Our History


In the 1960s a man named Jean Vanier visited a French institution for people with intellectual disabilities and was touched by their cry for friendship. He welcomed two of them, Raphael and Philippe, to create a faith community with him in a home they named L’Arche (French for The Ark). Together, they would share time, work, pray and enjoy meals–community practices that would soon spread out all over the world as people from different religious and cultural backgrounds began to live L’Arche across the continents.

In 2000, animated by a similar spirit, Sr. Maria Zeimen welcomed Elbert Lott and Jean Wilson to live in community in a home on the West Side of the city, thus starting L’Arche Chicago. To this day in L’Arche Chicago, people with and without intellectual disabilities live together in a spirit of belonging, support and peace-making, a sign that a more humane world is possible.

L'Arche communities are 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 way we live daily life, our outreach and education programs and the testimonies of residents, assistants (current and former), board members and friends who have experienced our vision and share it with enthusiasm.



Jean Wilson, Sr. Maria Zeimen, and Elbert Lott , original members of L'Arche Chicago.

Jean Wilson, Sr. Maria Zeimen, and Elbert Lott, original members of L'Arche Chicago.