respect and compassion’

In June 2008 we attended the International Eucharistic Conference in Quebec City.

Share life always

The journey of Jean and the L’Arche communities deserves special recognition too.

From James and Garnet

“You’re a handsome guy.”

Vous aviez pris le bateau ensemble

Pauline Audet, ma mère, m’a raconté que vous aviez pris le bateau ensemble, pour rentrer au Canada, lorsque la guerre fut déclarée en 39 ou 40

This is what real kindness looks like

I first heard you speak on television when you visited Vancouver. I was young and your words left an impact on me.