Letter from Servant Leaders

07-07-22 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

07-07-22 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

During the past several months, it has been my pleasure to attend three regional meetings of the Society and the meeting of the International Executive Committee in Paris. It was wonderful to be with Vincentian friends I have not seen in many years, and to meet new people taking leadership roles in our Society. Sure, we did get many people to participate in the Zoom conferences held during the past two years, but there is nothing like being together, sharing meals, and interacting with workshop presenters and other participants.

In a couple of months, we will have an opportunity to get together in Baltimore for the National Assembly themed “Come to the Water.” Please do come; I hope to see many of you there Aug. 30 through Sept. 3. It will make you a better Vincentian. When I attended my first National Assembly many years ago in Milwaukee, I saw for the first time the bigger picture of this international network of charity. I came home with many great ideas and renewed enthusiasm for our mission. Most importantly, I came home knowing like-minded Vincentians from all across the United States.

The Baltimore Council is working to host a wonderful meeting. We have developed a great program with excellent keynote speakers and dozens of topical workshops that will be led by knowledgeable presenters. I especially want to encourage our East Coast members to take the opportunity to attend. We move this meeting around the country to provide more people easy access to this experience. That is why I attended that first meeting. It was an easy drive for me, and I have not missed many since then.
This meeting will be special because it will be the first time Renato Lima de Oliveira, the President General of the International Council, will be attending our National Assembly. He is an enthusiastic ambassador for the Society everywhere he travels. He will share with us a perspective on what it takes to be a worldwide network of charity. Renato will be with us for the entire meeting; so, you will have many opportunities to meet and talk with him.

Another opportunity you will have at this National Assembly will be to meet and speak with the next president of the National Council of the United States. We don’t know who that will be yet, but all four nominees will be at the meeting. You can talk with them at Thursday’s Host City event or listen to their campaign speeches at the Saturday business meeting. At that Saturday meeting, the National Council Members will vote to reduce the number of candidates to two.

An important part of any National Assembly is our spiritual enrichment. We will celebrate the Eucharist on Friday with our National Episcopal Advisor, Bishop Donald Hying, and on Saturday with Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. This year, our Friday morning of reflection will be led by Dan Schutte, who has written many of my favorite liturgical songs. Dan was one of the original St. Louis Jesuits and has continued that ministry by composing music and leading retreats.

If you are one of the more than 800 graduates of the Invitation for Renewal program, there will be a special event celebrating the program’s 20th anniversary. Come to rekindle friendships, continue to grow your leadership skills, and renew your Vincentian heart. Those who have not attended may receive some encouragement to do so after learning about the impact Invitation for Renewal has had on so many of our current Vincentian leaders.

A scripture quotation that Frédéric Ozanam and our other founders frequently repeated is, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” This Gospel passage certainly captures our Vincentian reliance on Christ journeying with us. In Baltimore, however, let’s shoot for “where 700 or 800 are gathered.” We have a great program in place, but what will make our National Assembly truly great is having you there. I think you will have a great time, but please do not regard this gathering as Vincentian tourism. When you get back home, what you will have discovered in Baltimore, you’ll need to share with fellow members, and what you will have learned there, you’ll need to put into practice. So, what’s your next step? Plan to sign up today, and be sure to get the early-registration discount!

Serviens in spe,

Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

09-30-21 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

09-30-21 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 856 642 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

I have just returned from the Heritage Pilgrimage to Paris, which was originally scheduled for last year as part of our 175th anniversary celebrations. In spite of some challenges, 23 Vincentians from all over the United States were able to walk together in the footsteps of our founders and patrons.

On our pilgrimage, we celebrated Mass at the tombs of Frédéric Ozanam, St. Vincent de Paul, and St. Louise de Marillac. Our group prayed at and put flowers on the grave of Sister Rosalie Rendu. We visited the churches where they worshiped, walked the streets they walked, saw where they lived, and visited several small museums containing possessions of these holy people.

A pilgrimage is about more than visiting places. One source defines a pilgrimage as “a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life.”

At our final dinner we all concluded that we are returning to our daily life enriched by the experience. An observation was made that these were ordinary people who struggled with life, just like we all do. But being attentive to God, what they did made the world a better place. Someone else shared that the reason we know about Vincent and Frédéric is that they inspired a long line of people who continued to dedicate themselves to carry on what they initiated.

