Last week, the halls of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront were abuzz with Vincentian camaraderie. More than 700 attendees gathered in Baltimore for the 2022 SVdP National Assembly. It was a wonderful four days full of shared knowledge, experience, and the Vincentian charism.
“Hosting the National Assembly for over 700+ Vincentians was wonderful and inspiring working with a team of generous Vincentians and volunteers, and welcoming so many joyful Vincentians from across the nation,” said Pauline Manalo, Baltimore Council President. “It was uplifting to receive expressions of gratitude from countless assembly participants. an indication that the National Assembly in Baltimore was a blessed and graced experience for Vincentians coming to the Water. Praise the Lord!”
The meeting officially began on Wednesday with exhibits opening, and a preparedness workshop hosted by Disaster Services Corporation. Several National committees, including Stores and Governance, held meetings, and the National Board of Directors met. Attendees had the unique opportunity to participate in one of three special tours to see Baltimore! These tours included religious sites, the Baltimore Council’s Family and Housing Services, and the Council’s Hunger Services. Vincentians loved seeing the work of their fellow Vincentians, up close and personal.
On Thursday, things really ramped up and National Committees met in-person to discuss business. Workshops also began on Thursday covering a plethora of topics including fundraising, Conference Revitalization, and Spirituality.
The first keynote address of the Assembly was given by Alexia Kelley of FADICA. Her address was about “Catholic Philanthropy: Inspiration, Impact, and Next Generation Engagement.”
Former SVdP National Episcopal Advisor, Bishop John Quinn was awarded the SVdP National Foundation’s Inaugural Founder’s Award. He was recognized for his exceptional service to the National Council, Society of St. Vincent de Paul. To learn more about this special recognition, click here.
The afternoon featured more workshops, including one specifically for the youth and young adult attendees. It was given by John Paul Brissette, a member of the National Youth Committee, and discussed how youth can run a successful project called “Do Güd Day,” in their local Conference or Council. “My favorite was the Do Güd Workshop because it was a direct way for us to serve our neighbors in Maryland,” said one youth attendee. “I enjoyed meeting other youth and young adults in the U.S. who also care about serving our brothers and sisters in need.”
That evening, attendees spend an evening under the sea at the Host City Event which was held at the National Aquarium. There, attendees were treated to delicious food, a variety of sea life, and a special meet and greet with the four nominees for SVdP National President.
First thing Friday morning, Vincentians gathered for the Spiritual Retreat. This year’s retreat was lead by Dan Schutte and was titled, “Here I am Lord — Feeding the Hearts of a Servant.” The Spiritual Retreat is one of the things that attendees look forward to most that the National Assembly, and this year’s did not disappoint! It was a beautiful time for Vincentians to come together and celebrate the Society’s essential elements of Friendship, Spirituality, and Service.
After more workshops, daily Mass, and the General Session hosted by Kerry Robinson of Leadership Roundtable titled “The Path to a Better Future: Co-Responsibility and a New Culture of Leadership in the Church,” Vincentians had the chance to catch a Baltimore Orioles baseball game at Camden Yards. They must’ve brought the city some good mojo, because the Orioles brought home a winner!
The final day of the National Assembly is always a little bittersweet, but that didn’t slow anyone down. We were blessed by the attendance of International President General Renato Lima de Oliveira, who addressed attendees on Saturday morning.
In a beautiful moment near the end of his presentation, President Renato led the entire room in song. We were all one voice in that moment. “The energy in the rooms in Baltimore really made it feel as if we were finally leaving our pandemic ‘shell shock’ behind, and that a real re-founding and revitalization is beginning to dawn across the whole Society,” said Tim Williams, National Vincentian Formation Director.
Youth and Young Adult attendees spent time Saturday doing an off-site service project. They worked at the Baltimore Council’s Beans and Bread Program, packing bags with essentials for neighbors in need. “I really enjoyed the Beans and Bread service project. It was useful to see how an organized service event is run and get ideas for incorporating it in the young adult groups I am a part of. I wish I could have attended everything!” said Andrea Behler, youth attendee.
Saturday marked the National Business Meeting and signified the next step in the National Presidential Election when the nominee field was narrowed down to two candidates, John Berry and Brian Burgess. To learn more about the election process, see Ralph Middlecamp’s column here.
After the final round of workshops, Vincentians gathered for the final celebration of the Liturgy together at the Vigil Mass, which was celebrated by Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore.
Mass was followed by the closing banquet. There, Brandon Davis and Mia Humphrey were named co-winners of the first-ever Alice Garvey Excellence in Youth Award for their exceptional work with their local SVdP Councils to help their neighbors in need. Before officially ending the evening, leadership recognized key players that helped make this year’s National Assembly happen and the host Council passed the baton to the St. Louis Council who will host next year’s National Assembly.
“The St. Louis Archdiocesan Council looks forward to hosting the 2023 National Assembly, September 6-9, in St. Louis, MO,” said the St. Louis Council. “Because the first Conference of the Society of the U.S.A. began in St. Louis in 1845, we are blessed to say this is ‘Where it All Began.’ Our Board of Directors, Assembly Committee members, Council staff, and 3,400 Vincentians look forward to welcoming you and meeting you in St Louis next year!”
Overall, it was a lovely few days spent with brother and sister Vincentians focusing on all things SVdP. Thank you all who helped make it possible! We cannot wait to see everyone in STL next year!
“Participating in the National Assembly is such a blessing for me. I love being with other Vincentians and sharing joy, friendship and our spirituality. With over 700 attendees I get to meet new Vincentians from diverse communities and that makes me happy,” said Katherine Ramirez, Vincentian from New York. “This year I was especially glad so many youth and young adults were there. And so many Latinos too!”
Congratulations and Well Done! Thank you to all who created a vibrant environment of friendship and spirituality. The Assembly comes on like a rush of Divine Providence and Grace. In the exhaustion of returning home comes the desire to “be more”, “do more” and the longing to come together again. Truly Frederic looks down today with a humble smile-that acorn became a mighty oak! What an Assembly!