Fonds F4 - Henri Nouwen fonds

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Identity area

Reference code

CA ON00389 F4


Henri Nouwen fonds


  • 1910 - 1997, 1964 - 1996 predominant (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

45 m of textual records and other material

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Henri Nouwen was born in Nijkerk, The Netherlands to Maria (nee Ramselaar) and Laurent Nouwen on January 24, 1932, the eldest of four children. He was ordained to the Catholic priesthood on July 21, 1957 for the diocese of Utrecht. Immediately following his ordination, Nouwen began studying psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen completing a doctorandus degree cum laude in 1964 (February 3rd, 1964 in Psychology; primary subject: psychology of religion, secondary subjects: sociology, social geography).
Following his studies in psychology Nouwen became a Fellow in the program for Religion and Psychiatry at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas from 1964-1966. During this year he participated in Martin Luther King's civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Following his studies at the Menninger, Nouwen was invited to join the newly formed Faculty of Psychology at Notre Dame University where he taught for two years.
In 1968 he returned to the Netherlands to take positions as Staff member of the Amsterdam Joint Pastoral Institute and member of the faculty of the Catholic Theological Institute in Utrecht. From 1970-1971 Nouwen pursued an advanced degree in theology at the University of Nijmegen, focusing on the work on Anton T. Boisen. A doctorandus degree was received in 1971. After completing his theology degree he accepted a position in the Yale Divinity School. For ten years (1971-1981), he taught such courses as Christian Spirituality, Pastoral Care and Counselling, Life and Work of Thomas Merton, Ministry and Spirituality, Ministry of Vincent van Gogh and Ministry to the Elderly. He spent one semester in Rome teaching at the North American College in 1978 and became a fellow at the Ecumenical Institute at Collegeville, Minnesota.
In 1981 he resigned from his tenured position to work with the Maryknoll brothers in Peru as well as visiting Bolivia and Nicaragua. In addition to exploring his vocation in Latin America, Nouwen explored the possibility of joining several different Christian communities, with extended stays at the Abbey of the Genesee in 1979 and 1982. In 1983, following a speaking tour about Nicaragua, he accepted a Lentz Lectureship at Harvard Divinity School, a position he held until his resignation in 1985. He went on to teach a summer course at Boston College and later to L'Arche Trosly-Breuil in France at the invitation of Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche (a network of more than 100 communities where people with developmental disabilities live in homes with assistants).
In 1986 he accepted the position of pastor as L'Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill, Ontario. In addition to his duties as pastor, Nouwen co-taught with Daybreak members at Regis College, Toronto a course entitled "Communion, Community and Ministry" in 1994, the last course he would teach at a university.
In addition to teaching Nouwen was a prolific writer, authoring more than 40 books and hundreds of articles related to the Christian spiritual life including contemplative spirituality, prayer, the desert mothers and fathers, icons, ministry, theological education, peacemaking, prayer, death and the trapeze. A selection of his titles include The Wounded Healer, Reaching Out, Genesee Diary and The Return of the Prodigal Son. He was a sought-after speaker and travelled extensively to address participants at retreats, convocations, conferences and other public events.
Nouwen died on September 21, 1996 while visiting family in Holland.

Archival history

The material was received by the Kelly Library in 2000 as two accessions. The first contained the records originally housed at the Yale Divinity School Library, an archives set up and contributed to annually by Nouwen from 1975 until his death in 1996. The second accession consisted of material created and accumulated by Nouwen at L'Arche Daybreak that he did not send to Yale Divinity School. This accession also consisted of material collected after his death and as such is now located with the Research Collection.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of 15 series:

  1. Manuscripts
  2. General files
  3. Calendar files
  4. Personal records
  5. Publisher files
  6. Financial files
  7. Teaching materials
  8. Nouwen’s education records and study notes
  9. Published works
  10. Video recordings of Nouwen
  11. Sound recordings
  12. Collected materials
  13. L'Arche Daybreak administrative files
  14. Ephemera and artifacts
  15. Photographs

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


Further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

The records are open for general use with exceptions. Please see series level descriptions for details on access restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright is retained by the Literary Executrix. No copying without consent of Literary Executrix, except excerpts for the purpose of scholarly research. Permission to publish must be obtained by the Estate.

Language of material

  • Dutch
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian

Script of material

  • Cyrillic
  • Latin

Language and script notes

The documents are mostly in English and Dutch with some French, Italian and German.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related records can be found in other fonds in the Nouwen Archives (donations made by others post-1996). Related records can be found in the Nouwen Archives Special Collections (material collected after 1996). Nouwen’s book collection is catalogued in the University of Toronto catalogue as SMRH2. Books on and about Nouwen have been collected by the Kelly Library since 2000. The books have been catalogued in the University of Toronto catalogue as Nouwen Collection 1.

Notes area


Title based on contents of the fonds.

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Description control area

Description identifier


Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

Dates of creation revision deletion

Revised by S Rogers, 24 September 2019.



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