09-21-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Just as Summer inevitably turns to Fall, our beloved Society’s leadership changes at the end of September each year with new local Council and Conference President elections at the end of respective three-year terms.

At the national level, the term of the National President and his/her Board is six years. The current National Council’s Board of Directors began their Board service in 2017. It concludes with that of the National President, when Ralph Middlecamp’s six-year term ends on September 30. Since 2017, well, what a ride! Allow me to share with you just some of the accomplishments made possible through policy development or direct actions taken by this Board.

  • They strengthened support of local Councils though enhancements of our Model Bylaws, Standards of Excellence, and a new Safeguarding policy.
  • They engaged more members in national service through regions, committees, and task forces.
  • They expanded recruitment, leadership inclusion, and Conference support for under-represented ethnic communities and young adults.
  • They shepherded six years of profitable National Council financial success and stability, including the policy formation of how to use restricted funds and operating reserves while simultaneously growing fundraising and operational support. Along the way, we increased financial and leadership support for the global Society, and supported three new national subsidiary organizations.
  • During the global pandemic, the Board went remote for three National meetings – and doubled our attendance! They also pivoted all of us first to remote activities and then back again to in-person services and gatherings. Along the way they supported growth from 20 to more than 100 national webinars annually.
  • The Board provided budgets and policies to rebuild our national public and member websites, and created oversight for better document management and online security systems.
  • Finally, this board sold our national office to buy a new building just a block away that doubled our staff workspace, added a larger, interactional boardroom and a beautiful Vincentian chapel. This was accomplished without asking for any membership dues assessments or even a capital campaign, a rare feat among nonprofits!

There is more, but you get the idea. This has been a high-functioning board of directors working on your behalf to support and strengthen the Society in the United States. We recognized the Board members at the closing banquet of our National Assembly, but a few words can’t express the gratitude they are owed for shepherding the National Council over the past six exciting years of the Society.

We also say goodbye, well sort of, to our National President Ralph Middlecamp as his term ends. The good news is that after six years of exceptional, Vincentian servant leadership to the Society in one country, we now share Ralph with the rest of the world. Upon the election and recent installation of the new Council General International President, Ralph has been appointed International First Vice President! This is great news for all of us, as the U.S. Council participates very actively in the work of the global Society. Ralph can keep us informed and up to date on spiritual, service, financial and other opportunities.

Every national Board builds upon the work of those who served previously. New National President John Berry and his newly-appointed Board of Directors will have their own initiatives and goals, with a strong National Council to continue to strengthen in service to you as its members. Finances and staff are strong, and we have relatively few urgent challenges. It’s a great time to re-assess our Society presence, culture and operations (more on this from John soon), and take time to listen, really listen, to our members and the world around us. Thank you, Ralph and our outgoing Board, and with John and our new Board, we can’t wait to get to work!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

09-14-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Every year in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an opportunity for new goals, leadership transitions, and reflection on our successes and challenges. At this year’s National Assembly in St, Louis, we did all this and more as we celebrated “Where It All Began” with a pandemic-delayed 175th (now 178th) anniversary.

The biggest set of changes is the transition from one National President and Board of Directors to a new set of national officers. John Berry, our National President as of next month, succeeds Ralph Middlecamp, who has led the Society faithfully and effectively through six years of pandemic, economic, and social uncertainties and what all of this has meant for the Society.  John has selected a new Board of Directors, which was ratified by the National Council at our annual Business Meeting held this week. We are now poised with talent for leading in the immediate future.

But what will that future bring? President-Elect John asked all of us to be part of a national listening process as we determine what the Society needs to be to remain true to our Mission and Three Essential Elements in a changing world. Much more to come on this, to be sure!

It is easy to forget that while around 750 Vincentians attended the National Assembly, more than 80,000 or so did not attend. They need to know a lot of what was discussed in St. Louis. Watch for videos of Ralph’s farewell address and recognition of his service at the closing banquet, John’s inaugural member address that lays out his hopes for his upcoming term, and other videos of our general sessions and workshops. These take some time to isolate, edit, and post, etc., so be patient as we release these in the coming weeks. They will each be announced in the e-Gazette as they become website links that you can share with your Council and Conference.

