e-Gazette

09-23-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

09-23-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 232 327 SVDP USA

Dear brothers and sisters,

May the grace and peace of Jesus be always with us!

The month of September is called the Vincentian month because we, members of the worldwide Vincentian Family, prepare to celebrate together the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul with beautifully prepared Eucharists, liturgies of the Word, or other prayer encounters, engaging all the branches of the Vincentian Family in a given parish, village, city, region, or country. We also prepare to celebrate the feast with concrete acts of corporal and spiritual charity toward our Lords and Masters.

I would like to thank deeply and congratulate each branch of the Vincentian Family for the incredible inventiveness, engagement, and service it has shown from the outset of the pandemic through today to alleviate the suffering brought to the world by Covid-19, which, as always, hit hardest the Poor, the most vulnerable. We all hope and pray that the worst of the pandemic slowly is getting behind us, although that is true in some countries more than in others. We still live with much uncertainty as to what might come next.

More and more, we are learning to use new tools to keep in touch with each other through social media, Zoom, and other platforms at our disposition. These are excellent means to grow in interconnectedness and collaboration. Nevertheless, we are experiencing, with even greater urgency, the need to resume personal encounters, meetings, and gatherings that we had before the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world. After experiencing so long a period of isolation, distancing, and prohibition of meetings, it is our heart’s desire to make personal encounters, meetings, and gatherings even more numerous.

While Vincent wrote more than 30,000 letters, the primary form of “remote” communication of his time, his days were filled with meetings with individuals and groups, and he clearly valued repetitions of prayer and conferences that brought together the confreres and the sisters.

Speaking of growth in interconnectedness, I would like to highlight three areas that I already discussed in the past. There have been big improvements in all of them, but there is still much to do to achieve the goals we set for ourselves in these spheres. Therefore, I am returning to them in this year’s letter, convinced that if we succeed in intensifying interconnectedness and collaboration and in fulfilling the objectives we set for ourselves in these specific areas, the other areas will follow almost automatically, and it will be much easier to bring the 160 branches together for any new initiative that we may begin in the future.

1. National Councils of the Vincentian Family in all 162 countries where the Vincentian Family is present today.

The Vincentian Family Office (VFO) is working very hard to help to reach the following goal: by next year, 2022, all 162 countries will have a National Council of the Vincentian Family.

Who should be part of the National Council? The representatives of all the branches in a given country. No branch should be left out, but all, large or small, should feel part of the same Family. If the country is big, there could be Regional Vincentian Family Councils, as well as Local Councils in large cities, as is already the case in some countries. All of these always would be interconnected among themselves and coordinated by the National Council.

I would like to call upon the branches in a given country, region, or city that have been there longer and have more experience than other branches in the field of organization to help bring the different representatives of the Family together. They are well positioned to invite branches and organize the Councils, in which every single branch will take part, in order to plan together different initiatives, projects, and encounters throughout the year. I encourage the National Councils not to limit encounters to once a year, but a few times a year, to develop and intensify collaboration and interconnection that will bring the Family together regularly.

To insist upon the importance of collaborating in initiatives begun by others and in line with the purpose of the Congregation of the Mission, Vincent imagined objections its members might make. “Someone in the Company may say, ‘Monsieur, I’m in the world to evangelize the poor, and you want me to work in seminaries’[1]; “It’s fine for us to do that, Monsieur, but why should we be serving the Daughters of Charity?[2]; “But the Foundlings, why burden ourselves with that? Don’t we have enough things to do?[3] Vincent says that those who would turn away from such collaborative ministries are “people who have only a narrow outlook, confining their perspective and plans to a certain circumference within which they shut themselves away, so to speak, in one spot; they don’t want to leave it, and if they’re shown something outside it and go near to have a look, they immediately go back to their center, like snails into their shells.[4]

I invite you to do everything possible so that these encounters, projects, and initiatives will not be limited to two or three branches in a given country, region, or city, but include literally all the branches. Once one or another branch brings up an initiative and invites the other branches to collaborate, they certainly will follow.

