Home Visit

06-06-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

06-06-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

Over the last year, you have heard me speak and write often about the ‘Encounter.’ Regrettably, some people are uncomfortable about my use of that term, as they seem to feel that it takes away from the traditional emphasis of the Society on the term ‘Home Visit’ as what they perceive as the heart and soul of our Vincentian calling.

So, I think that it’s important to explore the term Encounter and hopefully put any concerns to rest. Let’s first look at The Rule.

In Part I of The Rule, under the first major heading “Purpose and Scope of Our Service,” Section 1.2, it is stated “Members show their commitment through person-to-person contact.’ Section 1.3 is titled “Any form of personal help.”

The third major heading under Section 1 of Part 1 of Our Rule is titled “Our Personal Encounters with the Poor.” Part I, Section 1.7 is titled “Prayer before Encounters or Visits.”

So, we’ve established from The Rule that our Founders envisioned an inclusive network of charity. (Hey, sounds like Frédéric!) We don’t see the restriction of “Home Visit” anywhere. Encounters are certainly visits, and visits are clearly a preferred way of meeting the poor, but Encounter can be more than a Home Visit, and a visit can take place anyplace — not just a home! The type of Encounters and the types of visits we are called to make are not defined in The Rule because the Founders were smart enough to realize that the face of poverty was constantly changing — and how we had to address poverty had to change, too.

Just look at Part 1, Section 1.6, Adaptation to a Changing World: “…new types of poverty that might be identified or anticipated.” Our Founders weren’t about to say you had to do X, Y, or Z to do Vincentian work’ because they didn’t know if things would be completely changed in the next 10 years — or even the next year.

That is why we must stop talking, judging, and labeling each other in language that is exclusive. We must start using language that is inclusive and true to the intent of the foundation of the Society. We need to stop saying that our ministry is rooted in the Home Visit. It is not. It is rooted in the Encounter.

Did Frédéric and the Founders do Home Visits? Yes! Were those Home Visits critical to their formation and the creation of the Society? Yes! Does that mean you can’t undergo formation as a Vincentian without doing a Home Visit? No!

But does that mean you can undergo formation as a Vincentian without a Christ-centered, human-to-human interaction? Without Encounter with our Neighbors in need? NO! NO! NO!

Let’s go back to The Rule.

The Vincentian vocation is to follow Christ through service to those in need and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love. Members show their commitment through person-to-person contact. Vincentians serve in hope.

We have to understand that Encounter — the Christ-centered, person-to-person contact that is our vocation — can be conducted in many ways. There are many ways to conduct visits in different places. What characterizes a visit? Spirituality, friendship, listening, caring, support.

In today’s Society in the United States, Encounters can occur in someone’s home, in a special work, at a Parish, at SVdP offices, in a homeless shelter, and other places. But the need for valid, Vincentian, personal contact must be part of the Encounter for it to be appropriate.

Lining people up at the Parish in front of a table and collecting utility bills that the Conference is going to pay is not Encounter. That kind of interaction is degrading people in need.

Talking to people from behind glass walls is not Encounter, it is bureaucracy. Handing out a food bag without a private conversation and discussion of a neighbor’s situation and need is not Encounter, it is simply just another agency. Giving out clothes in the Thrift Stores is not Encounter; understanding why the person needs the clothes and what we can do to help them not need them next time is.

The most important thing that we must all remember is that we serve people — and our service to people is based on respect, love, and our knowledge that Christ sits in the middle of any relationship we have with another human being. Our Encounters with those we serve, and those we serve with, must always be based on those understandings.

Let’s lose the old language of exclusion and start using the new language of inclusion. But when we do, let’s make sure that we are using it to describe the true Vincentian Encounter that is our vocation, not a modern-day corruption of the beauty of the Christ-centered person-to-person Encounter that is the real heart and soul of our Vincentian calling.

