In 1964, Jean Vanier was living in France and became aware of the plight of thousands of developmentally disabled people that had been institutionalized.
He was moved to invite two men with developmental disabilities, named Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to live with him. Along with his spiritual director, the four men moved into an old house in the French village of Trosly-Breuil. Vanier named this little community L’Arche, meaning ‘the ark’ in French, after Noah’s Ark.
Now, L’Arche communities are all over the world. L’Arche came to Canada in 1969 when a community called Daybreak was founded in Toronto. There are now 29 communities spread across the country in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Each community is composed of two to eight homes, day programs and workshops and in some cases a spiritual center.
The Calgary community was founded in 1973, and includes five homes, a Day Program, and Supported Independent Living Program.
Sr. Donna-Marie Perry FCJ, Delphine Lemire, and Pat and Jo Lenon founded L’Arche Calgary. The decision to start L’Arche was made without knowing how it would be funded and how we would find assistants. Our first home was given to us and L’Arche has continued to grow and develop since that time.