Three general sessions deserve your viewing. Bishop Donald Hying provided another seminal spiritual reflection for us in his last appearance as our National Episcopal Adviser. (He will be succeeded under President Berry’s term by Archbishop Andrew Bellisario from the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau. More on this soon!)  St. Louis Council’s Executive Director/CEO John Foppe delivered a powerful, personal, and inspiring talk to the Assembly based in part on his book, “So What’s Your Excuse?” and Vincentian Father John Rybolt, a foremost authority on the life of St. Vincent de Paul, provide insights on St. Vincent’s varied imagery through the years and thoughts on how Vincent would approach today’s challenges. Coming soon!

A new Ozanam Institute online learning program was launched during the week. More on this elsewhere in the e-Gazette – don’t miss it!

A highlight for many who attended was the Installation Mass for the new President and Board at the “New Cathedral” of St. Louis. While many had been to St. Louis previously, most had never seen the enormous basilica filled with beautiful mosaic tiles including images of our Society founders. And as St. Vincent de Paul is one of three of the city’s patron Saints, his image appears in both mosaic and statue in the Basilica. It was a beautiful and inspiring event!

The National Council enters the 2023-24 year with a profitable 2022-23, an annual budget passed this week, and money in the bank for new initiatives as determined by you and the new Board.  Our three subsidiaries – Disaster Services Corporation, SVDP National Stores and SVDP National Foundation – are healthy and poised for growth and success in their respective missions.  National committees are being re-formed under new and existing banners to reflect our Essential Elements and other priorities. National staff will add a second Stores Director to support new and existing local stores, and an HR professional to assist the National Council and its subsidiaries to manage employee benefits legally and effectively for employee satisfaction and retention.

Nearly a third of the Assembly’s participants were first-timers. Plan now to join them and hundreds of others at our next National Assembly in Phoenix, August 14-17, 2024.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

SVdP National President Ralph Middlecamp Honored With Special Tribute

SVdP National President Ralph Middlecamp Honored With Special Tribute 790 427 SVDP USA

Outgoing National President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Ralph Middlecamp was recently honored with a special video tribute commemorating his time in office. Colleagues and friends shared memories and reflected on Ralph’s servant leadership.

You can watch the video here, then share your own tribute to Ralph in the comments.

08-31-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Next week, your National Council will perform two of its most important obligations when it meets in St. Louis. We want all of our members nationwide to understand the impact of these decisions, even the impact on your local Conference. Wow, sounds pretty ominous, doesn’t it?

One responsibility of our membership representative body, called the National Council, is to elect a National President and to ratify the new President’s appointed Board of Directors for its six-year term of office. The Presidential election was held months ago, so that our new President-elect John Berry would then have months to prepare for his time in office and to consider his board appointments and their responsibilities. According to our Rule, the President appoints the board (most of them, anyway – the Regional Vice Presidents are elected by members of their regions) and these appointments are ratified by the membership. This Rule provision is included to assure transparency among our members and the public about who is on the National Board, and hopefully to give them comfort that the right people have been selected according to their skills and experiences both inside and outside of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Considering that these Board members will be asked to serve for up to six years, this is not a frivolous undertaking!

The second decision to be made next week is an annual one, to establish a National Council budget for the next fiscal year. Writing this as your national CEO, I feel we are relatively blessed among national organizations at budget formation time. First, despite crazy economic times and a pandemic period that disrupted so many parts of our lives, we have a working, stable membership dues (called solidarity) formula. It is based on the annual income of our member Councils and Conferences, calls for never more than six-tenths of one percent of local income already earned the year prior – sometimes less with excepted revenue categories – and funds less than half of the National Council budget. Second, we have grown non-solidarity revenues to support member services growth. This includes a direct mail fundraising program shared with local participating Councils, planned giving including bequests, and smaller fee programs such as catalogue/book sales. Third, through policy development and management practices we have invested windfall bequests and other gifts and any retained revenues to produce annual investment income that reduces the need for dues funding. Along with managing our expenses properly, we benefit from a strong annual budget that allows for sustainable operations and opportunity for program/services growth with only moderate risk.

