The first L’Arche community was founded in 1964 in the small town in France in response to the inhumane conditions of the large institutions where people with intellectual disabilities had been placed. That first L’Arche community of just four men at first provided a model for robust L’Arche communities all over the world for the next 50 years.
The impact of an individual: Henri Nouwen
Many pilgrims on the spiritual journey have been drawn to the life, faith, and writings of Henri Nouwen. Henri Nouwen was a priest and professor who spent the last 11 years of his life in a L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France and one near Toronto, Canada.
Born in Holland in 1932, Nouwen was an ordained priest who also studied psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. He taught at the University of Notre Dame and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. In 1986, one year after Nouwen accepted an opportunity to visit L’Arche Trosly-Breuil, he chose to make his permanent home at L’Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Canada. Ten years later, he died suddenly in Holland and was buried near the Daybreak community.
Several of Nouwen’s books were inspired by the life he shared with people with intellectual and physical disabilities in L’Arche. A journal of his year at L’Arche Trosly is captured in The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey. Additionally, Nouwen wrote Adam, God’s Beloved, a beautiful and inspiring account of how his life was transformed through a friendship with a Core Member in the Daybreak community.