For the first time, the Davenport-based Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award will be presented to a recipient overseas, in France.
Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, will receive the honor. L'Arche is an international federation of communities in which people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. He is among award recipients who include Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu, Lech Walesa and Cesar Chavez.
Bishop Martin Amos will present the award to Vanier on July 7. Amos will travel to the village where Vanier founded L’Arche in 1964.
A local celebration, open to the public, will be at 2 p.m. Aug. 25 in the Rogalski Center at St. Ambrose University in Davenport to honor Vanier and L’Arche.
There is a community in Clinton named The Arch, and the Davenport celebration will include Amos as well as local and national members of the organization.
The Pacem in Terris Award honors Pope John XXIII and commemorates his 1963 encyclical letter Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth).
"As (the late) Bishop Gerald O’Keefe said, 'We don’t honor them, they honor us,'" said Monsignor Marvin Mottet, a founder and recipient of the award established in 1964 by the Davenport Catholic Interracial Council.
“Giving Jean Vanier the peace award draws attention to our efforts in L’Arche to live in peace,” said Sister Maria Zeimen, interim community leader of The Arch and a member of the Order of St. Francis.
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“No matter how different we are in age, gender, religion, nationality, intellectually or socially, we recognize the unique value of each person and that we have need for one another. Since we have 140 L’Arche communities around the world, we give witness to that worldwide," she added.
Vanier, who no longer travels overseas, thinks it is important that a ceremony be held in the United States where L’Arche feels honored by the award.
“We in L’Arche in the United States are so grateful to hear that Jean Vanier has been named for this honor,” said Joan Mahler, who leads L’Arche USA.
“Jean has devoted his life to peace-making. In his many books and talks — and more importantly, in how he lives his life each day — Jean teaches us that our frailties and weaknesses can be pathways to peace when acknowledged and shared with loving compassion.”
Vanier, from Canada, gave up a promising career as a naval officer, considered the priesthood and then a career as a university professor before he found his true vocation at L’Arche.
He is described as a gifted retreat leader and speaker, and he inspired countless individuals worldwide to embrace L’Arche and to bring it to fruition in 40 different countries.
Now 84, he still lectures almost daily in and continues to lead retreats and train young assistants, according to Dan Ebener, diocesan director of Stewardship and Planning who visited with Vanier in Trosly-Breuil earlier this month.
“Pacem in Terris Award recipients always seem to have relevancy for the year they are honored,” said Diocesan Social Action Director Kent Ferris. “Maybe during this Year of Faith, this is our reminder to love gently.”