Vincentians

National Council Building Dedication Renews Faith and Friendship

National Council Building Dedication Renews Faith and Friendship 633 277 SVDP USA

The sun burned bright in St. Louis on June 11, with temperatures nearing 100 degrees. But it paled in comparison to the outpouring of faith and friendship that flowed out of the National Council office during the dedication of our new headquarters at 66 Progress Parkway.

Though staff began working from the building shortly after its purchase last summer, the pandemic had prevented the larger SVdP community from visiting until now. The day marked a joyous reunion, as Board members and staff came together in person after a year a half filled with many Zoom meetings and a fair amount of uncertainty.

National Council President Ralph Middlecamp noted that the building actually opened in March 2020, but due to COVID restrictions, no one could enter for many weeks.

Ralph Middlecamp

Once it was safe to enter last summer (socially distant and with masks), a team of staff members, led by Chief Operating

Officer Nancy Pino, worked tirelessly to create a space that is reflective of Vincentian values. “Our goal when designing our new space was not only to make it a productive, comfortable, and welcoming environment for our staff, but for all Vincentian visitors,” she said. “The History Wall and Chapel help express the story of beginnings, who we are, and who we aspire to become.”

SVdP History

President Ralph Middlecamp and CEO Dave Barringer welcomed guests to the new headquarters, then Spiritual Advisor Bishop Donald J. Hying and Deacon John Heithaus of the Archdiocesan Council of St. Louis performed the first Mass in the National Council Chapel. Said Barringer, “We have intentionally designed the building to reflect the Society’s mission. Upon entry through our front door, within 25 feet you will see our logo, a statue of St. Vincent de Paul, our Mission statement, a video of Society activities, a wall dedicated to our history and values, and a chapel. Yes, we want to lead with our faith, so a chapel space was forefront in our design plans.”

SVdP National Council Chapel

Middlecamp was pleased with what the National Council team was able to accomplish. “Our new National Office provides a well-designed space for our staff and volunteers as we serve those who serve our neighbors in need,” he said. “It is attractive and functional, and we were able to make the move without any fundraising or decrease in support for the programs we offer. What a great new beginning for us as we look to the future after these months of isolation.”

As a special surprise, the day’s celebration included the dedication of the new Sr. Kieran Library, a fitting tribute to the National Council’s long-time Director of Formation, who gave so much to the Society. Current Director of Formation Tim Williams had this to say: “Friday’s Open House, Mass, and dedication of the new building seemed like a perfect way for us to emerge from the pandemic, and begin our return to in-person meetings. For me, personally, it was a great joy to see the unmasked smile of my predecessor and dear friend, Sister Kieran Kneaves, when we unveiled the name of our new Vincentian library, dedicated to her and to the many years she served us all in this vocation!”

Sr. Kieran KneavesTrue to the Vincentian value of prudence, the National Council did not use any dollars from member services to purchase the new building, which was funded through the sale of our old building and judicious savings of bequest funds over time. “Our most loyal donors contributed mightily to this day. We thank them,” Middlecamp said.

The new building will serve as a space for collaboration, faith, and friendship for the Society’s 100,000 Vincentian volunteers and the staff who support them, providing the technology and space to sustain our work now and well into the future. In his remarks, Barringer said, “To not only our staff, but also to our Board of Directors, and our Society members, Welcome Home!”

 

Our Faith in Action…Even During the Pandemic

Our Faith in Action…Even During the Pandemic 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Almost overnight, the world changed forever in March 2020. But while many organizations closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s 100,000 volunteers knew that full closures weren’t an option. We would have to adapt our service models — and do it quickly — to safely continue to support our neighbors in need, who were adversely affected by the pandemic.

From masking up to social distancing, we innovated how we serve our neighbors in need, but never changed the Society’s unique person-to-person ministry.

Tune in to EWTN on August 6 at 5:30 PM Eastern for the premiere of a special edition of Our Faith in Action: Today’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We’ll share how Vincentians adapted their operations to support our neighbors in new and creative ways.

Mark your calendar, set your DVR, and join us on our travels to Albuquerque, Tampa Bay, and Houston, and see just some of the good works of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Contemplation: Man’s Best Friend

Contemplation: Man’s Best Friend 940 788 SVDP USA

Ours is a ministry of presence. For all the bread, for all the rent, for all the material things we may at times provide, there is nothing more important, nothing more valuable, and nothing more lasting than simply to be in the presence of our neighbors in need.

This is sometimes difficult to remember because we Vincentians are people of action. We want to identify the problem and fix it! Efficient “interviews,” though, are not what makes the Society unique. There are hundreds of agencies ready to dig for information in the name of solving the problem.

