09-08-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

09-08-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

A wonderful Annual Assembly of the National Council of the St. Vincent de Paul Society wrapped up last Saturday evening in Baltimore. I want to warn our members who did not attend that we who were there are returning home with many new ideas and zeal for the renewal of our Society. I hope you catch some of that enthusiasm. I am back home writing this column with the intent of featuring the highlights, and I am having trouble – not because of my aging memory but because there were so many of them.

It was not the National Assembly’s most important moment, but for me the most-moving highlight took place during our Friday-morning retreat. With fervor, nearly 800 Vincentians sang “Here I Am Lord” with musician and composer Dan Schutte. They sang “I will go Lord, if you need me, I will hold your people in my heart,” and there was no doubt they meant it.

A close-second highlight also came in song. At the end of an informative and passion-filled speech by Renato Lima de Oliveira, the President General of the Society’s International Council, he led us in Matt Maher’s powerful song, “I Need You Lord.” A song fervently sung and meant by the overflowing crowd of Vincentians made tangible the bonds of friendship we forge as we journey together toward holiness.

The most-important thing that happened at the Assembly was the choice made during Saturday’s Business Meeting, when your delegates chose the two candidates for whom you will vote in the months ahead to be your next National Council President. After listening to talks by the four candidates, delegates chose John Berry and Brian Burgess to advance as the final nominees. I want to thank all four highly qualified nominees for their willingness to serve. More will be shared with you about the voting process in the weeks ahead.

One of the specific initiatives we kicked off at the Assembly was promotion of a revised version of an evaluation of our organization at all levels. Started back in 2009, this evaluation framework is called our Standards of Excellence. We will be asking every level of our organization to engage in this self-evaluation process to ensure our Councils and Conferences are prepared structurally to meet the challenges we are facing in the years ahead. Please take this process to heart and use it to assess your current activity and structure and then to create the plans that will make us a stronger, better Society.

The talks, workshops, and liturgies at the Assembly were excellent. The workshops, especially, gave us much to take home and work on in the months ahead. At the meeting, we also celebrated our accomplishments and challenged ourselves to meet the needs of the changing world in which we serve our neighbors in need. We featured the 20th anniversary of the highly successful Invitation for Renewal Program. We also recognized the work of our Disaster Services Corporation, which has significantly grown its capacity and credibility since we established it five years ago. Thank you to all the organizers and presenters who made this an exceptionally great meeting.

Music always moves me and enriches my prayer life. That may be why hearing hundreds of voices singing “Here I am Lord” together in Baltimore was so powerful for me. I hope you, too, can say, “Here I Am,” and make that commitment to serve, to be a leader and to grow our organization. It is not easy work we do. Our need for being spiritually grounded in that commitment could not have been more powerfully communicated to us than it was by having our very own President General choose to sing, “Lord, I need You, oh, I need You. Every hour, I need You.”

I left the meeting in Baltimore with a desire to work for this Society with a renewed commitment in this last year of my presidency. That’s a commitment to serve all of you as we grow in holiness and live out our Vincentian mission together. Even though you may not have been with us at the National Assembly, I hope you choose to renew your passion for that mission with me.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

P.S. This Friday, September 9, is the Feast of Blessed Frederic Ozanam. Please take time to pray for his canonization, which we hope will occur in the near future.

08-11-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leader

08-11-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leader 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Have you read any good books this summer? I just finished reading the newly published biography of Amélie Ozanam. It won’t make the list of New York Times bestsellers or any list of great summer reads, but I found it compelling. Amélie, as most of us know, was the wife of our principal founder, Frédéric Ozanam. That is about all any of us knew about her until Matthieu Brejon de Lavergnée wrote this wonderfully detailed biography.

Amélie turns out to have been much more than a supportive spouse for a brilliant Sorbonne professor. All of us who love Frédéric will have our understanding of him enriched by seeing him through Amélie’s perspective. Her biography includes 50 pages of her letters, which are insightful and charming — and contain firsthand details of the couple’s life together that cannot be found elsewhere.

It is clear from this biography that Amélie was a true partner to Frédéric. He was not always an easy man to live with, but he was a better person for having her in his life. Those of us who value the legacy of our founder owe Amélie a debt for keeping the memory of him alive. She worked with several biographers and saved many of his personal artifacts that are now on display in our international headquarters in Paris. She was especially dedicated to preserving his writings; her efforts included overseeing several posthumous publications and writing many of his friends to have letters he sent them returned for preservation.

