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11-24-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leader

11-24-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leader 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Last week I had the privilege of being with Vincentian leaders from all over the United States to attend the Invitation for Renewal leadership-formation program in St. Louis. One of the perennial highlights of this retreat-based program is a film called “Celebrate What’s Right with the World.” Focusing on what’s right and celebrating it presupposes an attitude of gratitude that Vincentians should live throughout the year, not just on this week’s Thanksgiving holiday.

In recent months and years, we have been surrounded by events and media coverage that reinforce what is not right with the world. Certainly, we need to recognize what needs to be changed in our world, in our country, in our Church and even in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The most effective way to create useful change, however, is to appreciate and build upon the many positive parts of everything that surrounds us.

Building upon assets is what we do with our neighbors in need who participate in our programs of mentoring or serving as allies to neighbors coping with poverty. Let’s take our own advice and appreciate the many blessings and gifts we enjoy in an admittedly broken world. Even our service to those who are poor is performed from a position of gratitude. The beginning of our Rule details the Vincentian wisdom about “Our Personal Encounters With the Poor;” it tells us that “Vincentians never forget the many blessings they receive from those they visit.”

I find that I best immerse myself in a mindset of gratitude when I do it in prayer. I create a “rosary of thankfulness” by creating five decades in which I name people, places or things for which I am grateful. If you try this, think of your community, church, workplace, family, conference, friends, favorite places or events. As I do, you can try praying “thank you Lord” for ten things in the categories you create.

You may be surprised how easy it is to find 50 things for which you are genuinely thankful – people, places, and events that have been a blessing or gift and have made you the person you are today. Conversely, I expect most people would find it difficult to identify 50 such things to complain about with similar conviction. We all have pain, sorrow and hurts, but with God’s providence even in these we find the seeds of new possibilities.

Simple expressions of thanks to those around us will make our families, churches, workplaces and communities better places to be. We also owe God our thankfulness. It is why the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass almost always begins, “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, creator of the world and source of all life.”

I hope you and your family have a blessed Advent as we prepare for the joy of Christmas.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National President

11-18-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

11-18-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Last week, with the help of our national office staff, I filed our National Council Annual Report with the Council General International in Paris. Yes, I have to file an annual report, just as our Councils and Conferences are required to do. I know we all like to complain about these reports, but — collected from every Conference and Council across the world – they paint the picture of the worldwide network of charity envisioned by Blessed Frederic Ozanam. It is important for us to make the effort to document and share our activity.

I have heard some say these reports should not be something their Conference needs to do. They say they just want to help people. From the very beginning of our Society, however, the founders saw the value of sharing this information. Emmanuel Bailly had our first written report presented to the pastor of St. Étienne in Paris at a meeting on Friday, June 27, 1834. You can read it online here.

Bailly, our Society’s first President, wanted to inform Fr. Faudet of the work of the Conference and receive his support. Pastors and bishops still like to receive our reports, and we still need their support.

As our Society spread, the unity of the members was maintained by regular correspondence and detailed reports. Only four years after our founding, in a letter dated March 1, 1837, the Society’s Secretary General, Francois Lallier, reminded members to provide reports. He wrote, “We hope to hear from you before those meetings, the dates whereof are fixed by our Rule. By informing us of the amounts you have received and disbursed, of the increase in the numbers of your members and in that of the poor you have visited you will often show the power of your charity to us who are weak; but we shall rejoice at it, for amongst brothers success increases mutual love and esteem.”

You can read a report Frederic Ozanam provided from Lyon to Emmanuel Bailly in a letter dated July 19, 1838. It is #180 in the collection of Ozanam’s letters. This report details the number of members and the new members added for the conferences in Lyon. Frederic’s report provided the amount spent on meat and bread and the number of families visited. In the library at our international office, there are two very large bookcases containing the bulletins of the Council General meetings and reports going back to these earliest days. In one 1847 report, I found the very first listing of information from the United States — simple amounts for income and expense. In that same report, however, each conference in France and many across Europe provided detailed descriptions of their membership, a financial report and a description of their works.

The submission of the annual report is required by Statute 23 of Part 3 of the Rule. It is not an option for Conferences or Councils to ignore this requirement if they want to be part of the Society. Please make the job of our leadership easier. Members can help by submitting their hours of service and mileage in a timely manner. To finish their own reports, Councils need to have all Conferences cooperate by completing theirs first, and all Conferences and Councils need to have completed their reports before the National Council can produce its final report.

I am grateful to all the presidents and secretaries who compile their reports in a timely manner. This information has many uses. Our bishops, pastors, donors, and community supporters deserve to have timely information about who we are and what services we provide. The information is also important to our internal committees that promote our efforts to grow and revitalize our membership and services.

