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Michelle Boyer

A Black History Month Reflection

A Black History Month Reflection 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Written by: Wayne Bugg and Connie Steward, SVdP African American Task Force Co-Chairs

The 2023 theme for Black History Month is “Black Resistance.”  What does that mean to you? Is it good or bad? We initially concluded that resistance was not a good thing. We perceived it as negative energy. But, after further thought and reflection, we understand this theme is an acknowledgement that over the years many Black Americans have led the charge to resist the evils of racism, calling for a more just society. Therefore, “Black Resistance” is a good thing, and these individuals should be celebrated.

To resist something is to oppose it or stand firm against it. Just as Vincentians oppose or stand firm against poverty, we should all oppose racism. It is appropriate to celebrate “Black Resistance” during Black History Month because it is a specific time set aside to reflect, relate and release – the three R’s.

As you REFLECT on your thoughts about “Black Resistance” – do you reinforce racism or do you resist racism. Hopefully we can all join hands and resist racism.

How do you RELATE to members of the opposite race. Are you comfortable conversing? Are you honest and transparent? Are you respectful? Strong, genuine relationships make for a more just and equitable society.

RELEASE or let go of racist thoughts or actions. They are toxic and will wear you down.

One might ask – what does this have to do with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul? We are an organization committed to “resisting” the many barriers that keep our vulnerable brothers and sisters in poverty. As we journey together and bring our spirituality and friendship to those we serve, it is imperative that we Reflect, Relate and Release.

02-02-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leader

02-02-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leader 900 900 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Over the past few years, COVID-19 has meant many organizations’ well-intended plans and initiatives were put on-hold or received little attention. For our organization, one such set of delayed efforts were our plans to improve the policies and practices needed for safeguarding vulnerable persons. At the National Council meeting in Houston in August 2021, your delegates approved Resolution 189 – National Safeguarding Policy for all Member Councils. The resolution asks all Councils to create a safeguarding policy that would follow the guidelines provided and also address their local circumstances, paying attention to local laws and the policies of their diocese.

This is not a popular topic to bring up. Creating and implementing a safeguarding policy is complicated, can cost money and brings a variety of responses from our membership. My own Conference had a member resign when we put a safeguarding requirement in place many years ago. That departing member told us, “So, some priests have been abusing children, and now I have to take a class and have a background check.” Many members had similar reactions to our national policy at first, but I hope we have moved past this attitude.

For the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, not much of our work is directly with children, but all of our neighbors in need should be considered as vulnerable persons. I am sorry to say that we have had credible reports of incidents of that vulnerability being exploited, which reinforces my belief that we need to keep working on this.

The safeguarding resolution we approved details a number of reasons why it is important to have an appropriate policy and effective training. Certainly, we want to prevent abuse and protect those we serve, but having a plan for what to do if something is reported or suspected is an equally compelling reason for having our members well-trained. There are many states in which our home visitors and volunteers are even considered “mandatory reporters.” By law, they are required to report observed incidents of abuse. Do you know whether that includes you? Do you know what constitutes a reportable incident or to whom you must report it? Does this include reporting a neighbor in need whom you have visited? Are you clear about the process you should take if one of our members violates our safeguarding standards?

At the January Board of Directors meeting, we discussed the implementation of Resolution 189 at length, and it is clear to your National Council leadership that this is a complicated matter. Many Councils already have policies and training in place. Some of them were required to do so by their dioceses many years ago. Many others have not even started – finding the effort too complex or maybe too costly, or the resistance from members too significant.

As we move forward, our National Council is looking for ways to support your safeguarding efforts and share best practices. Please support your local leaders as they create and implement your local safeguarding policy. Your Council leadership already has plenty on its plate, and I would encourage some of you to step forward to help lead the effort. Forming a local task force of members who see the importance of this process and are willing to spend time investigating options will help us make the progress needed.

Doing nothing is not an acceptable option. So far, fortunately, we have avoided major lawsuits and harm to our reputation. The time to act is before something happens. Our Church and many other organizations have suffered incredible harm because they were not proactive. From the beginning, our founders realized that our home visits should always be done in pairs. That early practice of safeguarding is still a key element of our protecting vulnerable neighbors in need. Unfortunately, it is not enough in today’s environment.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

Contemplation — Spiritual and Religious

Contemplation — Spiritual and Religious 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Perhaps you have friends who say “I am spiritual, but not religious.” For Vincentians, our spirituality is not only religious, it is our very special and specific way of living our Catholic faith.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that there are many and varied spiritualities that have been developed throughout history, and that “the personal charism of some witnesses to God’s love for men has been handed on… so that their followers may have a share in this spirit.” [CCC, 2684] For us, that “refraction of the one pure light of the Holy Spirit” is the charism of St. Vincent de Paul.

