Faith and Light was born of a desire to help people with an intellectual disability and their families find their place within the Church and society. This was the main purpose of the organized pilgrimage to Lourdes at Easter of 1971.
1968 : At this period in time persons with an intellectual disability were not considered as having a place among participants in pilgrimages. People thought that they were not capable of experiencing this kind of activity and that their presence would possibly disturb other pilgrims. In response to an appeal by the parents of Thaddée and Loïc, two children with an intellectual disability, Jean Vanier and Marie-Hélène Mathieu organised a pilgrimage to Lourdes with them. Three years of preparation ensued, which gave rise to strong reactions of both enthusiasm and reserve.
1971 : At Easter, 12 000 pilgrims from 15 countries, 4 000 of whom were persons with an intellectual disability, accompanies by the parents and friends, particularly young people, assembled again. Carried away by the experience, they wanted to continue the adventure. Jean Vanier suggested : “Continue meeting together in small communities, do whatever the Holy Spirit inspires you to do”. This is how Faith and Light was work, on that Easter Monday in Lourdes.
1975 : Paul VI welcomed Faith and Light at Saint Peter’s basilica. "You are loved by God just as you are..", “You have a chosen place in the Church”. Faith and Light, which was still a very fragile seedling, received the confirmation of its vocation from the Holy Father.
1981 : From 23 countries Faith and Light communities returned to Lourdes, to give thanks to Jesus and his Mother who helped them to discover the hidden beauty inside their sister, or their brother with an intellectual disability. It is her, it is he, who can break down all the barriers of indifference, fear and selfishness.
1991 : At Easter, 13 000 pilgrims came together again in Lourdes, this time from 60 countries. Faith and Light has become ecumenical and continues to seek more unity around the small and the weak: “Father make us one”. Great programmes has been achieved in taking care of and integrating people with intellectual disabilities but their lives are now threatened, before their birth and even after it. Faith and Light wishes to be present at the sides of parents who are subjected to doubts, fears and pressure.
2001 : In April more than 16 000 people from 73 countries stretching across 5 continents came together in Lourdes. The theme of the pilgrimage was “Come and drink at the Source” in celebration of Easter. Lourdes 2001 was a great step taken in great joy and unity, showing that happiness depends first and foremost on love. Everywhere in the world, communities who were not able to make to journey to Lourdes, organised pilgrimages in union with the big international gathering.
2008 : 200 Faith and Light coordinators and chaplains, coming from 70 countries, met in Lourdes under the theme "Guided by the Spirit" to adopt a new Constitution and elect a team of international leaders to put it into practice. Indeed, it was a week of grace where, with one heart, the two hundred participants had but one wish : that Faith and Light would grow and shine even more in the countries where it is already present, meeting and conforting families who are still isolated, making itself known to young people and parishes.
2011-2012 : Faith and Light celebrated its 40th anniversary in "Messengers of Joy" by two years of pilgrimages across the world. Each province was called to invite another province to take part in its pilgrimage. Thus, there was a double movement: one of opening up, welcoming and sharing and another of discovery and celebration of the characteristics of others. A beautiful mix of people, languages and denominations but a single people of God on the move, joyfully bearing the Good News. 52 pilgrimages took place between 2011 and 2012.