By Barb Arland-Fye
Calligrapher Paul Herrera created an artwork in words that Bishop Martin Amos will present in France to Jean Vanier, recipient of this year’s Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award. Since I’m accompanying the bishop to France as a member of the Pacem in Terris Coalition of the Quad Cities, I have been entrusted with safekeeping of the framed award.
Jean Vanier, 84, is the founder of L’Arche, an international federation of communities in which people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. One of those communities is in Clinton, Iowa.
Coalition members asked me to take the award as a carry-on, just in case our checked luggage didn’t arrive at the airport in France along with the bishop and me. Finding a safe and secure carry-on required more thought than I anticipated, but the quest involved an enjoyable team effort by Catholic Messenger staff and volunteers.
The award measures about 13 inches by 16 inches (including protective cardboard corner covers) and is about 1-inch thick. My own carry-on is too small and so is a large backpack on wheels. Nancy brought in a carry-on; it was too small. Then she brought in a large cloth bag that would work in a pinch, but wouldn’t protect the bubble-wrapped award from possible breakage. Anne Marie did some checking at home, but then Father Tom, our volunteer proofreader, said he thought his carry-on suitcase might work. It does!
This year’s two-part award presentation features unique aspects. For the first time in its 49-year history, the award will be hand-delivered out of the country at the request of coalition members. We represent faith communities, women religious, two universities, a peace organization, the Diocese of Davenport and The Catholic Messenger newspaper.
Jean Vanier’s half-century commitment to building community among people with and without intellectual disabilities inspired our coalition to take the award to him because he no longer travels overseas.
“We’ve been aware of Jean Vanier’s work for some time, by virtue of having the second-oldest L’Arche community in the United States — in Clinton, Iowa,” Kent Ferris said. He leads our coalition and serves as director of social action for the Diocese of Davenport.
Encouragement of Jean Vanier’s nomination has come as well from people who appreciate his contribution to the betterment of the world through love, understanding and a desire to help people grow.
Bishop Amos will present the award to Jean Vanier in a July 7 ceremony that the L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil will videotape. We plan to show that videotape during a special celebration Aug. 25 at 2 p.m. in the Rogalski Center of St. Ambrose University in Davenport. That’s the second part of this year’s unique Pacem in Terris award. Jean Vanier believes it is important that a ceremony be held in the United States where L’Arche feels honored by the award. It isn’t about him, but about the vision of L’Arche which is being lived out in so many countries and particularly in the United States, Jean Vanier believes.
Planning is underway for the August celebration, which will include video of the L’Arche founder’s acceptance speech, prayers, singing by L’Arche Clinton/“The Arch” and a sing-along with cake and beverages afterward. Bishop Amos will participate, too. (He’s a good singer, by the way.) I encourage all of you to join us Aug. 25.
Pope Paul VI said that if we want peace, we need to work for justice. Our coalition believes that Jean Vanier is building a foundation for peace through his commitment to fostering communities of love, understanding and growth that lead to human flourishing. The award says as much, and that’s why we’re treating it as precious cargo for the trip to France.