03-30-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

03-30-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” This sentence from the Gospel of Matthew was a touchstone that our founders used to remind themselves of the blessing of being together. You can find the phrase three times in letters written by Blessed Frederic Ozanam, and you have likely recited it in the opening prayer we frequently use for our Conference meetings. It is a remarkable statement of faith.

Meetings often have a bad reputation. Most of us would like them to be short and infrequent. Our founders met weekly, and apparently their friendship was graced enough for them to experience the presence of the Divine in their meetings. Two weeks ago, we held our annual Midyear Meeting, and I felt that grace as we gathered together. Reflecting back, what I remember most is that I enjoyed being with friends. Certainly, we had business to accomplish. There were listening sessions, resolutions, panel discussions, and the election of our next International President General.

Now, we are back home with our Councils and Conferences. We have follow-up work to do. This includes finalizing our work on the Standards of Excellence, growing our membership, and setting policies to safeguard the vulnerable neighbors we serve. At our meeting we listened to the questions and concerns your leaders shared about these initiatives, and I am very pleased with the progress we are making. These efforts will provide the strong foundation we need to have in place as we build the future of our Society, and I hope you get involved in making that happen.

I am very grateful for the work our national committees and task forces have done in the past five and a half years. At the Midyear Meeting, I moderated a panel discussion with five committee leaders; they highlighted what their groups have accomplished and what still needs to be done. To advance their efforts, the members of our committees have spent uncounted hours in meetings – many taking place through Zoom. The work of these committees, often meeting behind the scenes, continues to benefit all of us by addressing the challenges of strengthening and growing our organization in the service of our neighbors in need.

Almost all of the plans and resources created by National Council committees are developed to serve the needs of our local Councils and Conferences. These resources are designed to be helpful, but sometimes it may seem like we are just giving you more work to do. Sorry about the latter. Some of the things we do are necessary to maintain the health and reputation of our network of charity and are intended to head off future problems. Please keep in touch with your council leaders and support them as they work on behalf of all of us to maintain and renew the organization we love.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President



Our Faith in Action Available for Online Viewing!

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Did you miss Our Faith in Action: Today’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul when it aired on EWTN?

Don’t worry! The entire series is now available for online viewing on SVdP’s Vimeo and YouTube pages. If you don’t have time to watch a full episode or are looking for a specific, you can check out individual segments online as well!

Vimeo (through Vimeo, you are able to download videos to utilize at a later date):


Contemplation — Just Vincentian Enough

Contemplation — Just Vincentian Enough 1080 1080 SVDP USA

“Well,” we sometimes admonish ourselves when an idea we’re discussing doesn’t seem quite right, “that’s not very Vincentian.” The phrase is a simple reminder of who we are, and how we act. It needs no further explanation. After all, our Rule finds it sufficient to say that “Visits to the Poor are made in a Vincentian Spirit.” [Rule, Part III, St. 8] The very word Vincentian carries with it a depth of meaning that conveys so much more to Members than it does to anybody outside the Society.

It isn’t that the Rule never explains what it is to be Vincentian. Throughout it, we read things such as “Vincentians feel called to pray together,” “Vincentians strive to seek out and find those in need,” “Vincentians serve the poor cheerfully,” “Vincentians endeavor to establish relationships based on trust and friendship,” “Vincentians never forget the many blessings they receive from those they visit,” and, of course, “Vincentians serve in hope.”

It turns out that our little word, Vincentian, is a very big thing. So big that if we were to make a list of all the characteristics and actions of Vincentians from our Rule and Manual, and treat as a list of instructions, it would be overwhelming.

In a similar way, if we were to make a list of all the times Jesus says things like “go and do likewise”, “as I have done for you, you should also do,” “do this and you will live,” “love your enemies,” or “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” we would have an even longer list!

The good news is that these lists are not in conflict; Vincentian spirituality is Catholic spirituality. To be Catholic, and to be Vincentian, is not to carry these lists only in our books, but in our hearts, and in our actions. We know that to be Vincentian is always to err on the side of compassion, even though those words are not in the Rule.

Challenged by the Pharisees to pick out the greatest of the commandments, Jesus responded with an entirely new commandment, in two parts: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He was not dismissing the Ten Commandments, but was instead answering the “why” of those commandments.

Few Vincentians have the Rule memorized, and although we try to live it fully, most of us will fall short from time to time. That doesn’t make us any less Vincentian, as long as we remember the “why”. Our “ideal is to help relieve suffering for love alone,” and that is just Vincentian enough.


In serving, is my foremost motive always love of God and neighbor?

Recommended Reading

The Spirituality of the Home Visit

SVdP News Roundup March 18 – March 24

SVdP News Roundup March 18 – March 24 1080 1080 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:



A Week in Prayers March 20 – March 24

A Week in Prayers March 20 – March 24 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Monday, March 20

To do Your will at all times, Lord,
To serve You in the poor,
To let You in to dine
When you knock upon the door.

