Dave Barringer

7-20-23 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

7-20-23 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1080 1080 SVDP USA

My wife and I spread our charitable giving over the year, giving to a different charity or two each month. We annually add one here and there, and sometimes we subtract a charity too — usually because of how they have listened to us, or increasingly, changed their mission or activities away from our reasons for supporting them. How much we give is personal, of course, but this year more than most we feel, well, challenged.

A recent report from Giving USA shows that Americans gave less than last year — a lot less. We have not seen such a decrease since the Depression years. Rising inflation reported in conflicting but always high amounts, and consumer prices up nearly 16% last year, created insecurity and less disposable income for everyone. Families are pulling back to give only to what they feel is most important.

Meanwhile, charities have rising costs, too, so many U.S. nonprofits are feeling more than a little squeezed. Some now focus more on megadonor gifts, ignoring the perennial fact that most American giving is through the smaller gifts that add up. Sure, million-dollar gifts get media attention and feel like a good result, but the reality is that these gifts are difficult to maintain annually, often come with significant strings attached, and create feelings of have- or have-not inequity among supporters, often leading to small donor defection.

Fortunately, one trend continues. People are more likely to give, and maintain giving, to religious charities. This may be helpful to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, but only if we focus on our mission. It is easy to report on people served, meals delivered, rent dollars paid, and the like, but our true mission is the spiritual development of our members. This is more difficult to report. We don’t have meters on Vincentians to measure how holy they are from year to year, though I’m sure someone is working on this app!

We often hear that the Society is the face of the Church, when the Church is asked about its works of mercy and/or neighborhood support. Many Bishops and Pastors also recognize this. Our Vincentian charitable spirit and kindness to others are appreciated! That said, there might be a disconnect between how we operate and how we represent ourselves in our fundraising messaging. We sometimes choose, perhaps unwisely, to compete in the crowded social services space with program numbers and focus, rather than embrace our Catholic identity and to communicate numbers as expressions of our faith.

We often learn more about why people do things only when they stop doing them. So, why do people stop or reduce giving? Personal economy factors, certainly. The lower impact of charitable giving tax incentives? Yes, though more relevant for major gift donors. The rest may come down to branding, in the sense of the personal experience for the donor. Does the donor receive the personal outcomes they “pay for” with their gift, such as feeling they have contributed to a worthy cause? Have they not only been thanked in a timely manner, but told how their gift has been used? Or conversely, have most communications only been about the need to give more, the “critical needs” of the charity, or even a shaming that the donor isn’t doing enough?

Giving to the Society is not just through direct mail and large special events. Much of our support still comes from the pews through poor boxes, special collections, and other vehicles. Our own members provide a good deal of our funds, too. These donors deserve our frequent and kind communications. We need to explain what we are doing with their gifts, how the neighborhood’s families are being served, and how we fulfill our mission daily by growing ourselves in holiness. Among the faithful, this is a powerful reason for giving! The parish bulletin is a good place to start.

The Society is so unique among nonprofits, and our requests can reflect this unique, faith-filled cause. Even if prospective donors don’t attend church services as frequently, there is still an appreciation of what the Catholic faith does and how Vincentians are the Face of Christ in our communities. Our “why you are asked to give” messages, whether asked in person, through the mail or online, have the opportunity not only to attract funds but to advertise and demonstrate our faith.

My wife and I will likely give to fewer charities this year, but with larger gifts that we feel can make an impact in line with our passions and intentions. Many families will face similar charitable giving decisions. People give through their wallets but give from their hearts. How will your Council and Conference appeal to their hearts, and their faith, in your requests for support?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
National CEO

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Gathers for Annual Midyear Meeting

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Gathers for Annual Midyear Meeting 2560 1702 SVDP USA

The National Council of the United States, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, will host its annual Midyear Business Meeting, March 16 – 18, 2022 at the Hilton at the Ballpark in St. Louis, Missouri.

About 200 Vincentian leaders and volunteers from across the country are expected to attend the event. The agenda is packed with education, spirituality, and best practice information about the Society’s work helping neighbors in need across the country.

Highlights of this year’s meeting include workshops on the Society’s recent work in the areas of safeguarding those we serve; growth & revitalization of the Society; and standards of excellence for local St. Vincent de Paul Conferences and Councils.

