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09-23-2021 News Roundup

09-23-2021 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: 

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: Damascus, Emmaus, and the Vincentian Pathway

Contemplation: Damascus, Emmaus, and the Vincentian Pathway 940 788 SVDP USA

One of the central tenets of our Vincentian spirituality is our call to see the face of Christ in those we serve. It seems so simple, and yet at times we lose our focus and lose sight of Him during our Home Visits. It is easy to allow ourselves to think ahead to the “solution” before we even learn the problem. We let tomorrow blind us to the present.

But we are called to be present – to be both here and now for the neighbors we serve. Listening is not thinking ahead to our own answer, but listening as if to Christ Himself, looking in His eyes and hearing His voice.

On the very day of Christ’s resurrection, two of His followers walked along the road to Emmaus, discussing all that had happened, including the account of the empty tomb, when “Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”

Christ was right there with them, in the flesh, and they could not recognize His face. They looked but couldn’t see. They walked and listened but did not recognize Him until He broke the bread with them at supper that evening! In speaking about Christ behind them, they were blinded to Christ before them.

This was not the only time the apostles lost sight of Christ’s face. As Bl. Frédéric pointed out, “The fault of many Christians is to hope little…. They are apostles in the boat during the storm: they forget that the Savior is in the midst of them.” [Ramson, Put Your Hands into Hers, 14] Like the apostles in the boat, we also sometimes allow our “troubles of the day” to overwhelm our senses, and to blind us to the true hope – the hope in which we are called to serve.

Saul of Tarsus, feared oppressor of the early Christians, was converted with great drama on the road to Damascus. Struck blind by a flash of great light, he did not see Christ’s face that day, but heard His voice. Only after three days was his sight restored, as he became Paul, Christ’s apostle, who would later teach, “at present, we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face…

Our moments of conversion tend to be less dramatic than Paul’s, but we, too, are on a journey. Ours may not be the road to Damascus, or even to Emmaus, but Christ awaits us along our Vincentian pathway. We will see Him when we act with patience, when we follow St. Vincent’s admonition to “not tread on the heels of Providence…

He may not always seem obvious, and we may see Him only indistinctly, but we are called to see and to serve Him, even if we have to squint a little, and even if we have to slow down.

Contemplate

Have I looked past Him, or through Him in my hurry to be someplace else?

Recommended Reading

Praying with Vincent de Paulespecially 3. Jesus Christ, the Center

Clips from Our Faith in Action Pandemic Special Now Available

Clips from Our Faith in Action Pandemic Special Now Available 1408 812 SVDP USA

The Our Faith in Action: Today’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul Special Pandemic Edition aired on EWTN last month and is now available to view online.

This special can serve as a great marketing tool for the Society, but the full episode may be too long to show at a SVdP recruitment event or during a Conference meeting.

We have cut the episode down into three shorter segments to be utilized for marketing and recruitment purposes.

To view and download segment 1, click here.

To view and download segment 2, click here.

To view and download segment 3, click here.

We hope you will find these segments useful as you spread the good news of the hard work of Vincentians across the country! If you have any questions, contact Michelle Boyer at mboyer@svdpusa.org.

09-23-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

09-23-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 232 327 SVDP USA

Dear brothers and sisters,

May the grace and peace of Jesus be always with us!

The month of September is called the Vincentian month because we, members of the worldwide Vincentian Family, prepare to celebrate together the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul with beautifully prepared Eucharists, liturgies of the Word, or other prayer encounters, engaging all the branches of the Vincentian Family in a given parish, village, city, region, or country. We also prepare to celebrate the feast with concrete acts of corporal and spiritual charity toward our Lords and Masters.

I would like to thank deeply and congratulate each branch of the Vincentian Family for the incredible inventiveness, engagement, and service it has shown from the outset of the pandemic through today to alleviate the suffering brought to the world by Covid-19, which, as always, hit hardest the Poor, the most vulnerable. We all hope and pray that the worst of the pandemic slowly is getting behind us, although that is true in some countries more than in others. We still live with much uncertainty as to what might come next.

More and more, we are learning to use new tools to keep in touch with each other through social media, Zoom, and other platforms at our disposition. These are excellent means to grow in interconnectedness and collaboration. Nevertheless, we are experiencing, with even greater urgency, the need to resume personal encounters, meetings, and gatherings that we had before the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world. After experiencing so long a period of isolation, distancing, and prohibition of meetings, it is our heart’s desire to make personal encounters, meetings, and gatherings even more numerous.

