Servant Leader

10-21-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

10-21-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 240 300 SVDP USA

A beautiful gift of Vincentian Spirituality is our experience of Divine Providence, which is also one of the hardest concepts to understand. All of us totally understand God the Father, the Creator, Abba, the image of God as the loving Father. The second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus, we have the Gospels to really give us a true understanding of the gift of Jesus, the Healer, the Savior. And then we have the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells His disciples at the Last Supper that He will be sending the Holy Spirit and we know that happens at Pentecost.

How do we experience the Holy Spirit in our lives? Well, look for the “nudge.”

You know, the “nudge.” That feeling deep within that says, “You should do something.” Notice the Urge to Do Good on the Earth! This is one of the things we encourage people to look for – the N.U.D.G.E  The Holy Spirit is with us always and moves our hearts to respond to others by this small “voice” from within that reminds us to do good. The other way to recognize the Holy Spirit or Divine Providence in your lives is to look for “coincidence.” You know when you couldn’t possibly explain how something happened for your good or the good of another, but it definitely happened! The other thing you will often see in the work of the Holy Spirit is that it seems to happen just in the nick of time.

When we invite people to consider if God is inviting them to join the Society to grow in holiness as we serve the poor, invite them to be in touch with the nudge. You will be left in awe at how many people discover the work of the Holy Spirit when you encourage them to sense the n.u.d.g.e. This very simple explanation allows them to identify the work of God in their lives. It is not a coincidence that your invitation to others to join the Society found fertile ground when you encouraged them to be open to the Spirit. We know that Divine Providence is well ahead of us in all things  St. Louise de Marillac said it this way:

“I must perseveringly await the coming of the Holy Spirit although I do not know when that will be. I must accept this uncertainty, as well as my inability clearly to perceive at this time the path which God wishes me to follow in His service. I must abandon myself entirely to His Providence so as to be completely His.”

Bask in the uncertainty and trust that the Holy Spirit will lead you as you “see the Face of Christ in the poor.”

Marge McGinley
National Formation Chairperson

10-07-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

10-07-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1363 1363 SVDP USA

Welcome to a new Society year as of October 1. You may not think of this as a big deal, because after all we continue to serve with Home Visits, food pantries, and other SVdP activities year-round. I ask you to reconsider the first of October as an annual renewal.

Think of our national numbers. We have approximately 4,500 Conferences. Each has a President with a three-year term, with an option for a second term. This means that between one-third (1,500) and one-sixth (750) of our Conference Presidents are new as of this week. We also have approximately 200 Councils with the same officer terms, so between 33 and 67 new Council Presidents just took office. Average the two sets and we have 1,175 new Presidents!

That’s just the tip of the Society iceberg, however. Each President appoints new officers and boards, so even with small numbers we probably have another 7,000 Vincentians minimum in positions of leadership. We could then add committee chairs, task force leaders, store coordinators, special works leaders, and others to easily reach a conservative 8,000 leaders among a membership of around 100,000 not counting non-Vincentian volunteers.

We hope that this all means that 8,000 members have each been moved by the Holy Spirit to be new Society servant leaders. We recognize that everyone has a different leadership experience and skills set to begin their service. It also suggests that thousands need more formation guidance, governance assistance and resources, knowledge of our Rule, at least rudimentary budget and finance acumen, and a whole lot of patience, perseverance, and other interpersonal skills. That’s a tall order on the level of organizing an army!

As our new leaders at all levels settle in and learn their new roles, we can all help beginning with our own patience. They stepped up to serve the rest of us, and that alone deserves our respect and acceptance of their efforts and authority. We might also chuckle, shake our heard, and consider the environments some are stepping up, or stepping into, as they adjust to their new realities of Society service. I’m sure that your Conference is perfect, but others are, well, maybe not so much. I’m reminded of the leader from a non-Vincentian group who said “I’d love this organization if it wasn’t for the people in it!”

We can also help with our experience. It is so easy to assume that every new Society leader knows the Rule backward and forward, remembers all the history since the days of Emmanuel Bailly and Blessed Frederic, and even knows where the checkbook is this week! We can share what we know – not as the way we have always done things around here, but as helpful context in evolving forward. We can ask if they have a copy of that booklet we found so helpful, or if they plan to attend that national, regional or local Society meeting where we already know they can share and learn with fellow leaders.

We can also personally introduce our new leaders to the folks they need to know. Start with the local Bishop, Pastor/s, and other clergy who are so essential to our work. Don’t assume they all know your new leader! Then please consider community, business, government, faith, and “poverty” stakeholders we interact with – or should begin doing so to create a new relationship. Help mend fences with a new face and a new attitude.

When we elect and appoint new Society leaders, we don’t cast them out into the open ocean without a life preserver. The rest of us are the lifeboats! We secured their willing leadership, and now we need to support it along with a mutual expectation of success. If not, we may be looking for replacement leadership sooner than we desire. Leadership can be lonely, but it doesn’t need to be. Be the friend your new leader can rely on for advice, experience, or just a kind ear.

