History

06-10-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders

06-10-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders 600 685 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

I am guessing many of you are in Conferences and Councils that are trying to decide when and how we can get back to normal. Please don’t expect me or the National Council to have the answer for what you should do. But I do encourage you to have thoughtful conversations that consider the hopes and concerns of Vincentians and those we serve.

I am vaccinated and am starting to travel and socialize, as are most Americans – and that is great! There are, however, some who either cannot be vaccinated or choose not to be. There are still others for whom the vaccinations may not be effective. How does this affect the way we move forward?

There are many policy questions to consider. When do we start in-person Conference and Council meetings? Do we still wear masks and socially distance at these meetings? When can we start in-person Home Visits? Must our home visitors be vaccinated? Do we wear masks in people’s homes, and do we ask those we visit to wear masks? May we ask people if they have been vaccinated? May we require our employees to be vaccinated, and when can they stop wearing masks?

There are very few pandemic-related governmental prohibitions at this point. So the decisions are yours to make, depending on the circumstances in your community and the risk factors that pertain to your members and those you serve. That will still vary greatly across our nation and even within your community.

As you have discussions about these matters, I urge you to check your facts. There are many misconceptions about privacy laws and HIPAA rules. I am not a lawyer, but if you simply do a web search for “can you ask if someone is vaccinated?” or “can I require employees to be vaccinated?” you will be directed to a lot of good information. You will likely find that there are fewer restrictions than you might have expected, but there are some cautions to observe.  If you are setting policy for employees, you will probably want to check what you find on the web with your attorney.

Recognizing that information and understanding about the vaccines have varied greatly, dozens of Catholic organizations have formed the Catholic Cares Coalition. The coalition’s aim is to promote the common good and amplify the teachings of Pope Francis and the U.S. Catholic Bishops on accepting vaccination as it becomes available, as well as on promoting equitable vaccine distribution. Our Society’s U.S. Council is not part of this group at this point, but the coalition’s website at www.catholiccares.com  provides good information that may be useful to share.

Personal contact is such an important element of who we are as Vincentians. I am eager for our return to being present to one another and to those we serve, but we also want to continue to protect the health of everyone. Just today, I learned that two of my friends on the Board of Directors of our Society’s International Council are in the hospital with serious cases of COVID-19. I am praying for their recovery. This reminds me that the vaccines have not been readily available to much of the world — and that this pandemic is not over.

As you decide what course to take, I suggest that you do not need to make all the changes at once. You can take a few steps and see how it goes. You can revisit the topic a little later and make more operational changes as they seem sensible. Most importantly, be kind and listen. There may be fellow Vincentians who have well-founded fears about unmasking and gathering. They may have vulnerable family members or personal health issues of which you are unaware. So please assume good intentions, and follow our principle of decision-making by consensus. As we carefully move forward, we need to be sure to care for our network of friends.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

Contemplation – The Joy of Angels

Contemplation – The Joy of Angels 940 788 SVDP USA

To trust in Providence and to do God’s will are two sides of the same coin. After all, without trust in His Providence, doing His will would be merely a chore that would quickly become burdensome. Instead, it should be for us a source of joy!

Our Rule tells us that our Conference meetings are held in a spirit of “Christian joy.” [Rule, Part I, 3.4] How quickly that spirit of joy went missing in the early days of the Society, Blessed Frédéric recounted to his friend Léonce Curnier, when the Conference began “fulfilling [its] duties from habit,” and was “stricken with a general discouragement.” [Letter 90, 1835]

How could it be otherwise if we merely deliver bread and pay bills; if we let our works become … work?

Like our Patron, we seek to “love God with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows,” [CCD XI:32]  That sounds an awful lot like work, but it is a labor, quite explicitly, of love! Knowing this, we soon see that however challenging it may be at times, “those very things that we thought would cause us pain, on the contrary give us joy.” [CCD X:50]

Charity itself is not work, but love – the love of God. That is why, as St. Vincent teaches, “God does not consider the outcome of the good work undertaken but the charity that accompanied it.” [CCD I:205] The outcome is never up to us, but when we seek to do His will, we can trust the outcome to His providence.