2. Response to natural disasters, wars, and other calamities, as a whole Vincentian Family.

Within the Vincentian Family, we need to come up with a system on the international, national, regional, and local levels to respond as efficiently and quickly as we can to natural disasters, wars, and other calamities, not as a single branch, but together as the whole Vincentian Family. In fact, we already started to reflect and act in this area on the level of the Vincentian Family Executive Committee (VFEC).

Last year, we came together as an International Family to help the people affected by Covid-19, as well as the tragic explosion in the port of Beirut. The VFEC launched a campaign with the Committee of the Famvin Homeless Alliance (FHA) to assist the hundreds of thousands of homeless in the Lebanese capital, through the Vincentian Family National Council in Lebanon, coordinated by its national president. During the plague that struck Marseilles in 1649, Vincent, learning of the death of Father Brunet and of his lay collaborator, the Chevalier de la Coste, described a rapid response to the crisis. He wrote Antoine Portail, “The Duchesse d’Aguillon is supposed to be sending you five hundred livres… If you need more money, let me know; we shall send some immediately and, if need be, we shall sell our crosses and chalices to assist you.”[5]

By forming and strengthening the National Councils of the Vincentian Family in all 162 countries where we are present, we will have grassroots coordinating teams in collaboration with the Vincentian Family on the international level, which become a force on which the world’s poor can count. Every single branch, whether large or small, is an invaluable part of the wonderful mosaic that makes up the Vincentian Family.

3. Famvin Homeless Alliance (FHA) with its 13 Houses Campaign.

The FHA with the 13 Houses Campaign is an initiative in the area of charity that brings the Vincentian Family together and, thus, needs to be promoted within the Vincentian Family to reach each member’s heart so that everyone becomes involved. The FHA is our unique common project. Therefore, it must be promoted, introduced, and extended in all 162 countries where the Vincentian Family is present so that no Congregation or Association remains outside it, but all take an active part in the initiative in every corner of the world where we live and serve.

So far, 44 branches of the Vincentian Family have engaged actively in the FHA and the 13 Houses Campaign. It is now present in 44 countries; 1826 houses have been built, and 6628 people have been helped. We hoped that by last year’s Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul we would get many more additional branches, Congregations and lay Associations, to take part in one way or another in the FHA, but that goal was not reached. There is still a long way to go.

Unfortunately, the numbers of people who live on the streets, refugees who are displaced from their homes, and people living in substandard housing are increasing drastically all around the world as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. A united response to these overwhelming needs is more necessary than ever.

Our time recalls the situation Vincent faced during the Fronde when he mobilized Vincentian and other ecclesial groups and individuals to assist displaced persons. He could report to his confrere in Poland, “About eight hundred refugee girls have been placed in private houses, where they are taken care of and instructed. You can imagine how much harm would have been done if they had been left wandering around. We have a hundred of them in one house in the faubourg Saint-Denis; we are going to rescue from the same danger the nuns from the country, whom the armies have thrown into Paris. Some are on the streets, some are living in questionable places, and others are staying with relatives. Since, however, they are all in a state of dissipation and danger, it was felt that enclosing them in a monastery, under the care of the Daughters of Sainte-Marie, would be a service most pleasing to God.[6]

As I have written in a previous letter, we need to come quickly to the point where homelessness will not be tackled alone as an individual person or an individual branch, but together as a Family on the local, national, and international levels. Each branch, by bringing its long history of service to the homeless, its expertise, professionalism, and resources, helps to build up a wonderful force that becomes much more effective in helping the Poor.

To this end, I would like to invite any of the 160 branches of the Vincentian Family, which have yet to do so, to become active collaborators in the Famvin Homeless Alliance initiative by contacting the FHA coordinating committee member Mrs. Yasmine Cajuste: (fha.info@famvin.org) to receive information and materials. You also can visit the FHA website: vfhomelessalliance.org.

