L'Arche experience leads Jesuit to priesthood

  • June 10, 2010
Archbishop Prendergast, Teo Ugaban, John MeehanTORONTO - Living in the L’Arche community in France and meeting Jean Vanier led John Meehan to discover his call to become a priest.

“It changed the way I looked at community, the Church, my faith. I wouldn’t be a Jesuit now if it hadn’t been for L’Arche,” he told The Catholic Register.

Meehan, 42, was ordained June 5, along with Teo Ugaban, at Toronto’s Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, with Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., presiding at the Ordination Mass.

Born in Halifax, Meehan started thinking about the priesthood in his teens. But it was his experience in France that led him to consider the Jesuits. The call came during a European backpacking adventure in 1989 when he decided to volunteer at L’Arche and work with individuals with severe disabilities. His eight months living in community and living “very simply” was what attracted him to the vocation.

The L’Arche residents were “very honest” and taught Meehan an unforgettable lesson.

“For me, they’ve been the best teachers. I’ve studied at many universities and got many degrees, but L’Arche was the best teacher for me about God’s love and how to make use of your best gifts,” Meehan said.

Vanier was living in the house next door. Meehan said the L’Arche founder is “a person of great holiness, great joy and great simplicity.”

Another person who made an impact while Meehan was at L’Arche was Fr. Henri Nouwen. Meehan said the internationally renowned priest and author also taught him about humility.

As for his new ministry, Meehan will be teaching history and international relations at Campion College in Regina for two years. He has finished writing a book on Canada’s relations with China which is set for publication.

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