You and I are in that chain of servants to the poor. We must provide leadership to our Conferences and Councils, and invite new members so that these efforts continue to witness to the love of God. Most Vincentians will not go on pilgrimage to Paris, but we all strive to walk in the footsteps of our founders and patrons by continuing the network of friends they inspired, a network which visits the poor in Christ’s name, providing them with material needs and friendship. Those we serve may never know who St. Vincent de Paul or Frédéric Ozanam are, but they know us.

After our Mass in Ozanam’s tomb, we prayed a prayer written by his wife Amelie in that same crypt. Aside from some changed gender roles referenced, it seemed she wrote the prayer specifically for us. The prayer has a timeless and universal message that gave me a deep appreciation of spirituality of the woman who was loved dearly by Frédéric Ozanam.

She prayed, “Dear Lord Jesus who came down from the heavens to this underground vault, to this humble altar, residing now in our hearts, hear our prayer, protect all that we hold most dear on this Earth and, at this time when the future of our country is in the balance, give strength and good judgment to those who wish for Good. Choose fair and measured men to govern us, free of the passions that can blind us, but full of the passion for justice. Have pity, oh Lord, on those who suffer. Relieve their pain and bring back to us that great Christian whom you wished to purify and who may serve you once again.

“Watch over our families, Lord, give our sons the desire to work, give them devotion, the very best guardian of their virtue. Make men of them, so that they may serve their country with honor and serve you with faith. Give our daughters the strength to raise their children well and to carry out their duties graciously. Bestow good health upon us and may none of the people close to our hearts abandon the faith of the Church.

“Oh you martyrs, illustrious prelates, virgin saints, and you my darling one, whose bodies are laid to rest together in this place, pray, pray for us that our wishes be granted, and while we wait for the day when we shall be reunited, fill our souls with strength, peace and love.”

It is a fitting prayer for all Vincentian pilgrims on our journey toward holiness.

Serviens in spe,

Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

05-20-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-20-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 600 685 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has always had a special devotion to the Holy Spirit. We begin many of our meetings with this familiar prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, live within our lives, and strengthen us by your love. Send forth your Spirit, and new life will be created. And the whole face of the earth shall be renewed.”

Emmanuel Bailly led our founders in a similar prayer at their first meeting in his newspaper office in 1833. The main difference was that they prayed it in Latin.

Since our founding, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has relied upon the Holy Spirit to guide our journey. For the past 188 years we have been asking the Holy Spirit to live within us and strengthen us. We need this loving grace every time we go on our home visits and whenever we work to lift someone out of poverty. Those of us in Servant Leadership positions must ask for such grace regularly. We pray for the new life the Spirit creates, and we await the renewal of the world that this new life brings.

Change is never easy. So why do we pray for it almost every time we meet? Do we really want the whole face of the earth to be renewed? Most of us are pretty comfortable with how things are now. Sure, we are committed to creating a more just society, ending racism and eliminating poverty, but couldn’t we do that without the disrupting the whole face of the earth?

This past year has illustrated that many of the problems with which we have struggled during the pandemic are systemic. Disparities in healthcare, lack of affordable childcare, challenges of workplace safety, difficulty in accessing education – to name just some systemically rooted problems – have all caused extra hardship in the past year. Added to these difficulties, we have had to face the issue of how racism multiplies suffering in many communities.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been talking about the need for systemic change for several years. That desire to renew this world is what inspired our founder Blessed Frederic Ozanam to envision the establishment of a network of charity and social justice encircling the world. We are heirs to that vision.

I appreciate all the resources that have been provided virtually during the past year by our Voice of the Poor Committee and by our Multicultural and Diversity Committee. Each group has helped us focus on these systemic issues. As we come out of this period of isolation, we need to commit to actions that will transform systems that enshrine injustice or promote disparity.

I don’t think it is possible to significantly reform these systems without the Holy Spirit renewing the whole face of the earth. I also believe that change starts with us as individuals. I will need to discover the changes I need to make to participate in a community that is loving and just. As our Rule states, we are journeying together toward holiness. So, this Pentecost, let’s keep praying, “Holy Spirit, live within our lives, and strengthen us by your love.”

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

    Skip to content