Bishop Donald J. Hying

12-22-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

12-22-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 900 900 SVDP USA

As we prepare to celebrate the wonder of Christmas once again, we often are flooded with glowing memories of Christmases past. Impatiently waiting as a child for Santa to bring us toys. Sitting down with family and friends for a joyous meal. Going to Midnight Mass, smelling the incense and hearing the bells. Decorating the house and stringing up outside lights. Feeling the joy and beauty of the season. Realizing the nearness of God!

One of my earliest memories is waking up from a nap at the age of three, coming out into the living room and looking with absolute wonder and amazement at the Christmas tree, radiant with lights and ornaments. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my short life! Another Yule-tide memory was at my first priestly assignment, St. Anthony Parish in Menomonee Falls, a classic country church which had had a suburb grow up around it. My first Midnight Mass, both as a priest and at that parish, was packed with people standing up the side aisles. The choir offered a beautiful concert at 11:30, and then, with all the lights off, everyone held lit candles and sang “Silent Night.” We all have glowing Christmas memories that linger in our hearts as signs of God’s great love for us.

During this Advent season, I have meditated often on the power of hope. “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit … (Hope) keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1817-1818). Because of Christmas and all the spiritual gifts, which the Lord has entrusted to us in Christ, we dare to hope that we will live forever with God, know forgiveness and love, and rejoice even now in our identity as beloved children of the Father.

Hope is different from optimism. The latter is a vague, naïve expectation that things will somehow get better, we know not how. Tragedy, suffering and death crush optimism, making it seem foolish and false. Hope is made of sterner stuff. Hope can look the darkest nights of evil fully in the face and still rejoice, because it knows that God has already gained the victory, that Christ has entered the world as savior, that, if we are faithful to the Lord, we will overcome every obstacle and come into the kingdom of heaven forever, and that there is no sin or death which has the final word on us. Hope relies on the promises and power of Jesus Christ. As the saying goes, “I do not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.”

These past years have been difficult ones. I do not need to recite the litany of woes which afflict us; we have all lived through them. In the midst of pain and challenge, we can all lose hope, focus, perspective and even faith. We can give in to sadness and despair, and even give up on the Lord, thinking that we are abandoned and alone. How important it is for us to retell the ancient story of Christmas in order to recharge our hope and faith. Mary giving birth to Jesus in a humble stable. Angels appearing to shepherds at night, bathed in heavenly radiance. The Christmas star guiding mysterious astrologers to the Child. The Son of God stepping into the pages of human history, born on the fringes of the Roman Empire, quietly and humbly coming into His own creation, unnoticed by the important personages of the world, yet ready to redeem and save this world forever.

The hope of Christmas rekindles our wonder and astonishment in a world grown old and jaded by broken promises, sinful failure and empty selfishness. Can we look at God, the Church, our families and friends, our work and responsibilities, our home and possessions, and even ourselves with new eyes and grateful hearts, renewed by the glory of God shining on the face of Christ? Hope enables us to do so!

My profound prayer for every member of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, is that this holy season of Christmas may renew us in faith, hope and love, filling our hearts with a deeper desire for God, and that the peace which flows from the Christ Child will give us strength in every difficulty and challenge. In Christ, God has promised to be with us until the end of time, and so we rejoice in hope!

“A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

Merry Christmas
Bishop Donald J. Hying
SVdP National Episcopal Advisor

National Council Building Dedication Renews Faith and Friendship

National Council Building Dedication Renews Faith and Friendship 633 277 SVDP USA

The sun burned bright in St. Louis on June 11, with temperatures nearing 100 degrees. But it paled in comparison to the outpouring of faith and friendship that flowed out of the National Council office during the dedication of our new headquarters at 66 Progress Parkway.

Though staff began working from the building shortly after its purchase last summer, the pandemic had prevented the larger SVdP community from visiting until now. The day marked a joyous reunion, as Board members and staff came together in person after a year a half filled with many Zoom meetings and a fair amount of uncertainty.

National Council President Ralph Middlecamp noted that the building actually opened in March 2020, but due to COVID restrictions, no one could enter for many weeks.

Ralph Middlecamp

Once it was safe to enter last summer (socially distant and with masks), a team of staff members, led by Chief Operating Officer Nancy Pino, worked tirelessly to create a space that is reflective of Vincentian values. “Our goal when designing our new space was not only to make it a productive, comfortable, and welcoming environment for our staff, but for all Vincentian visitors,” she said. “The History Wall and Chapel help express the story of beginnings, who we are, and who we aspire to become.”