But what the suffering poor need much more than a thorough form to fill out is somebody who will sit with them; who will share their sadness, if only for a moment. Like a true friend.

Blessed Rosalie Rendu, who taught and inspired the earliest members of the Society, genuinely enjoyed being in the company of the poor. She would often go to the soup kitchen and spend hours there in conversation. In Queen by Right Divine, biographer Kathleen O’Meara recounts that men who “came for their plate of rice and beans” would often confide to Rosalie “almost unawares, some secret of moral or physical misery worse than the hunger they had come to assuage.” [P. 73]

They didn’t share their stories in response to a list of questions, or an application form; they opened up to a friend who cared about them, who respected them, and who loved them. Somebody who was with them because that was where she wanted to be.

Our Rule calls us to “establish relationships based on trust and friendship.” [Rule, Pt. I, 1.9] It was trust and friendship that led those men in the soup kitchen to open up to Rosalie; her trust in them, and her friendship towards them, inspired them to respond in kind.

In 1869 Florence Nightingale found that patients often responded more to dogs than to people. Modern science has found that a dog’s presence can not only relieve anxiety but can even lower blood pressure. Dogs seem to sense when a person is sad, and simply sit alongside them, asking nothing in return. People even open up and speak to dogs about their problems.

A dog doesn’t answer, offer advice, or solve your problem. He’s just there, fully and completely, for you.

Imagine if we could take the first steps towards the holy example of Blessed Rosalie by learning from the example of “man’s best friend!”

Contemplate

On my Home Visits, do I sometimes interrupt the silence?

Recommended Reading

A Heart on Fire – especially III. “A Network of Presence and Charity”

06-10-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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

Dear Vincentian Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

Contemplation – Filled With God for the Day

Contemplation – Filled With God for the Day 940 788 SVDP USA

Vincentians are people of prayer. Together as Conferences, we pray to open and close each meeting, retreat, and reflection; we attend Mass together on our Vincentian feast days; we ask God’s blessings upon each other and upon the neighbors we serve. We are, as Blessed Frédéric often said, “united in works and prayers.” [Letter 135 to Bailly,1836]

Our Vincentian vocation, though, is not limited to our Conference meetings or to our works, but is “a vocation for every moment of our lives.” [Rule, Part I, 2.6] Our call to prayer is an individual one. We hear this call repeated throughout our Rule: we “pray before personal encounters or visits” [Part I, 1.7]; we promote “a life of prayer and reflection;” and our “personal lives are characterized by prayer…” [Part I, 2.2]

Saint Vincent de Paul famously began each day with three hours of prayer. And what better way to start the day? Conversing with a God who loves us so much, St. Vincent taught, we will “rise promptly and joyously.” [CCD X:101] Beyond that, he advised, “prayer being your first occupation, your mind may be filled with God for the rest of the day.” [CCD IX:23]

We humble ourselves in prayer, but dwell “more on His strength than on [our] own weakness” in the hope that He will accomplish His good in us and through us. In prayer, we abandon ourselves to what Vincent called “His paternal embrace,” [CCD V:166] and what Frédéric called “the maternal guidance of Providence.” [Letter 310 to Amelie, 1841]

Finally, in our individual prayer, we remember not only to lay out our own needs before God, but the needs of our Vincentian friends. Frédéric once described this mutuality of prayerful intentions as the “one rendezvous where Christian souls are sure of meeting and conversing together.” [Letter 493 to Dufieux, 1843]

Vincentians are people of prayer. It is the basis of our friendship, of our meetings, and of our service. It is through our prayer that we daily recommit ourselves to our vocation, to each other, and to Divine Providence.

Amen!

Contemplate

Is prayer a part of my day — every day?

Recommended Reading

15 Days of Prayer With Blessed Fredric Ozanam

06-03-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

06-03-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 410 382 SVDP USA

Of our beloved Society’s three Essential Elements, perhaps the one that suffered the most in the last pandemic year was Friendship. Fortunately, we continued with the Element of our Service with creativity and adaptation at all organizational levels. We also continued in Spirituality even when relying on online Masses and virtual Church and member gatherings in prayer and reflection.

Friendship, we discovered, is best served in person. We know from our own families that while phone calls, an occasional card or letter, and now video chats are all nice, nothing surpasses being together in person — usually over a good meal. And sorry, but there simply is no such thing as a virtual hug.

This is why I am so pleased to share with you that our 2021 National Assembly is planned as an in-person event! Our Society’s national family was last together two years ago in Denver, with a smaller gathering of around 300 of us to celebrate the new Frédéric Ozanam mosaic installation at the National Basilica in Washington, DC back in January 2020, though it seems even longer ago.

