A Chinese charity called Huiling that supports people with mental disabilities paid tribute this month to Jean Vanier, the Canadian Catholic who inspired its creation, after he died in France on May 7 at the age of 90.
Huiling founder Meng Weinuo, a Chinese Catholic, said Vanier had recently been beset by health problems.
“He’d been in and out of hospital several times this year,” she said. “We knew it was just a matter of time before he returned to his heavenly home.”
The charity enjoys support from the Catholic Church. Meng set it up in the southern port city of Guangzhou in 1990 with Father Cagnin Fernando, a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).
Huiling gained a reputation as the first NGO to serve mentally disabled people in China during the 1980s. It now has 20 service points nationwide.
Meng said she was inspired by L’Arche, an international private voluntary organization that works for the creation of growth of homes, programs, and support networks for people with intellectual disabilities.
Vanier, a Catholic who was born in Canada but later migrated to France, founded L’Arche in 1964. He was also a co-founder in 1971 of Faith and Light, a similar organization.
Meng got to meet Varnier in France in May 2013 when she and Father Fernando visited a L’Arche community there.
“Huiling has always admired L’Arche. We really want to be a sister organization with you,” she recalled telling the elderly Canadian.
Varnier welcomed the move but said he had stepped down from running the organization. He referred her to the head of L’Arche International.
Six months later, the two agencies signed a partnership deal. L’Arche agreed to provide training and spiritual support to Huiling.