There is much more to all this, of course, but the bottom line is that the National Council uses a membership-represented body, the National Council, to provide a representative leadership National Board of Directors, who then provides a strong budget request back to the National Council for its discernment and approval. By the way, the National Council sees the board appointments and the annual budget recommendation at least 45 days before it votes – no slipping things under the door at the last moment!

If you want a membership meeting full of angry shouting, accusations about hidden agendas or funds, and knee-jerk leadership and financial actions, I guess you will need to look elsewhere. (Please fill in your own joke here…) It’s just not in our Vincentian nature or the way we operate. We don’t apologize for being somewhat boring! However, if you want to see a stable, servant leader, membership-driven and led organization in action that has continued to move ahead for 175 years, I invite you to come to the Business Meeting. Or if you prefer, you can watch a video of the meeting that we will bring you soon!

Please thank your voting National Council Member (NCM), almost always the Arch/Diocesan Council President or the President of the oldest District Council where we don’t yet have an Arch/Diocesan Council. We ask, as I hope you do as well, for this NCM role to be taken very seriously. After all, they represent you among nearly 90,000 other US members. When they return from St. Louis after next week, ask what they heard, what they approved, and what they learned on your behalf.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

08-17-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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In a few weeks, hundreds of Vincentians from across the country will arrive in St. Louis for the National Assembly under the theme of “Where It All Began.” Thanks to the pandemic, our original 175th anniversary celebration will be two years later than scheduled.  Let’s take a look not only at where it all began, but also when it all began back in 1845 St. Louis.

St. Louis was a major city in 1845 thanks to its location on the banks of the Mississippi River and its uses for commerce, fur trading, and both military and civilian exploration of all points West. From its 1840 population of 16,469 the city would grow to 77,860 by 1850, becoming the eighth largest American city. The St. Louis Diocese covered a third of the country but with only 75 priests and 33 churches. By 1849, St. Louis would become the second archdiocese, after Baltimore, within the organized states of the Union. It was the only major Catholic presence west of the Mississippi.

St. Louis was considered the gateway to the West from the time of its 1804 launching of the Lewis and Clark expedition until at least the great railroad expansion after the U.S. Civil War. Steamboats and wagon trains regularly started from St. Louis, and much wealth was generated from fitting these expeditions from St. Louis merchants and wagon builders. The city would continue to grow, especially around the time of the 1904 World’s Fair and later decades. For Vincentian purposes, the “Old Cathedral” (the only cathedral in the city at that time) was completed in 1834 in a bustling mixed-use downtown of commerce, shipping, and residences. Today the Old Cathedral sits in a national park at the base of the famous Arch, built in the late 1950’s-early 1960’s. The entire five blocks from the cathedral to the river was razed of old warehouses for the arch’s construction, but the Old Cathedral was gracefully spared.

When the Society of St. Vincent de Paul held its first meeting on November 20, 1845 at the Old Cathedral, life was quite different than we might realize from today’s city and United States.

Nationally, John Tyler’s Presidency gave way to the election of James K. Polk. There were only 26 states in the Union; Florida was added in March of 1845, followed by the former Republic of Texas in December. The Texas addition sparked the Mexican-American War that year, over some disputed territory. The U.S. Naval Academy began in Annapolis in 1845. Newspapers in 1845 included the first usage of the term “Manifest Destiny” and the first accounts of a new game called baseball.

Published pieces that year included the autobiography “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” and the first printing of “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe.

When our first members met, they met by candlelight or perhaps gas, as light bulbs would not be invented until 1880. They arrived by horseback or carriage, since the earliest cars didn’t come around until 1871. They may have had just a short meeting, since there were no indoor bathrooms back then (late 1840’s)!

