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Jill Pioter

Contemplation: Thy Will Be Done

Contemplation: Thy Will Be Done 940 788 SVDP USA

We often use the word “discernment” simply as a synonym for decision-making, with an added sense of prayerful consideration. While this captures part of the meaning, discernment could also be considered the opposite of decision-making. When we discern, we seek not our best option between two choices, but true insight into God’s will in the situation. But how can we do that?

A friend of mine once asked a fellow Vincentian who was explaining the constraints of his Conference guidelines, “Is that how you will explain it to St. Peter?”

Discernment, he was suggesting, isn’t so much the actual decision, but the process by which we arrive at it. In this, he echoed St. Ignatius of Loyola, who argued in the Spiritual Exercises that to make the best choice, we should always “consider what procedure and norm of action I would wish to have followed in making the present choice if I were at the moment of death.”

In other words, while the decision itself is important, how we go about making it is even more important. Recall St. Vincent’s teaching that “God does not consider the outcome of the good work undertaken but the charity that accompanied it.” [CCD I:205] How, then, can I share the love of God (charity)? How can I do God’s will, not mine? In this way, all choices become a single choice; a choice by which we are called to live our whole lives.

Father Hugh O’Donnell’s definition of Vincentian Discernment cuts to the heart of it: “Discernment is a prayer-filled process through which each of us can discover the difference between what is my will and what is God’s Will.”

At the heart of it, discernment is meant to lead us to the discovery of God’s plan – for us, for our lives, and for our Vincentian organizations. To help us, we often follow the process that Fr. O’Donnell explained, which begins with what St. Vincent called “unrestricted readiness.”

In unrestricted readiness, we set aside our anxieties about whether we are right, how we will convince others, or even about how things will turn out. Instead, we enter into discernment with both our minds and our hearts wide open to accepting God’s will.

Simple decision-making is about closing off all choices but one. Discernment is about opening ourselves to the one true choice.

Contemplate

Do I sometimes let my own biases or pride blind me to God’s will for me and for my Conference?

Recommended Reading

Vincentian Discernment and Apostolic Reflection by Rev. Hugh O’Donnell, CM

St. Vincent de Paul Dental Clinics Transform More Than Just Smiles

St. Vincent de Paul Dental Clinics Transform More Than Just Smiles 697 590 SVDP USA

Various St. Vincent de Paul Conferences across the U.S. are home to dental clinics providing quality dental services to those in need. And while those served have a big reason to smile, so do the volunteers and staff who make it all happen.

Here’s the story of one dental staff member at SVdP Phoenix’s Virginia G. Piper Dental Clinic. The video follows Betty, an SVdP dental assistant who was born in Mexico and came to the United States as a young child. She’s faced insurmountable obstacles in her life, but with help from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, she’s been able to accomplish a great deal — and is about to take another big step towards achieving her dreams.

To learn more about the SVdP dental clinic in Phoenix, visit their website.

Current SVdP Leaders Take Inspiration From the Past in Newly Published Articles

Current SVdP Leaders Take Inspiration From the Past in Newly Published Articles 1344 1792 SVDP USA

Two articles by current SVdP leaders look back at the Society’s roots, in the latest issue of De Paul University’s Vincentian Heritage Journal. National Director of Formation Tim Williams shares with us two new articles by Ray Sickinger, Ph.D., and Ralph Middlecamp.

François Lallier, Friend of Frédéric, Co-Founder of the Society

As a young law student at the Sorbonne, François Lallier noticed another student speaking out boldly in class, defending the Church against attacks on it by professors and fellow students. After class one day, he saw this young man outside, at the center of a group who were listening to him intently. Lallier took this opportunity to introduce himself to Frédéric Ozanam, and that, to paraphrase the closing line of Casablanca, was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Lallier, along with Ozanam, four other students, and Emmanuel Bailly, would together found the Society of St. Vincent de Paul just a few short years after this meeting, but their friendship would continue undimmed for the rest of Frédéric’s short life.

In an article published in the newest Vincentian Heritage Journal, Raymond Sickinger, Ph.D., National Council board member and Professor Emeritus of history at Providence College, tells the story of this founder using sources most Vincentians have not previously read, including Circular Letters Lallier wrote while serving as Secretary-General, his personal correspondence with his friend Ozanam, his speeches, and other documents.

Lawyer, judge, gentleman, and Vincentian, François Lallier’s story is an important part of our heritage.

Read François Lallier: One of the Pillars of the Building Started

Emmanuel Bailly, Mentor and Co-Founder of the Society

In the Ozanam Orientation, we learn that of the seven founders of the Society, there were six college students and one “older gentleman.” In 1833, Emmanuel Bailly was 39 years old.