Excitement is building, and so is the agenda for a fantastic National Assembly to be held August 25-28 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in downtown Houston, Texas. Both hotel and Event registrations open today! Here are just a few highlights from this year’s agenda:

  • Keynote Presentations by Dr. Jaime Waters, Ph.D., a professor of Scripture, African American Catholic Women, and Catholic Studies at DePaul University and writer of a weekly scripture commentary for America magazine; and Dr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM, President of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and previously COO of Ascension Health and President of DePaul University.
  • A spiritual retreat presented by our National Episcopal Adviser, Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison WI.
  • Workshop tracks in Formation and Development, and individual workshops on a wide variety of Vincentian subjects — 25 in all!
  • A Host City event on the Marriott’s rooftop pool — with a lazy river shaped like the state of Texas! — hosted by the SVdP Archdiocesan Council of Galveston-Houston.
  • National Business Meeting, Board of Directors meeting, and lots of national committee and task force meetings.
  • Wednesday pre-meeting workshops for Stores and Disaster Preparedness.
  • Exhibitor Showcase — resources for many aspects of your Vincentian experience.
  • A national Best Practices Poster Session — developed by you.
  • Much, much more!

We all recognize that COVID restrictions for travel and meetings are changing daily. We are working with the hotel and city/state authorities to provide you with a safe National Assembly experience. It’s too early to announce any masking, distancing, or other requirements just yet. We can announce that our workshops and general sessions will be recorded for viewing soon after the Assembly, both for those who can’t attend and to share with others as you gather so many good ideas for action back home at your Council and Conference!

For more details on the 2021 SVDP National Assembly, here are the links:
Registration Link
Hotel Link

Watch for updates in the e-Gazette. I look forward to seeing you again, and rekindling our so-essential Society friendships!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

06-03-21 News Roundup

06-03-21 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.

Contemplation – The Joy of Angels

Contemplation – The Joy of Angels 940 788 SVDP USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contemplate

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

Recommended Reading

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

Young Adult Vincentians Use Social Media Fame to Support Their Neighbors in Need

Young Adult Vincentians Use Social Media Fame to Support Their Neighbors in Need 1386 1364 SVDP USA

John Paul Brissette, a member of the SVdP National Youth Committee, and his brother, Francis Brissette, have Vincentian blood pulsing through their veins. Their mother, Renee, is the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Council, and along with their siblings Kat and Peter, they are founding members of Rhode Island’s Youth and Young Adult Conference, called Next Gen

Over the past couple of years, John Paul and Francis have worked hard and become social media influencers. They publish family-friendly comedy content using various internet platforms like Twitch, TikTok, and YouTube.

“We grew from two brothers whose only follower was our mom, to a follower base of nearly two million in just over a year,” said John Paul.

Recently, the brothers decided it was time they returned to their Vincentian roots. They wanted to use their internet fame to help those in their community who were suffering. “We knew we were given a gift from God, and with having some of the best fans in the world, we knew we needed to give back.”

They hosted a 24-hour live stream on Twitch as a fundraiser for SVdP Rhode Island’s Necessities for Neighbors program. The live-stream offered the brothers an opportunity to teach people about SVdP and the work that Vincentians do to help neighbors in need. They also spent time playing games and making people laugh, something they are very good at. 

“We raised over $2,500 and counting, and promoted an Amazon wishlist for people to purchase toiletries and other items for Necessities for Neighbors,” said John Paul. “We also posted a video to YouTube promoting the stream, with ad revenue going directly to SVdP Rhode Island.”

The following weekend, they promoted and sponsored the first-ever Do Gud Day. It was an event which promoted youth volunteering in a fun and competitive way. Sixteen youth and young adults were split into two teams, who held a friendly competition of filling backpacks with toiletries and notes to give out to people in need in the community through SVdP Rhode Island’s Necessities for Neighbors program. Kat Brissette, their sister and SVdP National Board Member, designed the day by creating a program and resources that can be packaged and used in any location.  

“JP and I have been given a gift which every day feels like dumb luck. Our mantra is ‘you were put on this world to make a difference,'” said Francis. “And when you are just two kids from Rhode Island, or young people anywhere,  you tend to struggle with figuring out just how you can make a difference. With our internet fame, which we believe is a gift from God and something we have always dreamed about, and our work with the Society, we now feel like we’re finally making that difference in the world.”

To watch the video about Do Gud Day, click here.

If you are interested in following the Brissettes and their social media accounts, you can find all that information on their website: https://broskiesstudios.com/.

05-27-2021 News Roundup

05-27-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 SVDP USA

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

INTERNATIONAL:

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

NATIONAL

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

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

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