In considering our Society’s beginnings, let’s remember that we are older than Goodwill Industries (1902), The American Red Cross (1881), and the Smithsonian Institution (1846). We pre-date basketball (1891) and tennis (1859), the Transcontinental Railroad (1869), the California Gold Rush (1848), and the women’s suffrage movement (1848). The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was not only established before the U.S. Civil War (1861-65), but during the war we even held our first National Assembly! (September 1864 in New York City).

We are only the 7th country to have a Society presence since our Paris founding in 1833. Irish Catholics had been welcomed years prior to the rich Missouri farmlands, and a gracious reputation preceded more Irish migration in the 1840’s. The great Irish Potato Famine occurred in our formative year, so there was intercontinental travel, by steamship, of clergy and laypersons who would help form the initial St. Louis Conference. The Ireland SVdP’s copy of The Rule was brought to St. Louis and guided our beginnings. To be established in 10 countries in just 12 years (Germany, Mexico and Scotland were also formed in 1845) from Emmanual Bailly’s and Blessed Frederic’s first meeting is surely an act of God.

As you consider joining us for National Assembly in a few weeks, or if you are coming at another time to St. Louis, please visit the Old Cathedral. Imagine what it was like, where and when, our St. Louis founders decided to use a Rule from abroad and get organized using their funds and Catholic faith to serve the city’s poor. If you need further inspiration, a statue of St. Vincent de Paul stands at the front of the cathedral. He is, after all, a patron saint of the city.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

08-10-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Dear Vincentian Friends,

In a few weeks many Vincentians will gather for the 2023 Assembly of the National Council of the United States. Our National Assembly theme will be “Where It All Began,” because we will gather in St. Louis within sight of the Old Cathedral, where the first Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the United States met in 1845. It is not too late to plan to attend. Coming to a National Assembly will draw you deeper into this vocation as a member of the Society. That is what happened to me when I attended my first national meeting.

At our Assembly we gather to look backward and remember our roots, but — more importantly — we look forward, as well. We will celebrate our 178-year history here in the United States, and we will also celebrate the past six years of working with our current leadership team. More significantly, we will plan for the future as we install a new National Council President and officers.

We have prepared a well-rounded program that will strengthen your Vincentian spirituality, friendship, and service. An excellent team of presenters will provide more than 40 workshops to advance our knowledge and understanding of the Society and its mission. Our Friday Morning of Reflection will again be led by Bishop Donald Hying, who has blessed us as our National Episcopal Advisor for the past six years. Our keynote speakers and daily celebrations of the Eucharist will nourish us on our journey together toward holiness.

Meetings such as this are important gatherings for our membership. It is easy to just coast, doing the same work, with the same resources and people. In St. Louis you will be exposed new ideas, presented by some of the best speakers in our Society. Coming back with just one or two good ideas can renew you and your Conference. We will be better helpers to those we serve if we are continually improving our knowledge and growing spiritually.

My term as your National Council President ends on September 30; so this will be my last National Council Assembly as your president. We have had excellent committees and task forces working in the background for the past six years. I am grateful to all who have served on these groups and to their leadership. I look forward to the opportunities we will have at this meeting to witness the fruits of what they have done. That work will be passed on to new leaders with new ideas and energy.

It has been a pleasure working with our national leadership team for the past six years. There is much that we have been able to accomplish together. What I have valued most is the Vincentian friendship I have found everywhere I have traveled. I look forward to continuing these friendships as we pass the responsibility of servant leadership to a new team.

John Berry has been a friend for many years, and I know we are in good hands with him as our next National Council President. I ask you to join me in praying for John and his team of officers as we continue our journey as Vincentians in the United States of America.

I hope to see many of you in St. Louis.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

National Council Welcomes Associate Vincentian Formation Director

National Council Welcomes Associate Vincentian Formation Director 1544 1160 SVDP USA

The National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul is excited to welcome the new Associate Vincentian Formation Director, Sr. Consuelo Tovar, DC.

