Vincentians

Contemplation: To You Alone

Contemplation: To You Alone 1080 1080 SVDP USA

To offer the benefit of the doubt is to assume the best of somebody even when you are uncertain of the truth. Is this not what we are called to do in our encounters with the neighbor?

Thomas, we are told in John’s gospel, would not believe Christ had risen until he had first seen the wounds for himself. To be clear, it wasn’t Christ’s word he was doubting. Quite the contrary, he was insisting that he only would trust Christ, and not his friends, who had already testified to the resurrection. Their words were not good enough for Thomas without tangible proof to back them up. If St. Thomas the Apostle struggled to trust in the word of the other ten closest followers of Jesus, how can we hope to trust in the word of a neighbor whom we have only just met?

Perhaps, like Thomas, we can find ourselves assured not by Christ’s words, but by His wounds. “In the poor,” our Rule reminds us, “[we] see the suffering Christ.” [Rule Part I, 1.8] Not the risen Christ in all His heavenly glory; not Christ the evangelizer and servant; not Christ the performer of miracles. No, we are called to see the suffering Christ, the broken Christ, the Christ who felt abandoned, alone on the cross.

As Blessed Frédéric put it, when we look at the poor, we can, like Thomas, “put finger and hand in their wounds and the scars of the crown of thorns are visible on their foreheads; and … we should fall at their feet and say with the Apostle, ‘Tu est Dominus et Deus meus.’ You are our masters, and we will be your servants. You are for us the sacred images of that God whom we do not see, and not knowing how to love Him otherwise shall we not love Him in your persons?” [137, to Janmot, 1836]

The poor will rarely share with us their “whole story”, at least not before we have formed “relationships based on trust and friendship.” [Rule, Part I, 1.9] Instead, they offer us their needs, much like Christ suffering on the cross, who Saint Louise points out “does not address His Father. He does not ask for something to drink. He simply cries out, ‘I thirst.’” [SWLM, A.21]

We can never really know the neighbor’s “whole story”, so at some point, we have to extend the benefit of the doubt; at some point we have to offer the same trust that we ask for in return. We are called to judge the need, not to determine what kind of person we are serving. We are called to serve for love alone. And that love, as St. Vincent teaches, means that “We do not believe a man because he is very learned but because we consider him good and love him.” [CCD I:276]

For Thomas, all doubt was removed at the sight of Christ’s wounds. If our love leads us to see Christ’s wounds in the suffering poor, we will be better able to respond as St. Louise calls us to do: “Listen to Him, O my soul, as if He were speaking to you alone, ‘I thirst for your faithful love.’” [SWLM, A.21]

Contemplate

Are there times I let my doubts overcome my mercy and compassion?

Recommended Reading

Mystic of Charity

04-11-2024 Letter from Servant Leaders

04-11-2024 Letter from Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

We take ZIP codes for granted as a mechanism to get our mail from one place to another more efficiently. What started as five numbers to remember later became nine for presumably better service. Recently, I learned that a ZIP code can say quite a bit about you, and even predict how long you will live!

Social scientists now use ZIP codes to recognize how where you live predicts and/or influences your education options, income, housing costs, food insecurity, personal and property crime rates and much more. Living in one ZIP code versus the neighboring one in another city means that you are likely to live ten fewer years! Seems to me that this would be good to know before buying a new home.

Some Vincentians tell me that “there isn’t much poverty where I live.” This may be somewhat true, although if you squint you can see poverty everywhere. Maybe it’s not the homeowners but the working poor who serve them as housekeepers and landscapers, as well as the workers in nearby stores and restaurants. You may not see people who are homeless in your neighborhood, but they are there. And because they are homeless, they may not show up in the address-based ZIP code or Census tract analysis.

Most of us know our area fairly well. We know that one area is that part of town where we don’t want to conduct a home visit. We don’t even want to drive through the area! Another part of town is where the “rich people” live because we see large homes, or where the DINKs (double income, no kids) hang out at happy hour.

When considering how our Conference and Council can make a greater community impact, such studies of Census tracts and ZIP codes can show us exactly where the need is greatest, confirming or surprising us with what we thought we knew about where we live. These maps are usually available from local government, the library and United Way. Overlay these maps with where our Conferences operate, and we can see if resources match the neediest areas. This can then help us determine where we most need a new Conference, where local Twinning can increase community impact, and where we need to focus our services delivery.