I wish every single member of the worldwide Vincentian Family in the widest sense of the word a deep experience of grace as we celebrate the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul in all corners of the world. May Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Saint Vincent de Paul, and all the Saints, Blessed, and Servants of God of the Vincentian Family continue interceding for us and inspiring us on the path to globalize Charity!

Your brother in Saint Vincent,
Tomaž Mavrič, CM

*To view and download this letter, or download in another language, click here.

[1] Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, translated and edited by Jacqueline Kilar, DC; and Marie Poole, DC; et al; annotated by John W. Carven, CM; New City Press, Brooklyn and Hyde Park, 1985-2014; volume XII, page 75; conference 195, “Purpose of the Congregation of the Mission.” Future references to this work will be indicated using the initials CCD, followed by the volume number, then the page number, for example, CCD XII, 75.

[2] Ibid., 76.

[3] Ibid., 78.

[4] Ibid., 81.

[5] CCD III, 465-466; L. 1125, “To Antoine Portail, in Marseilles,” 6 August 1649.

[6] CCD IV, 399; L. 1511 “To Lambert aux Couteaux, Superior, in Warsaw,” 11 June 1652.

 

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
CEO

09-09-2021 News Roundup

09-09-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 SVDP USA

With 100,000 Vincentians across the United States and nearly 800,000 around the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:

INTERNATIONAL

NATIONAL

Help us share the good news of the good work being done in your local Conference or Council! Email us at info@svdpusa.org with the subject line Good News.

A Letter from Our Servant Leaders

A Letter from Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

Almost all the leadership lessons you will ever need might be learned with a group walk through the woods. To wit:

  1. Have a designated leader. Every hike needs someone chosen to make the decisions and lead the way. It may or may not be the leader for other purposes the rest of the year.

We elect Conference and Council leaders, and task leaders can be appointed. A leaderless group may sound good in theory but rarely accomplishes anything of lasting value. Good leaders delegate for the task at hand.

  1. Start with the destination in mind. A hiker’s map starts with where we are, and where we are going. The alternative is often being lost or separated in the woods!

Vincentians appreciate visualizing the goal, whether it is the result of the fundraising campaign or knowing specifically how a family will be helped. We feel good when we all know the goal and then meet it!

  1. Prepare for the unexpected. Insects, heat, thirst and the trail itself demand your thinking ahead.

The best of plans, including those in the Society, rarely go exactly as expected. Think together beforehand about what might happen, and prepare for these “just in case” disruptions before you start. This builds confidence, and often strengthens your original plan! 

  1. Have everyone plan and practice a communications plan. Simply, everyone can carry and learn three basic whistles: One to stop and wait for the group; Two to return to the person whistling; and Three to drop everything and run back to the whistle to help.

We can share constantly among our fellow Vincentians and other helpers how we are doing in our service. We then know when to pause before proceeding further, when to rally together or check in, and even when to drop everything to help a colleague in a crunch. 

  1. Make the journey interesting. Not all of the reward is at the final destination; make the hike fun all along the way.

Fellowship is an Essential Element of our Society. How can we make our service more enjoyable? Can we benchmark our progress and celebrate smaller achievements along our journey together?

  1. Bring nourishment. Water and food sustain us as we trod the miles and hills.

We are sustained as Vincentians by the Holy Spirit when we pray and worship together. Spirituality is another Essential Element, and this journey never ends for us.

  1. Dress appropriately. Keep the sneakers and bathing suits for the pool. Wear layers and shoes appropriate for the terrain.

When we provide Service (the last of the Essential Elements, see what I did there?), we should identify ourselves as Society members with vests, jackets, caps and/or pins. We aren’t showing off. We want parishioners and neighbors to know that the Society is present and contributing in our communities.

  1. Use the buddy system. No one hikes alone.

The Society has its two-person service standard in our Rule, and it is there for so many good reasons to protect us and those we serve!