National President Ralph Middlecamp, avid student of the Society’s heritage and history, shares in the latest issue of the Vincentian Heritage Journal the fascinating story of Père Bailly, whose offices hosted the first Conference.

Newspaper publisher, businessman, and college professor, Bailly was from a family with strong Vincentian roots, his father having been entrusted with some of Saint Vincent’s papers to safeguard during the French Revolution.

While his business ventures had varying degrees of success, his commitment to mentoring young men and defending the faith were unwavering. Bailly was truly a father figure to the young men who elected him as President of that first Conference, which earned him the nickname Père (father). He also served as Spiritual Advisor, and was discovered to have contributed generously to the secret collections at the early meetings.

It was Bailly’s deep knowledge of the Rule of the Congregation of the Mission that helped him, as co-author of the Society’s Rule in 1835, to guide its basic structure and outline.

Middlecamp’s article offers fascinating details of Bailly’s interesting life, family, and connections.

Read Emmanuel Bailly: The Advisor and Friend of Christian Youth

SVdP Madison Partners With Portillo’s Hot Dogs to Raise Money and Awareness

SVdP Madison Partners With Portillo’s Hot Dogs to Raise Money and Awareness 2560 1920 SVDP USA

Portillo’s Hot Dogs recently celebrated the opening of a second Madison, WI location, and invited the Madison Society of St. Vincent de Paul to be their charitable partner during two Sneak Peek days.

Sneak Peek guests received a free meal from Portillo’s, and in return, were encouraged to make a $5 donation to SVdP Madison. Local Conference members were there to process donations, as well as share stories of those served by local SVdP programming and services.

Through the event, the Conference connected with around 200 new donors. Portillo’s generously matched $5,000 of giving over the two days. In total, SVdP Madison raised $18,767, beating both their records for the single and double day totals! Congratulations to SVdP Madison. Thank you for all that you do to serve neighbors in need.

Contemplation: A Conference in Heaven

Contemplation: A Conference in Heaven 940 788 SVDP USA

The Society is united by our three Essential Elements of spirituality, service, and friendship. [Rule, Part III, Statute 1] Frédéric once remarked that perhaps friendship was “the reason that in Paris we wished to found our little Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and it is also for this reason perhaps that heaven has seen fit to bless it.” [142, to Curnier, 1837] Like the Communion of Saints, bound together in baptism and in Christ, our Vincentian friendship, bound by charity and friendship, remains unbroken by death.

The very first Rule explained that the Society’s unity “will be cited as a model of Christian friendship, of a friendship stronger than death, for we will often remember in our prayers to God the brothers who have been taken from us.” [Introduction, Rule, 1835] We continue to honor this tradition, praying at every Conference meeting for our departed Vincentian Brothers and Sisters.

Our primary purpose is to “journey together towards holiness… perfect union with Christ…” [Rule, Part 1, 2.2] so we have good reason to hope that our departed Vincentians continue to pray for us, as well!

Indeed, while trying to establish a new Conference in Siena shortly before his own death, Frédéric wrote to the pastor, telling him of the many Conferences that had been established around the world, adding also that “we have certainly one in Heaven, for more than a thousand of our Brothers have, during the twenty years of our existence, gone to the better life.” [Baunard, 394]

We should never forget that one of the corporal works of mercy, alongside feeding the hungry and giving alms to the poor, is to bury the dead. When our fellow Vincentians depart this earth, we should always offer comfort to their families, while also celebrating their entrance into “the better life.” Our Vincentian Celebrations book includes several ceremonies to help plan these occasions.

We serve in hope! Not merely the hope for material comforts, but the eternal hope that we may be united with Christ and with each other in heaven. And so, we pray with and for each other, including, always, the departed. As confident as Blessed Frédéric’s assurance of a Conference in heaven may have been, he asked his fellow Vincentians, in a will written on his 40th birthday, not to cease in their prayers for his own salvation, saying:

“Do not allow yourselves to be stopped by those who will say to you, he is in Heaven. Pray always for him who loves you dearly, for him who has greatly sinned. If I am assured of these prayers, I quit this earth with less fear. I hope firmly that we are not being separated, and that I may remain with you until you will come to me.” [Baunard, 386-7]

May we honor our founder with our own unceasing prayers for all our Vincentian brothers and sisters!

Contemplate

Do I pray regularly for departed Vincentians, and ask their prayers for me?