Peace and God’s blessings,
John

Contemplation: A Culture of Encounter

Contemplation: A Culture of Encounter 800 800 SVDP USA

By Tim Williams, Senior Director of Formation & Leadership Development

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Home Visit both were formed when Frédéric Ozanam declared in 1833 that “we must do what Our Lord Jesus Christ did” and “go to the poor.” [Baunard, 65] The very first Rule in 1835 enshrined “the object of this Conference” as first, to grow in faith and spirit, and second, “to visit the poor at their dwellings.” [Rule, Intro, 1835] One hundred and ninety-one years later, the Home Visit remains the core, the very heart and soul, of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

At first, Home Visits were not merely the central work, but the only work of the Society, whose young members guided by Bl. Rosalie and the Daughters of Charity “adopted” poor families and visited them regularly to bring food, firewood, clothing and other assistance. But more importantly, they formed true relationships, “relationships based on trust and friendship” as today’s Rule says. [Rule, Part I, 1.9]

It was personal relationships formed on Home Visits that led the first members towards what we now call systemic change. They didn’t start from an abstract vision of what society ought to be, but from a practical understanding of the real lives of their friends and neighbors, from “climbing the stairs to the poor man’s garret, sitting by his bed side, feeling the same cold that pierces him, sharing the secret of his lonely heart and troubled mind.” [Baunard, 279] That’s why, in its first year, the first Conference created an apprenticeship program for young men. It’s why, three years later, the new Conference in Lyon began a library and school for soldiers. It is also why, as Frédéric said, “home visits to the poor have still remained our principal work.”[1369, Rpt. to Gen.l Assembly, 1837]  The Home Visit inspires us to other works, and so the same Rule which declared Home Visits the “object” of the Conference, also insisted that “no work of charity should be regarded as foreign to the Society.” [1835 Rule, Art. 2]

Yet, even more important than this practical benefit of Home Visits is that they are our primary path to our growth in holiness. That is why our Rule still considers “home visitation reports” an essential part of the Conference Meeting. [Rule, Part III, St. 7] Sharing and meditating on our work leads us to “internal spiritual knowledge of [ourselves], others, and the goodness of God.” [Rule, Part I, 2.2]

We are called to see the face of Christ in the poor. When Christ calls us, we don’t ask Him to come to us, take a number, and fill out a form. We go to Him, we seek to encounter Him, wherever He lives – in a house, on the street, in prison, in assisted living, or in a hospital. The Home Visit is not our central work only for practical and historical reasons, but because it is an encounter that changes us.

Each visit is a holy encounter, and we make it with the deep understanding that “one does not live by bread alone,” that our assistance is only temporary, but that the love of God which sends us is eternal.

Contemplate

When was my last Home Visit?

Recommended Reading

Serving in Hope Module VII: Our Vincentian Home Visit

Contemplation: Seeking His Will Together

Contemplation: Seeking His Will Together 1080 1080 SVDP USA

“Life,” the old saying goes, “is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” There is a deeper truth captured in this witticism, one that St. Vincent often repeated. It is not that we should make no plans and simply wait for things to happen, but rather, that we should take time not merely to examine what we have accomplished, but to examine what we can learn; in short, to discern God’s will from the people and events in our lives, especially in our Vincentian service.

It is often observed that we can learn more from failure than from success, or as Vincent put it, “the Will of God cannot be made known to us more clearly in events than when they happen without our intervention or in a way other than we requested.” [CCD V:459] When our plans and actions are made with our best effort to do God’s will as we understand it, the results of those plans and actions will either be in accordance with His will, or can give us new insight into His will. Our failures also, then, remind us that any success we experience is not ours but God’s. We may “have the joy of triumph,” Bl. Frédéric explained, “Providence will have the glory.” [Baunard, 209] Indeed, this is the very definition of our virtue of humility! [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1]

Our true measure of success, then, can never be limited to achieving our own goals, because success belongs to God, who does not need us to write His résumé. Rather, we should first examine whether we entrusted our works to the Lord, conformed to His will, glorified Him, and grew closer to Him. While our duty to accountability requires us to properly account for our actions, our funds, and other details of our work, the more important accounting, the core of our spiritual growth in this community of faith, comes through deep reflection upon our experiences, first individually, and then with our Conferences.