Over the decades, the Society has built upon the servant leadership, strong faith and experiences of all its members to keep growing and serving in hope. We all take our turns at one level or another to lead and to follow along our Vincentian journeys.

It’s the first week of October, and new leadership blooms all around us. What can we personally do now or very soon to nurture those who have agreed be our servant leaders?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

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

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

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

08-12-2021A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

08-12-2021A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

As Vincentians we often marvel at the founding of our beloved Society, and how a small group of college students took decisive action to put their faith to work in helping local neighbors in need.  It was truly a blessing from God to organize anything in the tumultuous period in Paris, especially doing so with young men (speaking as a former one myself). We may forget, though, what I think was even a greater miracle!

By the year 1845, the Society was operating far outside of Paris and even France, having a Council in nine other countries including our own and in places as diverse in language and cultures as Turkey, Scotland, and Mexico. We must remember that this was in the days before the Internet, so anything that “went viral” was probably limited to an actual disease!  Yet a Society devoted to God and helping the less fortunate spread by word of mouth, traveling founding members, and then their followers and supporters.

It would have been quite normal, as it is today, to start a campus ministry, have some fun and do good things with the original group, and ultimately disband when the founder graduated. College groups form and disband every day. So too do nonprofits even today, with literally thousands formed each year just in the United States. Most don’t have the people or financial resources to last very long, and some depend on the charism of their founder to keep the zeal alive. When he or she departs, often without a named successor or a continuing shared purpose, everything unravels.

So what a miracle we are part of as members of a Catholic, lay, apostolate with more than 800,000 global members in more than 150 countries – and still regenerating its members and mission activities despite wars, pandemics, economic depressions, and so many other challenges, some global and some neighborhood.

In your community, perhaps there were once multiple parishes and several Society Conferences. Today some may be gone as part of Diocesan restructuring, demographic shifts, and the aging out of Conference leaders. Do not despair! Certainly the original purposes for the Society still exist. The poor are still with us. And we still need to grow in our own faith. The essential elements of Friendship, Spirituality, and Service are just as relevant today as ever.

What is missing may be exactly what Blessed Frederic and his friends discovered. Anyone and everyone can complain about a need, but who steps up to fill it? They did. And so can we.

Let’s look again at our founders’ example. When they moved to a new city or even a new country, they joined a new parish and started a new Society Conference.  They shared their founding documents, such as bylaws, freely with clergy and laypersons in hopes that this information could be used to start the Society elsewhere. It did here, with the shared bylaws of Ireland, created just a year prior to our founding!

We are called as Catholics and Christians to follow the examples of the Apostles, to be evangelizers of Christ and the Word. As Vincentians, let’s follow as well the examples of our early founders and others who upon their travels started new Conferences and recruited new members. They may not have stayed to lead the groups; no, they shared the Rule and their zeal to encourage the Society to grow anew. Good crops can come from far-flung seeds, especially such seeds of hope and love for the poor.

Even though we have nearly 4,500 U.S. Conferences, there are still around 8,000 more without a Society presence. Are you visiting a parish while on vacation? Visiting family members out of state? Running away from family after being stuck with them for over a year? (Just kidding. Sort of.) Share the joy you receive when you see the face of Christ in your Vincentian service.

Somewhere out there, parishioners just like us, any local Society Council, and probably a Pastor concerned for his local neighbors in need, will welcome your inquiry about starting a new Conference. If a Conference is already there, offer to visit and share your Vincentian experiences. Let’s get viral!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

08-05-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

08-05-2021 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

We aren’t out of the woods quite yet, but we can at least see the clearing ahead of us.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the U.S. has seen a lot since our 1845 founding. We are blessed that with every war, every pandemic, and every Depression, recession, and other disasters both man-made and natural, we have bent perhaps but not broken in our service to God and our neighbors in need. We pray and then we persevere.

While the story of our pandemic period is full of sadness, turmoil, and uncertainty, it is nevertheless a story of Vincentian spirit and service that deserves to be told and to be remembered. It’s our nature to say “Well, that was that” and move on to the next challenge, the next family in need, and our next Conference meeting. Before we forget these past 18 months and all the changes we went through, including most notably the forced isolation from each other, we should reflect on the experience and how, as individuals and as the Society, we too are changed.

This weekend (Friday at 5:30 PM and Saturday at 2:30 AM Eastern), a special pandemic edition of “Our Faith in Action: Today’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul” will air on EWTN. Set those DVRs!  It’s a 30-minute look inside our Vincentian experience and how our members and Conferences continued in their formation journeys and in their service to neighbors in need. While cost, time, and travel considerations limited our filming to just three cities and Councils, this is really the story of all of us. If you squint just right you will see your Conference’s innovation in its food pantry, your Council’s changes in its thrift store, your fellow member’s continuing of Home Visits in unique ways, and maybe even yourself in the way you found the inner strength to just keep going.

