Raymond Sickinger

Current SVdP Leaders Take Inspiration From the Past in Newly Published Articles

Current SVdP Leaders Take Inspiration From the Past in Newly Published Articles 1344 1792 SVDP USA

Two articles by current SVdP leaders look back at the Society’s roots, in the latest issue of De Paul University’s Vincentian Heritage Journal. National Director of Formation Tim Williams shares with us two new articles by Ray Sickinger, Ph.D., and Ralph Middlecamp.

François Lallier, Friend of Frédéric, Co-Founder of the Society

As a young law student at the Sorbonne, François Lallier noticed another student speaking out boldly in class, defending the Church against attacks on it by professors and fellow students. After class one day, he saw this young man outside, at the center of a group who were listening to him intently. Lallier took this opportunity to introduce himself to Frédéric Ozanam, and that, to paraphrase the closing line of Casablanca, was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Lallier, along with Ozanam, four other students, and Emmanuel Bailly, would together found the Society of St. Vincent de Paul just a few short years after this meeting, but their friendship would continue undimmed for the rest of Frédéric’s short life.

In an article published in the newest Vincentian Heritage Journal, Raymond Sickinger, Ph.D., National Council board member and Professor Emeritus of history at Providence College, tells the story of this founder using sources most Vincentians have not previously read, including Circular Letters Lallier wrote while serving as Secretary-General, his personal correspondence with his friend Ozanam, his speeches, and other documents.

Lawyer, judge, gentleman, and Vincentian, François Lallier’s story is an important part of our heritage.

Read François Lallier: One of the Pillars of the Building Started

Emmanuel Bailly, Mentor and Co-Founder of the Society

In the Ozanam Orientation, we learn that of the seven founders of the Society, there were six college students and one “older gentleman.” In 1833, Emmanuel Bailly was 39 years old.

National President Ralph Middlecamp, avid student of the Society’s heritage and history, shares in the latest issue of the Vincentian Heritage Journal the fascinating story of Père Bailly, whose offices hosted the first Conference.

Newspaper publisher, businessman, and college professor, Bailly was from a family with strong Vincentian roots, his father having been entrusted with some of Saint Vincent’s papers to safeguard during the French Revolution.

While his business ventures had varying degrees of success, his commitment to mentoring young men and defending the faith were unwavering. Bailly was truly a father figure to the young men who elected him as President of that first Conference, which earned him the nickname Père (father). He also served as Spiritual Advisor, and was discovered to have contributed generously to the secret collections at the early meetings.

It was Bailly’s deep knowledge of the Rule of the Congregation of the Mission that helped him, as co-author of the Society’s Rule in 1835, to guide its basic structure and outline.

Middlecamp’s article offers fascinating details of Bailly’s interesting life, family, and connections.

Read Emmanuel Bailly: The Advisor and Friend of Christian Youth

04-08-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders

04-08-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1829 2560 SVDP USA
This week’s letter was written by Raymond Sickinger, National Board Member

Recently I heard one of the members of my Conference comment that the pandemic had proven that we needed to look to the future to serve those in need better by offering better services. Although I absolutely agree that we must look to the future and discover better ways to help others, I was also a bit concerned  by this remark. I was concerned because the focus seemed to be placed only on service and appeared to ignore the primary reason for the Society’s existence—growing in holiness by serving others as Christ would serve. Too often, with the best of intentions, we can confuse the means with the end.

In 1836, Frédéric Ozanam wrote to his friend, Louis Janmot, the following remarks: “Both men and the poor we see with the eyes of the flesh; they are there and we can put finger and hand in their wounds and the scars of the crown of thorns are visible on their foreheads; and, at this point, incredulity no longer has place and we should fall at their feet and say with the Apostle, ‘Tu est Dominus et Deus meus.’ You are our masters, and we will be your servants. You are for us the sacred images of that God whom we do not see, and not knowing how to love Him otherwise shall we not love Him in your persons?” (Letter of Frédéric Ozanam to Louis Janmot, Lyon, November 13, 1836). Frédéric knew how spiritually vital it was to meet those in need face to face.

From its inception, the Society has emphasized “person to person” service, whether that be at a food pantry, at a thrift store, or on a Home Visit. Of course, the home visit is a hallmark of our Society, and is an intimate part of our heritage. It is, so to speak, the ultimate person to person experience. In fact, many in the Society with whom I have spoken have missed visiting those in need in their homes during the pandemic. As one Vincentian told me, “I feel this great void.”

Person-to-person service of whatever kind must always help our members to deepen their faith and their friendships. As Frédéric Ozanam told his dear friend, Léonce Curnier, in 1834, “[T]he strongest tie, the principle of true friendship, is charity, and charity could not exist in the hearts of many without sweetening itself from outside. It is a fire that dies without being fed, and good works are the food of charity. So it is in our own interest first of all that our association has been established, and if we assemble under the roof of the poor, it is at least equally for them as for ourselves, so as to become progressively better friends.”

It was during visits to those in need in the streets of Paris that Ozanam and his friends became connected by bonds of charity to one another and to those in need.  It was after such visits that they reflected on what they had seen and what special works might provide relief. They drew closer to Christ by seeing his face in those they served. They became better persons by imitating Christ, the Servant Leader. As the Catholic Catechism tells us: “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God [1822].”

As we look to the Society’s future and the active role it will play, I simply caution us never to lose sight of the primary purpose of the Society, whose essential elements of spirituality, friendship, and service are intimately, and necessarily, connected.  Otherwise, we chance losing the very soul of who we are and becoming simply another not for profit helping those in need.

Yours in Christ,
Raymond Sickinger
National Board Member

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