In her new role, Sr. Consuelo will work closely alongside the National Formation Director to help direct the spiritual formation and training to all members and especially to Hispanic and Latino members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the United States.

Sr. Consuelo has been a member of the Vincentian Family as a Daughter of Charity for over 55 years. She comes to the National Office after 30 years of community organizing in the Southwest Region of the Industrial Areas Foundation of Texas and New Mexico. She is familiar with the landscape and needs of the poor and vulnerable throughout the southwest and the border of Mexico and Texas. Her organizing work focused on the formation and training of institutional leaders to help congregational leaders and nonprofits build their capacity to address the issues affecting the quality of life in their communities.

Over the years, she has been in the ministry of mission integration, leadership formation, and advocating for charity and justice with and for our brothers and sisters in need.

Sister’s Vincentian formation as a Daughter of Charity and her experience in organizing easily transferred into the work of Mission Integration and Advocacy at Ascension DePaul Services in San Antonio. “I understood my role as Mission Integration Director to be that of helping create the framework in which spiritual growth and integration of the mission occurs for all of us,” said Sr. Consuelo. “And more importantly, so that our Vincentian service reflects our work for and with the poor and vulnerable”

It was in San Antonio too, that Sister Consuelo had the opportunity to serve with the South Texas Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as El Carmen’s Conference Spiritual Advisor, Council Board member, and Chair of the Voice of the Poor Committee. “I am so grateful for those early experiences with the Society, and it has truly prepared me for this new opportunity to serve as Associate Director of Vincentian Formation. I look forward to working alongside fellow Vincentians who love and desire to deepen our Vincentian charism and mission.”

If you would like to contact Sr. Consuelo, she can be reached at (314) 576-3993 ext. 228 or by email at ctovar@svdpusa.org.

Spanish Translation

El Consejo Nacional de la Sociedad de San Vicente de Paúl de los Estados Unidos se complace en dar la bienvenida a la nueva Directora Asociada de Formación Vicenciana, Sor Consuelo Tovar, DC.

En su nuevo cargo, la Hermana Consuelo trabajará en estrecha colaboración con el Director Nacional de Formación para ayudar a dirigir la formación espiritual y la capacitación a todos los miembros y especialmente a los miembros hispanos y latinos de la Sociedad de San Vicente de Paúl en los Estados Unidos.

Sor Consuelo ha sido miembro de la Familia Vicenciana como Hija de la Caridad por más de 55 años. Ella llega a la Oficina Nacional después de 30 años de organización comunitaria en la Región Suroeste de la Fundación de Áreas Industriales de Texas y Nuevo México. Ella está familiarizada con el paisaje y las necesidades de los pobres y vulnerables en todo el suroeste y la frontera de México y Texas. Su trabajo organizativo se centró en la formación y capacitación de líderes institucionales para ayudar a los líderes congregacionales y organizaciones sin fines de lucro a desarrollar su capacidad para abordar los problemas que afectan la calidad de vida en sus comunidades.

A lo largo de los años, ha estado en el ministerio de integración misionera, formación de liderazgo y abogando por la caridad y la justicia con y para nuestros hermanos y hermanas necesitados.

La formación vicenciana de la hermana como Hija de la Caridad y su experiencia en la organización se transfirieron fácilmente al trabajo de Integración y Defensa de la Misión en Ascension DePaul Services en San Antonio. “Entendí que mi papel como Directora de Integración de la Misión era el de ayudar a crear el marco en el que el crecimiento espiritual y la integración de la misión ocurre para todos nosotros”, dijo la Hermana Consuelo. “Y lo que es más importante, para que nuestro servicio vicenciano refleje nuestro trabajo por y con los pobres y vulnerables”

Fue en San Antonio también, que la Hermana Consuelo tuvo la oportunidad de servir con el Consejo del Sur de Texas de la Sociedad de San Vicente de Paúl como Asesora Espiritual de la Conferencia de El Carmen, miembro de la Junta del Consejo y Presidenta del Comité de la Voz de los Pobres. “Estoy muy agradecido por esas primeras experiencias con la Sociedad, y realmente me ha preparado para esta nueva oportunidad de servir como Director Asociado de la Formación Vicenciana. Espero trabajar junto a otros vicencianos que aman y desean profundizar nuestro carisma y misión Vicentina”.