Recommended Reading

Book of the Sick

SVdP Dentist on Wheels Clinic Opens in Contra Costa County

SVdP Dentist on Wheels Clinic Opens in Contra Costa County 1093 658 SVDP USA

Offering free dental care for local residents without dental insurance, St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County (SVdP) has partnered with Dentists on Wheels (DOW) to open its Dentist on Wheels Pittsburg Free Dental Clinic. The free dental clinic will be able to treat most patients’ needs — from screenings, cleaning, and checkups, to fillings, crowns, extractions, and dentures. All dental equipment and furnishings have been donated to the 3-chair clinic, which will be staffed by volunteer dentists.

The Need for Dental Care Access

Many neighbors in need lack dental insurance, and access to dental care is normally out of reach for uninsured, low-income residents. Tooth pain and other dental issues can cause a massive drop in quality of life for those suffering.

Tooth extraction is an inexpensive means of addressing dental pain, but it can create many long-term issues that profoundly impact a patient’s quality of life. By providing accessible preventative care and restorative procedures, the free dental clinic will lessen the number of extractions happening in Contra Costa County and keep the county smiling.

For many years, SVdP of Contra Costa has partnered with La Clinica Dental and LifeLong Dental Clinic to provide free dental services to people in need. The program began when a trainee in SVdP’s Workforce Development Program found that he had a hard time securing employment because he was missing several teeth. By underwriting the cost of his dental care and replacement teeth, SVdP successfully helped him obtain a job and become self-sufficient.

With that, SVdP’s Dental Program was born, with SVdP underwriting the cost of treatment and referring patients to La Clinica and Lifelong Dental.

Dentists on Wheels

Dentists on Wheels was founded by Shab Farzaneh, who learned that many low-income people without dental insurance have teeth pulled when they experience pain or decay. Extractions have many negative impacts, including the loss of enjoyment of food, limited job opportunities, and even changing a person’s facial structure. She was determined to provide a better solution, and began to mobilize a team of volunteer dentists, including Dr. Neda Oromchiam, Retired Dentist and DOW Dental Director.

DOW partnered with SVdP because of the Society’s long history of serving the most vulnerable. The 3-chair clinic is located at the SVdP Family Resource Center in Pittsburg, CA. Additional resources at the SVdP Family Resource Center include a free dining room, free medical clinic, free food pantry, daytime homeless shelter, employment & training program, clothing & furniture and other services.

The clinic is also sponsored by The California Wellness Foundation, John Muir Health, Refera, Fremont Bank, Digital DOC, Optum, Q-Optics, Shoreview Dental, The Patterson Foundation, Dr. Amanda Backstrom, NSK Dental Instruments, XDR Radiology, as well as many dental specialists and private donors.

You can help by donating to the free dental clinic at www.dentistsonwheels.org or www.svdp-cc.org.

Contemplation: The Holy Joy of Your Heart

Contemplation: The Holy Joy of Your Heart 940 788 SVDP USA

In our dedication and zeal, we sometimes feel as if we cannot rest as long as there are neighbors in need of our help. As laudable as this sentiment may seem, in practice it serves neither ourselves or the neighbor if we do not pause for both mental and physical rest.

Writing to a missioner who had labored without rest for many weeks, St. Vincent urged him to slow down: “Have you somewhat moderated your excessive fervor? I beg you, in the name of Our Lord, to do so.” [CCD II:27] Of another priest, whom Vincent believed may have literally worked himself to death, he remarked, “In short, his zeal made him do more than he was able.” [CCD II:375]

Of course, St. Vincent was not afraid of hard work! After all, it was he who said we must “love God…with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows.” [CCD XI:32] Yet we also must be mindful that “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The harder we work ourselves without respite, the less able we will be to continue the work. And so, advising St. Louise not to feel guilty about her own exhaustion, Vincent once went so far as to tell her, “I am ordering you, moreover, to procure for yourself the holy joy of your heart by all the relaxation you can possibly take…” [CCD I:145]

There is always more work to be done, but there is only one of you. We prepare to follow God’s will by resting our hearts in His peace and love, filling ourselves to overflowing so that we may share that love with the neighbor. We must also reserve and recover our physical strength through rest, knowing that “There is no act of charity that … permits us to do more than we reasonably can.” [CCD II:68]

In a sense, pushing ourselves to do more than we reasonably can could be seen as an act of vanity; believing ourselves so indispensable that our efforts cannot be spared. But trusting in providence doesn’t mean only that the money or materials resources we need will be provided, it is trusting that God has called enough people to do His work, as well.

When you think about it, when we insist on carrying too much of the load ourselves, we can even rob others of the opportunity to serve more fully!