Certainly, this practice of apostolic reflection should always follow our Home Visits, beginning with the discussion between the two visitors, and continuing through prayer, and perhaps journaling. We continue by sharing our reflection with other Conference members at our regular meetings. They, in turn, will have a glimpse of the God who was present in our neighbor, which will give them new insights they reflect back to us. This won’t yield the definitive “answer” but will draw us closer to each other and to Christ.

In a similar way, it is important for us to reflect on all of our plans and all of their results — food pantries and special works, systemic change initiatives, advocacy — not in order to tally success on our own terms, but to discern whether we are serving God first, and how we can do that better, always asking, “Where was God present? Did we see Christ’s face? What is He telling us now?” In this way, we all grow together in holiness by growing closer to Christ and to each other. This, not “business,” is the reason we have Conference meetings, and the reason we have them often. [Rule, Part I, 3.3.1]

Contemplate

Do I take time to discern God’s will in both success and failure? Do I share this with my Conference?

Recommended Reading

A Heart on Fire: Apostolic Reflection with Rosalie Rendu

Contemplation: Payment for Tears of Joy

Contemplation: Payment for Tears of Joy 1080 1080 SVDP USA

“Help …becomes honorable,” Bl. Frédéric taught, “when it may become mutual.” [O’Meara, 177] It is this teaching that inspires our Rule’s call for Vincentians to “form relationships based on trust and friendship” with the neighbor. [Rule, Part I, 1.9] Because after all, what is friendship if it is not mutual?

Asking for help can be humiliating. In some places, beggars on the street prostrate themselves, hiding their faces as if ashamed, literally with hats in hand to ask for pocket change from passersby. In the impersonal offices of many agencies, people in need often interact primarily with impersonal clipboards and application forms – forms that can be more complicated than a loan application. And unlike a loan, the assistance they receive for food, medicine, housing, and other needs is not something they will ever be expected to pay back. Yet, it is natural to feel an obligation to repay gifts, and when we can’t, to feel emptied in spirit while being replenished materially.

In Frédéric’s time, there were even critics who believed that charitable works wrongly obligated the poor. To them, Frédéric replied that you could only believe assistance imposes a one-way obligation if “you have never experienced the obligation it confers on him who gives.” Those who visit the poor, he explained, “know that in accepting bread from their hand, as he takes the light from God, the poor man honors them; they know that the theatre and every other place of amusement can be paid for, but that nothing in this world can pay for two tears of joy in the eyes of a poor mother, nor the grasp of an honest man’s hand when one has enabled him to wait till he gets work.” [O’Meara, 177-178]

Not only is the obligation mutual, so are the gifts. This is natural among friends. That’s the reason why, when we need help with something – especially something difficult, or that we’d rather not confide in a stranger — we ask a friend. A friend won’t judge us for the mistake we made that led to our predicament. A friend won’t abandon us. A friend won’t embarrass us. A friend won’t ask us to repay the favor.

In a way, asking for help is proof of friendship in itself. Asking somebody to be Best Man or Maid of Honor at a wedding is asking for a very great commitment of time, effort, and sometimes money, yet no friend considers this request an imposition. Rather, it is an honor, and a demonstration of trust.

In this sense, then, it is the neighbor who calls us for help who takes the first step in establishing this friendship. They trust us with their problems and their secrets. When we respond as friends, for love alone, we earn their trust. When we offer not only material assistance, but our time and ourselves, we earn their friendship. In our mutual giving and receiving, in both seeing Christ and in imitating Him, perhaps both we and the neighbor may exclaim, “Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus!”

Contemplate

Do I thank God in my prayers for the friends I have made on my Home Visits?

Recommended Reading

Apostle in a Top Hat

02-01-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

02-01-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

It’s February, the month of Valentine’s Day — and the traditional month of the celebration of love. Exchanges of flowers and chocolates, romantic dinners, and many an engagement will occur on February 14 as people celebrate their love for each other. A day to celebrate love is a good thing, because by focusing on the more personal and intimate love we have for each other, we can hopefully reflect on the universal love that we are called to hold for all.