While Vincent wrote more than 30,000 letters, the primary form of “remote” communication of his time, his days were filled with meetings with individuals and groups, and he clearly valued repetitions of prayer and conferences that brought together the confreres and the sisters.

Speaking of growth in interconnectedness, I would like to highlight three areas that I already discussed in the past. There have been big improvements in all of them, but there is still much to do to achieve the goals we set for ourselves in these spheres. Therefore, I am returning to them in this year’s letter, convinced that if we succeed in intensifying interconnectedness and collaboration and in fulfilling the objectives we set for ourselves in these specific areas, the other areas will follow almost automatically, and it will be much easier to bring the 160 branches together for any new initiative that we may begin in the future.

1. National Councils of the Vincentian Family in all 162 countries where the Vincentian Family is present today.

The Vincentian Family Office (VFO) is working very hard to help to reach the following goal: by next year, 2022, all 162 countries will have a National Council of the Vincentian Family.

Who should be part of the National Council? The representatives of all the branches in a given country. No branch should be left out, but all, large or small, should feel part of the same Family. If the country is big, there could be Regional Vincentian Family Councils, as well as Local Councils in large cities, as is already the case in some countries. All of these always would be interconnected among themselves and coordinated by the National Council.

I would like to call upon the branches in a given country, region, or city that have been there longer and have more experience than other branches in the field of organization to help bring the different representatives of the Family together. They are well positioned to invite branches and organize the Councils, in which every single branch will take part, in order to plan together different initiatives, projects, and encounters throughout the year. I encourage the National Councils not to limit encounters to once a year, but a few times a year, to develop and intensify collaboration and interconnection that will bring the Family together regularly.

To insist upon the importance of collaborating in initiatives begun by others and in line with the purpose of the Congregation of the Mission, Vincent imagined objections its members might make. “Someone in the Company may say, ‘Monsieur, I’m in the world to evangelize the poor, and you want me to work in seminaries’[1]; “It’s fine for us to do that, Monsieur, but why should we be serving the Daughters of Charity?[2]; “But the Foundlings, why burden ourselves with that? Don’t we have enough things to do?[3] Vincent says that those who would turn away from such collaborative ministries are “people who have only a narrow outlook, confining their perspective and plans to a certain circumference within which they shut themselves away, so to speak, in one spot; they don’t want to leave it, and if they’re shown something outside it and go near to have a look, they immediately go back to their center, like snails into their shells.[4]

I invite you to do everything possible so that these encounters, projects, and initiatives will not be limited to two or three branches in a given country, region, or city, but include literally all the branches. Once one or another branch brings up an initiative and invites the other branches to collaborate, they certainly will follow.

2. Response to natural disasters, wars, and other calamities, as a whole Vincentian Family.

Within the Vincentian Family, we need to come up with a system on the international, national, regional, and local levels to respond as efficiently and quickly as we can to natural disasters, wars, and other calamities, not as a single branch, but together as the whole Vincentian Family. In fact, we already started to reflect and act in this area on the level of the Vincentian Family Executive Committee (VFEC).

Last year, we came together as an International Family to help the people affected by Covid-19, as well as the tragic explosion in the port of Beirut. The VFEC launched a campaign with the Committee of the Famvin Homeless Alliance (FHA) to assist the hundreds of thousands of homeless in the Lebanese capital, through the Vincentian Family National Council in Lebanon, coordinated by its national president. During the plague that struck Marseilles in 1649, Vincent, learning of the death of Father Brunet and of his lay collaborator, the Chevalier de la Coste, described a rapid response to the crisis. He wrote Antoine Portail, “The Duchesse d’Aguillon is supposed to be sending you five hundred livres… If you need more money, let me know; we shall send some immediately and, if need be, we shall sell our crosses and chalices to assist you.”[5]

By forming and strengthening the National Councils of the Vincentian Family in all 162 countries where we are present, we will have grassroots coordinating teams in collaboration with the Vincentian Family on the international level, which become a force on which the world’s poor can count. Every single branch, whether large or small, is an invaluable part of the wonderful mosaic that makes up the Vincentian Family.

3. Famvin Homeless Alliance (FHA) with its 13 Houses Campaign.

The FHA with the 13 Houses Campaign is an initiative in the area of charity that brings the Vincentian Family together and, thus, needs to be promoted within the Vincentian Family to reach each member’s heart so that everyone becomes involved. The FHA is our unique common project. Therefore, it must be promoted, introduced, and extended in all 162 countries where the Vincentian Family is present so that no Congregation or Association remains outside it, but all take an active part in the initiative in every corner of the world where we live and serve.