Unlike many well-known saints, Vincent never wrote a treatise about his spirituality; there is no Vincentian Summa Theologica, Introduction to the Devout Life, or Spiritual Exercises for us to study. We can learn a great deal by reading the words he spoke in conferences and letters, but more importantly, we learn through his example, his actions, passed down to us through more than 400 years of Vincentian Family tradition, and especially through our primary founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam.

It seems only right that our spirituality is learned first through action. After all, as Vincent once said, we must “love God…with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows”. [CCD XI:32] Two hundred years later, Frédéric would found the Society by declaring “Let us go to the poor!” [Baunard, 65]

Ours a spirituality of action, of doing, of serving. At the same time, we pray “both at the individual and community level” with our own lives “characterized by prayer, meditation on the Holy Scriptures and other inspirational texts and devotion to the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary”. [Rule, Part I, 2.2] Our prayers always include reflection on our service, reminding us, as Frédéric put it, that “visiting the poor should be the means and not the end of our association.” [Letter 182, to Lallier, 1838]

We trust in Divine Providence, in the love and the abundance of God. We do not worry about running out of resources – everything that is given to us belongs to the poor already, and “members should never adopt the attitude that the money is theirs, or that the recipients have to prove that they deserve it”. [Manual, 23] We trust, with Frédéric, that to do works of charity, “it is never necessary to worry about financial resources, they always come.” [Letter 121, to his mother, 1836]

Finally, and most importantly, we see, we serve, and we love Jesus Christ in the person of the neighbor whom we serve. As St Vincent taught, “you go into poor homes, but you find God there.” [CCD IX:199] As Frédéric taught, the poor “are for us the sacred images of that God whom we do not see, and not knowing how to love Him otherwise shall we not love Him in [their] persons?” [Letter 137, to Janmot, 1836]

Through these actions, we grow closer to Christ. This is our spirituality. This is our religion.

Contemplate

How often do I share my Vincentian spirituality with other Catholics?

Recommended Reading

The Manual (especially 3.2, Vincentian Spirituality)

SVdP News Roundup: January 21 – January 27

SVdP News Roundup: January 21 – January 27 1080 1080 SVDP USA

With 100,000 Vincentians across the United States and nearly 800,000 around the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:

INTERNATIONAL

NATIONAL

A Week in Prayers January 23 — January 27

A Week in Prayers January 23 — January 27 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Monday, January 23

Heavenly Father,
Let Your light shine upon me.
Help me to bear Your light
To share Your light
With all those in darkness.
Amen

Tuesday, January 24

Jesus, Savior and Lord,
You suffered in my name,
You gave Your life for mine.
I offer You this day
And the next one
And all the days I have
Not in payment, but in gratitude;
Not with grumbling, but with joy;
Not for penance, but for love.
Amen

Wednesday, January 25

Lord Jesus, in my blindness,
Remove the scales from my eyes.
In Your power and glory, Lord, lead me
With all the light of the skies.
Through new eyes I will see You beside me,
Or ahead, by the light from above,
The one that is suffering, forgotten, alone,
The one I will serve in Your love.
Amen

Thursday, January 26

Lord, in Your mercy,
Look not on those times
I served myself first,
Or trusted my prudence
Above Your Providence.
Make me Your instrument.
Not my will but Yours.
Not my love but Yours.
Not my life but Yours.
Amen

Friday, January 27

Lord, may Your Kingdom,
Like a mustard seed,
Be planted in my heart
To grow within me.
Fed by faith and bearing love,
To be planted again
In all who seek You.
Amen

Daily Prayers are written by Tim Williams, National Vincentian Formation Director.

The Call of Catholic Social Teaching: A Reflection on Homelessness

The Call of Catholic Social Teaching: A Reflection on Homelessness 940 788 SVDP USA

Written by: Fr. Patrick McDevitt, C.M., Ph. D., Provincial Superior, Congregation of the Mission, Western Province

I was delighted to be asked to submit this reflection on homelessness through the prism of Catholic Social Teaching.  After some initial thinking on the topic, I was overwhelmed by both the immensity of the body of literature called, “Catholic Social Teaching”.  Furthermore, I was personally challenged on the profound reality Catholic Social Teaching calls us to change, to care, to sacrifice, and love our brothers and sisters who live in poverty.

Catholic Social Teaching is rooted in the biblical tradition of “preferential option for the poor”.  According to the commands of God, the care for the poor is the highest priority.  It is a moral imperative for Christians to love and care for the poor because God is the poor and the poor are God (Matthew 25). This great summons of justice is found in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and evident in centuries of Catholic Tradition and articulated in the Magisterium Teaching of the Catholic Church. The Christian mandate is to be both charitable and to pursue justice.  It is not enough for Christians to espouse ideals, principles, and credo. An authentic and integrated Christian life must include charity, service, advocacy, and justice.  “To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren [sic]” (Cano. 1397).