  1. Don’t leave anyone behind. One leader stays behind to encourage the slow hikers to keep up the pace.

Vincentians have unique abilities to serve and individual paths to Holiness. Good Society leaders actively include everyone in our work, and encourage each one of us along our way.

  1. Have a backup plan. Trails get washed out. The bear blocking your path was there first and he ain’t moving!

Despite the advance planning, stuff happens. (In these COVID times I think this is understood!) Good leaders assess the situation, gather input from the group, and when needed, find new ways to keep moving ahead. Innovate, retrench, and stay positive!

  1. Have a strategy should you get lost. Be sure others can easily find and help you if you don’t reach your destination on time.

You can depend on your Council and fellow Vincentians, and written and online resources across the country to help you – but they first need to know where you stand in your progress. Reach out!

  1. Celebrate the achieved goal! Recap the success and plan the next group adventure!

Good Society leaders are never satisfied, as there are always more people in need to serve. Lead others to build upon your recent success, and stretch to do even more in service to God and our neighbors!

While contemplating the natural beauty around us, let’s remember that it was God who made these woods. Perhaps He made them not just to enjoy, but also as a classroom for our future paths of life, spirituality and service.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

09-02-2021 A Letter from Our Servant Leaders

09-02-2021 A Letter from Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

It was a pleasure to gather in Houston last week with more than 600 Vincentians for the 2021 Assembly of the National Council of the  U.S., Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We listened to excellent presentations, participated in wonderful liturgies, socialized with friends old and new, and conducted the National Council’s business. Thank you to the Houston Council, our national committee members, and the national office staff, who all did an outstanding job to make this event a success during what remains a difficult time.

Of course, most of you reading this did not attend. Let me tell you, however, how you can benefit from what we did at this Assembly, and how you can use it in your Conferences and Councils.

The keynote addresses at the Assembly were all video-recorded and will be available on the National Council website within the next few weeks. The presentations by Bishop Donald Hying, Dr. Jaime Waters, and Rev. Dennis Holtschneider were outstanding. I hope all of you will watch these presentations personally, but they could also be used well communally to enrich a Council gathering or retreat.

The committee meetings and workshops at the Assembly covered a wide range of topics at the forefront of our strategic efforts. Some of these workshops will be available on our website. Even for the Assembly sessions that were not recorded, the work done at this meeting will be in evidence as new materials are produced to help grow our Society.

At the Business Meeting of the National Council, your representatives passed two important resolutions. The first was phase two of our National Strategic Plan. The second was a resolution approving a document on the protection of vulnerable persons. Passing these resolutions was significant, but with both of these measures, it will be even more important to do the work of implementing them at every level of the Society. Expect to hear more about these two subjects from your local leadership and in this E-Gazette.

These few observations only scratch the surface of the experience that helped renew our enthusiasm for the work of our Society and our dedication to it. Let us also commit to revitalizing the Society through the fruits of this National Assembly. On Sunday, we left the meeting faced with the reality of a hurricane about to bring destruction and flooding to many of our communities, even as others were already suffering from fire. Of course, we all are surrounded by the impact of COVID-19, as well. So let us pray for the health and safety of all our family and friends – and especially the Vincentians who attended this meeting.

One final note: Frederic Ozanam’s feast day is next week on September 9. I ask you to observe the day in some special way. Continue to pray that this will be the year that the Church recognizes his cause for canonization. In so many ways, he is a model the Catholic laity can look to on our journey of faith.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National President

Contemplation: Chopping the Wood

Contemplation: Chopping the Wood 940 788 SVDP USA

Trust in providence is central to our Vincentian vocation. This means more than simply trusting that “everything will be okay.” It means trusting that if we do His will, the outcome will also be His will, whether we understand it completely or not.

In our Conferences, doing His will means we gather together in His name, we serve Christ in the person of His poor, we love the neighbor as ourselves, we treat him with mercy, and we are generous with our time, our talents, our possessions, and ourselves. [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1]  It may seem frustrating, at times, when it seems that our help…doesn’t help. But what is the outcome we seek?