To see You and to serve You,
With zeal and without fear,
My efforts do not tire me,
My heart is filled with cheer!

Tuesday, March 21

Help me, Lord,
To trust in Your providence,
Abandoning my own will,
Desiring nothing
But to do Your will.
Help me to become holy.

Wednesday, March 22

I will go and serve, Lord,
In Your name and for Your sake.
Outside of my home and comfort,
Outside of my selfish desires,
Outside of myself, my God.
For the love of the neighbor,
In the name of my Savior,
I will go and serve.

Thursday, March 23

Let me be Your light, Lord,
Let me be Your hands.
For thine is the kingdom,
And mine is the mission
To serve for Your love alone.

Friday, March 24

Lord, in my sadness,
Grant me Your comfort.
Lord, in my comfort,
Grant me Your joy.
Lord, in my joy,
Grant me Your peace.
Lord in my peace,
Teach me to comfort.
As You have comforted me.

Daily Prayers are written by Tim Williams, National Vincentian Formation Director.

03-23-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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While watching a football game recently, I noticed that one of the linebackers was the same height and weight as myself. Of course, he was built exactly right to play the game, and I’m built exactly right to watch the game from my couch.

With a little more reflection I wondered if after years of struggling with my weight, maybe all along I have been using the wrong scale. I don’t mean that I should replace the one in the bathroom with a truck scale! Maybe it isn’t the number of pounds I carry but what they consist of, you know, like constructed from protein instead of donuts.

Customers are asked all the time to provide data, and we wonder how, or even if, that data is really needed, and how that data makes a difference. We grumble about providing a screen full of data to get a simple request handled online, and grimace when asked for our contact information to make a simple purchase. Not every purchase is a new relationship! We know that soon we will get that new-customer offer email, or yet another customer satisfaction survey.

We are not immune ourselves; we too often ask for more data. We may require at a Society food pantry not just a name to engage courteously with our neighbor in need, but also an address, family size, and everyone’s names, ethnicity, and contact information. Some of this request is driven by the food supplier, government, or donors. How often, though, do we ask ourselves and these outside parties why all this is necessary?

There may be good reasons to know all this, such as to predict future service needs. Perhaps the contact information helps us to follow up with more resources. If the more we ask leads to the more we can do for someone, great! I often wonder if we gather some information but don’t use it, and if we even know why we gather it in the first place. We need to ask “Why?” on a regular basis in the interest of those we serve.

Do we recognize that when someone comes to us for help, it is embarrassing to lay out one’s life to some unknown person? Imagine being homeless or in a shelter and being asked often about our address? Does one feel judged when asked how many children they have and their ages, and feel accused of not being able to support “all those kids?” Does that single mother really need to advertise that there isn’t a male figure in the home in order to get utility or rent help?

A big trend nowadays is to focus on metrics. How do we measure poverty, for instance, presumably to solve it? In these days of mega data, we want to know everything about everyone so that we can slice and dice the data to prove impact. This is useful to some point, but maybe we overdo it. We forget that we Vincentians are here to help God’s children, not to build databases.

It is easier to be intrusive from a distance. When outside groups ask us to collect data, they may not appreciate the one-on-one, personal experience of our Home Visit in creating relationships. We are asked to become their Census-takers.

As for your National Council, we review those darn annual reports, well, annually. You may not be aware that we have reduced the data fields by more than fifty percent in recent years. How did we get so many in the first place? Members keep asking us to add one more question, perhaps not knowing that we already asked it somewhere else, or that we could generate that answer if we calculated some existing responses, etc. Data creep isn’t evil, but it can unintentionally come from ignorance. We need to be vigilant.

Let’s take the time to ask ourselves and others why we need all this data. Can we answer our questions with fewer responses, such as through sampling over time or using group subsets? Can we reduce the number of questions, saving response time and simplifying the experience for everyone? Can we seek to improve the level of dignity for those we serve, rather than the level of information?

This may mean negotiating with those outside concerns. Ask the foundation to reduce their data requests of us in the name of volunteer efficiency as well as dignity. Challenge the food bank forms – you will doubtless have other pantry operators who will support you.

In my career I have “fired” donors who wanted massive information for the dollars they provided, or needed too much “proof” that my organization was even legitimate. When the funding application takes more time to complete than the services it will fund, well, that’s a clue! Let’s choose dignity, of those we serve and ourselves, over chasing data and dollars.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer


Contemplation — The Journey Together

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Vincentians,” the Rule reminds us, “are called to journey together towards holiness.” [Rule, Part I, 2.2] We repeat this often among ourselves, perhaps sometimes at the risk of it becoming a mere slogan. It is good to consider more deeply from time to time exactly what we are saying, and more importantly to ask ourselves: What is holiness? In what special way are Vincentians called to it?

