HISTORYFaith and Light began with a pilgrimage.
In France in 1968 a family with two children with disabilities, Löic and Thaddée, wanted to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes with their local church. But people said that they were too disabled. They did not want Löic and Thaddée with them on pilgrimage.
This is a common experience. Many people with learning difficulties or disabilities feel excluded from the world. There are barriers to their involvement in the church.
Basilica of our Lady of the Rosary, Lourdes
The family contacted Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche (a residential community for people with learning disabilities). He wanted to help them to find a place in the church and in the world. Together with Marie-Hélène Mathieu he started to organise a big pilgrimage to Lourdes for people with learning disabilities with family and friends to support them.
The pilgrimage was described as ‘a pilgrimage of Faith and Light’. It was a big international event, but it was organised by gathering people into local groups, small communities that met regularly to get to know each other well; to support each others’ needs; to pray together and prepare for pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage took three years to get ready. When everybody arrived in Lourdes at Easter in 1971, there were 12,000 pilgrims from fifteen countries. There was a spontaneous celebration, an explosion of joy, as the communities met each other and discovered so many who had made the same journey.
After the pilgrimage the groups returned home and continued to meet. More communities were formed and Faith and Light spread to many countries throughout the world.
So Löic and Thaddée were the founders of Faith and Light, alongside Jean Vanier and Marie-Hélène Mathieu. From their difficult and painful experience came a huge international family.
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