St. Vincent taught that “God does not consider the outcome of the good work undertaken but the charity that accompanied it.” [CCD I:205] Charity, the love of God, is our purpose. The true outcome we seek is the full flourishing and eternal happiness of all persons, [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1] which we know is not in our control!

Just as Christ wept for God’s mercy to deliver Him from the agony of the cross but submitted to the Father’s will, Frédéric Ozanam wrote down his own lament on his fortieth birthday. Bedridden with the illness that would take his life a few short months later, he poured out his wishes to “grow old alongside my wife, and to complete my daughter’s education.” Still, he said, “I am coming if you call me, and I have no right to complain.” [Book of the Sick, Prayer from Pisa]

Trust in providence is most important exactly when it is most difficult. Frédéric expressed during his own suffering, that it might become “a source of merits and blessings,” bringing with it “those inexpressible consolations which go hand in hand with [God’s] real presence.” [Ibid]

Ours is a ministry of presence; not only our physical presence, as true friends with those in need, but our presence as a sign from a loving God, who sent us to the neighbors to sit with them, to listen to them, to pray with them, and help in any way that we can. We bring what material assistance we can, but we seek most importantly to bring some part of God’s “inexpressible consolation.”

Trust in providence is not passive; it is actively doing God’s will – tirelessly, devotedly, and for love alone. To paraphrase an old Frank Clark “Country Parson” saying, “Trust in providence is what makes you feel the warmth of the hearth while you’re outside chopping the wood.”

So perhaps, if we are to “to bring this divine fire, this fire of love” as St. Vincent calls us to do,[CCD XI:264] we’d best keep chopping the wood.

Contemplate

Do I tire too easily while chopping the wood?

Recommended Reading

The Book of the Sick, by Frédéric Ozanam

08-19-2021 News Roundup

08-19-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 SVDP USA

With 100,000 Vincentians across the United States and nearly 800,000 around the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:

INTERNATIONAL:

NATIONAL

Help us share the good news of the good work being done in your local Conference or Council! Email us at info@svdpusa.org with the subject line Good News.

08-19-2021 Letter from Our Servant Leaders

08-19-2021 Letter from Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Children are going back to school soon. Summer is quickly coming to an end. In past years, this time is when we would be looking at calendars and plotting out activities for the coming year for our Councils and Conferences. It may be hard to get interested in planning this year, since we have seen so many plans abandoned in the past 18 months. Even though there are many uncertainties as we look forward, I suggest we need to provide some focus to our efforts by making plans for what comes next.

At our National Assembly next week in Houston, we will be introducing the next phase of our National Strategic Plan. We are not calling this a new plan because much of the proposed plan builds upon the document that was approved three years ago. Half of that plan’s life span has been lived out under the shadow of the COVID pandemic. Still, we accomplished many of the plan’s elements, and some its parts would have been difficult to accomplish even under ideal circumstances. We are keeping the five focus areas of the original plan and concentrating on what can realistically be accomplished in the next three years.

I believe revitalization is the priority embedded in almost every aspect of the plan. I hope it is your priority, too. I hope there will be parts of the National Council Strategic Plan that you will embrace and include in your planning process. It is up to you, however, to look at your Council or Conference and assess what needs to be done to contribute locally to revitalizing our Society and fostering its growth.

The National Council has many resources to aid you in this effort. You will find these tools on our national website. That site has always had a wealth of resources – maybe too many, often poorly organized. Good news: this week you received an email announcing the launch of our improved member website. Please check it out, and use the material provided to create a plan to bring new life to our Society.

During these months of isolation, our committees have been active, and none more so than our Growth and Revitalization Committee. Under the leadership of Rita St. Pierre, Jeanne Harper, Cathy Garcia and Julie Witzel, the committee has provided webinars and updated materials for you to use. There will also be a revised Invitation to Serve program available in the months ahead.

