“L’Arche Erie is a faith based community where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together.”
In 1964 Jean Vanier and Father Thomas Philippe invited Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, two men with intellectual disabilities, to share their lives in the spirit of the Gospel and of the Beatitudes that Jesus preached. The first home was name The Ark, which is French is L’Arche.
From this first community, born in France and in the Roman Catholic tradition, many other communities have developed in various cultural and religious traditions.
Called into being by God, these communities are united by the same vision and the same spirit of welcome, sharing, and simplicity.
L’Arche is deeply concerned by the distress of people who suffer injustice and rejection because they are disabled. This concern should impel the communities of L’Arche to do all they can to defend the rights of people with an intellectual disability, to support the creation of places of welcome for them, and to call on our society to become more just and respectful towards them.
The communities of L’Arche want to be in solidarity with the poor of the world, and with all those who take part in the struggle for justice.
L’Arche Erie is part of an international federation of nearly 140 communities operating in 40 different countries. L’Arche began in France in 1964 when Jean Vanier welcomed Philippe and Raphael, two men with intellectual disability from an institution, to come and live with him. Today L’Arche remains faithful to the simplicity of this vision as assistants and people with handicaps share their lives together, their gifts and struggles, as brothers and sisters in Jesus.
L’Arche Erie has seven homes and four family-living situations where its many members live, work, and share in daily life. These homes relate often to each other, through visits, sessions of prayer, and celebrations. L’Arche Erie employs over 80 assistant members who supports 31 core members, those adults with intellectual disabilities. The philosophy of L’Arche is to provide “family-based” growth and security to people through mutual relationships. Some people choose to move toward independence and they, along with board members, former assistants, family and friends, broaden the circle of relationships.
The community of L’Arche Erie is growing in its ecumenical vision through welcoming those of different faiths. Our spirituality is founded on Gospel values and the love of God for the weakest and the poorest, so as to reveal their vocation of opening hearts of compassion to others. We are a community of faith rooted in prayer and trust in God. Opportunities for prayer and worship are part of daily life in the home and as well as when we come together to share and celebrate as a community.
As the community moves into the future, members carry its history, relationships, and traditions. These roots of the community and long-term commitments of members give it the stability to go forward into new challenges.