Si desea comunicarse con la Hermana Consuelo, puede comunicarse con ella al (314) 576-3993 ext. 228 o por correo electrónico a ctovar@svdpusa.org.

07-27-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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In 1986, when I joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as a teenager at the age of 15, I never imagined that one day I would be elected International President General. Never. My desire was to respond to the call of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who preached: “What you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.”

My intentions were focused solely on helping those most in need, seeking to build a fairer and less unequal world. I have never had political ambitions or other particular motivations for positions, responsibilities, or offices. I am not a careerist. All this happened naturally in my Vincentian life, simply by listening to the voice of God and the designs of the Holy Spirit.

When the electoral process began in 2015 and my name started to be bandied about by the National Councils, I thought to myself: how will this be possible, being very young (45 at the time), with children still young, and professionally active? But my wife Andrea softened my heart: “if it is God’s will, everything will happen.” And God acted, enabling and preparing me for this challenge. I dedicated my election to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and walked with her every day of my mandate.

In these seven years I have had the privilege of leading a real “army of self-sacrificing people,” present in more than 150 countries, dedicated and committed to the practice of charity. I have been the spokesman for all of them, and I have tried to dignify the task entrusted to me. An immense honor, full of responsibilities, for which I have counted on the unconditional support of diligent collaborators who have helped me to serve as President General, to whom I offer my heartfelt thanks: the International Board, the members of the Structure, the staff of the Paris headquarters, the National Presidents, the Superior Councils and the countries of the “Concordat.”

I have visited 50 countries, poor, rich or developing, with the same love and enthusiasm. I have flown the SSVP flag everywhere. I carried the image of the seven founders wherever I went. The further I went; the better I was received. I treated everyone with respect, dignity and equality. I remember countless unforgettable moments from different times, on all continents. I cried, I was moved, I learned, I suffered, I shared, I smiled, and I hugged. Hours and hours in queues in airports, taxis, roads, and railways, on the way to somewhere. Away from home, in hotels, the only thing that gave me the energy to keep going was the support of my family. During the pandemic, I had to undergo dozens of Covid tests to be able to travel, and even without the vaccine, in October 2020, I took the documents of a second possible miracle attributed to our beloved Ozanam to the Vatican.

The innovations we have introduced in the General Council, in various sectors, clearly show that the primary goal of our collective work was to prepare the SSVP for the future. For example, the new headquarters in Paris, the advances in communication, the benefits derived from institutional relations, disseminating the legacy of the seven founders, increased solidarity actions, the expansion to new countries, the imminent canonization of Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam, the role of youth and women, improvements in training, the Circular Letters, and the advances in governance and international management. There is no doubt that the positive outcome of this mandate is due to all these successful initiatives.

I was once asked how I would like to be remembered in the future. This kind of question always makes me very uncomfortable, but I can give a modest answer: if I am remembered as a humane, frank and empathetic President General, I will be very flattered. These are very important qualities for all of us who do volunteerism and occupy leadership roles. The “singing president,” “the writing president,” “the flag president,” or even “the smiling president,” are very kind and gentle comments that I also hear when I visit countries, but what really pleases me most is to know that Vincentians consider me to be approachable and accessible.

For the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, I pray that God will always keep it united, that its members will be faithful followers of the Rule and defend the principles emanating from the seven founders, without disputes or divisions, supporting the Holy Church and the Vincentian Family, striving with dynamism and creativity to better serve those who suffer. If we do not stray from these values and premises, we will be on the right path to personal sanctification and the evangelization of the poor. If, on the contrary, we allow secularization to invade our procedures, our rules and our thoughts, we will quickly perish.