At a national assembly of ours several years ago, a speaker from the Vatican communications office addressed us. He complimented us on the way in which our service humbly follows the Gospel admonition, “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” He then reminded us, however, that the Gospel also instructs us to not put our light under a bushel.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National President

Contemplation – Our Participation In The Divine Light

Contemplation – Our Participation In The Divine Light 940 788 SVDP USA

It is perhaps the central irony of our Vincentian vocation that while our “ideal is to help relieve suffering for love alone, without thinking of any reward or advantage for [ourselves]” it is also true that we do this for ourselves, as a necessary step towards our growth in holiness. [Rule, Part I, 2.2] So how do we reconcile what seems to be both self-serving and selfless at the same time?

Saint Louise de Marillac offers some insights on charity and the mystery of the incarnation that may help us to understand how, in serving the neighbor, we serve our own souls.

God, Louise explains, chose to come into this world in a form that was not at all “consistent with His grandeur.” He didn’t even come as the greatest of men, but as a poor man. Everything he did as man, she writes, was beneath Him.

He came as humbly as can be imagined,” she tells us, “so that we might be more free to approach Him.” [Sp. Writings, 700]

God’s incarnation in Christ is an invitation! He wants to know us and wants us to know Him. The God of Moses was so great in His glory that nobody could see Him and live. The poor carpenter of Nazareth is our brother, our neighbor, our friend…and still our God.

As Louise often reflected, God created our souls only so that we may be joined with Him. Making it possible for us to know Him was a supreme act of humility. In serving the poor, then, we must exhibit this virtue of humility, commensurate with Christ’s own humility. They are, for us the sacred images of God, and “how shall we not love Him in [their] persons?” [Letter137, to Janmot, 1837]

How can we do anything then, but to offer our time, our talents, our possessions, and ourselves? [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1] How can we help but serve? Indeed, Louise teaches, “the person who does not love does not know God, for God is Charity. The cause of love is esteem for the good in the thing loved.” [Sp. Writing, 710]

In serving with humility and in selflessness, in serving for love alone, we not only do as God asked us to do, we do as Christ Himself did.

This practice of charity is so powerful that it gives us the knowledge of God… the greater our charity the greater our participation in this divine light which will inflame us with the fire of Holy Love for all eternity.” [Sp. Writing, 711]

Contemplate

How can I better seek to imitate Christ in my service?

Recommended Reading

Praying with Louise de Marillac

SVdP Named One of America’s Best Charities

SVdP Named One of America’s Best Charities 530 530 SVDP USA

Each year, the Chronicle of Philanthropy releases a list of America’s 100 Favorite Charities. Their ranking system is based primarily on cash-support received by cause-driven nonprofits. That means the total value of charitable contributions of money and stock.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is honored to be a part of the list this year. Coming in at number 57, SVdP is one of America’s Favorite Charities!

In 2020, the Society received $362,151,617 in cash support. That was an increase of nearly 10% from 2019.

To read more about this honor and see the complete list of America’s Favorite Charities, click here.

Thank you again to the Chronicle of Philanthropy for this honor and to you, our generous supporters for making this happen! God Bless! 

11-4-2021 News Roundup

11-4-2021 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:

AUSTRALIA: Hampers spread Christmas cheer
AUSTRALIA: Homeless helped but issue ongoing
IRELAND: SVP in Cork fielding ‘staggering’ amount of calls from families in ‘dire need’

NATIONAL:

AUSTIN, TX: Demand in food pantries higher now than when COVID-19 pandemic started
BATON ROUGE, LA: Family already struggling from pandemic, now homeless after Ida; Mom just wants a job that will pay the bills
OMAHA, NE: Annual coat giveaway distributes 3,000 winter coats to Omaha families
RIVERVIEW, FL: St. Vincent De Paul, St. Stephen Conference Prepares For Holiday Season

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.

11-04-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

11-04-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 200 200 SVDP USA

Recently, over 200 members of The Vincentian Family gathered in Atlanta to explore our personal role and challenge to “love like Christ loves” in working for racial equity in our world. This Family Gathering is held every other year, in places around North America. It is a chance to meet Vincentians from some of the 15 branches that follow the example of Saints Vincent & Louise. Each time I attend one of these gatherings, I meet someone from a branch I’ve never heard of. This year, it was the Missionary Cenacle Family. If you ever get the chance to attend a Gathering, I would highly recommend it.

For me, the most challenging portion of the weekend came in a homily by Bishop Fernand Cheri, the Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans. This is a man that has been through a lot. Like so many Black brothers and sisters, he seemed tired of being polite. He got right to the heart of the problem. White people have most of the power to create more equity in society. And we have to figure out what that means for each one of us.

That wasn’t a very satisfactory answer. I felt what many of you must have felt after the series “Open Wide Our Vincentian Hearts-Hope in the Face of Racism Series,” last year. The constant theme in the follow-up questions was, “What do I do now?”