On Friday, March 17, Bishop John Quinn, recently retired as bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, will lead a spiritual retreat reflecting on the power of the Sacred Scriptures to transform our everyday and ordinary lives and relationships into moments of grace and encounter with God. That afternoon, attendees will gather at the Old Cathedral in downtown St. Louis for a Recommitment Ceremony and Mass.

“With more than 200 of our leaders from across the country convening in St. Louis,” says National CEO Dave Barringer, “we can focus together on what must be done as our members help so many families in need facing inflationary pressures, higher costs for rent and utilities, and other post-pandemic challenges.”

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is the world’s largest Catholic lay organization, with nearly 90,000 members serving in more than 4,400 parishes across the country. The National Council of the United States is headquartered in Maryland Heights, MO. Originally founded in Paris in 1833, the Society’s roots in the United States trace back to 1845, when the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul was established at St. Louis’ Old Cathedral.

For more information on the event, or to register, contact Manager of National Events Michele Schurk at (314) 576-3993 or mschurk@svdpusa.org.

1-5-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

1-5-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 900 900 SVDP USA

The holidays are always a mixed blessing for those of us who value our “alone time.” My wife has to drag me to parties, but then I usually have fun when I attend.  During the pandemic it was a small blessing for us introverts to see these parties go into hibernation. Alas, they have returned this year, often with a vengeance to catch up in their revelry, size, noise and meaningless chatter. It’s not really the parties I don’t enjoy, it’s only some of the people attending!

It appears that I am not, uh, alone. According to the Census Bureau American Time Use Study, which apparently is a real thing we pay the government to do, we have all been spending more time alone since way back in 2014! The pandemic just made it more socially acceptable. In 2019, Americans already spent only four hours a week with friends, a decline of 37 percent in just five years.

We should pause to note that cell phone market penetration crossed 50 percent in 2014. Add some polarization to make us fearful of political discourse, and is it any wonder that we spend less time with others?

This trend includes all age groups (though exacerbated in younger generations), racial, urban/rural, married/unmarried, and parent/non-parent groups.

The trend reversed but just slightly post-pandemic, but we are still behind the 2019 levels. We don’t know yet how much we have each changed permanently due to the pandemic, and a Pew Research Center study found that 35 percent of Americans say that large gatherings, going out and socializing have become less important since COVID. Every day we can see that more of us now have our meals and groceries delivered. We stream movies at home. And most distressing, we don’t go to church as often and maybe not at all. Even putting faith aside, this can’t be a healthy outcome.

Our Society’s Mission Statement, coincidentally revised before the pandemic, starts with the words “A network of friends…” Through attention to these words perhaps we can start to reverse this trend.

Friendship has always been one of our Society’s Essential Elements, along with Spirituality and Service. We know as well that the Society was created by a group of college friends and an adviser. At times, some Conferences gloss over the importance of friends meeting together in their rush to serve and seek holiness. In trying to satisfy our mission, we may be forgetting that making and maintaining friendships, as well as relationships with those we serve, is our mission!

As we come out of the holidays, we hopefully renewed some friendships at all those darn parties we were dragged to, I mean invited to attend. Let’s keep those relationships going and with some Vincentian zeal. Let’s also think of who we didn’t see at those holiday gatherings and seek them out. Maybe they aren’t well, or afraid to gather, or like me, they just may need an extra nudge to be sociable sometimes. You have my blessing, in fact my fervent wish, that you be that nudge!

Good friends are hard to find, so let’s not lose some due to carelessness and unintentional neglect. Just like with customers, it is easier to keep a current friend than to make a new one. We know too that many hands make light work, and that many minds create better solutions to serve people in need. We also recognize that we all benefit from praying and serving as friends more than coming together as acquaintances now and then for a service project. The continuity of friendships was modeled for us by Christ’s Apostles, and we continue this tradition of serving as a faith-based team of friends in deed and spirit.

We speak often about making new friends and inviting them into our beloved Society. Let’s take stock of our Vincentian relationships, and then start 2023 right by adding to our network of friends. You might even find an occasion to throw a party!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

11-17-22 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

11-17-22 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 900 900 SVDP USA

Television watchers are used to mid-season breaks, long gaps between seasons, and mid-season replacements that all make it difficult to get into a viewing routine for their favorite shows. I’m not sure if the DVR was the answer, or part of the cause, for this programming chaos! Add in a pandemic that severely affected production schedules, and it’s no wonder that the Society’s very own TV show got delayed for its second season. But we are back!

