International

09-09-2021 News Roundup

09-09-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 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

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.

A Letter from Our Servant Leaders

A Letter from Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

Almost all the leadership lessons you will ever need might be learned with a group walk through the woods. To wit:

  1. Have a designated leader. Every hike needs someone chosen to make the decisions and lead the way. It may or may not be the leader for other purposes the rest of the year.

We elect Conference and Council leaders, and task leaders can be appointed. A leaderless group may sound good in theory but rarely accomplishes anything of lasting value. Good leaders delegate for the task at hand.

  1. Start with the destination in mind. A hiker’s map starts with where we are, and where we are going. The alternative is often being lost or separated in the woods!

Vincentians appreciate visualizing the goal, whether it is the result of the fundraising campaign or knowing specifically how a family will be helped. We feel good when we all know the goal and then meet it!

  1. Prepare for the unexpected. Insects, heat, thirst and the trail itself demand your thinking ahead.

The best of plans, including those in the Society, rarely go exactly as expected. Think together beforehand about what might happen, and prepare for these “just in case” disruptions before you start. This builds confidence, and often strengthens your original plan! 

  1. Have everyone plan and practice a communications plan. Simply, everyone can carry and learn three basic whistles: One to stop and wait for the group; Two to return to the person whistling; and Three to drop everything and run back to the whistle to help.

We can share constantly among our fellow Vincentians and other helpers how we are doing in our service. We then know when to pause before proceeding further, when to rally together or check in, and even when to drop everything to help a colleague in a crunch. 

  1. Make the journey interesting. Not all of the reward is at the final destination; make the hike fun all along the way.

Fellowship is an Essential Element of our Society. How can we make our service more enjoyable? Can we benchmark our progress and celebrate smaller achievements along our journey together?

  1. Bring nourishment. Water and food sustain us as we trod the miles and hills.

We are sustained as Vincentians by the Holy Spirit when we pray and worship together. Spirituality is another Essential Element, and this journey never ends for us.

  1. Dress appropriately. Keep the sneakers and bathing suits for the pool. Wear layers and shoes appropriate for the terrain.

When we provide Service (the last of the Essential Elements, see what I did there?), we should identify ourselves as Society members with vests, jackets, caps and/or pins. We aren’t showing off. We want parishioners and neighbors to know that the Society is present and contributing in our communities.

  1. Use the buddy system. No one hikes alone.

The Society has its two-person service standard in our Rule, and it is there for so many good reasons to protect us and those we serve!

  1. Don’t leave anyone behind. One leader stays behind to encourage the slow hikers to keep up the pace.

Vincentians have unique abilities to serve and individual paths to Holiness. Good Society leaders actively include everyone in our work, and encourage each one of us along our way.

  1. Have a backup plan. Trails get washed out. The bear blocking your path was there first and he ain’t moving!

Despite the advance planning, stuff happens. (In these COVID times I think this is understood!) Good leaders assess the situation, gather input from the group, and when needed, find new ways to keep moving ahead. Innovate, retrench, and stay positive!

  1. Have a strategy should you get lost. Be sure others can easily find and help you if you don’t reach your destination on time.

You can depend on your Council and fellow Vincentians, and written and online resources across the country to help you – but they first need to know where you stand in your progress. Reach out!

  1. Celebrate the achieved goal! Recap the success and plan the next group adventure!

Good Society leaders are never satisfied, as there are always more people in need to serve. Lead others to build upon your recent success, and stretch to do even more in service to God and our neighbors!

While contemplating the natural beauty around us, let’s remember that it was God who made these woods. Perhaps He made them not just to enjoy, but also as a classroom for our future paths of life, spirituality and service.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

Contemplation – Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You

Contemplation – Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You 940 788 SVDP USA

“Come Holy Spirit, live within our lives,” we pray to open every Conference meeting, asking to be strengthened by the first fruit of the Holy Spirit: love. But let us also pray for the second fruit: joy!

Love sometimes means doing things we do not want to do, putting the needs of another before our own. For Vincentians, this is often begins with an interruption – we’d like to finish our meal, enjoy the weekend, or just relax and watch television, but the poor are calling. We don’t begrudge the poor their needs, of course, but we can sometimes adopt an unfortunate mindset; a grim sense of duty, a commitment to do the work, no matter how difficult or even unpleasant it may be at times.

After all, St. Vincent calls us to love God “with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brow.” It sounds like hard work, this whole love business! We know that it’s worth it, but who smiles while plowing the field?

We do!