SVdP History

President Ralph Middlecamp and CEO Dave Barringer welcomed guests to the new headquarters, then Spiritual Advisor Bishop Donald J. Hying and Deacon John Heithaus of the Archdiocesan Council of St. Louis performed the first Mass in the National Council Chapel. Said Barringer, “We have intentionally designed the building to reflect the Society’s mission. Upon entry through our front door, within 25 feet you will see our logo, a statue of St. Vincent de Paul, our Mission statement, a video of Society activities, a wall dedicated to our history and values, and a chapel. Yes, we want to lead with our faith, so a chapel space was forefront in our design plans.”

SVdP National Council Chapel

Middlecamp was pleased with what the National Council team was able to accomplish. “Our new National Office provides a well-designed space for our staff and volunteers as we serve those who serve our neighbors in need,” he said. “It is attractive and functional, and we were able to make the move without any fundraising or decrease in support for the programs we offer. What a great new beginning for us as we look to the future after these months of isolation.”

As a special surprise, the day’s celebration included the dedication of the new Sr. Kieran Library, a fitting tribute to the National Council’s long-time Director of Formation, who gave so much to the Society. Current Director of Formation Tim Williams had this to say: “Friday’s Open House, Mass, and dedication of the new building seemed like a perfect way for us to emerge from the pandemic, and begin our return to in-person meetings. For me, personally, it was a great joy to see the unmasked smile of my predecessor and dear friend, Sister Kieran Kneaves, when we unveiled the name of our new Vincentian library, dedicated to her and to the many years she served us all in this vocation!”

Sr. Kieran KneavesTrue to the Vincentian value of prudence, the National Council did not use any dollars from member services to purchase the new building, which was funded through the sale of our old building and judicious savings of bequest funds over time. “Our most loyal donors contributed mightily to this day. We thank them,” Middlecamp said.

The new building will serve as a space for collaboration, faith, and friendship for the Society’s 100,000 Vincentian volunteers and the staff who support them, providing the technology and space to sustain our work now and well into the future. In his remarks, Barringer said, “To not only our staff, but also to our Board of Directors, and our Society members, Welcome Home!”


04-01-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders

04-01-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1920 2400 SVDP USA

The ultimate consequences of sin and death are perpetual solitude and eternal separation from God. To save us from all that, God sent His Son, born in our likeness, fully divine and fully human, to suffer and die on the cross. Through that astonishing sacrificial gift of self and the glory of the Resurrection, we are redeemed, forgiven and promised a place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus leads us into an eternal relationship with the Father and bestows His own identity on us, as we become beloved children of God. These truths summarize the amazing good news of our Catholic faith.

We have all certainly tasted solitude and separation this past year. The impact of COVID has been far-reaching: hundreds of thousands of people facing sickness and death, massive unemployment, no public Masses for months, children not in school, elderly folks completely shut off from family and friends, spikes in depression and suicide. Vincentians have not been able to make Home Visits in a moment when they were needed the most.

Yet, in the midst of such tragedy and difficulty, people have responded with generosity and compassion. Telephone calls, Zoom sessions, curbside pick-ups of food, clothing, and medicine are practical and loving ways that Vincentians have superseded the obstacles of the pandemic. Priests, deacons, religious, and lay ministers have reached out, often heroically, to offer sacraments, prayer, blessings, and human comfort to our isolated and struggling brothers and sisters.

All of this compassionate and zealous effort is fruit of the Vincentian spirit which seeks to find and love our suffering brothers and sisters, to behold the face of Christ in them, and to serve their needs as we would literally treat Christ Himself. This putting the Gospel into living action is the heart of the Vincentian apostolate.

In His public ministry, Jesus ministered in His divine power, healing, preaching, forgiving, and feeding through His unique gifts as the Son of God. How shocking to behold the Lord on the cross, where He becomes the wounded, rejected, thirsty, suffering, and dying One, seemingly powerless and even abandoned by God. Yet, in that moment, Jesus was never more free and powerful, as He won salvation for us by embracing everything within us that was broken, sinful and dead. As we contemplate the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ this week, we ask the Lord to break open our hearts, to feel in a deeper way His tender mercy and to know ever more profoundly how we are loved.

Thank you for the good work you do as a Vincentian, giving witness by your words and deeds to the mighty compassion of Christ. Especially this past year with its unique difficulties and crosses, your radiant presence in the Church and the world makes a profound impact for the common good, especially those we are privileged to serve directly, as we touch Christ in His distressing disguise. On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I offer you our prayers, blessing, and thanks.

Yours in Christ,
Bishop Donald J. Hying
National Episcopal Advisor

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