When Season Two of “Our Faith In Action: Today’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul” (or as we lovingly refer to it, OFIA) finally airs this month on the EWTN cable network, it will have been more than three years since our last broadcast. Our Society’s production team of the Orlando Council’s Trace Trylko, independent videographers and hosts, and National staff couldn’t travel during the pandemic, and local services schedules were also thrown out of whack. Fortunately as the show illustrates, the Vincentian services continued during the entire period, even with sometimes significant COVID adaptations.

Set your DVRs or watch live during the week of November 28, daily Monday through Friday at 5:30 PM Eastern / 4:30 PM Central to see five new episodes of OFIA on EWTN. (With as always, programming subject to change.) Another five episodes will air later; at this time we expect this in February. That’s correct, we will air during the week of Giving Tuesday and for some people, the start of the holiday volunteer and giving season. We thank EWTN for this special opportunity – we can’t ask for funds during the broadcasts, but we really appreciate the exposure of our works nationwide to the EWTN viewers, potential material and financial donors, members, and volunteers!

Each episode features SVdP works in at least three different U.S. cities, told from the perspective of our members, their work and commitment, and how they see the Face of Christ in the people they serve. We will feature Home Visits, food pantries, systemic change classes, health programs, workforce development, and so much more that is testament to the variety of Society work as it is most needed in each local community. We also feature local clergy who extoll the works of the Society in their neighborhoods. We could not get to every community, but while you may not see your Council, you will more than likely see your work! Overall for Season Two we travelled to more than 30 locations.

You might also see a sampler of work that your Council or Conference might consider as a new practice, or best practice, for the future. Being creative unto infinity, our Conferences tweak program elements to fit their local needs, so there is always a different approach we can learn from each other.

Please consider watching the 30-minute shows as a Conference, either “live” or recorded. Have a viewing party! Consider using the shows, or parts of them, in your local promotional efforts. Our National office can help you get the clips you need, and the shows will all be on our website for sharing once EWTN airs them twice. The Society owns all of the content except for the EWTN commercials, so everything you see on the show is available to you!

Please help us to advertise the broadcasts this month. Include OFIA mentions in your parish bulletins and other Church and community communications. The National Council will have a broad social media presence to highlight the shows, but please help us to share the postings where you can. We want this great display of Vincentian services to be in front of as many viewers as possible – we are humble, yet proud of what we do for our friends in need. Also, one can’t help but want to join us when you see the hearts of our Vincentians in their work with neighbors. As the Society rebuilds our membership post-pandemic, the OFIA shows can be a great tool to introduce the Society’s charism and works to potential members in the comfort of their living rooms.

As Thanksgiving approaches just before the OFIA airings, I’m thankful as the show’s executive producer for the opportunity to work with so many in our Society to have this second season finally get on the air. Our Vincentian story is so big and so very beneficial that it deserves this broadcast spotlight. I’m thankful for all the Councils and Conferences that took part in our production for sharing their works and their heartfelt experiences of what it means to be a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. None of what you will see on the shows is scripted. In these days of often fake reality television, the “Our Faith In Action” experiences may be the more genuine human experiences as Vincentians demonstrate God’s love on camera. I pray that you will view these special programs and share them with others.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

07-14-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

07-14-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

This isn’t a stores column, but let’s use a store as an example. When reviewing a Thrift Store, I always request that the manager and I close our eyes and we suddenly appear in the middle of the store. What do we see, and what is the store trying to tell us?

In a recent overseas stores tour, the request led me to see a lot of signage about sustainability. That’s a fairly new term for what stores used to call “reuse, renew, and recycle” to which all Thrift Stores can contribute. While such sustainability is a great stores benefit and certainly a very Catholic objective, it is not why we operate our stores. Rather it is one of many good business practices we undertake in the course of our work.

Thus a second and most important question, for all our works: Why don’t we tell more people about our actual mission in what we do to meet it?

Our mission is to bring people to holiness, done through the serving of the poor, assisted with the operations and revenues of, in this example, the store. Our members often complain that no one knows enough about the Society. However, we continue to tell them only what we do. What we often fail to tell them is who we are.

It is natural to confuse activity with intentions. Our communities see our food pantries, pharmacies, and other programs, and so assume that these are the Society’s mission. Even worse, for privacy reasons we purposely don’t show the public our core Home Visit service, so they have no evidence that this is any aspect of our Society’s mission. At best they know we “help the poor,” and because that’s often enough to stimulate donations and good will from most people, we leave well enough alone.