Reflecting on the grace of God above both the splendors and hardships of earth, St. Louise once asked, “Why are our souls not in a continuous state of joy and happiness?” [Sp. Wr., p. 774] As Robert Barron, Bishop of Los Angeles, sometimes explains, God’s love exists only in the form of a gift; once we receive it, we give it away, only for it to be replenished. So for every act of charity, for every gift of love, it is we who are receiving. Why would we not be filled with joy?

The Lord loves a cheerful giver. Blessed Frédéric advised his brother Charles to “bring a joyful dedication to the works” of the Society. [Letter 314 to Charles Ozanam, 1841] We serve not out of duty, not for reward, but for love alone, so that we may “draw nearer to Christ, serving Him in the poor and one another.” [Rule, Part I, 2.2]

This is the truth that ultimately should bring us such joy that we can hardly contain it: we are in the presence of the living Christ! It is in giving that we receive, and in giving to the One whom we adore that we are filled with joy.

And the Lord loves a cheerful giver!

Contemplate

How can I let go of cares and smile?

Recommended Reading

‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple

Contemplation: Chopping the Wood

Contemplation: Chopping the Wood 940 788 SVDP USA

Trust in providence is central to our Vincentian vocation. This means more than simply trusting that “everything will be okay.” It means trusting that if we do His will, the outcome will also be His will, whether we understand it completely or not.

In our Conferences, doing His will means we gather together in His name, we serve Christ in the person of His poor, we love the neighbor as ourselves, we treat him with mercy, and we are generous with our time, our talents, our possessions, and ourselves. [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1]  It may seem frustrating, at times, when it seems that our help…doesn’t help. But what is the outcome we seek?

St. Vincent taught that “God does not consider the outcome of the good work undertaken but the charity that accompanied it.” [CCD I:205] Charity, the love of God, is our purpose. The true outcome we seek is the full flourishing and eternal happiness of all persons, [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1] which we know is not in our control!

Just as Christ wept for God’s mercy to deliver Him from the agony of the cross but submitted to the Father’s will, Frédéric Ozanam wrote down his own lament on his fortieth birthday. Bedridden with the illness that would take his life a few short months later, he poured out his wishes to “grow old alongside my wife, and to complete my daughter’s education.” Still, he said, “I am coming if you call me, and I have no right to complain.” [Book of the Sick, Prayer from Pisa]

Trust in providence is most important exactly when it is most difficult. Frédéric expressed during his own suffering, that it might become “a source of merits and blessings,” bringing with it “those inexpressible consolations which go hand in hand with [God’s] real presence.” [Ibid]

Ours is a ministry of presence; not only our physical presence, as true friends with those in need, but our presence as a sign from a loving God, who sent us to the neighbors to sit with them, to listen to them, to pray with them, and help in any way that we can. We bring what material assistance we can, but we seek most importantly to bring some part of God’s “inexpressible consolation.”

Trust in providence is not passive; it is actively doing God’s will – tirelessly, devotedly, and for love alone. To paraphrase an old Frank Clark “Country Parson” saying, “Trust in providence is what makes you feel the warmth of the hearth while you’re outside chopping the wood.”

So perhaps, if we are to “to bring this divine fire, this fire of love” as St. Vincent calls us to do,[CCD XI:264] we’d best keep chopping the wood.

Contemplate

Do I tire too easily while chopping the wood?

Recommended Reading

The Book of the Sick, by Frédéric Ozanam

08-19-2021 News Roundup

08-19-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 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

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.

08-19-2021 Letter from Our Servant Leaders

08-19-2021 Letter from Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Children are going back to school soon. Summer is quickly coming to an end. In past years, this time is when we would be looking at calendars and plotting out activities for the coming year for our Councils and Conferences. It may be hard to get interested in planning this year, since we have seen so many plans abandoned in the past 18 months. Even though there are many uncertainties as we look forward, I suggest we need to provide some focus to our efforts by making plans for what comes next.

At our National Assembly next week in Houston, we will be introducing the next phase of our National Strategic Plan. We are not calling this a new plan because much of the proposed plan builds upon the document that was approved three years ago. Half of that plan’s life span has been lived out under the shadow of the COVID pandemic. Still, we accomplished many of the plan’s elements, and some its parts would have been difficult to accomplish even under ideal circumstances. We are keeping the five focus areas of the original plan and concentrating on what can realistically be accomplished in the next three years.

I believe revitalization is the priority embedded in almost every aspect of the plan. I hope it is your priority, too. I hope there will be parts of the National Council Strategic Plan that you will embrace and include in your planning process. It is up to you, however, to look at your Council or Conference and assess what needs to be done to contribute locally to revitalizing our Society and fostering its growth.