Amélie was 33 years old when Frédéric died. She never remarried and was often seen publicly in her mourning dress. She continued to lead an active social and family life, however. Her main task was raising their daughter, Marie, with the help of family and friends. Many of Frédéric’s friends would stay in touch with her, and she participated in several charitable activities in Paris.

I found reading Amélie’s letters included in this book touching — particularly so those written in the months when she and Frédéric were engaged but separated. He was teaching in Paris, and she was living with her parents in Lyon. Her writings are romantic, insightful, humorous and occasionally a bit confrontative.

We all need people in our lives who love, challenge and support us. In Amélie, Frédéric Ozanam had such a person. A quote from one of her letters to Frédéric serves as an appropriate subtitle for the book, “A heart with much love to give.”

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

P.S.  In full disclosure, the National Council is the publisher of this book and — working with the author, Matthieu Brejon de Lavergnée — arranged for the translation of this work from French to English. I had the pleasure of reviewing the proofs with Raymond Sickinger and Timothy Williams, but seeing the final product in print exceeded my expectations. The book can be ordered from the National Council office.

08-04-2022 A Letter from Our Servant Leaders

08-04-2022 A Letter from Our Servant Leaders 1363 1363 SVDP USA

At the national Invitation For Renewal (IFR) experience, we utilize a protected conversation environment in which the participants can share their joys and challenges, frustrations, victories, and concerns. At times we get some real doozies!

This recent time though was different, and not in a good way. Several participants expressed that they were close to quitting – either their Society leadership role or their Vincentian experience entirely – before they journeyed to St. Louis to undertake a five-day, four-night immersion into the Society’s culture, history, and governance as well as into their own relationship with Christ. The experience “pulled them from the abyss” and, thank God, re-energized them to continue their Vincentian journey.

Okay, so 28 members and leaders got a positive shot in the arm. What about the rest of our 90,000 brother and sister Vincentians? How are they feeling these days, after months of isolation due to COVID, and extreme changes in how we conduct the Society’s services and businesses? If they have not been able to go to Mass, or to meet in person with their Conference, has this dampened or eliminated sense of fellowship affected them? Overall, how has their relationships with God and with their fellow Vincentians changed over the past two years? And what can any of us do about it?

Our focus throughout the pandemic, as always, has been primarily on the people we serve. We recognize their challenges before we see our own. After all, on average a family in poverty has fewer resources – financial, faith, and friendship resources – than we likely have. We knew that life would be tough for them as pandemic conditions changed, especially for people in need. Yet while we raced to act to keep up with our services, and even to create and nurture needed new ones, did we leave our own needs behind?

We have seen this in others, such as first-responders who kept serving in the hospital, police, and fire stations at the sacrifice of their own mental and physical health. Without asking for it, they were often celebrated in the community and nationally as the heroes they are, because everyone learned of their sacrifices and risks, often voluntarily taken. Vincentians, however, often work behind the scenes, humbly and in the “shadows.” They don’t seek recognition; in fact, they often actively avoid it! They would rather the attention be on the plight of the poor, the unemployed, the sick and others who need our help. “I’m good” they might say to anyone asking. But are they really?

We may have recently taken stock of our Society locally to ask how our programs are delivered, and if what we have always done still works in times of changing conditions, technologies and outside resources. Now we must also take dedicated time to ask how we ourselves are holding up. We may have been through a faith and volunteerism Hell, and it isn’t getting that much better very quickly unless we act. The first step is to recognize where we are, then we can do something about it.

What can we do as brothers and sisters? As always, we can pray together, share with each other, and get back to meeting in person not just to perform the Society’s business but also simply to be there for each other. We can share all those frustrations we have seen and experienced recently, and ask for help. Chances are that what you experienced was the same for others in the room. How can we support each other, and perhaps make it better? We start with our ears and our hearts, and then our heads and hands. Break out the tissues, the beer, the laughter or whatever it takes to have honest conversations about our Vincentian experiences.

We talk a lot, including in this space, about the continuing need to recruit new members. Can we honestly recruit truthfully and joyfully if we ourselves are beaten down and battered by life over the past year or more? Can we invite others to join us if we’re not sure ourselves if we can continue?