Where is the best location for a food pantry? For a low-cost pharmacy? For a shelter or other housing options? Where will systemic change solutions attract the most potential users? We can go where the “customers” are, our neighbors in need, or we can continue to operate where it is convenient for ourselves and wonder why we don’t make much of a difference. Yes, people in need will travel where they need to go for urgent help. Thrift store shoppers who have fewer affordable retail choices will go where required to save money, versus donors who give out of convenience as often measured from the distance between their homes and the collection center.

Geography matters. As cities grow, we see retail centers move from downtown to the suburbs where big boxes proliferate. Downtowns often are where we see food deserts with little or no access to fresh produce. High school and church enrollments shift with the moving of families with school-age children. Yet because our parish has been in the same location for many decades, it can be easy to ignore the changing community and operating environment around us. Then one day we look around and exclaim “Hey, where did everyone go?”

The ZIP in ZIP code originally stood not for zippy service, but for a Zone Improvement Plan. Imagine what we can do as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul if we took those words to heart, adapting to our changing local world to create meaningful zone improvements where the ZIP codes point us to the most need.

Yours in Christ,

Dave Barringer

Contemplation: Happy Travelers

Contemplation: Happy Travelers 497 497 SVDP USA

Our Vincentian formation, we are taught, is a lifelong process of becoming. Like all of God’s people, our lives are not simply a series of events, but a journey – a spiritual journey towards perfection in union with our Creator. For us, this journey follows the Vincentian pathway, our special way of living our faith, which we call Vincentian Spirituality. If we seek to imitate the lives of our saints and founders, then, it is helpful to study their lives as examples of spiritual journeys that found their destination in holiness. When we do this, we will see that for Vincent, Louise, Frédéric, and Rosalie alike, several things distinguish their journeys, their spirituality, in ways that we can imitate, perhaps most especially two things that link their actions to their spiritual growth.

First, for each of them, the practice, the actual, physical work of charity, was foremost a spiritual exercise. As Saint Vincent once explained, “loving those who are poor is to love Him in that way; serving poor persons well is to serve Him well”. [CCD XIIIb:434] “Seeing the face of Christ” is not a mere slogan for Vincentians, it is our calling by Jesus, who promised us we would find Him in the poor, and our spirituality, inherited from Saint Vincent de Paul. On our shared and individual journey then, we must, as Frédéric declared in founding the Society, “go to the poor.” [Baunard, 65]

Second, each of these role models of Vincentian holiness took the time to reflect on their encounters with the neighbor and to share with their communities the insights they’d gained. As Blessed Frédéric reminds us, “the blessing of the poor is the blessing of God.” [Baunard, 96] What a shame it would be if we were to spend so much time in the presence of Jesus Christ and not take the time to pray, to meditate, and to share with each other how He spoke to us, what He said, and how He transformed us! As Saint Louise put it, we should “reflect that Our Lord wills that, after we have worked for our neighbor, we must tum our attention to preparing ourselves for heaven which is our blessed home.” [SWLM, L.346]

Blessed Rosalie believed that reflection needn’t be done only after the work, but that “you can make it right here, without leaving your work. Reflect that your souls should be as white as these soapsuds and as light so that they can mount toward God”. [Sullivan, 116] It was Rosalie who taught this practice of Vincentian spirituality to the first members of the Society, gathering them together in her parlor after each visit to reflect on it together in the hope of better discerning their growth, and God’s will.

Our Conferences, our communities of faith, are at the center of our spiritual journeys. They are communities of “faith and love, prayer and action.” [Rule, Part III, St. 5] They are communities in which we do the work of charity, grow in faith together, and share with each other our own spiritual journeys through spiritual reflections in which “members are always invited to comment as a means of sharing their faith”. [Rule, Part III,St. 7] May we continue to share, and by sharing, be “happy travelers at the end of our journey”. [13, to Materne, 1830]

Contemplate

Do I truly open my heart in sharing my spiritual journey and theirs with my fellow Vincentians?