This might all be fine if our mission was to attract volunteers and funds to help our neighbors in need. That’s dangerous thinking because many good people don’t need a faith basis to be charitable. As pro football coach, Bill Parcells once said, you are what your (win-loss) record says you are. What does our Society program, signage and advertising “record” say we are? Could we easily be confused with another social services organization, another used goods store, or a parish ministry?

Marketing people look for the “unique offering” that distinguishes you from the competition, and hopefully provides an advantage in attaining organizational goals.  A unique offering of the Society in a few words is that we offer our members the chance to see the face of Christ. That’s one heck of an offering, right?

We are not embarrassed by our Catholic faith, nor by our members being driven by it to serve the poor. We can be much more intentional about this in our materials messaging, signage, and especially in our language. When asked what the Society does, the proper response might be different for a parishioner than someone else, and that’s fine. Whether the response is, “We help our members grow in holiness through serving the poor,” or “We are Catholics and others who put our faith into action by serving the poor,” at least both point to the same north star of our mission. Yes, we accomplish lots of other good outcomes! We provide sustainable solutions for clothing and household goods. We make efficient use of medications and food supplies to help the most needy. We pay rent and utility bills. We teach neighbors how to be more self-sufficient. We advocate. We do all this and so much more, which, again, is fantastic.

Let’s not confuse what we do, though, with who we are. Others, perhaps many others in our community, can do what we do. No one else is who we are, the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We are not simply good people doing good works, we are disciples.  And we pray that others will join us and share in our vocation.

I invite you to close your eyes during your Vincentian service, and then re-open them. With this fresh view, what do you see?  Do others see it too?

Yours in Christ (see, isn’t that easy?),
Dave Barringer

3-24-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

3-24-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1363 1363 SVDP USA

More than 200 Society leaders attended the first live Midyear meeting since 2019 last week in St. Louis. It was great to see so many of us in one place!  A few National Council Members (usually the Council Presidents) attended only the Business Meeting by Zoom, and this was good as well to participate. Here are a few highlights from our time together.

President Ralph Middlecamp opened the gathering with a discussion on Capacity. He specifically discussed the situation in Ukraine and surrounding countries, and how the global Society of St. Vincent de Paul is structured to help refugees and other impacted by the current violence. (Please see a separate article in this eGazette on how your Council/Conference can participate beyond what has already been collected in our annual Disaster appeal.) This process is also used for natural and manmade disasters that occur anytime during a year.

National Formation Director Tim Williams provided the spiritual retreat, engaging the audience to see the various faces of Christ in our work. This is recorded for your viewing and sharing!

Father Patrick McDevitt, C.M., the Provincial Superior for the Vincentians Western Province, gave an insightful keynote address on Vincentian Synodality. This address is also available as a video.

Much of the Midyear time was spent in National Committee meetings, National Region meetings, and National Subsidiary meetings that produce so many products and services to our members through out the year. The Business Meeting featured reports/presentations from many of these groups, which are all available to you as individual videos (see accompanying article on Midyear videos).

The Business Meeting was unique in that there was no new business to vote on this time! However, it was full of information from the committees, included a recognition of new National Council Members, reviewed our very positive National Council financials, and provided the process and schedule for the election of the next National President. The Call for Nominations opens on April 1!

We closed the Midyear with a Vincentian Mass led by Father Jim Cormack and a Recommitment Ceremony, both at the Old Cathedral where our first U.S. meeting of the Society was held in 1845.

We are thankful for the many sponsors and partners who help make a Midyear possible with their meal sponsorships, and their exhibits that are so helpful to our leaders in finding resources for Council operations.

Perhaps the greatest value of a Midyear meeting is not in the activities outlined above but what happens between these activities. Vincentians take full advantage to learn and share in the hallways, meals and free time. Coming out of a challenging pandemic environment, and with so few live meetings in the past two years, this opportunity to be with each other and express our Essential Element of Friendship together is worth the trip!

We are already deep into planning our next big meeting, the National Assembly to be held in Baltimore on August 31 – September 3, 2022. We expect more than 800 members to be with us at the Marriott Inner Harbor – will you please join us?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1-13-2022

A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1-13-2022 1363 1363 SVDP USA

The holidays are mostly behind us. We stare into our refrigerators now, looking for leftovers while they last. The cakes and cookies were the first to go, followed by anything we could put into a sandwich. Now we are left with items requiring a bit more creativity.