It may be easier to keep the members we have than to find new ones, but it will still require conscious effort. Let’s take time to retrench and renew. Don’t put it off, start now! Despite the challenges, we know deep down that there is still much to celebrate. There is much to look forward to in our service and commitment to each other and to God. We can and must take the necessary steps to re-discover the joy we had when we started.

God still lives in us. The Face of Christ is still within us and in each other. Step back to take a breath, to re-center and to check on our fellow Vincentians. We need to be okay before we can make it more okay for others. Whether to ask for help or to offer it, please reach out to a Society member today.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

07-21-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

07-21-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1363 1363 SVDP USA

Some days it feels like the world is upside down. Conflicting information, opposing trends and biased news accounts make it difficult to get a fair reading on what life looks like for everyday Americans. All I know for certain is that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s members are part of every American community, and often are called upon to help when things get rough.

Here are just a few data points that make me scratch my head in confusion:

  • Inflation is at historic levels, stated at 9.1 percent, yet regular expenses such as food (12.2%), new vehicles (11.4%) and airfares (34.1%) are measured even higher.
  • Gasoline (up 59.9%) and other household energy costs (21.9%) are up over 12 months but again, perceived by many as even higher, usually referenced by the cost to fill their vehicle’s gas tank.
  • Jobs appear more plentiful than ever! And wages have risen, especially for lower-wage jobs. Yet almost 95 million – 30 percent – of Americans are now on Medicaid, and more than 41 million receive federal food stamps averaging $228/month.
  • Rent costs are rising quickly after many months of abatements and other COVID-related freezes. Meanwhile, housing sales were red-hot until just a few weeks ago. Homelessness in any case appears economy-proof and just as prevalent.
  • Energy costs and supply chain issues dominate the blame game for rising costs, yet corporate profits still look good! Why then is the stock market down so low? Americans worry about both today’s finances and their retirement funds – if they have them

What’s a Vincentian to do? Fortunately, we are a hardy bunch, and we focus on the individual and family. We do not judge those we serve; however, we should be informed and prepared. What do the stats above and other changing, often contradictory economic stories suggest about how our Conference should respond to help our neighbors?

First, it has always been part of our Society’s work and obligation to those we serve to advocate. Our Voice of the Poor groups and our Conferences know the real-life stories of our communities, and these are powerful advocacy perspectives to share with elected officials and others who create and manage policies. If nothing else, we should explain how almost any policy might create unintended, unanticipated consequences for the poor.

Second, all this dynamic change underscores the importance of the Home Visit. That’s right, our help still begins with a relationship and assessment of needs. Yes, we serve anyone who comes to us asking for a food box. A Home Visit, however, can lead that family to additional resources we can provide for other needs.

It also may lead to more sustainable solutions to reduce the need to return to us later. Thus third, we can advance our systemic change tools of employment assistance, job training, and education, predatory lending alternatives, financial literacy, and other local supports.

Absent forethought and planning, a Conference can continue to give food and gas cards, and pay rent and utility checks for people all day, every day. This won’t change anyone’s life for the better by putting a financial Band-Aid on the problem. We can’t spend our way out of this problem. (By the way, this might be a good lesson for others as we advocate!) We can, however, spend our precious time and dollars wisely toward lasting change.

The world may be topsy-turvy. The Society can as always be both a faith-driven voice of reason and a force for good, navigating the crazy with steady, thoughtful approaches that help one family at a time, over time. We must realize that yesterday’s tools may or may not work, or work sustainably, for today’s problems. Just as we pivoted and adapted to the pandemic, now we must do the same for the economic and political realities of today.

Let’s meet soon as a Conference with a sole special-agenda intention of stepping back to discern the community’s present needs. Let’s then re-design as needed our resources and responses in line with our Society’s mission, our faith, and our best hopes and dreams for our neighbors in need. The rest of the country may be bonkers right now. As Vincentian friends and the face of Christ for those we serve, we can rise above it all to help families make better sense of their situations and to give them our greatest gift -hope – for their futures.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

Michael Bourg

St. Vincent de Paul New Orleans Welcomes New Executive Director

St. Vincent de Paul New Orleans Welcomes New Executive Director 1080 1512 SVDP USA

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Archdiocesan Council of New Orleans (ADCNO) is pleased to announce the hiring of Michael S. Bourg as Executive Director.