Recommended Reading

Walking the Vincentian Pathway

In Tragedy, Homes Represent Hope

In Tragedy, Homes Represent Hope 1292 802 SVDP USA

In March of 2023, devastating tornadoes hit the town of Rolling Fork, MS. In the wake of a natural disaster, families living in poverty are often the most impacted, with fewer resources to rely upon.

According to Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, CEO of SVdP USA Disaster Services Corporation (DSC), disasters often hit hardest those who are already marginalized, rural, or low-income. In the aftermath, renters are particularly vulnerable, facing a scarcity of affordable housing options.

Collaborative efforts made by the DSC aim to address these vulnerabilities head-on, ensuring that no one is left behind in the recovery process. Shearer and Regional Program Manager Cathy Garcia joined forces with local Vincentians leaders Carrie Johnson-Robinson, Tommy Jordon, and Donavan Guilbeau to assess the impactful work being carried out by the SVdP District Council of Jackson, in partnership with DSC’s local staff and Rolling Fork Rising.

During their visit, the group toured several homes that are part of the Rolling Fork Rising homeowners’ program, which helps transition renters into homeowners. DSC’s local Disaster Case Managers have helped to identify tornado survivors who are candidates for the Rolling Fork Rising homeowners’ program.

Critical to this program is the commitment to financial literacy. Candidates selected for the program undergo a financial literacy program and are equipped with the tools they need to manage their finances effectively and sustainably. Additionally, candidates must meet specific minimum income level requirements to qualify for a low-cost mortgage. This mortgage, comparable to their previous rent payments, not only facilitates homeownership but also contributes to building their credit and breaking the cycle of poverty.

Thanks to donor generosity and SVdP volunteers, DSC is pleased to share that survivor Jamie Herman and her family will be receiving the new home — and they will be paying less for her mortgage than her previous rent! For her, a home is not just bricks and mortar — it represents hope and transformation.

Collaborative efforts like this foster true change and rebuild communities stronger than before. The program in Rolling Fork is a wonderful example of creating systemic change in the lives of disaster survivors.

“Christ’s presence is among us in this recovery work,” said SVdP National Secretary Carrie Johnson-Robinson.

04-04-2024 Letter from Servant Leaders

04-04-2024 Letter from Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

It has been six months since I assumed the office of National President of the Society. The time has flown by, and it is hard to believe that it has been that long (although to be honest, sometimes it feels like it has been six years!). I have been truly blessed to meet so many of you, and I am looking forward to meeting many more of you as we enter the 2024 Regional Meeting ‘season’ and I get out to many of the meetings.

Since I served on the Board of Directors for six years when Ralph Middlecamp was President, I was aware of what to expect as National President. But I must say that I have been saddened and disturbed by the number of situations that the Board, the Staff, and I have had to deal with in just six short months about individuals, Conferences, and Councils that have needed intervention or disciplinary actions.

As I reflect on these situations, many still ongoing, it has become obvious to me that they almost always stem from root cause failures in one or more of three areas: money, spirituality, or governance. In one case it is usually too much — money. And in the other two, it is usually not enough — spirituality and governance.

The money issues we deal with are not all what you might expect as you read this. They are not all about people stealing or diverting resources. No, most problems we see with money are the improper use of Conference and Council funds in violation of The Rule and hoarding. Coming out of COVID, we were (and are) blessed with bank balances in some places that are exceptionally large, well beyond the needs of the Conference or Council in the short or even medium term.

All too often, what happens is that, in good faith and with good intentions, they decide to see who else they might help. So, they decide to help the Parish get that new roof, or build a playground, or donate to the local Red Cross, etc. These are all wonderful things. The Rule also forbids them. If you have excess funds, reach out and find other Conferences and Councils in your area or beyond who do not — there are A LOT OF THEM! — and give them some help. Twinning is what we do.

Spirituality is another area that underpins so many of the issues I see as National President. Or rather, to phrase it properly, a LACK of Spirituality is what underpins so many issues. And it is not just that we do not focus on spirituality, it is that we focus on the wrong spirituality! If your Conference of Council is not using the Vincentian Spiritual resources provided by the National Formation Team to create your spiritual reflection periods at your meetings, then you are doing it wrong.

