As the world mourns the loss of a Jean Vanier, a champion of the developmentally disabled, theologian, author and humanitarian, a Southampton woman is reflecting on the time she spent with him just two short years ago.
Kristina Simons counts herself blessed to have met Jean Vanier during a religious retreat when she traveled to Trosly-Breuil France to visit the original L'Arche community. (2017)
Simons was sitting in the chapel when she looked over and realized that Jean Vanier was sitting beside her.
He smiled at her and offered her peace.
It was a surreal experience, an encounter Simons says she will never forget.
Simons spent the morning with Vanier as part of the retreat.
And although he only spoke briefly to her, she says it was enough to have a lasting impact.
Simons says Vanier's legacy is one of human dignity, calling him a champion of the vulnerable, the broken and the marginalized.
Simons says Vanier spent his life reminding people they are loved and have great worth.
Vanier began his vocation as an advocate for those with developmental disabilities in 1964.
Over the years Vanier founded L'Arche, an international network of communities in which individuals with and without developmental disabilities live and work together in their own unique communities.
L'Arche International has grown considerably and is now in 38 countries spanning the globe.
Simons traveled to France to witness firsthand how these L'Arche communities operate.
Simons says it was an eye opening experience and says her take away from the retreat is that Vanier's work is just the beginning, and it is now up to the rest of us carry on with his legacy.
Vanier spent his life trying to improve the lives of others, a Canadian who is internationally known and admired for his great humanitarian efforts.