Jean Vanier, Savior of People on the Margins, Dies at 90
Jean Vanier, who dedicated his life to improving conditions for people on the margins and founded two worldwide organizations for those with developmental disabilities, died on Tuesday in Paris. He was 90.
L’Arche, one of the international organizations he established, said the cause was thyroid cancer.
Mr. Vanier (pronounced van-YAY), was a Canadian-born philosopher, teacher and moral leader who converted his desire to help people into a worldwide movement.
The turning point in his life came in 1963, with his first visit to an institution for people with intellectual disabilities. He was so moved by their cries for help that he bought a house and invited a few of the male patients to live with him. It was the beginning of L’Arche. He helped found a similar organization, Faith and Light, a few years later.
Today L’Arche, rooted in the Roman Catholic Church, has 154 communities in 38 countries; Faith and Light has 1,500 communities in 83 countries. Through both organizations, people with and without intellectual disabilities live together and can feel they belong. His work inspired several other organizations for people with disabilities.
“He was one of the great saints of our time,” the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America, a magazine of Catholic thought, said in a telephone interview.
“Of all the people in our time who minister to people on the margins, I would say he and Mother Teresa were the avatars for Catholics,” Father Martin said. “Jean Vanier showed us the great strength of tenderness and vulnerability and weakness, which is Christ’s message.”
A full obituary will appear later.