TORONTO – On June 13 The Word Guild will present the twenty-fourth annual Leslie K. Tarr Award to Jean Vanier, 83, the son of Canada’s 19th Governor General, Major General Georges P. Vanier, and a Companion of the Order of Canada. 


Named in honour of its first recipient, the late Leslie K. Tarr – a journalist, editor, and teacher – the award celebrates a major career contribution to Christian writing and publishing in Canada. Previous recipients include award-winning children’s author Jean Little, two-time Governor General’s Literary Award winner Rudy Wiebe, Janette Oke, whose inspirational novels have sold more than 28 million copies, and theologian J. I. Packer.


The award will recognize Vanier’s lifetime of work as a Christian author, humanitarian, theologian and world leader in affirming the value, dignity, and giftedness of men and women the world over who live with developmental disabilities.


"Jean Vanier is one of Canada’s best known writers and thinkers, whose work emanates from a Christian worldview," said Wendy Elaine Nelles, co-founder of The Word Guild, which administers the Tarr Award. "His spiritual reflections about what it means to follow the teachings of Jesus in everyday life have had a profound effect on thousands of readers. And the influence of his writing and speaking has crossed denominational, religious, and cultural boundaries."


Described by his friends first and foremost as a man with heart, Vanier is best known for his founding of L’Arche, a movement that began in his home in 1964, when he invited two men from an institution to live with him in a small house, which he named "L’Arche" – French for "Ark," from the biblical story of Noah. Today 135 L’Arche communities operate in 33 countries on six continents. L’Arche began in Canada in 1969 – L’Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill, Ontario, which holds the distinction of being the oldest L’Arche community in North America.


L’Arche Canada’s website describes L’Arche as "…an international organization of faith-based communities creating homes and day programs with people who have developmental disabilities." It "…espouses a ‘community model of living’…" and "…recognizes the spiritual and religious needs and aspirations of its members, and respects those who have no spiritual or religious affiliation."


Vanier also founded Faith and Light in 1971, "…an organization which brings together on a monthly basis people with a developmental disability, their family and friends," and which number 1,800 in 80 countries.


A prolific author, Vanier has authored or co-authored more than 30 books, published between 1971 and 2008. A number of these books have had worldwide influence, including Becoming Human published in 1999.


Vanier’s works reveal the heart of a man drawn by compassion and his love for Jesus, reaching out to an often forgotten world, to people who feel isolated and who need community. Though they live with intellectual challenges, Vanier embraces them as having much to offer the wider human family, not only in their giftedness, but also in the gift of themselves.


In an April 2012 letter to friends, Vanier draws his readers into his life today and into the spirit of the man who has made an indelible mark on the lives of so many thousands of people.


"It is wonderful to live close to La Ferme," he writes. "I continue to give retreats there, some of which are on the official programme, and others which are not. These are for people off the street, for people who have suffered a lot in life through broken marriage, or for others, who live the pain of exclusion.


"And then, I am present in some L’Arche formations. I carry on giving the sessions on the Gospel of John (in English and in French). Thanks to these sessions, I continue to penetrate into the heart of this inspired writing, where I always find new treasures. These sessions renew my outlook on our suffering world, and on our God who is calling us to hope and to work for peace – when everything seems impossible."


"Even in moments of horrific suffering, Etty Hillesum used to say, ‘life is beautiful.’ Yes, in spite of the horrors and fears, God is alive, creation is alive, the sun is shining and there are so many men and women full of kindness, competence, and compassion for other people in their difference and vulnerability. There is hope."


The Leslie K. Tarr Award is sponsored by Foundation Distributing Inc. and administered by The Word Guild. It will be presented on Wednesday, June 13, during The Word Guild awards gala at the World Vision headquarters, 1 World Drive in Mississauga, Ontario.


During the gala, The Word Guild will also present awards in 35 categories – including fiction and non-fiction, poetry, articles, and song lyrics – and the $5,000.00 Grace Irwin Award, Canada’s top literary prize for writers who are Christian. The event, open to the public, starts at 7:30 p.m.


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The Word Guild is a growing team of more than 325 Canadian writers, editors, speakers, publishers, booksellers, librarians and other interested individuals who are Christian. From all parts of Canada and many denominational and cultural backgrounds, they are united in our common passion to positively influence individuals – and ultimately the Canadian culture – through life-changing words that bring God’s message of hope. 

The Word Guild encourages the exploration of God-given gifts and talents; provides opportunities for people to work together; and fosters excellence in the art, craft, practice and ministry of writing, editing and speaking.  

In addition to Write! Canada, its annual flagship event, The Word Guild sponsors a number of awards programs for published and unpublished writers, including Canada’s largest literary prize for writers who are Christian, the $5,000 Grace Irwin Award. It also holds an annual black-tie writing awards gala in Toronto, and regional Write! events in locations such as Vancouver, Winnipeg, Halifax, Montreal, and London, Ontario.

Three categories of membership, renewed yearly, are available: professional writers and editors; associate members, who are beginning to put together a body of published work; and affiliates working in publishing, bookselling, libraries, etc. Membership benefits include discounted rates for Write! Canada.

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Media: For photos or more information, email Judy Bingley, The Word Guild Administrative Assistant, at info [at] thewordguild [dot] com