So far, 44 branches of the Vincentian Family have engaged actively in the FHA and the 13 Houses Campaign. It is now present in 44 countries; 1826 houses have been built, and 6628 people have been helped. We hoped that by last year’s Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul we would get many more additional branches, Congregations and lay Associations, to take part in one way or another in the FHA, but that goal was not reached. There is still a long way to go.

Unfortunately, the numbers of people who live on the streets, refugees who are displaced from their homes, and people living in substandard housing are increasing drastically all around the world as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. A united response to these overwhelming needs is more necessary than ever.

Our time recalls the situation Vincent faced during the Fronde when he mobilized Vincentian and other ecclesial groups and individuals to assist displaced persons. He could report to his confrere in Poland, “About eight hundred refugee girls have been placed in private houses, where they are taken care of and instructed. You can imagine how much harm would have been done if they had been left wandering around. We have a hundred of them in one house in the faubourg Saint-Denis; we are going to rescue from the same danger the nuns from the country, whom the armies have thrown into Paris. Some are on the streets, some are living in questionable places, and others are staying with relatives. Since, however, they are all in a state of dissipation and danger, it was felt that enclosing them in a monastery, under the care of the Daughters of Sainte-Marie, would be a service most pleasing to God.[6]

As I have written in a previous letter, we need to come quickly to the point where homelessness will not be tackled alone as an individual person or an individual branch, but together as a Family on the local, national, and international levels. Each branch, by bringing its long history of service to the homeless, its expertise, professionalism, and resources, helps to build up a wonderful force that becomes much more effective in helping the Poor.

To this end, I would like to invite any of the 160 branches of the Vincentian Family, which have yet to do so, to become active collaborators in the Famvin Homeless Alliance initiative by contacting the FHA coordinating committee member Mrs. Yasmine Cajuste: (fha.info@famvin.org) to receive information and materials. You also can visit the FHA website: vfhomelessalliance.org.

I wish every single member of the worldwide Vincentian Family in the widest sense of the word a deep experience of grace as we celebrate the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul in all corners of the world. May Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Saint Vincent de Paul, and all the Saints, Blessed, and Servants of God of the Vincentian Family continue interceding for us and inspiring us on the path to globalize Charity!

Your brother in Saint Vincent,
Tomaž Mavrič, CM

*To view and download this letter, or download in another language, click here.

[1] Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, translated and edited by Jacqueline Kilar, DC; and Marie Poole, DC; et al; annotated by John W. Carven, CM; New City Press, Brooklyn and Hyde Park, 1985-2014; volume XII, page 75; conference 195, “Purpose of the Congregation of the Mission.” Future references to this work will be indicated using the initials CCD, followed by the volume number, then the page number, for example, CCD XII, 75.

[2] Ibid., 76.

[3] Ibid., 78.

[4] Ibid., 81.

[5] CCD III, 465-466; L. 1125, “To Antoine Portail, in Marseilles,” 6 August 1649.

[6] CCD IV, 399; L. 1511 “To Lambert aux Couteaux, Superior, in Warsaw,” 11 June 1652.

 

09-16-2021 News Roundup

09-16-2021 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:

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: According To How We Use It

Contemplation: According To How We Use It 940 788 SVDP USA

Formation is not a single thing we do; it is a lifelong process of becoming. In all that we read, in all that we contemplate, in all those we meet, and in all that we do, we are being formed. We can allow ourselves to be formed passively – consuming the pop culture, feeding our appetites – or we can form ourselves deliberately, with a specific end in mind.

In other words, as Blessed Frédéric once wrote, “Life is despicable if we consider it according to how we use it, but not if we recognize how we could use it, if we consider it as the most perfect work of the Creator…” [Letter 136, to Lallier, 1836]

Aristotle proposed that we become by doing: if you want to become a builder, you build. By extension, he argued, if you wish to become virtuous, you do virtuous things; you practice the virtues. [Nichomachean Ethics] St. Vincent echoed this idea when he taught that “the will has to act, and not just the understanding; for all our reasons are fruitless if we don’t go on to [actions.]” [CCD XI:175]

And so, from our earliest days, following the guidance of our families and churches, we learn through our actions how to be better. Our actions form us, and they can form us for better or worse, and this is the core of what we call the Human Dimension of Formation. As Vincentians, we choose our actions more deliberately, more specifically. We choose to serve our neighbors, exactly as Christ asks us to do. If it is really that simple, why does it take a lifetime?