The National Council has many resources to aid you in this effort. You will find these tools on our national website. That site has always had a wealth of resources – maybe too many, often poorly organized. Good news: this week you received an email announcing the launch of our improved member website. Please check it out, and use the material provided to create a plan to bring new life to our Society.

During these months of isolation, our committees have been active, and none more so than our Growth and Revitalization Committee. Under the leadership of Rita St. Pierre, Jeanne Harper, Cathy Garcia and Julie Witzel, the committee has provided webinars and updated materials for you to use. There will also be a revised Invitation to Serve program available in the months ahead.

I am certain that almost every Conference in the country has lost members in the past year. Now is the time to invite new people to join us. I suggest contacting pastors and bishops as you make these plans and asking for their help and suggestions. You will find new material on the website that you can share with your clergy to help them appreciate the value an active Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers a parish and a diocese.

Blessed Frederic Ozanam is known as the principal founder of our organization not because it was solely his idea but because he was its most passionate promoter. From early days in 1833 to the last months of his life, Ozanam was recruiting members, starting Conferences and encouraging the revitalization of Conferences that were losing their “primitive spirit.” You can be a founder, too. Invite others to share this vocation that you love. Invite them to serve their neighbors in need, to grow spiritually and to find a community of friends in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

Contemplation: Neighbors in Deed

Contemplation: Neighbors in Deed 940 788 SVDP USA

Although we do not mean it to, giving material assistance to people puts them at a disadvantage; they “owe” us something they likely will never repay. The fear of indebtedness often makes asking for help more difficult. Even when we are in very dire straits, we don’t want to impose, we don’t want to be burdens, and we don’t want to be indebted.

Yet on nearly every home visit, we meet a neighbor with a light bill, rent, or other need, and not enough money to pay for it. The math is simple; what else can we do?

“Help honors,” Blessed Frédéric taught, “when it may become mutual.” [O’Meara, 229] He went on to explain that this means offering not only material help, but a kind word, a handshake, some encouragement – all those things that we may one day need, as well.

As our Rule puts it, “Vincentians should never forget that giving love, talents and time is more important than giving money.” [Rule, Part I, 3.14] Or, as Blessed Rosalie Rendu put it, “They will appreciate your kindness and your love more than all else you can bring them.” [Apostle in a Top Hat, 57]

How many times can we hear “you are the only ones who called me back” before we realize that this personal connection is the whole point?

In other words, a home visit is not a math problem. It is the beginning of a “relationship based on trust and friendship.” [Rule, Part I, 1.9] This is why we don’t visit “clients.” There is nothing mutual in a relationship with a client; it does not “honor.”

It is good to use the right words, but using the words is not enough. After all, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Christ did not ask us simply to call each other neighbors, but to be neighbors, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

To have a neighbor, you have to be a neighbor. To have a friend, you have to be a friend. To have a brother or sister, you have to be a brother or sister. Our brothers, sisters, neighbors, and friends don’t owe us a dime. They repay us fully with their handshakes, their prayers, and their friendship.

And for those things, we are all neighbors in need.

Contemplate

How can I become a better friend?

Recommended Reading

Mystic of Charityespecially 6. Home Visits in the Vincentian Tradition

Contemplation: The State in Which We Were Created

Contemplation: The State in Which We Were Created 940 788 SVDP USA

Our five Vincentian virtues come from St. Vincent’s five “Characteristic Virtues,” with one difference: what Vincent called mortification, we call selflessness. While the distinction between the two is not trivial, he also talked about the “spirit of mortification,” which is a good way for us to understand our call to selflessness. [CCD XII:249]

The word “mortification” comes from the Latin mortificāre, meaning “to put to death,” which is the same image our Rule uses, calling selflessness “dying to our ego with a life of self-sacrifice.” [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1] And isn’t this what Christ taught? “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Through mortification, we may physically separate ourselves from earthly needs, as with fasting during Lent. But the purpose of mortification is not physical; it is not exterior, but interior, “to mortify our egoism and open our heart to love of God and neighbor.” [Benedict XVI, Lenten Message] Yes, we become hungry when we fast, but it is “dying to our ego” that we seek.

Indeed, our Catechism teaches that our call to conversion “does not aim first at outward works, ‘sackcloth and ashes,’ fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion.” [Catechism, 1430] While mortification is a means, you could say, selflessness is its end.