Our Rule reminds us that work in our Conferences comes “only after fulfilling the family and professional duties.” [Rule, Part I, 2.6] Certainly among those personal duties is care for our own well-being, including rest and relaxation.

Caring for ourselves is not just for ourselves. As Vincent once reminded Louise, “Increase your strength; you need it, or, in any case, the public does.” [CCD I:392]

Contemplate

How can I better share God’s love by sharing God’s work?

Recommended Reading

Mystic of Charity

SVdP USA Launches “Serving in Hope” Newsletter

SVdP USA Launches “Serving in Hope” Newsletter 2550 1782 SVDP USA

The National Council of the U.S., Society of St. Vincent de Paul is pleased to share the inaugural issue of Serving in Hope, a new quarterly newsletter dedicated to sharing inspiring stories of the ways the Society is making a difference in the lives of those we serve. Whether you’re a donor, friend, or Vincentian, you further the charitable mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul with your prayers and generosity.

Click here to read the first issue and learn about just some of the ways that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is serving in hope in communities across the country.

2021 Vincentian Pilgrimage: In the Footsteps of Our Founders and Patrons

2021 Vincentian Pilgrimage: In the Footsteps of Our Founders and Patrons 2560 1920 SVDP USA

Speaking of pilgrimages, Pope Benedict XVI once said:

“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.”

For members of the Society, it is especially in Paris that God’s “grace has shown with particular splendor” on our patrons and founders. Twenty-three Vincentian Pilgrims recently returned from Paris, where together, they walked in the footsteps of those holy people. National Director of Formation Tim Williams generously shared these photos and captions with us, so that we can all share a part of the pilgrims’ journey.

History and Artifacts

The offices of the Council General International (CGI) of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul include a museum that is home to important historical artifacts, many of them donated by the family of Blessed Frédéric. Seen here are Ozanam’s academic robes, which he would have worn while teaching at the Sorbonne, and a portrait painted by Frédéric’s brother-in-law, Charles Soulacroix. This portrait was the basis for the Ozanam Mosaic installed at the National Basilica in 2020.

The CGI staff was very warm and welcoming. Pictured is Gonzague de Raulin, special advisor to the President General, showing us the museum.

Bust of Frederic Ozanam

 

 

 

 

 

During his short 40 years on this earth, Frédéric managed to travel quite extensively; including trips to Italy, Spain, Germany, England, and all around France, often visiting existing Conferences, and working to begin new ones, as he continued to do in Italy right up until weeks before his death. It was in this trunk that he packed for all of those journeys.

In the former motherhouse of the Congregation of the Mission, the pilgrims celebrated Mass in the Chapelle Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, in the presence of Vincent’s body. Also in this building is a small museum containing is a number of artifacts from Saints Vincent, Louise, and Catherine Labouré. Our guide in the museum was Father Andrés Motto, CM, who serves as spiritual advisor to the Council General International (CGI,) and pilgrim Bob Loew acted as his translator for us.

Churches and Chapels

At the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, St. Catherine Labouré had her visions of Mary and the Miraculous Medal in 1830. When St. Vincent’s remains were translated to Paris in April 1830, St. Catherine reported having a vision of his heart on three successive nights in the convent chapel, which she took to mean that the Vincentian communities would prosper. His heart is in the Miraculous Medal Chapel today. The pilgrims celebrated Mass here and had time for individual prayer and meditation in the chapel. Outside the chapel, Sr. Paule Freeburg, DC, shares stories of the motherhouse, St. Louise, and St Catherine.

The inside of Saint-Joseph-des-Carmes Church. It is beneath this church where Bl. Frédéric is buried, and the pilgrims celebrated Mass in the crypt.

In the courtyard outside, National President Ralph Middlecamp shares some of the history.

In the middle of the 17th century, the Saint-Laurent was the parish of St. Vincent and of St. Louise. Years later, during the sack of Saint-Lazare (home of the Congregation of the Mission) in the French Revolution, several revolutionaries who had found a reliquary of St. Vincent de Paul there brought it reverently to Saint-Laurent for safekeeping — then returned to their looting and pillaging. 

 

Famous for its stained glass, Sainte-Chappelle was originally built as a chapel for Louis IX and was consecrated in 1248.

The famous Sacré-Coeur Basilica sits on the highest point in Paris, Montmartre. It was built in no small part due to the work of the leaders of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, who promoted the “national vow” to build this church in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War.

First built in 1758, the Panthéon is and was a very distinctive landmark in Paris. Through France’s many revolutions, it has served alternately a Catholic Church or a civic monument, which it is today. 

 

Across from the Panthéon stands the Church of St. Étienne du Mont. While attending the nearby Sorbonne School of Law, this was Blessed Frédéric’s parish, and it was also home to the first Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Interior of the Church of St Étienne du Mont.

