Blessed Frederic Ozanam

A Medallion in the Mosiac

A Medallion in the Mosiac 200 258 SVDP USA

On a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland to the United States in the fall of 1845, a Vincentian priest, John Timon, carried with him a copy of the Rule of the Society of St Vincent de Paul. Having met members of this young Catholic lay organization during his travels, he was so impressed with their works and zeal that he wished to share this book with friends back home in St. Louis.

Within weeks of his return, a group of some of the most prominent men in the frontier city of St Louis gathered at the church now known as the Old Cathedral, and held the first meeting of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in the United States on November 20, 1845.

In celebration of the 175th Anniversary of this event, the National Council has published a book, and commissioned a commemorative coin.

Meticulously researched by Raymond Sickinger, Professor Emeritus of History at Providence College, this book includes stories of key people, places, and events in the growth and development of the Society in the United States.

Sickinger, also a biographer of Frédéric Ozanam, tells us about Thomas Mulry, who was instrumental in drawing together the seven Superior Councils into a single National Council, and was elected its first president. His life was a model of Christian charity, and of lay Catholic devotion to inspire us.

From Thomas Mulry through Ralph Middlecamp, the book shares insights about all of our National Council Presidents, their priorities, and the accomplishments of the National Council under their leadership.

The book’s title is taken from another anniversary of the Society, its 100th, when our leadership assessed our history to that point, finding the Society to be ”a medallion in the mosaic of Vincentian works.”

Take some time to be inspired by reading these stories, and add the book and coin to your shelf in celebration of these remarkable 175 years, and in dedication to building the next 175!

Contemplation – The Secret Work of God

Contemplation – The Secret Work of God 940 788 SVDP USA

When we think about our Vincentian virtue of humility, it seems sometimes that it may act against the interest of the poor if it results in fewer people donating to the Society. But this confuses humility with secrecy, a point Bl. Frédéric often discussed!

Indeed, while celebrating the rapid expansion of the Society across France in its early years, he noted that “we love obscurity without cultivating secrecy” [Letter 310, 1841]

He emphasized that “humility obliges associations as much as individuals.” [Letter 160, 1837] We must maintain the humble spirit of our founding, just as Vincent once admonished a priest of the mission for referring to it as “our holy company.” Vincentians, like all Christians, seek holiness, we do not proclaim it for ourselves!

Secrecy does not serve the work, or the poor. We work in obscurity, not as servants of an unworthy or illicit cause, but as what Bl. Frédéric called “weak Samaritans,” and what St. Vincent called “unprofitable servants.” Our work is worthwhile because it is truly the work of God!

What robs the poor is when we take personal credit for the God’s work; when we see ourselves as the cause. Our humility as a Society, Frédéric explained, “must exclude that collective pride which so often disguises itself under the name of esprit de corps…”[Letter 160, 1837]

We seek to do God’s will, and we should not be silent about the good that results, but any success we achieve is His alone.

Why wouldn’t we tell that story? Why wouldn’t we want to share this great gift we receive with everybody we know? It is a great story exactly because it is not about us.

There is much pleasure in telling of the humble origin of great things. It is so wonderful thus to reveal the secret work of God.” [Letter 460, 1842]

Contemplate: How can I share our story?

Recommended Reading: ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple by Fr. Robert Maloney

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