Love is foundational to our humanity. It is the most important commandment given to us by God. When Jesus was asked what mattered most, he told us; love God, love your neighbor as yourself. The Gospel of Matthew 25, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and so many others are all about love. Love for our brothers and sisters in this world.

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta left behind a legacy of compassion and selfless service to the destitute. She celebrated love every day for those who had no one else to love them. One of her profound statements that resonates with the human spirit is, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” In these simple yet powerful words, Mother Teresa captures the profound impact of emotional destitution and the significance of human connection. She captures what our Vincentian Encounters with the people we serve are all about. We are not just delivering food or clothes, or payments of rent and utilities. We are bringing love to those who suffer the terrible poverty of feeling unloved, uncared for, and abandoned.

Loneliness is a silent affliction that can impact even the most prosperous individuals. Mother Teresa, having devoted her life to helping the poor and marginalized, recognized that material poverty is not the only form of deprivation. She understood that loneliness, accompanied by the deep-seated belief of being unloved, could lead to a sense of hopelessness that ignores economic status.

Mother Teresa’s quote speaks to the universal experience of loneliness, a condition that transcends geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic boundaries. Loneliness exists in many ways, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. It is not confined to the elderly or those living in isolation; it can afflict the young, the successful, and those surrounded by a bustling social circle. In our interconnected world, where virtual connectivity often overshadows genuine human interaction, the epidemic of loneliness is rampant, and the consequences are profound. Social factors such as past trauma, social bullying, and social ostracism can dramatically increase loneliness and isolation even among those who seem to ‘have it all.’

The connection between poverty and loneliness, as highlighted by Mother Teresa, extends beyond the material realm. While addressing the physical needs of the poor, she recognized the importance of acknowledging their emotional and psychological well-being. In the impoverished corners of Calcutta, Mother Teresa confronted not only the scarcity of resources but also the profound sense of abandonment experienced by those who felt unloved. Her work was a testament to the belief that alleviating poverty required an integrated approach, one that encompassed not just material assistance, but also genuine human connection and compassion.

That goes to the core of our commitment to the encounters we have with those we serve. To that human-to-human Christ-centered connection. We are not just case workers, although truly we are often in that role. And let’s be clear, there is no negativity to that title or role – it is important and necessary! But we are caseworkers with humanity and human connection and compassion as our guiding star. We are Vincentians who know that it is love that people need as much as material needs, and we can, and we do give them both.

As Vincentians we demonstrate, every day, the transformative power of love and human connection. We demonstrate that in the embrace of love, the impoverished find solace, and the lonely heart discovers warmth. We demonstrate that acts of kindness driven by love, no matter how small, have the potential to alleviate the most profound forms of poverty.

In today’s fast-paced and digitally driven world, where virtual interactions often replace face-to-face connections, the epidemic of loneliness has only intensified. Social media, while providing a platform for connectivity, has also contributed to a sense of isolation and inadequacy. Mother Teresa challenges us to reflect on the quality of our relationships and the depth of our connections. She asks us to prioritize genuine human interaction and empathy over the superficiality of online engagement.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s quote, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved,” captures in one short sentence the profound impact of emotional destitution and the transformative power of love and human connection. Her life’s work, dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor, was a testament to the belief that true poverty extends beyond material lack and encompasses the loneliness that accompanies the feeling of being unloved.

Our work as Vincentians has always been done on that spirit. In the movie Monsieur Vincent, St. Vincent de Paul tells a new Daughter of Charity: “It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them. at all times and under all circumstances.”

As we navigate an ever-evolving world, the words of St. Vincent and St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s serve as a timeless reminder of the importance of compassion, empathy, and meaningful human connection in alleviating the most profound forms of poverty.

Peace and God’s blessings,
John

John Berry
National President

Contemplation: What Good Have I Done?

Contemplation: What Good Have I Done? 1080 1080 SVDP USA

In the course of the works of a busy Conference, we often become overwhelmed. The needs are many, and often are greater than our resources enable us to alleviate. We no sooner complete one Home Visit than the phone rings again. It can be exhausting, and even discouraging, if we measure our works the way they are measured by social service agencies or philanthropic societies. We may begin to question whether we are really helping the neighbor at all.