We all know about the large scale advocacy & systemic things we can do: work to end food deserts in our communities; advocate for more affordable and better housing for people in need, etc. But, what can I personally do to help my friends, neighbors, and colleagues, who may be hurting or carrying the pain of past discrimination or exclusion?

Several years ago, a colleague was returning from washing her hands and she had a very angry look on her face. When I ask what was wrong, she said, “I get so angry when the automated faucets don’t work. I know it’s because they haven’t been calibrated to my dark skin tone.” My first impulse was “That can’t be true.” Thankfully, what came out or my mouth was, “Wow, I never thought about that possibility.” We then began a dialogue that goes on today, about the ways that we both react to similar situations in different ways-mine from a white, Irish perspective, and hers from a Black, Southern woman’s viewpoint. Both are different. And, it doesn’t matter how wacky the other one may think the response to be. It’s a feeling that should be recognized and appreciated.

In the first webinar in the “Open Wide” series, we suggested eight questions to serve as an examination of conscience about our reactions/views of racism. One question was, “Is there a root of racism within me that blurs my vision of who my neighbor is?” Or, as Archbishop Cheri said, “The only program that fundamentally impacts racism is the program I need to have with myself.”

I’ve never thought that a water faucet not working was because of my skin tone. I’ve never worried about a security person following me around a store because of suspicion. I’ve never thought twice about my daughters being shot during a traffic stop. But some people have. And, if I am going to try to open my Vincentian heart, I have to be approachable and non-judgmental-just like to do on our Home Visits.

One of the activities planned for the Vincentian Family Gathering was a visit to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Those of you who attended the National Assembly in Atlanta in 2014 will remember that the Center is next to The World of Coke attraction. When asked about the field trip, one person noted that their was a line outside The World of Coke. There was no line outside of the Center.

Confronting racism, both personal and societal, is hard, uncomfortable work. But, if Vincentians don’t do it, who will?

Sincerely,
Jack Murphy
National Chair, Systemic Change and Advocacy

 

 

 

SVdP Dentist on Wheels Clinic Opens in Contra Costa County

SVdP Dentist on Wheels Clinic Opens in Contra Costa County 1093 658 SVDP USA

Offering free dental care for local residents without dental insurance, St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County (SVdP) has partnered with Dentists on Wheels (DOW) to open its Dentist on Wheels Pittsburg Free Dental Clinic. The free dental clinic will be able to treat most patients’ needs — from screenings, cleaning, and checkups, to fillings, crowns, extractions, and dentures. All dental equipment and furnishings have been donated to the 3-chair clinic, which will be staffed by volunteer dentists.

The Need for Dental Care Access

Many neighbors in need lack dental insurance, and access to dental care is normally out of reach for uninsured, low-income residents. Tooth pain and other dental issues can cause a massive drop in quality of life for those suffering.

Tooth extraction is an inexpensive means of addressing dental pain, but it can create many long-term issues that profoundly impact a patient’s quality of life. By providing accessible preventative care and restorative procedures, the free dental clinic will lessen the number of extractions happening in Contra Costa County and keep the county smiling.

For many years, SVdP of Contra Costa has partnered with La Clinica Dental and LifeLong Dental Clinic to provide free dental services to people in need. The program began when a trainee in SVdP’s Workforce Development Program found that he had a hard time securing employment because he was missing several teeth. By underwriting the cost of his dental care and replacement teeth, SVdP successfully helped him obtain a job and become self-sufficient.

With that, SVdP’s Dental Program was born, with SVdP underwriting the cost of treatment and referring patients to La Clinica and Lifelong Dental.

Dentists on Wheels

Dentists on Wheels was founded by Shab Farzaneh, who learned that many low-income people without dental insurance have teeth pulled when they experience pain or decay. Extractions have many negative impacts, including the loss of enjoyment of food, limited job opportunities, and even changing a person’s facial structure. She was determined to provide a better solution, and began to mobilize a team of volunteer dentists, including Dr. Neda Oromchiam, Retired Dentist and DOW Dental Director.

DOW partnered with SVdP because of the Society’s long history of serving the most vulnerable. The 3-chair clinic is located at the SVdP Family Resource Center in Pittsburg, CA. Additional resources at the SVdP Family Resource Center include a free dining room, free medical clinic, free food pantry, daytime homeless shelter, employment & training program, clothing & furniture and other services.

The clinic is also sponsored by The California Wellness Foundation, John Muir Health, Refera, Fremont Bank, Digital DOC, Optum, Q-Optics, Shoreview Dental, The Patterson Foundation, Dr. Amanda Backstrom, NSK Dental Instruments, XDR Radiology, as well as many dental specialists and private donors.