If only our own members see this show it will be a success! Many of us did not know about the challenges overcome in different ways in Conferences across the country. The show gives us pause to reflect, and then to celebrate our common stubbornness, uh, I mean perseverance to serve in the face of chaos everywhere around us. Be proud; we are still here!

We don’t need a TV show, however, to educate ourselves. No, our communities and our supporters – parishioners, clergy, foundations, business partners, and others – deserve to see our story, too. They made our work possible with prayers, materials and financial support, and often during this period, new collaborations. While other social service and faith-based organizations pulled back, we stayed. We stayed in touch with our most vulnerable neighbors. We stayed in prayer with our parishes, clergy, and each other. We kept meeting, kept serving, and kept looking for how else we could serve God and share His love in our communities when it all shut down. The show tries to pull all this together in just 30 minutes. It’s a half-hour I ask you to share widely.

My hope is that each of us can share the show in a Conference meeting, parish gathering, annual dinner, or donor meeting. We own the show content, and will have it available through our website as soon as the broadcast rights clear in the next week. Trust me, EWTN will also appreciate the sharing as well!

To be clear, we all know that we don’t serve as Vincentians in order to get earthly credit; our rewards are more eternal. That recognized, we do need to tell our story more to recruit new members and to continue the public support we require for us to continue our works. Humility is a virtue. Sometimes, though, we need to remind everyone, and yes even ourselves, that we do good work and that our communities can depend on us to be there in good times and bad.

The pandemic resulted in Vincentian innovation, some of which will become lasting change. The pandemic challenged us to ask if “the way we have always done it” is now the most effective way for today and tomorrow. As we tell our story through the EWTN presentation, National Assembly workshops and otherwise, perhaps it will inspire us to consider even more changes, still consistent with our Rule while also consistent with today’s needs and service environments.

The “pandemic special edition” may drive innovation discussions in your Conference and Council. We wish that it didn’t take a pandemic to have these conversations! We appreciate nonetheless that God has blessed us with our journey together out of pandemic darkness to a new day in His service! Still here!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

A Letter from Our Servant Leaders

A Letter from Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Fires destroying communities in the western United States, hurricanes pounding our southeastern shores, and floods and tornados taking a toll throughout our country regularly make headlines for a few days. Those newsflashes are then quickly replaced by the next tragic story. The recovery process and the suffering, however, stretch over many years. Our Society’s network of charity is active in helping neighbors in need in many communities challenged by disaster. Long after the cameras are gone, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul will still be there helping.

Our Society has always shared resources within our network when disasters strike. In a few weeks you will be receiving a solicitation to provide financial support for our disaster efforts both domestic and international. Why this general campaign for disaster funding? Raising money once a big disaster strikes may have a greater appeal but tends to create a strategic problem. We may receive a tremendous response to the first hurricane of the season, but funds designated specifically for relief from that disaster are then not available to address future storms that may create even greater need. Having the funds in advance lets us respond more quickly to immediate needs and also allows us to help our Councils with the many disasters that never make national headlines.

The solicitation you’ll see soon will be a joint appeal from the National Council and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Service Corporation (DSC). The DSC works closely with the National Council and local Councils and Conferences to provide needed financial aid, training, and outside Vincentian volunteers when local resources are inadequate to meet the need. That is frequently the case. We are very proud of the work done by the DSC. In May the Disaster Services Corporation SVdP-USA was named “Member of the Year” for 2021 by the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). When you give to our campaign, you can be assured that your contributions will be carefully distributed and monitored by a highly qualified and respected organization.

This appeal also includes a commitment to helping our brother and sister Vincentians throughout the world. Our network of charity extends to more than 150 other countries, most of which struggle financially to provide even simple forms of charity. When disasters occur, Councils in these nations look to those of us in countries that have the ability to help.

We have all heard news stories of nonprofit organizations mismanaging funds for big international disasters. When we give to our own international Councils, there are mechanisms in place for accountability through the Commission for International Aid and Development (CIAD), including requirements of U.S. Homeland Security. Bill Brassier, our Midwest Region Vice President, and I are members of this commission.

As is the case with domestic funding, it is preferable to have funds given without being designated to a particular disaster. Sometimes, we need to respond immediately to situations that never make the news. At other times, our members in an area that receives major attention lack the capacity to organize major projects to use the funds that are generated. Our international process works best when the receiving country makes an application for assistance with our office in Paris. That application will outline how the funds are to be used and will require ongoing reporting.

Vincentians in the United States are very generous in supporting the activity of our brothers and sisters who volunteer to aid those who suffer the terrible impact of disasters. During my presidential term, we have collected an average of about $1.25 million a year, with 75 percent of that being used in the United States and 25 percent to providing assistance internationally. Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been one large disaster of an unusual nature. The pandemic has put an even greater strain on our members when they face the many other forms of disaster that confront us every year. Look for more information to arrive in the weeks to come, and please help us continue to support this important work of responding to the need and suffering disasters cause.

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

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