It would be wonderfully easy if our Christian formation could be completed with a single home visit, wouldn’t it? It also would be wonderfully easy if a single trip to the gym would make us fit and slender for life! Simple, it turns out, does not always mean easy. After all, even a clearly marked path may be narrow, or steep.

Each time we serve the neighbor and do so for love alone, we seek to do His will. Our actions bring us closer to God, a little bit at a time. Our actions form us, and transform us, but not all at once.

The Lord tells us, in the Book of Leviticus, to be holy, for He is holy. Christ tells us, in the Gospel of Matthew, to be perfect, just as the Father is perfect. The word “holy” comes from the Old English hāl, meaning “whole” or “complete.” The word “perfect” comes from the Latin perficere, meaning “to complete.”

Christ is the light and the life; He is perfect; He is complete. The rest of us continue in our formation, our lifelong process of becoming.

Contemplate

How was I formed today? What drew me closer to God?

Recommended Reading

Vincentian Formation, A Foundation Document

SVdP Thrift Store Challenge

SVdP Thrift Store Challenge 738 416 SVDP USA

When people hear the name “St. Vincent de Paul,” their first thought is often the thrift store in their neighborhood that bears that name.

We know that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has numerous ways we help our neighbors in need. However, our Thrift Stores are an integral part of our assistance model. You may think its a great place to go to find a discount sweater, or some used cookware, but have you ever thought about how important the SVdP Thrift Store can be to someone who is re-entering the workforce after being incarcerated?

“The U.S. releases over seven million people from jail and more than 600,000 people from prison each year. However, recidivism is common. Within 3 years of their release, 2 out of 3 people are rearrested and more than 50% are incarcerated again,” said Jeff Beamguard, Stores Support Director. “50 percent of people are returning to a normal life and paying taxes again.  I have worked with thousands of people coming out of prison and jails. St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores provide a place for individuals to find clothing and accessories to find a job! SVdP has stores from coast to coast to give you a hand up, not a handout!”

Recently, the SVdP National Council’s Marketing and Communications intern, Lili Pino, decided to focus on just that. She dedicated her internship’s final project to bringing awareness to the Society’s Immersion Program by collaborating with Heather Fullerton, Associate Director of Poverty Programs / Director of Immersion Program, in the first-ever SVdP Thrift Store Challenge.

“Returning to the workforce after incarceration can be a challenging experience. SVdP thrift stores can help ease the difficulty by offering clothes, shoes, accessories, and more at an affordable price,” said Fullerton. “Anyone who has applied or interviewed for a job understands how stressful it can be to find professional clothing… Add an additional layer of being someone who is returning from incarceration and the stress can be overwhelming. Thankfully, job hunters can find a large selection of business attire at SVdP thrift stores. Items like ties, blouses, blazers, dresses, belts, and accessories are all available for a low price.”

Together, they each put together an outfit from the Thrift Store to show that returning citizens can find clothing appropriate for job interviews at affordable prices. Watch the video to see what they found!

Click here to learn more about the Immersion Program.

Click here to find your local SVdP Thrift Store. 

09-16-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

09-16-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

It doesn’t take much time to feel utterly alone.

My wife was away over a weekend and I was home by myself. Even though I went to the grocery store and to Mass, worked out at the local YMCA, and bought some food at a drive-through, it was easy to say perhaps only 10 words the entire weekend. And that includes the “Amen” at communion!

In part this relative quiet was self-imposed. I’m blessed to have friends I could have visited, a Society food pantry where I could have volunteered, and a friendly neighborhood in which to converse with my neighbors. I chose after a very active couple of weeks to retreat instead for a few days and spend quality time with some books and televised sports. All told, I have blessings and choices.

Some of the many people we serve do not have these blessings. We know from membership reporting that “elderly living alone” is our first or second type of family the Society serves in many of our Conferences. Others may have a disability or specific situation that causes them to be homebound. Some are parents who, while they have children around them, lack adult friends and family. It’s in all of these neighbors that we can see the difference between being alone and being lonely.

An extreme feeling of loneliness is an underlying condition that can also lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, and many dangerous behaviors such as addictions. If we could stop, or better yet, prevent such loneliness wouldn’t we all want to do so?

