A message from our Community Leader

by Paula Kilcoyne, Community Leader and Executive Director of L’Arche St. Louis

I share the news of Jean Vanier’s passing last night in Paris.  He was surrounded by family and close L’Arche friends.  I am sad that I will never see this great man again and yet my heart is so full of gratitude for his vision and commitment and for the way he changed my life forever back in 1986.

Following Jean’s call…

Vanier with Paula, her husband Nathan, and 3 of their 4 children.

While an undergraduate at Marquette University, I saw a video of Jean in the first L’Arche community (Trosly, France) called “The Heart has its Reasons” and was deeply moved.  A year and half later, I went to L’Arche Daybreak for a “summer” experience that ultimately lasted 25 years.

I first met Jean in Calcutta, India in 1989 where I was an assistant for 6 months and he came to give a talk and retreat.  For many years after that he would greet me across a crowded room with lifted arms and a loud “Calcutta Paula!”  He had such a love for L’Arche lived in its most simple and vulnerable ways and carried our fragile communities always close in his thoughts and heart.

Now as a L’Arche Community Leader in my hometown St. Louis, MO, I am forever grateful for the vocation he called me into over 30 years ago.  We have lost a leader, a father, a dear friend, and companion on the journey.  So blessed are we to share in his life’s work and to be entrusted to carry on his light.

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