You can help by donating to the free dental clinic at www.dentistsonwheels.org or www.svdp-cc.org.

Contemplation: The Holy Joy of Your Heart

Contemplation: The Holy Joy of Your Heart 940 788 SVDP USA

In our dedication and zeal, we sometimes feel as if we cannot rest as long as there are neighbors in need of our help. As laudable as this sentiment may seem, in practice it serves neither ourselves or the neighbor if we do not pause for both mental and physical rest.

Writing to a missioner who had labored without rest for many weeks, St. Vincent urged him to slow down: “Have you somewhat moderated your excessive fervor? I beg you, in the name of Our Lord, to do so.” [CCD II:27] Of another priest, whom Vincent believed may have literally worked himself to death, he remarked, “In short, his zeal made him do more than he was able.” [CCD II:375]

Of course, St. Vincent was not afraid of hard work! After all, it was he who said we must “love God…with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows.” [CCD XI:32] Yet we also must be mindful that “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The harder we work ourselves without respite, the less able we will be to continue the work. And so, advising St. Louise not to feel guilty about her own exhaustion, Vincent once went so far as to tell her, “I am ordering you, moreover, to procure for yourself the holy joy of your heart by all the relaxation you can possibly take…” [CCD I:145]

There is always more work to be done, but there is only one of you. We prepare to follow God’s will by resting our hearts in His peace and love, filling ourselves to overflowing so that we may share that love with the neighbor. We must also reserve and recover our physical strength through rest, knowing that “There is no act of charity that … permits us to do more than we reasonably can.” [CCD II:68]

In a sense, pushing ourselves to do more than we reasonably can could be seen as an act of vanity; believing ourselves so indispensable that our efforts cannot be spared. But trusting in providence doesn’t mean only that the money or materials resources we need will be provided, it is trusting that God has called enough people to do His work, as well.

When you think about it, when we insist on carrying too much of the load ourselves, we can even rob others of the opportunity to serve more fully!

Our Rule reminds us that work in our Conferences comes “only after fulfilling the family and professional duties.” [Rule, Part I, 2.6] Certainly among those personal duties is care for our own well-being, including rest and relaxation.

Caring for ourselves is not just for ourselves. As Vincent once reminded Louise, “Increase your strength; you need it, or, in any case, the public does.” [CCD I:392]

Contemplate

How can I better share God’s love by sharing God’s work?

Recommended Reading

Mystic of Charity

Contemplation – Do Not Grow Old With The World

Contemplation – Do Not Grow Old With The World 940 788 SVDP USA

Both the Society and the church celebrate our long traditions and ancient texts; both the Gospels and the Rule govern our actions; we seek models in the Saints and Blesseds of our church and of our Vincentian family. But should this mean we must be set in all of our ways?

The question arises from time to time, as new servant leaders or new members suggest special works that our Councils and Conferences have never tried before. Certainly, new approaches or programs must remain within the limits set by our Rule, but often, we greet new ideas with resistance, for no other reason than that they are new.

Frédéric, who saw the Society grow from seven members to hundreds of Conferences around the world, celebrated the many innovations, especially those that served the particular needs of their localities. “I then favor innovations,” he wrote, explaining that “in human affairs, success is possible only by continual development, and that not to go forward is to fall back.” [Letter 80, to Pessonneaux, 1834]

Home visits will always remain the core work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. These visits are a spiritual practice before all else; serving Christ in the person of His poor, and offering them Christ’s love and hope. The home visit, along with the Conference meeting, is the rock on which we are built; our foundation, but not our limit. After all, “the Society constantly strives for renewal, adapting to changing world conditions.” [Rule, Part I, 1.6]

Even in the earliest days of the Society, special works such as apprenticeship programs and schools were established to help people move out of poverty, to address needs that were observed in the course of the friendships developed on home visits. The Society collaborated with other organizations in order to accomplish even more.

Among the many reasons to welcome new members is that they are often a source of new ideas, their “more ardent zeal, new ideas, and original insights prevent routine from setting in and the primitive fervor dying.” Conferences, Frédéric observed, have seasons, too, for “there is change in all human things.” [Letter 141 to Ballofet, 1837] His hope was that the Society, whose very foundation was unforeseen, would continue to prosper, and to be guided by providence.

The Society, like the church, is changing and unchanged, ever young; we are built on a rock, not set in stone. We don’t change for the sake of change alone, but to better fulfill God’s will, to love our neighbor, and to grow in holiness through our works.

“The religion of your forefathers,” Blessed Frédéric reminds us, “does not grow old with the world. Ever renewing itself, it keeps pace with progress, and it alone can lead to perfection.” [Baunard, 20]

Contemplate

Am I open to discerning God’s will, even when it means change from the familiar?

Recommended Reading

A New Century Dawns

10-21-21 News Roundup

10-21-21 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.

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