When a pair of Vincentians conduct a Home Visit or drop off a bag of groceries, we can easily measure how we provide for immediate needs. What is less evident is the value of simply being present. Often we have no idea of the life of the person we encounter. We may be the first person that neighbor has spoken to in person for a day, or a month. When we knock on the door, we are the face of Christ – friendly, welcoming of a conversation, helpful, and armed with a smile and, ultimately, hope.

Some members ask if the adaptations we all made over the pandemic period can be retained for the future, such as virtual Home Visits by phone or computer. These were necessary to help satisfy corporal needs of mercy such as rent and utilities assistance. We are blessed that we had the tools to adapt such that our neighbors could get the needed material help they sought. But what about their spiritual and emotional needs? Did we fulfill these even a little bit?

We may have taken for granted how much we mean to an isolated neighbor when we participate in person. Others who perform checkbook charity might feel satisfied that they helped in some way. Yet it is as nothing when compared to seeing the gratitude, friendship, and even joy when we make a personal encounter that, when allowed and appropriate, might include prayer and a handshake or hug. You can’t bottle that feeling and you sure can’t mail it in.

As we return post-pandemic to our Society traditions of in-person Home Visits and other personal encounters, let’s do so intentionally in a spirit of truly being a good neighbor even to those who are relatively unknown to us. That neighbor living alone, or otherwise emotionally very lonely, might never thank you for your appearing at their door. You won’t know that they feel more alive today because they spoke to another person in friendship. Some will know they exist simply because someone cared enough to visit them today.

In our Visits we bring more than tangible help; we bring hope and Christ’s love, and even get to feel a bit of it ourselves. It is said that half of success in life is just showing up. When we show up for someone else, we successfully take a few more steps toward our own holiness. Who will you visit tomorrow?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

Contemplation – We Do Not Have Two Lives

Contemplation – We Do Not Have Two Lives 940 788 SVDP USA

We understand our Vincentian vocation to be a lay vocation, not religious or clerical. Yet the laity are called to much more than charitable works and attending Mass on Sundays. Indeed, in Apostolicam Actuositatum, Pope Saint Paul VI said that as “sharers in the role of Christ as priest, prophet, and king, the laity have their work cut out for them…” That sounds like a very tall order, but to learn how we may fulfill this calling, we need look no farther than the example of Blessed Frédéric Ozanam.

Frédéric lived his faith in every part of his life. He felt God’s presence in friendship, writing to his mother that it “makes one love more than ever a religion that makes all its children equal and gathers together the great and the small who… inspire you with so much love for humanity.” [Letter 55, to his mother, 1833] He saw and served Christ in his friends.

Advising his friend on marriage, he explained that “in your wife you will first love God, whose admirable and precious work she is, and then humanity, that race of Adam whose pure and lovable daughter she is.” [Letter 107, to Curnier, 1835] In his faithful devotion as husband and father, Frédéric saw and served Christ in his wife and daughter.

For most of his adult life, Frédéric was a college professor, where he believed he and his Catholic colleagues should strive “to fulfill our vocation as professors in a Christian manner and to serve God in serving wholesome teaching…” [Letter 516 to Foisset, 1843] He never shied from defending the truth, yet in doing so, he never offended anybody. Frédéric saw and served Christ in his profession.

As a proud Frenchman, Frédéric served in the National Guard during the 1848 revolution and ran for a seat in the legislature that same year. Through his newspaper, L’Ère Nouvelle, he offered commentary on social issues of his time, always seeking to mediate social tensions, and to remind his fellow citizens of their obligations to one another. Indeed, he once went so far as to say that this was “the possible usefulness of our Society of St. Vincent de Paul.” [Letter 137 to Janmot, 1837] Frédéric saw and served Christ in his fellow citizens.

Frédéric anticipated Pope Saint John Paul II’s teaching that for the laity there “cannot be two parallel lives,” one spiritual and one secular. [Christifidelis Laici, 59] He even explained it using similar words:

We do not have two lives, one to seek the truth, the other to practice it,” he wrote. [Letter 1143, to Hommais, 1852] “It requires so little to be an excellent Christian, all you need is an act of the will.”

More importantly, he lived his faith in all the parts of his life: in work, in family, in friendship, and in charity. He is for us, and for all Catholics, a role model of the Apostolate of the Laity.

Contemplate

In what parts of my life can I better see and serve Christ??

Recommended Reading

Vincentian Meditations (especially 4. How Do We Define Ourselves?)

09-09-2021 News Roundup

09-09-2021 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

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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