St. Louise de Marillac said that the importance of mortification was “the necessity of keeping our souls constantly in the state in which they were created.” [Spiritual Writings, 797] She went on to explain that while we are created in God’s image and likeness, we become “disfigured” when we allow our passions to overwhelm us. Those passions may be the food or treats that we give up for Lent, but more importantly they are the self-centered motivations that we sometimes allow to take over. The more we focus on ourselves, the less we are able to truly be friends to others.

Lack of the “spirit of selflessness,” Vincent taught, not only separates us from God, but from each other; so much so that “we can’t live – I repeat – we can’t live with one another if our interior and exterior senses aren’t mortified.” [CCD XII:249] The first Rule in 1835 echoed this idea, saying that without self-denial, understood as surrendering one’s own opinion, “no association is durable. The man who is in love with his own ideas will disdain the opinions of others…” [Rule, 1835, Introduction]

We die to our egos, to our selfishness, and to our will only to be filled with new life, to be filled with God! And when we share ourselves with the neighbor, we may truly share Him, also.

Contemplate

What part of myself do I allow to separate me from others?

Recommended Reading

Faces of Holiness

08-05-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

08-05-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

We aren’t out of the woods quite yet, but we can at least see the clearing ahead of us.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the U.S. has seen a lot since our 1845 founding. We are blessed that with every war, every pandemic, and every Depression, recession, and other disasters both man-made and natural, we have bent perhaps but not broken in our service to God and our neighbors in need. We pray and then we persevere.

While the story of our pandemic period is full of sadness, turmoil, and uncertainty, it is nevertheless a story of Vincentian spirit and service that deserves to be told and to be remembered. It’s our nature to say “Well, that was that” and move on to the next challenge, the next family in need, and our next Conference meeting. Before we forget these past 18 months and all the changes we went through, including most notably the forced isolation from each other, we should reflect on the experience and how, as individuals and as the Society, we too are changed.

This weekend (Friday at 5:30 PM and Saturday at 2:30 AM Eastern), a special pandemic edition of “Our Faith in Action: Today’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul” will air on EWTN. Set those DVRs!  It’s a 30-minute look inside our Vincentian experience and how our members and Conferences continued in their formation journeys and in their service to neighbors in need. While cost, time, and travel considerations limited our filming to just three cities and Councils, this is really the story of all of us. If you squint just right you will see your Conference’s innovation in its food pantry, your Council’s changes in its thrift store, your fellow member’s continuing of Home Visits in unique ways, and maybe even yourself in the way you found the inner strength to just keep going.

If only our own members see this show it will be a success! Many of us did not know about the challenges overcome in different ways in Conferences across the country. The show gives us pause to reflect, and then to celebrate our common stubbornness, uh, I mean perseverance to serve in the face of chaos everywhere around us. Be proud; we are still here!

We don’t need a TV show, however, to educate ourselves. No, our communities and our supporters – parishioners, clergy, foundations, business partners, and others – deserve to see our story, too. They made our work possible with prayers, materials and financial support, and often during this period, new collaborations. While other social service and faith-based organizations pulled back, we stayed. We stayed in touch with our most vulnerable neighbors. We stayed in prayer with our parishes, clergy, and each other. We kept meeting, kept serving, and kept looking for how else we could serve God and share His love in our communities when it all shut down. The show tries to pull all this together in just 30 minutes. It’s a half-hour I ask you to share widely.

My hope is that each of us can share the show in a Conference meeting, parish gathering, annual dinner, or donor meeting. We own the show content, and will have it available through our website as soon as the broadcast rights clear in the next week. Trust me, EWTN will also appreciate the sharing as well!

To be clear, we all know that we don’t serve as Vincentians in order to get earthly credit; our rewards are more eternal. That recognized, we do need to tell our story more to recruit new members and to continue the public support we require for us to continue our works. Humility is a virtue. Sometimes, though, we need to remind everyone, and yes even ourselves, that we do good work and that our communities can depend on us to be there in good times and bad.

The pandemic resulted in Vincentian innovation, some of which will become lasting change. The pandemic challenged us to ask if “the way we have always done it” is now the most effective way for today and tomorrow. As we tell our story through the EWTN presentation, National Assembly workshops and otherwise, perhaps it will inspire us to consider even more changes, still consistent with our Rule while also consistent with today’s needs and service environments.

The “pandemic special edition” may drive innovation discussions in your Conference and Council. We wish that it didn’t take a pandemic to have these conversations! We appreciate nonetheless that God has blessed us with our journey together out of pandemic darkness to a new day in His service! Still here!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

07-29-2021 News Roundup

07-29-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 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

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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