We are the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We are not the parishes’ Adult Education Program. You should not be using the Spiritual Reflection time at your meeting to be focused on those things that are not related to our work as Vincentians. If you need help in putting together a great spiritual time of reflection, contact Tim Williams or Sister Consuelo in the National Office. They will set you up. Oh, and if your Spiritual Reflection period at your meetings is a five-minute reading of the weekly reflection and then ‘on to the business stuff’ please give them a call — you need them!

Governance is the last and most complex area where we see ongoing issues. Governance can be tricky and complicated, and not everyone understands it. As the former Chair of the National Governance Committee, I have a special passion for governance and governance issues. It is an area that can quickly get you into trouble, both legally and internally with the organization. We have a robust and ready Governance Committee led by First Vice President John Hallissy. If you need any support, have any questions, or just want to have what you are doing checked out, contact John.

We can all do things a little better to make our jobs easier. I understand most of you are volunteers — so am I. But that does not mean we should not be doing everything we can to be the best volunteers we can and be doing things right, every time.

Peace and God’s blessings,
John

04-03-24 VisionSVdP Update

04-03-24 VisionSVdP Update 8335 2555 SVDP USA

Dear Fellow Vincentians,

Now that the Midyear Meeting, where we rolled out VisionSVdP, is over, I want to give you a report on how things went at the meeting and let you know about the next steps in this important ongoing national initiative.

You will be hearing much about VisionSVdP over the next two plus years; this is one of the most important and impactful things we have undertaken as a Society in the last 25 years. And it will take the commitment, dedication, and full participation of every Vincentian at every level of the Society to make sure that the work we do will enable us to adapt to a changing world and ensure that our work and our relevance in supporting His people in need and growing in our own holiness and spirituality will continue for generations to come.

The launch of VisionSVdP at the Midyear Meeting was exciting and powerful! Almost 250 people, attendees and staff, participated in five separate listening sessions. Was there some nervousness? Some confusion? Some desire for structure and specific questions to answer? Of course there was! If there was not, I would have been very concerned. This is new ground we are breaking. This is quite easy for some people and exceedingly difficult for others.

These listening sessions require that we not only listen to each other, but that we listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to us and through us. They require that we be candid and open and honest and free thinking. If we gave you a bunch of questions and asked you to answer them, what we would get is — a bunch of answers to questions we asked. What we would NOT get is the things in your heart and in your soul that matter deeply and passionately to you. We would not get the voice crying out in the wilderness with the idea that might make all the difference in the world.

So going forward, if you are looking for a lot of structured conversations in VisionSVdP you might be disappointed, because you are not going to get that — at least not in this phase. But if you come to this process with an open heart and an open mind then I think any disappointment will turn to excitement and joy as you journey together, you and your fellow Vincentians on this path to adapting to a changing world. What this synodal process will provide you is an opportunity for open dialogue; listening sessions that are freeform and unstructured with thinking that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

So, what is next? 

Now we are going into the Regional Meeting phase. We will hold listening sessions at every Regional Meeting over the next few months. I will be at many Regional Meetings to help facilitate; but since I have not yet figured out how to be cloned, I cannot get to them all. So, Dave Barringer will be at the ones I cannot attend, and the RVPs all participated in the launch at Midyear, so they are familiar with the process. There will be a video from our National Spiritual Advisor, Archbishop Andrew, to kick off each session and help center us on the task ahead.

After the Regional Meetings we are asking all Councils, Conferences, and Special Works to hold VisionSVdP Listening Sessions, preferably before the National Assembly. And I want to make a key point here. When I say we want all Vincentians to participate in VisionSVdP, I mean all Vincentians; Full Members, Associate Members, Staff, and Volunteers. And at some point, we will also determine how we can engage with the people we serve, our neighbors in need, to get their views on the Society and how we need to adapt to a changing world to best serve them.

All the comments from all the sessions will be gathered into a national database where we can all look at it. And when I say we, I mean we — you, me, and every Vincentian — because every voice matters, today and tomorrow. In Phase II, we will all begin to ask ourselves: What does all this mean? Then we will start to determine patterns, similarities, trends, commonalities, and areas where we want to focus. But we will also be looking for that voice in the wilderness.

There will be further updates as we continue the process. Thanks for your continued participation and support.