I am certain that almost every Conference in the country has lost members in the past year. Now is the time to invite new people to join us. I suggest contacting pastors and bishops as you make these plans and asking for their help and suggestions. You will find new material on the website that you can share with your clergy to help them appreciate the value an active Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers a parish and a diocese.

Blessed Frederic Ozanam is known as the principal founder of our organization not because it was solely his idea but because he was its most passionate promoter. From early days in 1833 to the last months of his life, Ozanam was recruiting members, starting Conferences and encouraging the revitalization of Conferences that were losing their “primitive spirit.” You can be a founder, too. Invite others to share this vocation that you love. Invite them to serve their neighbors in need, to grow spiritually and to find a community of friends in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

07-22-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders

07-22-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

Many Vincentians are downright tenacious in their desire to serve both God and our friends in need. While this is usually a virtue, we must be careful, too. I am asked daily about how we can keep our members safe. Two otherwise incongruous subjects are at the forefront of member conversations; I share them with you.

First, we hear daily – if not more often – about changing requirements, requests and threats regarding COVID re-emergence and new variants. This leads Vincentians to ask how and when they can serve and “what is National requiring” in regard to staying safe. This question is usually about Home Visits, but more recently relates as well to our upcoming National Assembly.

As Vincentians per our Rule, we follow the law. If local authorities require you to stay home, wear a mask, or swing a chicken over your head to ward off a virus, do so. If your Bishop asks his local Catholics to take specific precautions, we strongly recommend that the Society follow this direction, too. National Council will not have guidance that overrules local Church or government decisions. While we all want to get back to normal Home Visits that are conducted where our neighbors live, we need to do so safely even if – for now in some places – this means still conducting visits temporarily by phone.

As for National Assembly, we stay in touch with the Marriott where the meeting will be held next month, and they stay in compliance with local government and industry standards. The Society will comply with the resulting hotel requirements. This has the potential to change every day, so we can’t give you direction today. Anyone registered for the meeting will be sent email information before we travel to Houston.  I can tell you that the Society on its own will not require that everyone be vaccinated, nor will we (unless required by law) ask for proof of vaccination. We trust our members to do the right things. If anyone wants to wear a mask even if not required, you are certainly welcome to do so.

The National Assembly for the most part will not be conducted virtually online because of the large expense. The National Business Meeting on Saturday is the exception, and our National Council Members can either send a live-person proxy for voting or vote electronically during the meeting. Many other general sessions and workshops will be recorded for your viewing and sharing in days or weeks later on our website.

We are not taking these actions to ask you to be afraid to come! In fact, we really want you to join us after our meeting last year needed to go virtual, and we look forward to a grand reunion! We will, though, do everything we can to help you be safe at our meeting. I am writing this column while on an airplane, and it seems reasonable to expect we will be wearing masks on planes and in airports for at least another month. With changing rules everywhere, I always keep a mask in my pocket!

The other questions about member safety are in relation to our pending Safeguarding policy. This will be considered by the National Council at the aforementioned National Assembly Business Meeting. While the safeguarding focus is primarily and deservedly on the people we serve, we should consider as well the potential for safeguarding among and for our members. Vincentians, and anyone, can be victims. Further, we have learned from schools, volunteer organizations, and the Church that an organization’s members can be wrongfully, and even intentionally, accused of sexual abuse and other safeguarding violations. As our leaders discussed briefly in a national call this week, the Society is not immune. Yes, we have learned of accused abuse situations in our Society’s past. These remain possible today. The proposed Safeguarding policy recommends that every Council develop a local policy in accord with local laws and Church requirements of its parishioners. The focus is on those we will serve, but in doing the right things for those in need whom we love, we also protect our own members. The Rule’s requirement for Home Visits to be conducted in pairs, for example, wasn’t perhaps created with safeguarding in mind but this alone largely prevents both abuse situations and the accusation of abuse.