The depth of love for our sisters and brothers in poverty need to be accompanied by a commitment to advocacy (a commitment to stand with and to work in the best interest of the poor) for systemic change in policies that deny or limit access to needed resources for the poor.  Catholic Social Teaching shows that we must do more than just “help out” – “give some of our time” – “be nice” – and to do for the poor in order to “feel good about ourselves”.  The Christian call is to advocate for real systemic change to directly alleviate and liberate our brothers and sisters from the suffering and shackles of poverty.  The disease of poverty kills the body and spirit in both those directly affected by the rage of poverty and it deeply affects all of society.

Homelessness is just one of the many symptoms of the complex nature of poverty in our society.  From a clinical perspective, one cannot just address the symptom of a problem; one must look at the etiology deeply underlying the symptoms.  It is only when one “drills down” deep beneath the surface of a problem that real healing and systemic change are possible.

Homelessness perpetuates the victimization and traumatization of highly vulnerable people.  The psychiatric community is only beginning to learn how devastating trauma disables and immobilizes individuals.  Trauma can only be treated within a safe and secure place.  The reality of homelessness continues to expose people to the harsh elements of violence, exploitation, prejudice, loneliness, and fear.

Catholic Social Teaching emphatically states that everyone has the inalienable rights of dignity, community, and care.  Without these inalienable rights, people are devoid of what truly constitutes their basic humanity.

The concept of “Home” is more than just a structure or a shelter.  A home is meant to be a place of safety, security, and grounding for our bodies and souls.  It is only in this type of environment that our humanity can really thrive and grow. Furthermore, it is in this “sacred” place of home that humans discover and rediscover the goodness and divine nature of humanity.  Home is to be a “holy” place for healing and the “safe place” where vulnerability and love can be shared.  The sacred externals of home leads us to the holy and sacred places of our hearts and souls.  “Home is where the Heart is” (Song by Elvis Presley).

Catholic Social Teaching illustrates the communal responsibilities we have to care and advocate for the poor in their material needs, humanitarian needs, and spiritual needs.  The Catholic call is to “look beyond” the bread you eat; to “look beyond” the cup you drink” (hymn by Darryl Ducote, 1969), and to look deeper into life and the social challenges facing society.  In looking beyond and looking deeper, we will find Christ in the poor.  The late British author, Graham Greene reminds us that, “most things disappoint till you look deeper”.

The wealth of wisdom in Catholic Social Teaching serves as a guide to address the global epidemic of homelessness with authentic values and principles.  This treasured wisdom provide us with the constant reminder of our duties and responsibilities to respond with the armor of charity and justice for God’s homeless people.  Finally, Catholic Social Teaching inspires hope that we can and we will bring an end to this cruel reality of homelessness in our lifetime.  We are reassure of this hope by the prophet words of Joshua, “Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed” (Joshua 23:14).

Rendu Orientation: The Spirituality of the Home Visit

Rendu Orientation: The Spirituality of the Home Visit 2560 1920 SVDP USA

The SVdP Seattle/King County Council hosted its Rendu Orientation on January 2t at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Tukwila, WA. There were 28 participants representing 15 parishes and Conferences from across King County.

The orientation, facilitated by SVdP Seattle Executive Director (ED), Mirya Munoz- Roach and former ED and senior advisor Ned Delmore, complements and completes the basic orientation of new members following the Ozanam Orientation. New Vincentians felt inspired and seasoned Vincentians felt a sense of renewal in their Vincentian vocation. The Rendu Orientation focuses on the Spirituality of the Home Visit and is inspired by our founders including Fredric Ozanam and his mentor, Daughter of Charity, Blessed Rosalie Rendu.

Saturday marked the second in-person training this year in King County. Many Vincentians felt revitalized and ready to go back to conducting Home Visits, which is the cornerstone to our Vincentian ministry. The session, which is a part of SVdP Formation Basic Program, explores the significance of seeing our ministry as a vocation and of exercising love of neighbor. This is done by slowing down and dedicating time, putting into practice the act of loving through listening.

The session tackled the importance of reflective listening to hear the deeper needs of our neighbors and of each other in the Conference meeting. The orientation also offered significant points on “twinning” as a necessary spiritual practice that encourages Vincentians to act as One Society, living, sharing, and growing Spirituality together in service to our most vulnerable neighbors and to each other as Conference members.

1-26-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

1-26-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 900 900 SVDP USA

My Dear Vincentian Friends:

Thank you for the trust and faith you placed in me by electing me your next National Council President. I am humbled and honored (and honestly, maybe just a little bit scared) by this great honor. I know that I have big shoes to fill following my good friend, Ralph Middlecamp, as well as all the National Presidents that have served the National Council since its founding in 1845. I pledge to you that I will do my best to serve you and our Society to the best of my ability.