Peace and God’s blessings,
John

John Berry
National President

Contemplation: Seeking His Will Together

Contemplation: Seeking His Will Together 1080 1080 SVDP USA

“Life,” the old saying goes, “is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” There is a deeper truth captured in this witticism, one that St. Vincent often repeated. It is not that we should make no plans and simply wait for things to happen, but rather, that we should take time not merely to examine what we have accomplished, but to examine what we can learn; in short, to discern God’s will from the people and events in our lives, especially in our Vincentian service.

It is often observed that we can learn more from failure than from success, or as Vincent put it, “the Will of God cannot be made known to us more clearly in events than when they happen without our intervention or in a way other than we requested.” [CCD V:459] When our plans and actions are made with our best effort to do God’s will as we understand it, the results of those plans and actions will either be in accordance with His will, or can give us new insight into His will. Our failures also, then, remind us that any success we experience is not ours but God’s. We may “have the joy of triumph,” Bl. Frédéric explained, “Providence will have the glory.” [Baunard, 209] Indeed, this is the very definition of our virtue of humility! [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1]

Our true measure of success, then, can never be limited to achieving our own goals, because success belongs to God, who does not need us to write His résumé. Rather, we should first examine whether we entrusted our works to the Lord, conformed to His will, glorified Him, and grew closer to Him. While our duty to accountability requires us to properly account for our actions, our funds, and other details of our work, the more important accounting, the core of our spiritual growth in this community of faith, comes through deep reflection upon our experiences, first individually, and then with our Conferences.

Certainly, this practice of apostolic reflection should always follow our Home Visits, beginning with the discussion between the two visitors, and continuing through prayer, and perhaps journaling. We continue by sharing our reflection with other Conference members at our regular meetings. They, in turn, will have a glimpse of the God who was present in our neighbor, which will give them new insights they reflect back to us. This won’t yield the definitive “answer” but will draw us closer to each other and to Christ.

In a similar way, it is important for us to reflect on all of our plans and all of their results — food pantries and special works, systemic change initiatives, advocacy — not in order to tally success on our own terms, but to discern whether we are serving God first, and how we can do that better, always asking, “Where was God present? Did we see Christ’s face? What is He telling us now?” In this way, we all grow together in holiness by growing closer to Christ and to each other. This, not “business,” is the reason we have Conference meetings, and the reason we have them often. [Rule, Part I, 3.3.1]

Contemplate

Do I take time to discern God’s will in both success and failure? Do I share this with my Conference?

Recommended Reading

A Heart on Fire: Apostolic Reflection with Rosalie Rendu

The VisionSVdP Prayer

The VisionSVdP Prayer 8335 2555 SVDP USA

The VisionSVdP Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit, open our eyes, our hearts, and our imaginations to Your inspiration as we embark on our VisionSVdP journey and seek to discern the Father’s holy will for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and how it will adapt to a changing world.

Come, Holy Spirit, transform our doubts, ignite our zeal. Help us discern new and innovative ways to bring more people into the joy of service in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Come, Holy Spirit, grant us the simplicity to share honestly with each other, the humility to serve a mission greater than ourselves, and the gentleness to listen to each other without judgment.

Amen

Oración de la VisiónSVdP

Ven, Espíritu Santo, abre nuestros ojos, nuestros corazones y nuestra imaginación a Tu inspiración Divina mientras nos embarcamos en nuestro viaje hacia la VisiónSVdP y lograr discernir en la santa voluntad del Padre, en cómo se adaptará la Sociedad de San Vicente de Paúl a un mundo cambiante.

Ven, Espíritu Santo, transforma nuestras dudas, ilumina nuestro fervor.  Ayúdanos a discernir con formas nuevas e innovadoras de llevar a más personas a la alegría del servicio en la Sociedad de San Vicente de Paúl.

Ven, Espíritu Santo, concédenos la sencillez de compartir honestamente los unos con los otros; la humildad para servir a una misión más grande que nosotros mismos; y la gracia de escucharnos unos a otros sin juzgarnos.

Amén

Update on Haiti

Update on Haiti 421 421 SVDP USA
By Pam Matambanadzo,
International Territorial Vice President – America 1

We have been receiving calls seeking some guidance on the situation in Haiti. Vincentians want to know if they can send funds to help. It is difficult to answer this without first giving some background to fully understand the magnitude of the reality on the ground.