Everyone I have invited to international service (without exception) has been important to the work of the General Council. I would like to thank them all. However, I would like to give special recognition to four people who have always been very close to me and who, with their human qualities, Vincentian knowledge and spiritual condition, have guided me in the direction of virtue, protecting me in delicate moments and indicating the best path to follow. I am referring to Joseph Pandian (Vice-President General), Marie-Françoise Salesiani-Payet (Secretary General), Larry Tuomey (Treasurer General), and Father Andres Motto (Congregation of the Mission). Without their fraternal advice, I would not have grown spiritually as much as I did.

I want to express a deep gratitude to my family (Andrea, Gustavo and Bianca) because they managed to cope with my absence, which certainly deprived me of beautiful moments that I missed out on, and which can never be recovered. And yet God compensated me by blessing me with countless miracles and happy moments in my private, professional, academic, and Vincentian life.

To all those who prayed for me, I can assure you that I felt your spiritual intercession, especially during the difficulties of the pandemic. From now on, I will return those prayers, praying twice as much for you. This moment of farewell is a bit confusing for me, because I have mixed feelings of joy (for all that we have achieved) and nostalgia (for leaving this service to which I have dedicated so much of myself, with excitement and love).

This is not a farewell speech, but a “see you soon” speech. I intend to devote myself more to the Conference in which I participate, to my beloved family, to my doctorate in political science, to my health, and to my political and regulatory work in Brazil. And I will remain at the disposal of the new President General, who will be elected today, for any mission. In view of all the experiences I have had in the ministry as President General, I intend to write a book about my seven years of service. In this way, I believe our example can inspire other Vincentian leaders, now and in the future. THANK YOU VERY MUCH for your affection, loyalty and kindness!

Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ!
Partner Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th International President General

7-20-23 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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My wife and I spread our charitable giving over the year, giving to a different charity or two each month. We annually add one here and there, and sometimes we subtract a charity too — usually because of how they have listened to us, or increasingly, changed their mission or activities away from our reasons for supporting them. How much we give is personal, of course, but this year more than most we feel, well, challenged.

A recent report from Giving USA shows that Americans gave less than last year — a lot less. We have not seen such a decrease since the Depression years. Rising inflation reported in conflicting but always high amounts, and consumer prices up nearly 16% last year, created insecurity and less disposable income for everyone. Families are pulling back to give only to what they feel is most important.

Meanwhile, charities have rising costs, too, so many U.S. nonprofits are feeling more than a little squeezed. Some now focus more on megadonor gifts, ignoring the perennial fact that most American giving is through the smaller gifts that add up. Sure, million-dollar gifts get media attention and feel like a good result, but the reality is that these gifts are difficult to maintain annually, often come with significant strings attached, and create feelings of have- or have-not inequity among supporters, often leading to small donor defection.

Fortunately, one trend continues. People are more likely to give, and maintain giving, to religious charities. This may be helpful to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, but only if we focus on our mission. It is easy to report on people served, meals delivered, rent dollars paid, and the like, but our true mission is the spiritual development of our members. This is more difficult to report. We don’t have meters on Vincentians to measure how holy they are from year to year, though I’m sure someone is working on this app!

We often hear that the Society is the face of the Church, when the Church is asked about its works of mercy and/or neighborhood support. Many Bishops and Pastors also recognize this. Our Vincentian charitable spirit and kindness to others are appreciated! That said, there might be a disconnect between how we operate and how we represent ourselves in our fundraising messaging. We sometimes choose, perhaps unwisely, to compete in the crowded social services space with program numbers and focus, rather than embrace our Catholic identity and to communicate numbers as expressions of our faith.