In nearly every church, there is at least one painting or statue of St. Vincent de Paul, who is beloved throughout France. Here, pilgrim Silvia Vargas lights a candle in the Church of Saint-Sulpice, which was the Ozanam family parish. Frédéric’s funeral was here, and his daughter Maire would later marry in this church.

All Around Paris

Rue Mouffetard remains the same narrow street that it was in Frédéric and Rosalie’s day. Once a place of great poverty, it is today lined with shops and cafes, and filled with locals and tourists. The pilgrims walked with Blessed Rosalie’s words in our hearts: “Never have a I prayed so well as in the streets.”

Fifty thousand Parisians followed Blessed Rosalie Rendu’s funeral procession from St. Médard Church to this cemetery in 1856. To this day, fresh flowers are always placed upon her grave, and our pilgrims added a bouquet and prayed together on their visit. Known as “The Good Mother of All,” the inscription on her monument reads: “To Sister Rosalie from her friends, both rich and poor.”

The garden at the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity.

The French government installed a small marker on the side of the building where the first Conference meeting took place on April 23, 1833. 

Currently a fire station, this building was the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity when Blessed Rosalie arrived in Paris.

This sign on the wall in the crypt reads (in Latin): “A.F. Ozanam, unselfish herald of truth and love. He lived 40 years, 4 months, and 16 days. Dedicated by Amélie to her husband with whom she lived for twelve years and by Marie to her father. Live in God and pray for our salvation.”

Parisian Views

A view of Paris from the steps of Sacré-Coeur.

09-30-21 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

09-30-21 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 856 642 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

I have just returned from the Heritage Pilgrimage to Paris, which was originally scheduled for last year as part of our 175th anniversary celebrations. In spite of some challenges, 23 Vincentians from all over the United States were able to walk together in the footsteps of our founders and patrons.

On our pilgrimage, we celebrated Mass at the tombs of Frédéric Ozanam, St. Vincent de Paul, and St. Louise de Marillac. Our group prayed at and put flowers on the grave of Sister Rosalie Rendu. We visited the churches where they worshiped, walked the streets they walked, saw where they lived, and visited several small museums containing possessions of these holy people.

A pilgrimage is about more than visiting places. One source defines a pilgrimage as “a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life.”

At our final dinner we all concluded that we are returning to our daily life enriched by the experience. An observation was made that these were ordinary people who struggled with life, just like we all do. But being attentive to God, what they did made the world a better place. Someone else shared that the reason we know about Vincent and Frédéric is that they inspired a long line of people who continued to dedicate themselves to carry on what they initiated.

You and I are in that chain of servants to the poor. We must provide leadership to our Conferences and Councils, and invite new members so that these efforts continue to witness to the love of God. Most Vincentians will not go on pilgrimage to Paris, but we all strive to walk in the footsteps of our founders and patrons by continuing the network of friends they inspired, a network which visits the poor in Christ’s name, providing them with material needs and friendship. Those we serve may never know who St. Vincent de Paul or Frédéric Ozanam are, but they know us.

After our Mass in Ozanam’s tomb, we prayed a prayer written by his wife Amelie in that same crypt. Aside from some changed gender roles referenced, it seemed she wrote the prayer specifically for us. The prayer has a timeless and universal message that gave me a deep appreciation of spirituality of the woman who was loved dearly by Frédéric Ozanam.

She prayed, “Dear Lord Jesus who came down from the heavens to this underground vault, to this humble altar, residing now in our hearts, hear our prayer, protect all that we hold most dear on this Earth and, at this time when the future of our country is in the balance, give strength and good judgment to those who wish for Good. Choose fair and measured men to govern us, free of the passions that can blind us, but full of the passion for justice. Have pity, oh Lord, on those who suffer. Relieve their pain and bring back to us that great Christian whom you wished to purify and who may serve you once again.

“Watch over our families, Lord, give our sons the desire to work, give them devotion, the very best guardian of their virtue. Make men of them, so that they may serve their country with honor and serve you with faith. Give our daughters the strength to raise their children well and to carry out their duties graciously. Bestow good health upon us and may none of the people close to our hearts abandon the faith of the Church.

“Oh you martyrs, illustrious prelates, virgin saints, and you my darling one, whose bodies are laid to rest together in this place, pray, pray for us that our wishes be granted, and while we wait for the day when we shall be reunited, fill our souls with strength, peace and love.”

It is a fitting prayer for all Vincentian pilgrims on our journey toward holiness.

Serviens in spe,

Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

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