About St Louis L'Arche

jeanVanier L'Arche St. Louis opened its first L'Arche home on June 7, 2011, at 2900 Marshall in Maplewood.

A group of individuals interested in bringing L'Arche to St. Louis first met with Sister Marjorie Wisor, OSF - founding community leader of a L'Arche community in Clinton, Iowa -  in the mid-2000s. She encouraged the group and provided much insight from her experience stressing that bringing about the L’Arche community is a slow and prayerful process. Sr. Marjorie also put the group in contact with the Regional Coordinator of the Central Region of USA L’Arche communities. With guidelines in hand, the group began the slow and prayerful process of applying for Pre-project status and incorporating Friends of L'Arche St. Louis, Inc. as a tax exempt 501(c)3 organization in 2007. In December, 2008, L'Arche USA accepted Friends of L'Arche St. Louis as a Project.

Sr. Janet Ryan became the founding community leader in October, 2008, and participated in extensive formation. Of her formation Janet said, "The time spent with these communities was invaluable. I was enriched just by being with them but I also made lots of new friends, began looking at situations from a different perspective and left with a deeper respect and better perspective of the role of community leader."

Janet moved to St. Louis in January, 2009 and joined the Friends of L'Arche St. Louis board and support group to continue the work of bringing a L'Arche community to St. Louis. A house in Maplewood was acquired in 2010 and some work was done to turn a former convent into what would be a L'Arche home. In the spring and summer of 2011, we welcomed our founding team and first 2 core members and have grown from there to a full house of about 8 people. We are now seeking a second house in Maplewood that will allow us to welcome more people into the home life of L'Arche St. Louis.

We invite you to contact us and learn more about L’Arche in St. Louis and around the world.

Check out this presentation on The Spirituality of Jean Vanier, given at the "Linger over Breakfast" event in St. Louis.

About The International Federation of L'Arche

Jean Vanier, Founder of L'Arche is a French-Canadian whose father, Georges Vanier, was the 19th Lieutenant-Govenor General of Canada (1959-1967). Jean Vanier served in the British Royal Navy and was later an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy. He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy and taught at St. Michael's University in Toronto. In 1963, Jean accepted an invitation to visit his friend, Rev. Thomas Philippe, O.P. a chaplain at a small instituion for persons with cognative disabilities known as Val Fleuri in Trosly-Breuil, France.

During this visit, Jean's experiences at the Val Fleuri were profoundly moving. As Jean began visiting other institutions, he discovered deplorable living conditions. The men and women in these places needed a home, a place of belonging where they would be loved and respected. The residents' mental and physical poverty mirrored Jean's own spiritual poverty. He saw the face of Jesus in the faces of these men and women and he felt his own soul being healed by being in relationship with them. When Jean returned to Canada, his friend Father Thomas encouraged him to, as Jean puts it, "Begin something."

Jean returned to France, and on August 4, 1964, the director of a local institution brought three men (Raphael, Philippe and Dany) into Jean Vanier's small home in Trosly-Breuil. Dany was able to spend only one day and night in the home before it was decided that this was not the best place for him. On August 5, Raphael, Philippe and Jean started their life together - a covenant life called L'Arche. They named their home L'Arche, which is a French word meaning The Ark. In Christian and Jewish traditions, the ark symbolizes diversity, refuge and hope. Visit Jean Vanier's web site or the L'Arche USA web site for more information.

L'Arche Abroad

More L'Arche communities began in France and also overseas. In 1969 the first L'Arche community in North America - Daybreak - opened in Toronto. This community was home to Fr. Henri Nouwen for the last ten years of his life (1986-1996). In 1970, a L'Arche community opened in Bangalore, India, which continues today as a place where Christians, Hindus and Moslems live together peacefully. The first community in the United States was established in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1973.

The International Federation of L'Arche consists of about 140 communities in 35 countries. L'Arche St. Louis is the 17th community in the United States.

To learn more, visit the L'Arche International web site.