And so, through prayer, discernment, and reflection, individually and in our Conferences, we seek to know God’s will. As Vincentians, our ultimate goal is for God’s will to become our own, so that “it will be no longer [we] who love, but Christ who loves through [us]” [Rule, Part I, 2.1]

Benet of Canfield, a great influence on St Vincent, taught that God’s will is “all the whole spiritual life.” That is why, for Vincent, “the goodness of God, the Will of God, the pleasure of God, and the joy of God” were of one piece. [CCD X:86]

To do God’s will is not to labor in vain, but to serve in hope, and to rejoice in hope!

At the beginning of every Conference meeting, we say the Lord’s Prayer, asking that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. “Not as it is in Hell, where it is done of necessity,” Bl. Frédéric once explained, “nor among men, where it is often done with murmuring, but as it is in Heaven, with the love and the joy of angels.” [Baunard, 343]

Contemplate

When I feel that I am doing His will, do I open my heart to joy?

Recommended Reading

Instead of reading, watch this particularly joyful rendition of Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth.

05-27-2021 News Roundup

05-27-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 SVDP USA

Through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vincentians across the United States and around the world are finding spiritual growth by providing person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:

INTERNATIONAL:

AUSTRALIA: Marathon Health’s Megan Callinan, Justine Summers, Ron Charlton doing Vinnies CEO Sleepout
IRELAND: Pandemic has imposed penury on many Irish people – now they need fellow citizens to dig deep
UNITED KINGDOM: SVP Launches Special Appeal As It Predicts A Wave Of Calls For Help
UNITED KINGDOM: St Vincent’s need support for increasing employment project

NATIONAL

DALLAS, TX: Dallas’ St. Vincent de Paul Pharmacy expands its reach to even more people in need
EUGENE, OR: St. Vincent de Paul launches new McDonald Community Vision Fund
EXETER, NH: ‘She gives it her all’: Exeter woman, 80, dedicates retirement to helping others
LACONIA, MI: A bounty without enough takers
PASCO COUNTY, FL: Ozanam Village brings more affordable housing to Pasco County

Help us share the good news of the good work being done in your local Conference or Council! Email us at info@svdpusa.org with the subject line Good News.

05-27-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-27-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1920 2560 SVDP USA

In June 2008, I attended the 2008 Western Region Meeting in Boise, Idaho.  I was not alone.  There were 225 other Vincentians along with me. During the time I spent there, I met with many Vincentians and discussed a wide variety of topics.  I also put on a workshop and facilitated two open forums where anything and everything could be discussed.  One theme came up over and over again in those discussions.  This is also a theme which is continually asked today as well.  How do you get the Conferences and the members to adhere to or comply with the Rule?

This is a tough question. And it requires a tough answer. People, in general, have mixed feelings when it comes to rules and regulations. They usually will admit to the value of them. They usually will admit to the need for them. And they normally agree that compliance is necessary; that is, until they want to do something that does not really correspond to the rules. Then, it becomes harsh and too restrictive. They did not join the Society to follow the rules. They joined the Society to do some good and do not want to be bogged down with meaningless do’s and don’ts. We hear this stuff all the time!

I can go into a long, drawn out dissertation on why rules and regulations are important; but that will get us nowhere. I can take a military point of view and say that, if one soldier steps out of line, the war will be lost. Nobody is going to buy that. I can talk about unity of thought and action; but that cup only holds a limited amount of water.

It truly boils down to one thing. Ask yourself one question: Am I a Vincentian? To be a Vincentian, you have to make a commitment. Here is where the rub comes in.  Commitment! Being a Vincentian calls for a number of things to be accepted and come into play.

Being a Vincentian means accepting who we are, what we are about, what we do, and how we do it. Being a Vincentian means more than helping people in need: it means growing in holiness, striving to grow closer to God; it means growing closer to our fellow Vincentians; it means serving God through serving those in need; it means a blend of all of the above.