Earthquakes and Hurricanes

Haiti has a tragic history of devastating earthquakes and hurricanes. The 2010 earthquake, in particular, left thousands dead, injured, and displaced. The country’s infrastructure was severely damaged, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities.

Hurricanes, such as Hurricane Matthew in 2016, have repeatedly battered Haiti, causing loss of life, destruction of homes, and disruptions to essential services.

Cholera Epidemic

In 2010, shortly after the earthquake, Haiti faced a cholera outbreak. The disease spread rapidly due to inadequate sanitation and limited access to clean water. Thousands lost their lives, and the healthcare system struggled to cope.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Like the rest of the world, Haiti grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. The fragile healthcare infrastructure faced immense challenges in testing, treatment, and containment.

The pandemic exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, impacting livelihoods, education, and overall well-being.

Gang Violence: The Current Crisis

While natural disasters and epidemics have caused immense suffering, the gang-related issues in Haiti pose a unique and immediate threat.

Gangs control neighborhoods, extort businesses, and perpetrate violence. They hinder humanitarian aid distribution, making it difficult for organizations like SVdP USA to reach those in need. Violent gangs roam the streets, perpetuating fear and violence. They control local resources, including food distribution points. Civilians face danger while trying to secure basic necessities.

Unlike natural disasters, which eventually subside, gang violence persists, creating an ongoing cycle of fear, instability, and suffering. Residents fear for their lives, so they are forced to stay at home. Schools and businesses are closing.

Absence of Government

Haiti’s political instability has led to an ineffective government. The absence of governance has resulted in chaos, impacting essential services. Food distribution, security, and public safety are compromised. And this in turn led the US Embassy in Haiti to take precautionary measures, urging citizens to leave the island due to safety concerns. This closure disrupts communication channels and assistance for organizations like ours.

Haiti’s banking system faces uncertainty. SVdP must navigate this challenging financial landscape to manage funds transparently and ensure donations reach those in need. We need to reassure donors that we are fully considering the volatile situation. There is the uncomfortable reality that when we send aid to Haiti, it is unclear whether the funds are reaching those in need or whether have gangs infiltrated there (as they have done everything else).

We are asking for not only your patience as we try to find ways to work for the poor through these challenging times — but more importantly your prayers. We have had various twinning opportunities that have afforded us the ability to help where we can through all those natural disasters and the pandemic. Through these opportunities we have faced many challenges, but none has been more heartbreaking than watching from afar as we are having to do now. It is not watching in vain. Our team at the National Council office are working diligently to find solutions within extremely volatile conditions.

In summary, while Haiti has endured significant historical suffering due to natural calamities and health crises, the current gang-related situation presents a more dangerous and persistent challenge. Addressing gang violence is crucial for restoring safety, stability, and hope in this resilient nation.

Notes from Our Friends in Haiti

“Thank you for always being there on our side and for accompanying and encouraging us; it does us good. Yes, the situation in Haiti is very tense like never before… this period is really distressing for the poor who already have a precarious life and for us who must give them courage in proximity. In Tabarre – Fleuriot, the school has been closed for two weeks, and in Gonaïves, it has been closed since January 2024. The closure of daily activities and street movement is paralyzed due to insecurity and violence. It’s also sad because there is looting of big stores, and we can hardly find essential products. People who live day by day really face great difficulty, increasing misery and life’s movements. This is the picture I can give today of Haiti. For us believers who believe in the presence of God rich in grace and kindness, we hope that this situation will change. God, our strength, and grace, help us overcome this time of injustice with the peace of Christ our Savior, whom we will celebrate on Easter day. Thank you for your constant presence and support. Have a blessed Holy Week. Fraternally, Sr. Matilde fdlc”

– Sister Mathilde, who oversees two schools in Haiti, and her translated message was as follows

“Good morning! I apologize for the fact that it is you who is asking me about the chaotic situation that Haiti has been going through for years and is now worsening. It is very concerning now, and that’s why I didn’t have time to inform you about this situation of poverty and insecurity. What is the problem?