Bourg brings over 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector to the organization; specifically in the areas of management and fundraising. He has done extensive work in institutional strategic and long-term planning and is skilled in community relations and inter-agency collaboration within both faith-based and secular non-profits. He has created an international training in advancement and communications for Catholic startup development/ communications offices across the globe – teaching it from Poland to the Philippines to South Africa and beyond.

“We’re very excited to have someone with Michael’s credentials associated with the Society, and lead our Council,” says Board President Michael Champagne.

Through decades of experience working with, volunteering with, and representing Catholic organizations, Michael’s motivation has always been Matthew:25seeking to accompany and walk with those at the margins of society.

A Vincentian himself, Michael is both humbled and excited by the opportunity to serve the many SVdP Conferences within the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

06-16-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

06-16-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

In last week’s Servant Leader Column, Renato Lima de Oliviera, our International President, shared some of his thoughts looking back on his presidency. In another year I may write a similar column, but today I want to look forward, not backward. Like Renato, I have 15 more months left in my term of office, and the process of choosing the next National Council President has begun. Succession planning is important at every level of the Society, and we have a National Council process that will provide a six-month period for me and your next president to work on a smooth transition.

Earlier this year I appointed a National Election Committee. The committee is headed by Raymond Sickinger, and its members include Sister Kieran Kneaves, Gladys Hoerner, Mike Syslo, and Tommye Grant (replacing the recently deceased Marie Wicks). CEO David Barringer and I serve on the committee as ex-officio members. I am grateful for this committee of well-respected Vincentians who have prepared the necessary documents and have the duty of overseeing the entire presidential nomination and election process.

A call for nominations of presidential candidates and the details of the process were issued at the Midyear Meeting and were sent to all National Council members. Nominations were due to be postmarked by June 13. As of this writing, four nominations had been received. The names of nominees, their biographies and their platform papers will be provided in the next few weeks, after the committee examines the nominations to verify eligibility.

At the National Assembly in Baltimore, there will be an opportunity to meet the candidates at the Host City Reception. They will each speak at the Saturday business meeting. To reduce the slate to two candidates, your representatives will be asked to vote for the candidates they believe will best serve our National Council.

Following the Assembly, we will conduct a nationwide process that will allow all active members to review the two candidates’ platforms, biographies, and recorded videos, and then to vote at a Conference meeting. The results of this deliberation by members will then inform the vote of National Council Members from each diocese represented. Please look for more information in the e-Gazette about the candidates and the process.

To help us find the right person to be our next president, what I ask all of us to do is to follow the Society’s long-standing practice of praying to the Holy Spirit regularly as our process proceeds. That is what was done when our first president, Emmanuel Bailly, stepped down. Here is the prayer provided to us by the National Election Committee. To download the PDF of this prayer, click here.

The office of National Council president is not an honorific position but is rather a servant-leader role that is both extremely rewarding and quite challenging. I and every previous National Council president will attest to the fact that we did not fully understand what we were called to do when we took the position. Like the rest of our entire vocation as Vincentians, serving as national president is a journey that requires prayerful trust in the Providence of God. It is a journey I have been on with all of you for almost five years. That journey is not finished, but it is time to ask the Holy Spirit to identify who will continue it with us as the next servant leader of the National Council of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in the United States.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President


06-02-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

06-02-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

My son the 20-something high school teacher and coach challenged me to a 100-yard foot race. I accepted, knowing I would lose, because that’s what dads do. I can pull a hamstring just thinking about running, so I told my wife to go to the finish line and get the oxygen ready. We took our starting positions, and I told him I wanted the Lynyrd Skynryd option. While he thought about it I took off, yelling “Gimme three steps!”

He was kind. Sure, he beat me like a drum. I won’t say by how much, but he made me a sandwich before I got to the finish line.

The real win for me was being asked to race. Of course, that’s what us losers say all the time! This time I mean it. When we have a chance to participate in anything with someone younger, related or not, it’s a good thing.

Our country recently has elevated its thought and language about diversity and inclusion. One area we forget about too often is the diversity that comes with age, and how important it is to reach across age groups in all directions to find different skill sets and certainly different perspectives.

It’s not as hard as we think. In our respective lives, we have the commonalities of careers, relationships and parenthood, to name just a few. These may not always be comfortable to discuss at first, so we can consider others. Sports, for example. Every generation loves or hates Tom Brady or the Yankees. I find it easy to talk about Marvel movies with young friends. They know the characters mostly from the films, while I read the original plotlines years ago from the comics. This leads to passionate conversations of absolutely nothing of consequence! Unless we consider friendship a consequence, that is.

