Word of L'Arche founder Jean Vanier’s death reverberated around the world on May 7, slowly filtering out to the many people his life and work had touched. In Canberra, the news was particularly poignant. Source: Catholic Voice.
In a quirk of fate, a coincidence of timing, members of L’Arche Canberra were preparing to present the documentary Summer in the Forest – the story of Jean Vanier’s life work – the next evening.
It brought their thoughts about him and about L’Arche into sharp focus, especially so for Anne Walsh.
Quite simply, Jean Vanier had changed her life.
From growing up in Goulburn, one of seven children and later two step-siblings in a close and loving family, Ms Walsh left home aged 18 to live in a new L’Arche home in Canberra. Now, 100 km from her old home town and 37 years older, Ms Walsh is a respected leader and elder in her Canberra community.
“I was sad when I heard he’d died,” she said. “I’d met him several times and he was a friend. He taught me a lot. He taught me about relationships, to not be afraid to try things. He helped me become who I am.”
When Ms Walsh moved to Canberra in 1982, she said it was very scary at first. And not just for her.
Like any family, Ms Walsh’s family had to come to terms with letting a child leave the nest and move away. It’s a difficult time for any family, and can be even more so for families of a child with an intellectual disability, balancing being protective with offering the best opportunities for their child. The family took the leap, and Ms Walsh has continued to prosper and grow.
Today, she is one of five in her community home in Chifley, which includes other residents with intellectual disabilities and a home sharer who lives with them.
“That’s one of the essential threads of L’Arche,” Annie Patterson, community life coordinator for L’Arche in Canberra, explained. “People with and without intellectual disability living life together.”
Anne thankful for the legacy of Vanier’s vision (Catholic Voice)
Jean Vanier's model for inclusiveness (Eureka Street)