Frequently Asked Questions

How was L'Arche founded?
L'Arche was founded as a Catholic organization by Canadian Jean Vanier in 1964 when he invited RaphaŽl Simi and Philippe Seux, two men with intellectual disabilities, to come and share life with him in an old house in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Together they called their home L'Arche, in reference to "Noah's Ark", the biblical symbol of deliverance.

Since then L'Arche has grown to include over 120 communities in 40 countries, and has evolved into an ecumenical organization welcoming of all religious traditions, and those with no tradition at all.

Each community is unique, yet we all share a common vision of the basic dignity of each human person. We seek to create homes and provide meaningful work for all our community members in an attempt to create a world where everyone, regardless of ability or disability, is recognized as being of equal value.

L'Arche has been called one of the most significant ministries of the 20th Century. Among other accolades, Jean Vanier received the Paul VI International Prize for his lay ministry work.

In recognizing Vanier 's work, Pope John Paul II stated, "L'Arche has grown to become a dynamic and providential sign of the civilization of love."

In the words of Jean Vanier, "L'Arche wants to seek new ways of living universal peace where all people, especially the poor and the weak, are held in honour, respected, and received."

What makes L'Arche unique?
Unlike many agencies, which operate according to certain medical or social service models of care for persons with disabilities, L'Arche has pioneered a community model based on the belief that human beings develop their abilities and talents most fully when given the opportunity to form mutual relationships of friendship with others.

Within this community model,

  • persons with disabilities are called "core members", rather than "clients". "patients", or "consumers";
  • those who provide assistance to core members in our homes are called "assistants", rather than "staff", "employees", or "counselors";
  • assistants and core members live together in homes or apartments in the same way that a family would live together;
  • relationships based on friendship are considered to be as important as professional relationships in promoting the personal growth of persons with disabilities; and
  • everyone in the home-core members and assistants alike-is considered to be equally responsible for the life of the community.
Is L'Arche a religious organization?
As a non-denominational, non-sectarian organization, L'Arche is not officially affiliated with any particular religious tradition. There are people in L'Arche from many Christian traditions, a significant number from non-Christian traditions, and many who claim no religious affiliation.

L'Arche communities are faith-based communities, however, so our daily life does include prayer and reflection. Practically speaking, we say grace before meals, have weekly prayer times, and celebrate the major Christian holidays throughout the year. On a deeper level, we encourage our members to develop their inner lives, taking time for quiet, self-reflection, and meditation.

People are welcomed regardless of whether they belong to a spiritual tradition, with the understanding that part of their role is to support community members in their spiritual lives. This may mean saying grace at the table or accompanying people to church. Everyone is expected to be open and respectful of the faith of others.

The ecumenical and interfaith identity of L'Arche is both rich and challenging. There are joys and struggles. Our choice is for welcome and diversity.

How is L'Arche funded?
L'Arche receives modest funding from provincial governments to cover the costs of its day-to-day operations. As such, it is governed by the same guidelines and licensing regulations as other agencies that support people with disabilities.

All L'Arche communities in Canada are also registered charitable organizations and rely heavily on fundraising to support projects such as work programs, travel, and other services that enhance the quality of our community life.

Can I start a L'Arche community in my hometown?
L'Arche is an exciting and innovative way to provide services to people with intellectual disabilities. It understandably generates enthusiasm whenever the message of L'Arche spreads to a new area.

But founding a L'Arche community is a lot of work. With 50 years or experience, L'Arche has learned a thing or two about establishing new communities. In particular, new projects must be officially endorsed by the existing L'Arche structures. Currently, L'Arche Atlantic Region is supporting projects in Fredericton, NB, and St. John's, NL. With our limited resources, we are unable to support any other new communities at this time.

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L'Arche Atlantic Region
1381 Orangedale Road
Orangedale, NS B0E 2K0 Canada
Tel: +1-902-295-0050
Fax: +1-902-895-6349
office@larcheatlantic.ca
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