A number of years ago, when searching for the answer to a question, I was referred to John Simmons, former National President of the Society, the guru.  If you wanted to know anything about the Society, he was the man to go to. John said that, if you call yourself a Vincentian, you want to meet as often as possible with your fellow Vincentians, you want to learn about the Society, you want to understand what this is all about, and you want to help it grow. It is that simple.

If I want to do my own thing, follow my own rules or no rules at all, I can start my own special work or organization. Then, all I have to do is get other people who want to join me to follow my rules.

I am a Vincentian. I am committed to who we are, what we do, and the way we do it. Complying with the Rule not only makes sense, it is something I want to do.

Mike Syslo
Chair, National Governance Committee

 

Contemplation: A Voice That Speaks To Our Hearts

Contemplation: A Voice That Speaks To Our Hearts 940 788 SVDP USA

On his way to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus, feared Roman tormentor of the early Christians, was struck from his horse, temporarily blinded by a great bolt of lightning, and commanded by Christ Himself to cease his persecution. Soon after, he began to preach God’s word as Paul the Apostle.

For most of us, our moments of conversion are not so obvious. Instead, they require senses that are both open and willing to perceive a light, silent sound, a tiny whispering voice, a voice that speaks only to our hearts.

God speaks often enough to our heart,” St. Vincent assures us, “it’s up to us to be attentive to His voice…” [CCD X:128] It’s easy for a quiet voice to be lost in the moment; to be drowned out by our daily stresses. It’s easy to let those stresses harden our hearts.

As Vincentians, we are called to see Christ’s face in those we serve. We pray and prepare to see Him before every home visit. Shouldn’t we also seek to hear His voice?

The voice that says to us “I need your help,” also is whispering, quietly but insistently, “I am here.”

If we don’t understand Him immediately, that’s okay. God speaks outside of time; His voice is still there to be heard when we pause to reflect on our experiences, to discern what He is telling us. We do this through individual contemplation and prayer, but also through Apostolic Reflection within our Conferences, relying on what Father Hugh O’Donnell describes as St. Vincent’s “absolute conviction that ‘God is here!’”

Our hearts are converted in many small moments, calling us sometimes to leaps, but more often to smalls steps of faith, “content to see the stone on which we should step without wanting to discover all at once and completely the windings of the road.” [Letter 136. To François Lallier, 1836]

Like Saul walking in blindness down the road to Damascus, we take our first, stumbling steps, however small they are, knowing that “God is especially pleased to bless what is little and imperceptible: the tree in its seedling, man in his cradle, good works in the shyness of their beginnings.” [Letter 310, to Amelie, 1841]

Contemplate

Reflect on a recent Vincentian experience. Can you hear God’s voice?

Recommended Reading

Apostolic Reflection with Rosalie Rendu

05-20-2021 News Roundup

05-20-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 SVDP USA

Through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vincentians across the United States and around the world are finding spiritual growth by providing person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:

INTERNATIONAL:

NATIONAL

Help us share the good news of the good work being done in your local Conference or Council! Email us at info@svdpusa.org with the subject line Good News.

05-20-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-20-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 600 685 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has always had a special devotion to the Holy Spirit. We begin many of our meetings with this familiar prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, live within our lives, and strengthen us by your love. Send forth your Spirit, and new life will be created. And the whole face of the earth shall be renewed.”

Emmanuel Bailly led our founders in a similar prayer at their first meeting in his newspaper office in 1833. The main difference was that they prayed it in Latin.

Since our founding, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has relied upon the Holy Spirit to guide our journey. For the past 188 years we have been asking the Holy Spirit to live within us and strengthen us. We need this loving grace every time we go on our home visits and whenever we work to lift someone out of poverty. Those of us in Servant Leadership positions must ask for such grace regularly. We pray for the new life the Spirit creates, and we await the renewal of the world that this new life brings.

Change is never easy. So why do we pray for it almost every time we meet? Do we really want the whole face of the earth to be renewed? Most of us are pretty comfortable with how things are now. Sure, we are committed to creating a more just society, ending racism and eliminating poverty, but couldn’t we do that without the disrupting the whole face of the earth?