I ran for President because I wanted to help strengthen, grow, and prepare the Society for the future so that all who seek a journey of faith and service can find fulfillment in our Vincentian Family. I need your help to accomplish that. As I begin the transition into my new role, I would like to hear from you. What do you think are the most important and pressing issues we face as we move forward? What are the things we should be doing that we are not, doing differently than we are doing now, or not doing at all? What would help you in your growth in holiness and faith?

In over 25 years of service to the Society at all levels I have met many people. But I haven’t met everyone, and I don’t know everyone’s talents, skills, and desires. So, I’d also like to know how you’d like to help. Let me know if you’d be interested in becoming involved in the Society in a broader or larger role. We need people to serve on committees and task forces, to help with formation and spirituality, to support new efforts in technology and communications, and we need to identity new and emerging leaders to take us into the future.

Blessed Frederic told  us: “Charity must never look to the past, but always to the future, because the number of its past works is still very small and the present and future miseries that it must alleviate are infinite.” We are that future; YOU are that future. So, to put it simply, we need YOU. Become engaged and get involved. This is your Society, and it will be what you help make it. Together we can grow and improve, and continue to be that ‘Network of Charity’ that Frederic Ozanam dreamed of.

Please drop me a note to jberry@svdpusa.org and let me know your thoughts.

I look forward to working with you all and visiting with you over the next six years. I hope to be ‘out and about’ as much as possible so I can hear from you and see the incredible work that I know is being done across the country.

Peace and God bless,

John

Contemplation — To Boldly Go

Contemplation — To Boldly Go 1080 1080 SVDP USA

The bold, five-year mission of the starship Enterprise was “to seek out new life and new civilizations” on “strange new worlds.” Vincentians, though constrained to our same old world, and not limited to a mere five years, are similarly called “to seek out and find those in need and the forgotten” in our mission of charity. [Rule, Part I, 1.5]

Our hands are full, it may seem, just answering the calls for help that arrive unannounced; our treasuries may strain to meet the needs presented to us. So why would we go around trying to find more? After all, don’t our neighbors find us, just as we receive donations, through God’s providence? Of course! But recall that trust in Providence is not a mandate to be merely passive. As Blessed Frédéric once wrote, “Providence does not need us for the execution of its merciful designs, but we, we need it and it promises us its assistance only on the condition of our efforts.” [Letter 135, to Bailly, 1836]

What greater or more important effort could we offer but to seek out those in need – especially the forgotten? After all, as both Moses and Jesus remind us, the land will never lack for needy persons and the poor will always be with us. The most needy may be forgotten by their neighbors and by society, but they are not forgotten by God, their Creator. It is exactly that message, that hope, that we are called to share on our home visits.

It is our respect for the dignity of every person that should motivate us to seek them, to find them, and to share God’s love in the form of bread, in the form of help, and most importantly in the form of our presence and love. We can never let the fear of a depleted treasury stop us from seeking out those most in need, because we know that “giving love, talents and time is more important than giving money.” [Rule, Part I, 3.14]

God does provide. He provides generously and lovingly. It is the will of God that our neighbors in need call us, and the will of God that enables us to help them. But as St. Louise reminds us, we must “never take the attitude of merely getting the task done.” [SWLM, A.85] We are not the Society of Bill Payments, we are the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, following the example of our Patron, as he in turn imitated Christ.

We are called to see the face of Christ. He is out there; not on a strange new world, but perhaps on a park bench, perhaps in a darkened apartment, perhaps in a hospital or prison. The world may have forgotten Him, but we hear His cry, and seek Him, unafraid.

Contemplate

Where can I go to find Christ, and how can I serve Him best?

Recommended Reading

Faces of Holiness

A Week in Prayers January 16 – January 20

A Week in Prayers January 16 – January 20 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Monday, January 16

My Lord and my God
My light and my hope
My rest and my strength
I give You my heart
I give You my life
I give You this day
Amen

Tuesday, January 17

Lord Jesus, strength of my arms,
I will share the neighbor’s burden
In Your name and for Your sake,
With no motive but God’s love,
With my gifts from You alone,
Filled with hope that I can share.
Amen

Wednesday, January 18

Lord, I lift my heart to you.
Who I am today is for You,
What I do today is for You,
When my day begins it’s for You,
Where I go today is for You,
Why I live today is for You.
Amen

Thursday, January 19

Lord, I bring my needs to you.
Protect me from harm,
Bless my efforts and my work,
Help me to be better,
In big things and small things,
For nothing is too small
For Your blessing
Or my prayer.
Amen

Friday, January 20

Lord, in serving the neighbor
I seek to serve You
With faith that reflects
Your abiding faithfulness,
In hope that is shared
With all who are hopeless,
For love of the neighbor,
In Your love alone.
Amen

Daily Prayers are written by Tim Williams, National Vincentian Formation Director.

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