Six years ago, the election for international presidency took place.
As President General of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, I lived countless experiences, which I tried to share intensely with the Vincentian community through articles published in the media of the General Council International.
I also sought, through audio messages, lectures and photographs, to share the incredible moments that I have experienced during the missionary and institutional trips that I made around the world, taking a message of unity, charity and service to all corners of our Confederation.
In these almost six years as President General, I keep in my memory countless events and wonderful anecdotes, many of them still unknown to most of the brothers and the sisters. One of them, for example, was the strong emotion I had when I took to Rome the documents of the possible second miracle attributed to Blessed Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam. I traveled in the middle of the pandemic, still without the existence of vaccines, walking through an entirely deserted St. Peter’s Square.
Another unforgettable moment was when I made a home visit to a poor lady in New York (USA), who after the prayers, thanked the presence of the Conference in her life and began to cry because for more than 10 years, according to her, she had not talked to God. In Africa I was able to witness that it is possible to do charity without money by seeking the right partnerships and the most appropriate social projects to lift communities out of poverty. I received special protection from the United Nations as if I were a head of state when I visited an African country in the midst of a civil war. My four meetings with Pope Francis, though brief, were also exciting.
I cannot fail to mention the hand of God at work at the time of the purchase of the new international headquarters, which occurred only six months before the advent of the health crisis, which during the pandemic, would probably not have occurred. Despite everything, we added 3,000 new Conferences in that same period. Another remarkable episode was my visit to China, a nation whose communist political regime limits the existence of entities such as ours. Thanks to the Good Lord, we were able to fulfill an extensive agenda of activities amidst protests for democracy in Hong Kong.
In these six years in office many asked me: how was it possible to visit more than 40 countries? I am a Brazilian civil servant and my time dedicated to international travels was very restricted, occurring only during weekends, major vacations, official holidays or leave from work. This is also something extraordinary that God allowed in my life.
The further I went, the more I was welcomed (St. Luke 4, 21-30). They sang Brazilian songs to me. They tried to speak in Portuguese with me in every country I visited.
I received awards, commendations and medals in honor and glory of the humanitarian work that SSVP develops around the world. They made posters with my picture and wrote beautiful words of welcome that I will never forget. I was received by political leaders in several nations. I don’t deserve any of this, surely not (St. Luke 17, 7-10).
There would be many more stories to tell, but I want to tell a last one that I never reported: on the day of my election in 2016, I received a very beautiful bouquet of flowers, giving it to my dear wife who was accompanying me at that time in Rome. Soon after, we went to a chapel and deposited the bouquet at the feet of Our Lady, and dedicated my mandate to Our Lady of Grace, asking her to take care of me, covering me with her protective mantle, freeing me from the traps of evil, shadows and envy of the world, making me a true instrument of God to lead the SSVP in the best possible way.
For all these stories reported above, I consider myself immensely privileged and blessed by God. The Lord Jesus has accompanied me at all times of my life, both in joyful situations and in difficulties. The Good Lord protects me daily, polishes my imperfections, corrects my mistakes, calms my heart, reduces my anxiety, takes care of my family and makes our life projects prosper. Therefore, please pray for me, so that I can move forward in this noble mission as President General of all of you.
Brother Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th International President General