Behold, the humble can of cranberry sauce.

It sits in the pantry awaiting another holiday meal. We heard there was a national shortage of this stuff heading into the holidays, so we bought an extra can just because, and Heaven forbid it wouldn’t be on the table with the ham or turkey this year. Now we are into January, the meats are gone, and the can sits there, staring back at us. What to do? (Stick with me here, I really do have a point to this column.)

We could simply eat it with another meal, even though it might not feel quite right. I like to use it as a spread on a turkey sandwich. Some people create fruity spreads with it. A quick internet search will give you, believe it or not, at least 65 uses! I couldn’t read it all without laughing, so I’m not even sure that all of these uses are food related. Paint tinting? Edible finger-paint? Fragrant glue? The possibilities seem endless.

If we can do so much with a commodity food, imagine what we can accomplish with several Vincentian hearts in our Conference meeting as we discuss how to help someone in need. These neighbors may not be “leftovers” but “left behinds” by others.

It may be easy to do what we have always done, help in the same small way, and move on to the next family that needs our help. Or we can look with fresh eyes and hearts at alternatives. Some may be emergency assistance gifts while other might be systemic change solutions for the longer term. Some might solve today’s problem while others look to the root causes of this person’s poverty and present situation. Some answers may be comfortable, while others will require new thinking, new resources and new partnerships.

If we approach people with the same tools, we might miss some great possibilities. If the only tool you have is a can opener, every problem becomes a can! If instead we consciously add to our Conference and personal toolbox, we are prepared when a different problem needing our help comes along.

In this New Year, let’s resolve to approach our neighbors in need not as society’s leftovers but as treasures of potential, awaiting our innovation, discernment and most of all, love, to create newly imagined lives of purpose and value.

Christ did something amazing with just a few fish and loaves of bread. What can we do for our neighbors with our Conference’s love and so many blessings? Let’s think on it, pray on it together, and then think some more. Isn’t this what we would want Christ to do for us?

Yours in Service,
Dave Barringer

SVdP USA Launches “Serving in Hope” Newsletter

SVdP USA Launches “Serving in Hope” Newsletter 2550 1782 SVDP USA

The National Council of the U.S., Society of St. Vincent de Paul is pleased to share the inaugural issue of Serving in Hope, a new quarterly newsletter dedicated to sharing inspiring stories of the ways the Society is making a difference in the lives of those we serve. Whether you’re a donor, friend, or Vincentian, you further the charitable mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul with your prayers and generosity.

Click here to read the first issue and learn about just some of the ways that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is serving in hope in communities across the country.

10-07-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

10-07-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1363 1363 SVDP USA

Welcome to a new Society year as of October 1. You may not think of this as a big deal, because after all we continue to serve with Home Visits, food pantries, and other SVdP activities year-round. I ask you to reconsider the first of October as an annual renewal.

Think of our national numbers. We have approximately 4,500 Conferences. Each has a President with a three-year term, with an option for a second term. This means that between one-third (1,500) and one-sixth (750) of our Conference Presidents are new as of this week. We also have approximately 200 Councils with the same officer terms, so between 33 and 67 new Council Presidents just took office. Average the two sets and we have 1,175 new Presidents!

That’s just the tip of the Society iceberg, however. Each President appoints new officers and boards, so even with small numbers we probably have another 7,000 Vincentians minimum in positions of leadership. We could then add committee chairs, task force leaders, store coordinators, special works leaders, and others to easily reach a conservative 8,000 leaders among a membership of around 100,000 not counting non-Vincentian volunteers.

We hope that this all means that 8,000 members have each been moved by the Holy Spirit to be new Society servant leaders. We recognize that everyone has a different leadership experience and skills set to begin their service. It also suggests that thousands need more formation guidance, governance assistance and resources, knowledge of our Rule, at least rudimentary budget and finance acumen, and a whole lot of patience, perseverance, and other interpersonal skills. That’s a tall order on the level of organizing an army!

As our new leaders at all levels settle in and learn their new roles, we can all help beginning with our own patience. They stepped up to serve the rest of us, and that alone deserves our respect and acceptance of their efforts and authority. We might also chuckle, shake our heard, and consider the environments some are stepping up, or stepping into, as they adjust to their new realities of Society service. I’m sure that your Conference is perfect, but others are, well, maybe not so much. I’m reminded of the leader from a non-Vincentian group who said “I’d love this organization if it wasn’t for the people in it!”