After the fall of the Duvaliers, the victims of the regime came with the uprooting of the Tonton Makout (supporters of the Duvalier regime), which consisted of freeing Haiti from this group. Since then, there has always been conflict between the people and the leaders. It is difficult for a president and his government to finish their term; there is always a coup or the president is forced to resign until in July 2021 President Jovenel was assassinated. It is total instability. All the country’s institutions are weakened. Criminal gangs are growing like rain. They evict the people, kidnap, and kill in the face of the government and the police. The people are left alone with no one to watch over them or defend them. The country has been like this for 2 years and 8 months, and now the criminal gangs are federating and are looking for those who will arm them and provide them with ammunition to oppress the people. This movement totally paralyzes all activities in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.

All schools are closed. Those that can offer virtual classes are functioning, and those that cannot are waiting for everything to calm down to continue. Adelia Felix School is one of those waiting without knowing when, but we are in communication with our students. Dialoguing with them, it is evident that they have many problems because they cannot go to school, but a more serious problem arises which is “not being able to eat,” and later there will be more hunger in the country. That’s why I ask the donors of Adelia Felix School that if there are no possibilities to help our students with food. So, after this storm, we can relocate them for the reopening of classes.

 Today, it is true that there are economic problems everywhere, but in Port-au-Prince, it is worse because the people do not have the right to go out, meaning they are prisoners in their homes. Therefore, food assistance would greatly benefit our students and their parents. The school relies on you! God will reward you!”

– Raphael Verlux

03-28-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

03-28-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

Challenges of a Vincentian

In my 40 years as a Vincentian, I have made many mistakes. From my mistakes, hopefully, I will become a better person. My hope is you will learn from my mistakes. Here is my list of My Challenges:

  1. It’s about me. I call this the Santa Claus effect. When I first became a became a Vincentian, giving something to somebody made me feel good. I got to “help” someone, but it cost me nothing. Then I learned it was not about me, but the person I was helping. This was a very valuable lesson for me to learn as a Vincentian.
  2. Poverty is a lack of money. I thought this way in the beginning. As you help people, you realize poverty is a mindset. Improving the situation of a neighbor in need takes education, hope, culture, time, work, acceptance, and, yes, some money.
  3. Learning from fellow Vincentians. I had the idea that I could do this by myself. I did not need the support and encouragement of my fellow Vincentians. There is a reason we visit and talk to the poor in pairs. There is a reason we have Conferences with a group of Vincentians.
  4. Cynicism. I was cynical. The poor are only interested in money. I was lied to, used, and taken advantage of. These events were few and far between, but it does instill a cynical view. A Vincentian needs to take each person and interview as a fresh start for the person you are meeting and for you. I needed to get past the cynicism and realize Christ did not judge. We need to do the same.
  5. Why am I doing this? As a Vincentian working week after week, sometimes hearing from the same people week after week, a bit of “why am I doing this?” may set in. This is the most dangerous of all my mistakes. I am never going to solve all the social issues. I am never going “to fix it.”  Not me, not on my own. With prayer and help from my fellow Vincentians I may be able to help one person or one family at a time.
  6. Arrogance. Sometimes I would miss an opportunity to really meet someone. I would think the encounter with the poor is just a business transaction. I did not learn about the person, their situation or background. I would just take care of the monetary problem, but not see the person for who they are.
  7. Acceptance. This was very difficult for me. Sometimes a lack of funds — or a lack of a solution — makes the work very frustrating. This is one of the greatest challenges to a Vincentian. I must accept that I cannot solve everything. I may have some setbacks as a Vincentian, but with God’s Grace, I must acknowledge it is not defeat.
  8. Don’t lead, just follow. This mistake is one with its own limitation. I would not have experienced the next level of being a Vincentian if I never accepted a leadership position. MY positions of leadership have been extremely fulfilling. There are many opportunities in the Vincentian life — Conference President, VP, District President, Treasurer, Committee person.
  9. Evangelization. One of the things I did not do for many years was tell non-Vincentians about SVdP (Vincentian Friendship, Service, and Spirituality). Please go out and spread the word about our great organization. There are a lot of people looking for an organization like SVdP.

I am sure there are more, but we are limited in our space for these articles.

Yours in Christ,
Ed McCarthy
National Treasurer

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