A Home in L’Arche, 1986 - 1996
Henri with Linda Slinger. Photo by Alan Steers. Used with permission.
A chance meeting with Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche, an international movement of communities that welcome people with disabilities, inspired Nouwen to spend a year writing in the original L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France. He felt at home there and in 1986 accepted an invitation to become pastor for the L'Arche community of Daybreak in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto, Canada.
Daybreak was his homecoming. He lived in one of the homes and was asked to help Adam Arnett, a man with a severe disability, with his morning routine. Nouwen’s book Adam, God's Beloved describes how Adam became his friend, his teacher and his guide.
After recovering from a severe depression, Nouwen began to experience perhaps his deepest fulfillment as priest, friend, author, lecturer and mentor. He gave countless talks and retreats, welcomed hundreds of people for counsel and still found time to write. Whenever he traveled or lectured, he invited a core member (person with a disability) to accompany him as a co-facilitator. His contribution to the spirituality of L'Arche was as profound as the transformation he experienced at Daybreak.
En route to Russia to do a documentary about Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son, Nouwen suffered a heart attack in The Netherlands. He died on Saturday, September 21, 1996. There were two funeral services, one in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and the other near Daybreak. Nouwen is buried in Richmond Hill, Ontario, close to his beloved Daybreak community.