We often learn more about why people do things only when they stop doing them. So, why do people stop or reduce giving? Personal economy factors, certainly. The lower impact of charitable giving tax incentives? Yes, though more relevant for major gift donors. The rest may come down to branding, in the sense of the personal experience for the donor. Does the donor receive the personal outcomes they “pay for” with their gift, such as feeling they have contributed to a worthy cause? Have they not only been thanked in a timely manner, but told how their gift has been used? Or conversely, have most communications only been about the need to give more, the “critical needs” of the charity, or even a shaming that the donor isn’t doing enough?

Giving to the Society is not just through direct mail and large special events. Much of our support still comes from the pews through poor boxes, special collections, and other vehicles. Our own members provide a good deal of our funds, too. These donors deserve our frequent and kind communications. We need to explain what we are doing with their gifts, how the neighborhood’s families are being served, and how we fulfill our mission daily by growing ourselves in holiness. Among the faithful, this is a powerful reason for giving! The parish bulletin is a good place to start.

The Society is so unique among nonprofits, and our requests can reflect this unique, faith-filled cause. Even if prospective donors don’t attend church services as frequently, there is still an appreciation of what the Catholic faith does and how Vincentians are the Face of Christ in our communities. Our “why you are asked to give” messages, whether asked in person, through the mail or online, have the opportunity not only to attract funds but to advertise and demonstrate our faith.

My wife and I will likely give to fewer charities this year, but with larger gifts that we feel can make an impact in line with our passions and intentions. Many families will face similar charitable giving decisions. People give through their wallets but give from their hearts. How will your Council and Conference appeal to their hearts, and their faith, in your requests for support?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
National CEO

07-13-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

07-13-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Conferences and Councils are the heart of the Society. They are where we live out our spirituality, friendship, and service on a daily basis. To meet the Society’s primary purpose of helping our members grow in holiness, there is an ongoing need to strengthen, grow, revitalize and support Conferences and Councils. The National Vice Presidents responsible for our regions have a major servant leadership responsibility to help councils and conferences in fulfilling their mission. It’s a big job.

In order to increase the support provided by the National Vice Presidents to Councils and Conferences, we have decided to add a 9th Regional Vice President. In doing this, changes are being made to several of our regions’ coverage responsibility effective October 1 to better balance the workload across all VPs.

Key changes include:

  • Establishment of a new “Mountain” region consisting of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana
  • The West region now comprises California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii
  • The South Central now comprises Texas and Louisiana
  • The Midwest region now comprises Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee
  • The North Central region now comprises the entire state of Illinois (adding Belleville & Springfield dioceses), Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota
  • The Mideast region includes the entire state of Michigan (adding the Marquette diocese), Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky
  • The Southeast region now includes Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands
  • What was previously known as the Eastern Region, will now be called the Mid-Atlantic Region. It still comprises Virginia, West Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania
  • There is no change to Northeast Region. It still comprises Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Since formed almost 50 years ago, our regional structure has not been adjusted to match the shift in the demographics of our Catholic communities. The value of changing our regional structure has been a topic of discussion in the past and now at the beginning of the term for our new National Council officers it seems like the best time to make this realignment.

(See below for the map reflecting the 9 regions.)

A new Vice President will be appointed for the Mountain region.  All other elected Vice Presidents remain in their regions.

To align with the Catholic Church where we draw our members and funding, the Society is organized by diocese. Today, there are 183 dioceses in the United States. The Society has Councils in 128 dioceses. We are present with isolated Conferences in 28 dioceses, and have no presence (yet) in 27 dioceses. The demographics of our Church is changing and many dioceses are going through significant restructuring of their parishes which will impact our Conferences and District Councils.

We believe these changes position the Society for continued growth and revitalization and helps the Vice Presidents and other regional leadership to better support our Conferences. Our regions are communities of friendship and support and we realize the realignment will disrupt some long valued relationships. Hopefully, those friendships will not be lost as new structures are created to meet the challenges faced by our organization. For those who are welcoming new states or Councils to their region, please extend a hand of Vincentian friendship to them, demonstrating our cultural value of One Society.

Serviens in spe,

Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

John Berry
National Council President-Elect


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