Our church, of course, teaches that all of us are called to holiness, not just a few of us, not just the clergy or other religious – all of us, whatever our state in life. [LG, Ch V] Because of the great variety of gifts and talents we are given, we may walk different paths towards the perfection to which Christ calls us, and for members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, this vocation is our special way of being Catholic, our special pathway to holiness.

But what, exactly, is holiness? The Church officially declares the holiness of men and women through beatification and canonization. These blessed people stand for us as role models and intercessors. Yet part of these ecclesiastical processes is a requirement for performing miracles. Does the “universal call to holiness” then require each of us to perform miracles? That would seem to be a fairly high bar!

Pope Francis assures us that there are “saints next door”. Perhaps you have met a few of those gentle souls whose kindness seems almost to touch you physically when you are in their presence. Perhaps this example of the virtue of gentleness is a small glimpse of the “heroic virtue” the church recognizes in our martyrs and saints. Can we journey towards holiness by living our virtues “heroically”? Can we be role models?

Yet, there is another aspect of holiness, and an important one, which is that “no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual.” Indeed, we “are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people.” [GetE, 6] We not only are made to live in community, but to lead each other to holiness through community. This is why we understand our Conferences to be “genuine communities of faith and love, of prayer and action.” [Rule, Part I, 3.3] We grow in holiness not only by sharing one another’s presence and prayers, but by sharing the work, and reflecting together on God’s presence in the poor.

This, perhaps, is the special call to holiness the Society helps us to follow – that we may not only lead each other to holiness, but, through our works and our love, help to all welcome people to God’s saving plan, one person, one neighborhood, one community at a time.


How do I grow in holiness within my Conference? Within my larger community?

Recommended Reading

Gaudete et Exsultate

SVdP News Roundup March 11 – March 17

SVdP News Roundup March 11 – March 17 1080 1080 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:



A Week in Prayers March 13 — March 17

A Week in Prayers March 13 — March 17 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Monday, March 13

Holy Spirit, live within me
Fill me with the breath of God
So that every movement is for You
Every moment is for You

Tuesday, March 14

Grant me mercy, Lord,
Mercy enough to share.
Help me to forgive fully,
In my heart and in my actions,
Even as I ask Your forgiveness.

Wednesday, March 15

Lord Jesus,
Lord in the street
On the park bench
In the doorway
In the rain
I will find You, Lord
And serve You
As You asked.

Thursday, March 16

Help me to see You, Lord,
Even in angry faces.
Help me to greet them
With love, with patience,
And with understanding.
Help me to share Your peace.

Friday, March 17

Bless me with the faith, O Lord,
To know and do Your will,
Unspoiled by worldly desire,
Not only desire of wealth
Or achievement,
But even desire for health,
Or for freedom from pain
In body and heart.
All this shall pass, and I sing
In the hope of union with You
Desiring only what You desire
Even when I do not fully understand.

Daily Prayers are written by Tim Williams, National Vincentian Formation Director.

Contemplation — What’s the Difference?

Contemplation — What’s the Difference? 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Speaking about the home visit in 1834, Blessed Frédéric said that it “is one of the best rendered charities and one that produces the best results, above all, in these times when help is generally dispensed with such culpable indifference...” [Unpubished] It’s useful to recall that the home visit was not the first or the only form of assistance to the poor in Frédéric’s time, just as it is not the only form of assistance in our own time.

Take a number. Have a seat. Fill out this form. Let’s see if you qualify. I’ll ask the committee for approval. These impersonal words and actions accompany so much of the material assistance available to our neighbors in need from various agencies they approach, hat in hand, sometimes taking time off work that they can hardly afford to take.

St. Vincent once mused that “there is great charity, but it is badly organized.” [VHJ 26.1] In our day, this observation seems at times to have been turned on its head, as the poor are drowned in “organization” when seeking whatever assistance may be available. As John Boyle O’Reilly so memorably put it in his 1886 poem, In Bohemia: The organized charity, scrimped and iced, In the name of a cautious, statistical Christ.

Under the guise of being politically correct or ideologically fashionable,” Pope Francis says, “we look at those who suffer without touching them.” [FT, 76] Material assistance doled out impersonally, or indifferently as Frédéric put it, is like exercise on a treadmill. Your body may be served, but you will not have gotten anywhere.

The Home Visit brings with it the understanding of a friend, the welcoming smile, and “to the bread that nourishes, it adds the visit that consoles.” [O’Meara, 229] Far from “culpable indifference,” we “must never take the attitude of merely getting the task done.” [SWLM, 773] Instead, as our Rule demands of us, we give generously of our time, our talents, our possessions and ourselves. [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1]

We’re not called only to write checks. We’re called to love our neighbor. That’s the difference.


Are my Home Visits more like an interviews, or conversations?

Recommended Reading

Serving in Hope, Module VII (with your Conference!)

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