This feeling can lead us to a crossroads where we must choose: do we seek “efficiency” by trying to divvy up the resources as widely as possible, substituting phone calls for Home Visits, or asking the neighbor to come to us instead of we to them? Do we stop meeting, because our “business” can be conducted by phone or email? Or do we pause to reflect that these are the same questions that led to the Society’s founding and defined its purpose; the perpetual questions raised in the minds of members for nearly 200 years? Do we choose to recommit ourselves to the true good that we are called to do?

The introduction to the first edition of the Rule, written in 1835, assures us that “we must never be ashamed on the smallness of our alms.” Indeed, shortage of funds for “considerable works of charity” is, it said “one of the conditions of our existence.” [Rule, 1835] Our works and the good that we do have never been measured by the amount of money we can offer, or by the number of problems that we “fix.”

In founding the Society, Frédéric and his friends were challenged to show the good of the church in the modern world. Their challengers were quite convinced that they had better answers to poverty and the social question. What they could not see, but Frédéric could, was that the true good of the church, the message of Christ’s incarnation, is not that we are promised material abundance, but that we are promised eternal life by a God who loves us so much, He sent us His only Son. Bringing ourselves closer to eternal life and His love to the poor, is the good that God calls us to do.

Our Conference meetings are not business meetings. They are opportunities to share in prayer and reflection the ways in which we have grown closer to God, and the ways in which we have encountered Christ in our works. To the critics of his own time who accused the Society of not doing enough, Frédéric replied that they were only repeating the challenge the Saint Simonians had posed 15 years earlier. [Baunard, 279-280] But the measurement of achievement only in material terms will always lead to disappointment. The poor, we are taught, will always be with us – not as burden, but as a challenge, a measure not of our alms, but of our love.

The good that we do is not in our works, but in our charity – our love of God and neighbor.

Contemplate

How often do I pause to reflect on the presence of Christ in my Vincentian encounters?

Recommended Reading

What Good Have I Done – a poem that asks and answers the question

11-09-23 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

11-09-23 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 720 720 SVDP USA

A recent airline announcement at the boarding gate caught my attention. Passengers are no longer permitted to carry previously purchased alcohol on board to consume. Of course, the airline is still pleased to sell you some in your seat. A pilot seated next to me said that “too many passenger fights showing up on the Internet” was the driving force behind this new federal regulation. In that case, it might have been easier to ban cellphone videos rather than alcohol!

People who want to get drunk on an airplane will find a way to do so. They might have several drinks at that bar just a few steps from the gate. They might mix alcohol with that Coke or Sprite they just bought in the post-security gift shop. So long as they don’t appear too intoxicated when boarding, they can manage around the regulation. Therefore it’s the law-abiding good person, as so often happens with regs and legislation, who is the real disadvantaged patron of the rule, intentional or not.

Before we cry about this unfairness, let’s first look in our Vincentian mirror. Chances are, we have our own rules for serving people in need that were created because of one or two bad experiences. Remember that guy who came to us every month for rent assistance? That’s why we limit our help to (number) of times annually. Remember that family who asked for rent, then utilities, then food, then anything else not bolted down? That’s why we now have a financial limit on how much we can spend per family. The exception has sometimes driven our policy for everyone. In some Conferences, the people who needed the most help ultimately restricted the help we can give anyone.

In the interest of “fairness,” have we made life harder for some whom we seek to serve? In a quest to standardize operations and financial decisions for our volunteers, have we bypassed or totally cut out conversations about support around the Conference table? Have we forsaken the opportunity for personalized service, and even sound judgement calls? Do our policies not only demonstrate that we don’t trust those we serve, but also that we don’t trust our own members?

Any two Vincentians might disagree on how much or how often to help someone in need. The personal encounters we have in our Home Visits provide us with more information, and context, than can be provided in an application form or initial phone call. I hear all the time how someone came to a Conference for help, and we gave them more than what they requested, because they didn’t know the scope of our resources. Or perhaps they were embarrassed to ask, but our visiting team saw the need and asked if the Society could please help.

