Our international identity

L'Arche Chicago joins more than 146 other communities in 35 countries to form The International Federation of L'Arche. The communities encompass 5000 people with and without an intellectual disability, speaking more than 20 languages who share their lives in homes, workshops and day programs.

We are united by a common vision and a shared mission expressed in the official Charter of L’Arche. The Federation seeks to foster solidarity among communities, ensure unity in diversity, establish the conditions for membership, and to create conditions for trust, service, dialogue, and mutual support.

The L'Arche International Inclusion Initiative, including two members from Chicago.

The L'Arche International Inclusion Initiative, including two members from Chicago.

L’Arche Chicago is part of this International Federation of L’Arche Communities across the world. We join 17 other communities in the US, where the first community in the United States was founded in 1972 in Erie, Pennsylvania. Our region in L'Arche US includes communities in Clinton, IA, Kansas City, KS, Jacksonville, FL, Mobile, AL, St. Louis, MO, and Atlanta, GA.

L'Arche International has its roots in the foundation of the first L'Arche community in 1964 in Trosly-Breuil, a village north of Paris. Following the suggestion of his mentor Father Thomas Philippe, a Dominican priest, Jean Vanier, son of a former Governor General of Canada, decided to invite Raphaël Simi and Philippe Seux to live with him in a small house which he named L'Arche, the French word for the Ark. 

In the 1960s, the rapidly growing community in Trosly attracted young people from all over the world who shared their everyday life with a growing number of people with an intellectual disability. Although not planned or foreseen by Jean Vanier, it was only a matter of time before others decided to draw on the vision of L'Arche and to create a L'Arche community in his hometown or country. As this organic growth continued and accelerated, L'Arche organized itself as an international federation.

Every L'Arche community offers people—regardless of intellectual level—a community of faith and mutual relationship where each one is encouraged to develop talents, to create home, to build friendships and quite simply, to make the most of life! L'Arche communities are also places of welcome and support for families and friends, volunteers and neighbors, churches and other social service groups. L'Arche is working actively to inspire social change through the example of the way we live daily life, our outreach and education programs and the testimony of core members, assistants (current and former), board members and friends who have experienced this vision and share it with enthusiasm. We hope you'll join us too!