Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 30, 2008
Regard each person as valuable – Vanier
Eighty-year-old L'Arche founder says to bestow respect on each other
By SARA LOFTSON
"Do we see (the elderly) as dangerous and a nuisance, or do we see them as someone precious and important?
- Jean Vanier
Vanier also held an afternoon session June 19 with youth leaders to motivate them and also explain how he sees the current and future state of the world.
L'Arche members said this is a rare opportunity because as Vanier turns 80 this year, he won't be visiting individual L'Arche communities anymore.
He sat cross-legged on a wooden stool for an hour, illustrating life lessons through the lens of L'Arche community members with disabilities.
He described Francoise, a 75-year-old blind woman who can't walk or speak. She lies in bed and cries tears of joy and pain.
"A person like Francoise is important to our community. When we give her a bath, we must discover gentle hands that say 'I love you and there is meaning to your life.'
"Not only are we looking after her, she is looking after us."
A major concern for Vanier is the future of the elderly and how society regards the aged.
"Do we see them as dangerous and a nuisance, or do we see them as someone precious and important? These are going to be big questions that will confront our world."
Vanier briefly responded to questions after the talk.
Among the audience members was 35-year-old Joseph Portincasa, a relief worker at a group home in Calgary who came to hear why Vanier started L'Arche. He both works with the disabled and is disabled himself with cerebral palsy.
For the last 10 years, Portincasa has gone from job to job. "It's harder to get work. There is still an attitude that people don't see (the disabled) as contributing. I personally believe people with disabilities are overlooked," he said. "I have cerebral palsy, but I still have a mind."
Scout leader Christopher Dougherty, 24, said after this conference he is going to try to look for peoples' gifts first instead of deficiencies. "There are general barriers we've created ourselves," said Dougherty, citing the need to win at the expense of creating community.
L'Arche is an international federation of faith-based communities for people with and without developmental disabilities. This year it celebrates 40 years in Canada with 200 homes and programs in 29 communities.
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.