Belonging – The Search for Acceptance

by Catherine DeAngelis

“My vision is that belonging should be at the heart of a fundamental discovery: that we all belong to a common humanity, the human race. We may be rooted in a specific family and culture but we come to this earth to open up to others, to serve them and receive the gifts they bring to us, as well as to all of humanity.”     Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, p. 36.


Jean Vanier
has been acclaimed as a “Canadian who inspires the world”(Maclean’s Magazine) and a “nation builder” (The Globe and Mail), he is the founder of the international movement of L’Arche communities, where people who have developmental disabilities and the friends who assist them create homes and share life together.

There are over 100 L’Arche residential communities in 38 countries on five continents. L’Arche International confirmed in a report summary Jean Vanier, who died in 2019 at the age of 90, had “manipulative” relations with at least six women between 1970 and 1995, relating he had used his power over them to take advantage of them through different kinds of sexual behaviours. (See Article The Canadian Press 02/22/20).

L’Arche United States also conducted an internal investigation and their report revealed similar findings to that of L’Arche International. L’Arche USA encourages anyone who has experienced or witnessed abusive behavior of any kind within L’Arche to report their concern.” (Article by Michael J. O’Loughlin 02/22/20 – American Jesuit Review)

Good, Bad or Saint

The news reaches  spiritual communities with much disappointment and sadness. Jean Vanier once a Winner of the 2015 Templeton Prize and nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work at L’Arche as founder. (Read: “How can I reconcile the good and evil of Jean Vanier? by Colleen Dulle, American Jesuit Review)

Need To Learn…

The bishop of Bristol,  Vivienne Faull, appointed by Her Majesty the Queen, is the 57th Bishop of Bristol. She said she looks forward to leading a church that shows the love of Christ to everyone, whoever they are. The Bishop tweeted in reply to the news of Jean Vanier:

“Thinking of those who had the courage to disclose, all those who have been part of the L’Arche community and all those who have been betrayed. But we need to learn what it is that produces and protects such abusers within the Christian church.”  (Bishop of Bristol)

June 2019: L’Arche International commissioned an external organization to conduct a thorough and independent inquiry in order to better understand its history, refine its work to prevent abuse and to improve its policies and procedures.


The 2015 Templeton Prize was awarded to Jean Vanier and cited for “his innovative discovery of the central role of vulnerable people in the creation of a more just, inclusive and humane society. The Templeton Prize, which has previously been awarded to Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and others, is one of the most prestigious honors in the world, and is valued at close to 1.7 million USD.”

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.

**The 2015 Templeton Prize Laureate, Jean Vanier, speaks on the Big Question: “What does it mean to be fully human?”

Jean Vanier is a Canadian humanitarian, spiritual leader, and internationally esteemed pioneer in the field of care for people with intellectual disabilities. Born in 1928, he joined the Royal Navy at age 13 and left it at 21 to begin a spiritual quest and to study for his PhD. Appalled by conditions of institutions where people with intellectual disabilities lived, in 1964 he welcomed two men to share a home with him. Thus began what has become the worldwide movement of L’Arche. In 1971, he co-founded Faith and Light, an international support network for families.

**The Inspiration and Story of L’Arche

(At the time of filming, Love and Belonging, the reporting on people with disabilities used a common, but now an outdated word “Handicap.” A Way with Words and Images (pdf download) is a reminder to be respectful of terms when writing and speaking about people with disabilities or about issues that affect their lives). We need to be factual, objective and inclusive.


Jean Vanier took as his inspiration the biblical passage from the Beatitudes that declares that the poor are “blessed.”

L’Arche believes that every person is blessed with important gifts to offer to others and that we are called to create a society in which each one’s gifts can be given and recognized. L’Arche communities reflect the cultural and religious makeup of the locales where they were founded. Thus, while in France L’Arche drew largely from a Roman Catholic population, Canadian community have welcomed people of various Christian denominations and also sometimes people of Jewish, Muslim or other faiths as well as people with no faith affiliation.

More important than the need to be loved
is the need to belong.~


“Learn more about the L’Arche Foundation and its continued efforts to improve the lives of those with disabilities by visiting the
Love and Belonging website.

 A Way with Words and Images – Suggestions for the portrayal of people with disabilities includes a Download the PDF version (1.81 MB) of this content.

Article updated 02/23/20

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