Please take time at an upcoming Conference or Council visit to review your giving and other policies. Perhaps dollar limits were set when your group had a different level of available resources. An annual assessment based on the past year’s experiences and economy might be a good idea. Do your rigid policies need to be only softer guidelines, subject to what we see and in individual cases and subsequent discernment?

Can policy be replaced in part with member training, so that everyone understands the need for some restraint but operates at a judgement level informed by experience and observations?

Can part of every Conference meeting be devoted to discussing those we serve, their needs and requests, and recommendations from our visitors for the Conference to decide together?

As a parent, would you ever limit your child to asking for help only once every year, or every quarter? Of course not. We might instead have to say No to some of their requests. The difference between the policy restriction and the individual response is in the formation and strength of our relationships. Help desks and nameless bureaucrats limit requests. Real people, especially Vincentians, listen whenever possible and seek solutions together even if money isn’t always available. We are the Face of Christ to those we serve. Would Christ ever tell us to come back and pray again for help in 6 or 12 months?

Resources are always limited. God’s love, however, is infinite. How can we as Society members do better to take both in consideration as we serve our neighbors?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

Contemplation: This Sweet Business

Contemplation: This Sweet Business 714 714 SVDP USA

“Let us go to the poor!” was the stirring declaration which founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Challenged to demonstrate the good of the church in their modern world, our young founders could find no better way than to imitate Christ, who descended from heaven to visit us in our poverty. [Baunard, 416]

As Christ Himself explained, He “did not come to be served, but to serve”, to give…to visit. The one that hosts is the one in the place of honor; the one that visits is the servant. Our Rule emphasizes this aspect of our vocation explaining that visits to those in need “should be made in their environment” (their homes). [Rule, Part III, St. 8] But where are they? Where is “their environment” except in their home?

Of course, we know that “home” may be usually, but is certainly not always, a house or apartment. Poor prisoners cry out from their prisons, the poor elderly from assisted living facilities, and the poor homeless from the streets. They cry out to us if we have ears to hear them.

Similarly, poverty takes many forms. “Blessed are you who are poor”, Christ tells in the Gospel of Luke. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” as Matthew recounts this teaching. Whatever the poverty in whatever the home, it is we who are the visitors, we who knock on the door, sit by the bedside, or go to the park bench. After all, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us “one of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation”, and that other kinds of poverty often are “born from isolation … by man’s basic and tragic tendency to close in on himself “. [Caritas in Veritate, 53] How better to alleviate material and spiritual poverty than to break the isolation which contributes to it?

Home visits,” the Rule continues, “are always made in pairs.” [Rule, Part III, St. 8] By visiting in pairs we continue the tradition begun when Christ sent forth His disciples in pairs. In this way, we begin to evangelize through our “wordless witness”, as two friends in Christ, sharing their time with a neighbor, showing them by our presence that they are not forgotten, letting them know we are Christians by our love, gathering as two with the neighbor as a third, and Christ is in our midst.

Christ offered a gift on His visit: His very life. Although the gifts we bring in the form of food, or money, are much more modest than that, those material gifts also are not really the point of the home visit. Though we may not give our lives as Christ did, Frédéric calls us to give them a little at a time, through every action we take, to “smoke night and day like perfume on the altar.” [Letter 90, to Curnier, 1837]

We are called invest much, to pour our hearts into each visit. And yet, as Frédéric tells us “He who brings a loaf of bread to the home of a poor man often brings back a joyful and comforted heart. Thus, in this sweet business of charity, the expenses are low, but the returns are high.” [Address in Lyon, 1837]

Contemplate

What is my investment in charity, and what is my return?

Recommended Reading

Mystic of Charity (especially Home Visits in the Vincentian Tradition)

10-19-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

10-19-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1080 1080 SVDP USA

During my career in business and government service we often found ourselves talking in an internal shorthand that made perfect sense to us but was usually very confusing to new members of the team, and nearly everyone outside the team. These acronyms, as they are called, are so common and confusing that many times you’ll find an ‘acronym list’ at the beginning of reports, books, or reference material so that people reading it can understand what they mean!