At the recent Young Catholic Professionals annual conference, I was the oldest Vincentian present by at least 30 years. I was energized by the enthusiasm of our younger members for their faith, our Society’s impact on their lives, and their evangelizing spirit in discussing our works with others. If this is the future of the Society, we are in good hands and hearts.

A lot of younger adults think differently about volunteerism than older generations. They aren’t able to commit to the same number of service hours, at least not as performed in weekly meetings over years. They tend to prefer service commitments made one day at a time. If the service was fulfilling for them, they do it again. Their friendships and volunteer service mirror their careers; they tend to be portable. What’s more lasting, fortunately, are their marriage and family vocations, and faith. All need to be nourished.

What an opportunity this presents for all of us “seasoned” Vincentians. Most of us have younger relatives, whom we can ask to join us. We may also have “Church friends” and other relationships with younger adults in our lives. They have been watching you, learning about what you consider to be important and the examples you provide – whether you know it or not. That’s how all of us grow into adulthood in every generation; by learning from the ones who have already travelled our roads.

Please don’t assume that because they are young they aren’t ready to get closer to God, or that they don’t want to serve the poor. The exact opposite may be true! In fact, a younger person with a good introduction to a concept, person or experience often becomes a lifelong believer! Why else would anyone still be a Cubs fan?

If we wait to recruit someone when they retire from their careers, all those past relationships and good experiences preempt a bit the ability to create new ones. Let’s work across generations to find new ways to serve, and new ways to communicate and share our faith that work for younger adults. Let’s work together to create and fan a spark, even if it doesn’t burn brightly right away.

We can show how every song the younger music fans listen to started with traditions laid down by Chuck Berry or the Beatles. In turn we can appreciate that some things are entirely new! We can argue who is better, Babe Ruth or Shohei Ohtani, Bill Russell or LeBron James. The answers don’t matter, really. What counts is the dialogue and the friendships that result.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

05-12-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-12-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

Every week, it seems we Catholics are asked for our positions of the social crisis of the day. For a religion that is so often ridiculed or ignored by the media, they sure do ask often for our opinions!

It fascinates me that our brothers and sisters in different faiths are rarely asked how they feel as a religion about the issues of the day. No, the Catholics are the standard. I choose that word intentionally.

We know that Catholics disagree with each other – just attend any Conference meeting! We also know that some Catholics are at odds with the Church on various issues including life, immigration and borders, climate, and others. We overlook sometimes that our faith is somewhat unique in that it has actual positions, derived over years – sometimes hundreds and even thousands – and that these positions are written down for everyone to see. When a Pope even suggests a departure through imprecise words from these positions, it makes worldwide news.

When some disagree strongly, they may face a crisis of conscience leading even to a departure from the Catholic faith, although many would tell you that they disagree only with the Church and not with the faith. They still believe in Christ and how He died for our sins. They just disagree with the “politics” of the Church. Which is also interesting in that using political yardstick measures, the Church is liberal in some regards and conservative in others. This is not inconsistency; in fact, the Church is remarkably consistent. Maintaining clear and consistent values can lead the Church to the right for some individual issues and to the left for others.

As a Vincentian and as a Catholic, you may be asked for your opinion of the Society’s position on the topic of the day. The Rule provides us with guiding elements to help us. The first is in Part III, Statute 29 on our Relationship with Civil Society. The Society does not identify with any political party, we are nonviolent, we bring Christian values to political matters, and those holding political offices are asked not to hold any “mission of representation” within the Society while in office. That alone covers a lot of ground these days!

The second relevant element is in the Rule, Part I, 5.3, in which the Society recognizes the right and duty of the diocesan bishop to confirm that the Society acts in accordance with Catholic faith and morals. In other words, while we are officially autonomous of the Church (see I.5.2), we maintain a close relationship with the church hierarchy and its values. Many of the political battles and policy decisions we face come down to moral decisions, don’t they?

The third relevant element is not in the Rule but in the Manual of the National Council of the United States, in Section 2.1: Speaking for the Society. It’s one simple sentence: “Only the National President may ‘speak for the Society’ on national issues. For local issues, this is delegated to the Council President.”

