Washington (Agenzia Fides) - "What we don't want to lose sight of - and what we want to ponder, celebrate and proclaim – is that Jean Vanier was a missionary", said Donald R. McCrabb, Executive Director of the United States Catholic Mission Association (USCMA), in a message sent to Agenzia Fides for the death of the founder of the L'Arche, a community for disabled people present with 152 centers in 37 countries.
Born 90 years ago in Geneva to Canadian parents, Jean Vanier was an officer in the Navy. In 1950 he gave up his military career and began to study theology and philosophy. He teaches at the University of Toronto, but will soon leavehis university career to dedicate himself to meeting Jesus in the weakest and most abandoned people. In 1964 he founded the l'Arche and in 1971 he contributed to the birth of the "Foi et Lumiere" movement (Faith and Light). In 2015 he received the Templeton Award. He died in Paris at dawn on 7 May, following a serious illness.
"The missionary is a witness to the redeeming love of God poured out in Jesus Christ - writes McCrabb -. God’s love for humanity took on human flesh. Jean embodied this truth; his first rule for becoming more human was to be at ease with our own bodies. Jean was a friend of Jesus and witnessed to his love in the integrity of his life, in what he did, and in the words he used.
Missionaries go to live with people on the periphery of society. Jean lived with men and women with severe disabilities. He was willing to cross the border built by words like strong and weak, able and disable, articulate and mute, deaf and hearing. Jean lived here"
Finally, the Executive Director of the USCMA recalls that "Pope Francis said that mission is at once, a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people. Jean Vanier embodied this passion. Jean Vanier, missionary of tenderness, pray for us". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 8/5/2019)