A community brought together by love and faith sailed forth in song Sunday during the annual Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom award ceremony at St. Ambrose University, Davenport.
Members of the communities known as “L’Arche,” which is French for “the ark,” gathered as part of the audience at the university's Rogalski Center, when Joan Mahler, national director of L’Arche USA, received an award from Bishop Martin Amos of the Diocese of Davenport. Earlier this summer, Amos, along with Barb Arland-Fye, editor of The Catholic Messenger, awarded the Pacem in Terris to Jean Vanier in the village of Rosly-Breuil, France, where Vanier began L’Arche 50 years ago.
The Rev. Charles Adam, director of campus ministry and chaplain at St. Ambrose, welcomed the crowd with prayer. Msgr. Marvin Mottet, one of the founders of the Pacem in Terris award and a 2008 recipient, briefly spoke about the history of L’Arche and the L’Arche community in Clinton that Sister Marjorie Wisor began in 1974.
Mahler recognized L’Arche representatives from Clinton, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City in the crowd. Vanier founded L’Arche as a faith-based community where those with and without intellectual disabilities live together, she said, adding that there are 144 L’Arche communities in about 35 countries throughout the world. It is known as Clinton as "The Arch."
Vanier works for the total acceptance of people as they are, with and without disabilities.
She said she met Vanier on a footpath at an international meeting of L’Arche, and worried about what she would say to him as she saw him approaching her. “He leaned down to me … put his arm around my shoulder and simply asked ‘Do you love Jesus?’”
Vanier was searching for Jesus when he left the Navy as a young man, Mahler said. “He has remained faithful to his original call,” she said, adding that Vanier has lived his search for Jesus “quietly and simply and with humility.”
Vanier continues to inspire people to “continue beginning,” to learn and to teach and to “be engaged in our world,” Mahler said.
The audience watched a video of Vanier’s acceptance of the Pacem in Terris award. His speech was delivered in English and translated into French by a member of the L’Arche community who stood by his side.
Arland-Fye, who introduced speakers during the ceremony, referred to Vanier as “an amazing man. Jean believes that the Pacem in Terris award belongs to L’Arche and not just to him.”
“It was, as you can see, a wonderful, wonderful experience, to see the first home where he took in the first two core members,” Amos said. He presented a plaque to Mahler, telling her that she is “bringing peace into the world.”
The L’Arche representatives then sang musical selections, including “Down In My Heart.”
The Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom award was created in 1964 by the Davenport Catholic Interracial Council. Since 1978, it has been presented by the Quad-City Pacem in Terris Coalition. The award honors Pope John XXIII and commemorates his 1963 encyclical letter, “Pacem in Terris” (“Peace on Earth”), which called on everyone to secure peace among all nations.