This past year has illustrated that many of the problems with which we have struggled during the pandemic are systemic. Disparities in healthcare, lack of affordable childcare, challenges of workplace safety, difficulty in accessing education – to name just some systemically rooted problems – have all caused extra hardship in the past year. Added to these difficulties, we have had to face the issue of how racism multiplies suffering in many communities.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been talking about the need for systemic change for several years. That desire to renew this world is what inspired our founder Blessed Frederic Ozanam to envision the establishment of a network of charity and social justice encircling the world. We are heirs to that vision.

I appreciate all the resources that have been provided virtually during the past year by our Voice of the Poor Committee and by our Multicultural and Diversity Committee. Each group has helped us focus on these systemic issues. As we come out of this period of isolation, we need to commit to actions that will transform systems that enshrine injustice or promote disparity.

I don’t think it is possible to significantly reform these systems without the Holy Spirit renewing the whole face of the earth. I also believe that change starts with us as individuals. I will need to discover the changes I need to make to participate in a community that is loving and just. As our Rule states, we are journeying together toward holiness. So, this Pentecost, let’s keep praying, “Holy Spirit, live within our lives, and strengthen us by your love.”

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

05-13-2021 News Roundup

05-13-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 SVDP USA

Through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vincentians across the United States and around the world are finding spiritual growth by providing person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:

INTERNATIONAL

NATIONAL

Help us share the good news of the good work being done in your local Conference or Council! Email us at info@svdpusa.org with the subject line Good News.

Contemplation – Together Towards Holiness

Contemplation – Together Towards Holiness 940 788 SVDP USA

New friends are silver, they say, and old friends are gold. Maintaining our friendships during this long year of absence and isolation has been challenging.

As Blessed Frédéric Ozanam once explained, friendships, when we are separated, can be nourished via letters, which are a “truly an epistolary meeting where one always gains and never loses.” [Letter 142. 1837]

Surely our modern conference calls and videoconferences have served us as ably as the letters of another era, yet even in these modern days, “friendship being a harmony between souls…cannot subsist in a prolonged absence.” [Ibid]

As challenging as it is to maintain our friendships without meeting in person, it is nearly impossible to form new ones, as we are called to do with the neighbors we serve. On Home Visits, we learn not only from words and facial expressions, but from the full circumstances and surroundings; body language; interaction with others in the home; things we can only experience in person.

All friendships are strengthened by spending time together, whether sharing a meal, a conversation, a movie, or other recreation. But our Vincentian friendship is a special bond, whose “strongest tie… is charity… It is a fire that dies without being fed, and good works are the food of charity.” [Letter 82 1834]

This friendship is more than recreational, more than mere “silver or gold.” It is one of the Essential Elements of our vocation, formed, nourished, and strengthened at every Conference meeting and home visit.

Indeed, the first edition of the Rule in 1835 declared that “the unity of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will be cited as a model of Christian friendship… which …will make of all our hearts one heart, of all our souls one soul…

It is through our friendship that we answer our calling to “journey together towards holiness.” [Rule, Part I, 2.2] In our Conference meetings, where we gather together in His name; in prayer, where our voices joined; on our Home Visits, where we serve as He asked us to serve; there, as He promised, Christ will be in our midst.

As grateful as we are for technologies that have kept us connected during this time, one of the blessings we look forward to as we return to normalcy in coming weeks and months is the renewal of our living friendship. Vincentian friendship, like our relationship with God, is ultimately not intended to be a long-distance relationship.

Contemplate

When gathered with my Vincentian friends, do I look for Christ in our midst? Do I find Him?

Recommended Reading

Turn Everything to Love

05-06-2021 News Roundup

05-06-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 SVDP USA

Through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vincentians across the United States and around the world are finding spiritual growth by providing person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:

NATIONAL

Help us share the good news of the good work being done in your local Conference or Council! Email us at info@svdpusa.org with the subject line Good News.

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