Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, passed away on May 7. In his article on Vanier, John Allen recalls the contribution of Archbishop Borys Gudziak, President of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), to the general movement:>>>

There’s another layer to the story, because while [Fr. Henri] Nouwen was discovering Vanier and L’Arche at Harvard he was also teaching a deeply thoughtful young Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest by the name of Borys Gudziak.

A decade later, Gudziak would be tasked with rebuilding a genuinely Catholic University in Ukraine after the fall of communism, and he began with a diagnosis: That the Ukrainian people were suffering from a profound “trust deficit,” after seven decades of being programmed during the Soviet era to lie, conceal, and hide their true selves.

To remedy that trust deficit, Gudziak turned to Nouwen, Vanier and L’Arche, inviting mentally handicapped people to become part of the university community. At the Ukrainian Catholic University, the mentally handicapped actually serve as “professors of human relations.”

“This is not some kind of handout,” Gudziak told me in 2012. “We need the gifts they have. They don’t care if you’re a rector, a doctor, or how rich you are. What they force us to confront is the most important pedagogical question of all: Can you love me?”

If one measure of a life is the way it shapes others, then Vanier’s living legacy in such unlikely venues as Ukraine suggests that his life was a prodigy indeed. Requiescat in pace, Jean Vanier.

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