05-29-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-29-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

Dear brother and sister Vincentians, greetings from Anchorage, Alaska!

I am delighted to introduce myself as Andrew Bellisario, C.M., the new National Episcopal Advisor for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. This year, I celebrate 40 years as a Vincentian priest. Next year commemorates the 50th anniversary of my entry into the Congregation of the Mission, founded by Saint Vincent de Paul in 1625. More importantly, next year also marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Mission.

I was born and raised in Alhambra, California, near Pasadena, of Rose Parade and Rose Bowl fame. I attended Vincentian seminaries from 1971 until my ordination in 1984. After ordination, I had the privilege of serving in Vincentian parishes, working with local Conferences of the Society, serving as provincial superior of the Vincentians in the western United States, and being the director of the Daughters of Charity. In 2015, my superiors sent me to Alaska to join the Vincentian International Mission, which serves Spanish-speaking people. To my surprise, Pope Francis appointed me the Bishop of Juneau, Alaska, in 2017 and then, the Archbishop of the newly constituted Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau in 2020.

Our president, John Berry, journeyed to Alaska last year to invite me to serve as the National Episcopal Advisor. Initially, I hesitated due to the distance from what we call “the Lower 48.” However, the Vincentian Family’s call is undeniable. I am here, filled with joy and eagerness, ready to serve you and the Society to the best of my abilities. I eagerly anticipate meeting many of you at the National Assembly in August and was pleased to meet some of you at the Mid-Year Meeting in March.

From Easter to Pentecost, it was my honor to visit numerous parishes in my archdiocese to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation. Traveling in Alaska can be challenging because of limited roads, accessibility, vast areas, and inclement weather. Outside the road system, boats, ferries, and planes of varying sizes are the norm for transportation. Everywhere travels took me this Easter season, I met parishioners excited and ready to “be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Whether it was a parish in Anchorage and Juneau or our many parishes and missions in smaller towns and villages across 125,000 square miles, our people were ready to allow the Spirit to transform their lives as fully initiated Catholics.

We just celebrated the Solemnity of Pentecost. Reading the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles fills my heart with excitement. The powerful images of Pentecost remain with us to inspire us and give us hope: a strong driving wind, tongues as of fire, and bold preaching in many languages. The Holy Spirit transforms the once-frightened disciples into bold evangelizing preachers. What a difference the Holy Spirit makes!

The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the divine gift of God’s love, not only guides us but also compels us to act. God’s love urges us to protect the lives of the unborn, children, the vulnerable, and all people. God’s love urges us to expose injustice and strive for justice vigorously. And as we know so well, God’s love compels us to see the face of our Lord in each person who suffers from poverty.

Working for justice in the service of persons who are poor may seem overwhelming. Still, the patroness of the missions and Alaska, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, knew that the love of Christ is our motivation and the answer to our woes. St. Thérèse reminds us: “You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”

When we love and serve our masters who are poor, we are following Christ the way Blessed Frédéric, Blessed Rosalie, Saint Vincent, and Saint Louise followed Christ. Our Founders were on fire with the Holy Spirit like those early apostles. May we, too, be on fire, and our flames burn forever intensely with love for Christ in his poor.

Many Blessings,
Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M.

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