In our fervent desire to serve, let’s please not forget to take care of ourselves and our fellow Vincentians. Sometimes it feels like we have yet another requirement forced upon us every day, whether it be another report to complete, training, fingerprinting or some other action that delays our service and seems to accuse us of doing or even thinking of something unsafe or unsavory. Good people must take unnecessary precautions because bad people, and bad viruses, do exist. Let’s think of all this in the context of keeping those around us safe, and as part of our sacrificial service to God. Considering the alternatives, they are small sacrifices in order to do His work.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

07-15-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

07-15-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

There are some subjects that affect us all, even as Vincentians, and I wish we didn’t need to talk about them. This is one of them.

Sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults is very real. We have read about it in relation to some of our most respected institutions; in fact, the greater the organization, the more news it makes. But even though there is no such current news of abuse within the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, we must not assume that it couldn’t happen. Or even that it hasn’t. We know that many cases of abuse, wherever and whenever it happened, are not reported.

Our National Council will consider a national Safeguarding policy next month at National Assembly. This policy will ultimately affect every Vincentian, as well as many others with whom we serve.

Our international leadership recognized the potential for sexual abuse in the work and relationships of the Society because we serve in a multitude of cultures and legal environments. Our work puts us in daily contact with people who are vulnerable because of their financial, housing, family, or other situations which at times become quite desperate. This desperation can lead to others taking advantage of these neighbors in need. The International Council provided a framework from which every National Council, and then local Councils, can create policies and procedures under what globally is called Safeguarding.

Our national group of Executive Directors were already exploring safeguarding practices after seeing how other groups have suffered from the lack of precautions, leading to instances of abuse followed by news reports and lawsuits. Our nation’s Bishops were already requiring Diocesan and Parish safeguarding practices for clergy and parishioners, and even for others using Church properties for their activities. While all of the requirements were directed at the same problem, they often differ from one Diocese to another.

A National Safeguarding Task Force was organized by President Ralph Middlecamp under the leadership of Guadalupe Sosa. This group took the international policy as a framework for its work, and used lessons learned from the Executive Director research, to create a proposed national Safeguarding Policy.

I won’t try to go through all of the policy’s details here, but there are a few overarching points that all Vincentians should consider. First, the national policy is best considered as a set of recommended policies and practices to be included in your local policies. Your local Council policy should be in concert with your Diocesan and state/local law requirements. Any truly “national” policy would have unfairly created conflicts and/or added duplicated requirements for some Councils.

Second, the task force looked first at our Rule. The “two-person” requirement for Vincentian services has many benefits; one is that having two people present with those we serve by itself prevents all types of abusive situations and accusations.

Third, our national policy recognizes the need for protection not only for youth, but also for vulnerable adults however they be defined. In one sense, as noted above, anyone we serve may be considered socioeconomically vulnerable. The policy also seeks to protect our services providers. We want to maintain every Vincentian’s safety in our service environments, and to prevent unwarranted, false abuse accusations that we have seen damage other organizations.

In addition to all of the Vincentian resources and services we provide, first and foremost our friends in need deserve to feel safe and be safe with us. Many of us assume this because we are good people. The news around us, however, reminds us that we can’t take such safety for granted, and we need to spend special attention to keep everyone safe in all the different works and places where we operate.

With the national policy’s adoption, we will focus on providing you with sample local safeguarding policies and best practices. We are already gathering these resources from Vincentian and outside organizations to help you. First though, we need your support. A special webinar will be held next week just for our National Council Members and Executive Directors where we will review the proposed national Resolution and policy and answer questions.

In our recent strategic planning membership survey, Vincentians told us that they are currently required to comply with background checks and fingerprinting among other safeguarding practices instituted for Church volunteers. Expect a similar set of practices for your Vincentian activities now or in the near future. This may appear both inconvenient and perhaps even offensive to you because, again, you are a good person. As good people under God, I pray that all of us will take these steps as part of our deeper relationship with those we serve.  Their safety is a critical first step in our deeper love and support of all their needs.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

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