Just twelve years after Jean Vanier founded the first L’Arche community with adults with intellectual disabilities, there were more than 40 L’Arche communities in 11 countries. What can explain this incredible growth? Carolyn Whitney-Brown looks for answers in a letter that Vanier wrote to the French feminist philosopher Julia Kristeva in 2009. Vanier says that the secret behind L’Arche’s success is, paradoxically, “pleasure.” As L’Arche in Canada turns 50, Dr. Whitney-Brown will explore the often-surprising stories of the founding of L’Arche communities around the world. She will discuss how Vanier’s surprising observation about pleasure offers an insight into the success of this amazing movement.
Dr. Carolyn Whitney-Brown is the author of Jean Vanier: Essential Writings (2008, revised 2019), Sharing Life: Stories of L’Arche Founders (2019), and Tender to the World: Jean Vanier, L’Arche and the United Church of Canada (2019). After completing her doctorate at Brown University, Dr. Whitney-Brown lived at L’Arche Daybreak from 1990 to 1997. She has frequently taught in the Department of Religious Studies at St. Jerome’s University and is a fellow at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society.
This book makes a stunning and incisive contribution to help the reader understand the need for destabilizing and then transforming a community of faith.
-The Very Reverend and Honourable Lois M. Wilson
Carolyn Whitney-Brown offers a remarkably fresh, tender, and challenging account of Jean Vanier’s life and work. Her unique insight into Vanier’s special mix of mission, humour, agency, and fragility makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding not only of the spiritual revolution of L’Arche but also of interreligious dialogue, disability studies, and new ideas of human community and culture. A timely and deeply caring book.
- Richard Kearney, Boston College and author of Anatheism: Returning to God after God
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