The use of these acronyms becomes so prevalent that oftentimes we don’t even realize we’re using them. And that is not good for clarity and understanding when we are discussing things as a Conference or a Council.

Take the term, Home Visit, for example. We all know what it means, right? Well, maybe not. A new Vincentian working in the Food Pantry or the Thrift Store may not feel they are participating in Vincentian service because they have never walked into someone’s ‘home.’  A Vincentian visiting a neighbor in need at a homeless shelter, or on the street, may wonder if they are doing ‘Home Visits.’

Interestingly, the words ‘Home Visit’ never appear in The Rule.

What does appear? The words “Personal encounters or visits.”

‘Home Visit’ has become our internal ‘code’ for the human-to-human, Christ-centered ENCOUNTERS we have with our neighbors in need. Of course we do Home Visits, it is a bedrock and foundation of that Christ-centered human ENCOUNTER. But that does not mean it is the only way we encounter and help our neighbors in need. Every encounter we have, whether it be in a home, a thrift store, a food pantry, a kitchen, a medical clinic, a classroom, or under the tree in a park, is a human-to-human Christ-centered opportunity for us to live our Vincentian vocation and grow in holiness.

Peace and God bless,
John Berry
SVdP National President

One Home Visit Can Change So Many Lives

One Home Visit Can Change So Many Lives 1080 1080 SVDP USA

The hallmark of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s work is the Home Visit. Vincentians go and meet their neighbors in need in their homes, where they are at ease, and feel comfortable sharing their story. There, we can determine the best way to help. Be it financial assistance to keep utilities running, putting food on the table, or help making rent. Other times, the help they offer, can mean so much more.  

Vincentians Fred and Susan from the St. William Conference in Round Rock, Texas went on what they believed would be a run-of-the-mill Home Visit, but it turned out to be anything but normal. 

When they arrived at Rocio’s home, they immediately noticed that something wasn’t right. They were met by broken dishes all over the house and holes in the walls. They had stopped by to offer help with utilities, but as soon as they walked through the door, they knew there was so much more they could do. 

Fred and Susan helped Rocio with her utility bill and left. But they knew Rocio needed more help. “God was talking to us, telling us we needed to go back,” said Susan. 

Over their next few visits with Rocio and her family, they learned that she was the victim of domestic violence. Her husband was a U.S. citizen, but Rocio was undocumented, and therefore, stuck in a bad situation.  

From that moment Fred and Susan dedicated themselves to walking Rocio’s journey with her. They helped her secure her Green Card, assisted her with her finances, and even helped her rekindle her faith.  

“They have taught me everything I know,” said Rocio. “From how to be a mother and raise them and teach them and bring them up in a Catholic home. How to stay stable and how to learn how to manage your money.” 

Fred helped to repair the damage that Rocio’s now ex-husband did to their home. 

Rocio is now living a happy life with her new husband and her five children, and they have come to consider Fred and Susan family as they have walked with them every step of the way. 

“They’re like the parents that are teaching me the proper ways of life,” said Rocio. “But they’re also like mentors to my children and myself.” 

“Rocio’s like a daughter to me and her husband is like a son,” said Susan. “Over the years she has come a long way.” 

While she had accomplished so much thanks to the support she’d received from SVdP, there was still something that Rocio hoped for. She yearned to become a U.S. Citizen. The SVdP Council in Austin stepped in to help.  

The Council offered Rocio a Systemic Change grant to help offset the cost of the citizenship process. And Rocio went on to pass her Citizenship test on the first try! 

“Transformation is possible. It’s not easy. It’s a challenge, and it takes a lot of commitment, but it is absolutely possible,” said Joleen Boyer, a Vincentian with the SVdP Council in Austin.  

Rocio’s life was changed when Fred and Susan arrived on her doorstep. But Fred and Susan were forever changed as well.  

“They have become my family,” said Susan. “Even if I never did anything else I my life, I’ve saved seven souls. That’s pretty good.”  

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