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Plans for L’Arche house in Adelaide


The founder of L’Arche Communities, Jean Vanier, died last month but his legacy will live on in the more than 150 communities in 38 countries around the world.

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“Jean has left an extraordinary legacy,” said L’Arche International leader Stephan Posner.
“More than 10,000 people with and without learning disabilities have created places of welcome and celebration as they share life together in the communities.”
There are five L’Arche Communities in Australia and three groups in the process of forming, including in Adelaide where supporters are working towards opening a house in March next year.
The local group last month held a fundraiser movie night featuring Summer in the Forest which documents the experience of the French community L’Arche Trosly.
Born in Canada, Vanier studied philosophy and theology in Paris then lectured at the University of Toronto but returned to France where he became troubled by the institutionalisation of people with intellectual disabilities. He invited two of the men he met, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave their institutions and come and join him in his own home, which he named Arche (Ark) after Noah’s Ark.
L’Arche community life coordinator in Adelaide, Suzanne Foley, said a small group of people from different Christian faith denominations had been meeting in Adelaide once a month for about six years and had recently stepped up their fundraising activities.
The group is currently negotiating to rent a church manse on a short-term basis before finding something more permanent. The house, located in Clarence Gardens, will initially provide accommodation for two adults with learning disabilities and two assistants, as well as day programs for a larger group.
“The plan is to expand over time and provide a place where people can live as long as they need to,” she said.
The mother of a 32-year-old son with Down syndrome and previously a pastor in the Baptist Church and Churches of Christ, Suzanne said she first came across L’Arche Communities in Canberra 30 years ago and had been impressed by what she saw.
“The timing wasn’t quite right then but I have always been very interested in the philosophy behind it. The assistants don’t just live in the house, they are part of a mutual community.”
With demand for housing greater than supply, she said L’Arche was not competing with other agencies but rather “just providing one more option”.
The daily structure of the house includes devotional time after the evening meal in an accessible way for people with intellectual disabilities.
The death of Vanier drew prayers and words of condolence from church leaders around the world.
Pope Francis described him as “a man who was able to read the Christian call in the mystery of death, of the cross, of illness, the mystery of those who are despised and discarded”.
“Simply put, I want to thank him and thank God for having given us this man with such a great witness,” the Pope said.
The local group, which has close links to interstate communities, meets once a month for discussion and devotion with anyone interested welcome to attend.
For more information contact Suzanne at


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