It is tempting, when asked for your opinion, to give it! As Americans, we enjoy freedom of speech. This freedom, however, does not extend to us speaking on behalf of most organizations to which we belong, including the Society. It can be challenging to hold one’s tongue when the issue is important and we have such brilliant commentary, but please do resist when asked about “your take” on any Society position.

Allow me to offer two alternatives. When asked for my opinion “as a Catholic” I can often respond by directing the inquirer to the local bishop or to the USCCB. When asked by media for my view as a Vincentian, I let them know that even as the national CEO I don’t speak for the Society, but often I will add a question of my own. “What are the consequences of this issue, intentional and perhaps unintentional, for the poor? Please consider them in forming your story.”

Catholics, through the formal Church and its many informed and cause-related organizations, have a voice, even if this voice is sometimes ridiculed or ignored. The poor, however, often have no voice at all. It seems that every social issue affects them more than everyone else, and usually negatively. As Vincentians we can work to free their own voice, or if not possible, work to speak on their behalf.

As noted above, the Catholic viewpoint is often used as a standard. Let our Vincentian actions speak as standards of love and care for our neighbors, humility, and everyday work to make our world a better place for all. Our own lives are testament to our Catholic faith and values. By our lives we can be the standard for Good.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

04-07-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leader

04-07-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leader 1363 1363 SVDP USA

The establishment of the U.S. Census by our nation’s founders was a genius move. While originally designed to help apportion members of the National Congress, later Census tallies helped us all to know more about our growing country’s population, its shifts from one region to another, its ethnicities, and its economics over time. A lot can happen in the ten years between the full Census counts!

We are now at a time when such a Census of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s membership is vital to understanding our capacity to serve. We have all heard about decaying Church membership – our “member prospect universe” – and the anxieties over whether or not some of the U.S. Catholic membership can rebound or is lost forever. A national pandemic that shut down Mass attendance along with so many other faith-based activities certainly did not help.

Within the Society, we are proud that during the pandemic, we kept going. It was for us a simple matter: people were still poor, so we kept serving them. We adjusted with virtual Home Visits and Conference meetings where we could, though we missed seeing the Face of Christ in person. What, though, has been the lasting impact on our membership numbers? Recruiting was more difficult when we could not meet with anyone interested in joining us, and many of the informal service opportunities that attract future Vincentians were suspended for weeks or months at a time.

Conversations among some of the Society’s English-speaking National Councils uncovered a disturbing recognition that up to 70 percent of their membership has not returned to serve. Some died, some moved away and others changed their contact information, and this happens all the time. The disturbing big change was that the habit of Vincentian service was so severely disrupted that some members “dropped out” either to express their faith in different ways, to retire from active Society services, or to fade away from the Society and perhaps from the Church itself.

For years now we have maintained a membership of approximately 100,000 Society members in the United States, serving in nearly 4,500 Conferences and other locations. For the first time, I’m not very confident that these numbers are accurate. You likewise should not assume that your local numbers, names, and contact data are the same as they were just three years ago.

We aren’t structured to perform a national Society Census; we are a grassroots organization at our core. I ask you to please be intentional in seeking out everyone you believe are your members, see if they are still willing to serve, and if you have all the membership data you need to operate your Councils and Conferences. We can’t assume this data any longer; we need to verify it to see where we truly are and then plan, likely much more vigorously, for member and Conference growth. While we pray that we have not lost 70 percent of our members, we should not be surprised that some loss has occurred at least temporarily.

A Society member census can be performed not just to count, but to re-engage our members. Consider the counting as a series of wellness checks on where our members are, and also what they need to come back into Vincentian service and regular meetings. Let’s work together to re-count, re-engage, and re-inspire our members toward their own spirituality through Society membership and service to others. And by the way, if you encounter potential new members along the way, invite them in!

We will only know where we are nationally with our membership numbers after we start to know more locally. In your counting process, please take the time to send the information up the line toward your local Council and the National Council with updated database input, improved Annual Report completion, and subscriptions to this e-Gazette. All this has benefit for your members to stay informed and to stay connected with all levels of the Society nationally.

With today’s inflationary pressures, which always affect the poorest the most harshly, we are needed in our neighborhoods more than ever. We don’t intend to be “small but mighty” to do our works. We prefer the “many hands make light work” approach! No matter our membership size, can’t we always welcome, or welcome back, someone else who desires to be closer to God?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

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