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,