We can also help with our experience. It is so easy to assume that every new Society leader knows the Rule backward and forward, remembers all the history since the days of Emmanuel Bailly and Blessed Frederic, and even knows where the checkbook is this week! We can share what we know – not as the way we have always done things around here, but as helpful context in evolving forward. We can ask if they have a copy of that booklet we found so helpful, or if they plan to attend that national, regional or local Society meeting where we already know they can share and learn with fellow leaders.

We can also personally introduce our new leaders to the folks they need to know. Start with the local Bishop, Pastor/s, and other clergy who are so essential to our work. Don’t assume they all know your new leader! Then please consider community, business, government, faith, and “poverty” stakeholders we interact with – or should begin doing so to create a new relationship. Help mend fences with a new face and a new attitude.

When we elect and appoint new Society leaders, we don’t cast them out into the open ocean without a life preserver. The rest of us are the lifeboats! We secured their willing leadership, and now we need to support it along with a mutual expectation of success. If not, we may be looking for replacement leadership sooner than we desire. Leadership can be lonely, but it doesn’t need to be. Be the friend your new leader can rely on for advice, experience, or just a kind ear.

Over the decades, the Society has built upon the servant leadership, strong faith and experiences of all its members to keep growing and serving in hope. We all take our turns at one level or another to lead and to follow along our Vincentian journeys.

It’s the first week of October, and new leadership blooms all around us. What can we personally do now or very soon to nurture those who have agreed be our servant leaders?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

09-16-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

09-16-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

It doesn’t take much time to feel utterly alone.

My wife was away over a weekend and I was home by myself. Even though I went to the grocery store and to Mass, worked out at the local YMCA, and bought some food at a drive-through, it was easy to say perhaps only 10 words the entire weekend. And that includes the “Amen” at communion!

In part this relative quiet was self-imposed. I’m blessed to have friends I could have visited, a Society food pantry where I could have volunteered, and a friendly neighborhood in which to converse with my neighbors. I chose after a very active couple of weeks to retreat instead for a few days and spend quality time with some books and televised sports. All told, I have blessings and choices.

Some of the many people we serve do not have these blessings. We know from membership reporting that “elderly living alone” is our first or second type of family the Society serves in many of our Conferences. Others may have a disability or specific situation that causes them to be homebound. Some are parents who, while they have children around them, lack adult friends and family. It’s in all of these neighbors that we can see the difference between being alone and being lonely.

An extreme feeling of loneliness is an underlying condition that can also lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, and many dangerous behaviors such as addictions. If we could stop, or better yet, prevent such loneliness wouldn’t we all want to do so?

When a pair of Vincentians conduct a Home Visit or drop off a bag of groceries, we can easily measure how we provide for immediate needs. What is less evident is the value of simply being present. Often we have no idea of the life of the person we encounter. We may be the first person that neighbor has spoken to in person for a day, or a month. When we knock on the door, we are the face of Christ – friendly, welcoming of a conversation, helpful, and armed with a smile and, ultimately, hope.

Some members ask if the adaptations we all made over the pandemic period can be retained for the future, such as virtual Home Visits by phone or computer. These were necessary to help satisfy corporal needs of mercy such as rent and utilities assistance. We are blessed that we had the tools to adapt such that our neighbors could get the needed material help they sought. But what about their spiritual and emotional needs? Did we fulfill these even a little bit?

We may have taken for granted how much we mean to an isolated neighbor when we participate in person. Others who perform checkbook charity might feel satisfied that they helped in some way. Yet it is as nothing when compared to seeing the gratitude, friendship, and even joy when we make a personal encounter that, when allowed and appropriate, might include prayer and a handshake or hug. You can’t bottle that feeling and you sure can’t mail it in.

As we return post-pandemic to our Society traditions of in-person Home Visits and other personal encounters, let’s do so intentionally in a spirit of truly being a good neighbor even to those who are relatively unknown to us. That neighbor living alone, or otherwise emotionally very lonely, might never thank you for your appearing at their door. You won’t know that they feel more alive today because they spoke to another person in friendship. Some will know they exist simply because someone cared enough to visit them today.

In our Visits we bring more than tangible help; we bring hope and Christ’s love, and even get to feel a bit of it ourselves. It is said that half of success in life is just showing up. When we show up for someone else, we successfully take a few more steps toward our own holiness. Who will you visit tomorrow?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

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