Servant Leader

05-16-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-16-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

On Monday of this week, I spent the day in meetings at the Vatican in Rome. Working alongside Juan Manuel Gomez, the President General International of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and CGI Board Member Sebastian Gramajo from Argentina, we had three meetings: first with Monsignor Luis Marin de San Martin, Undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod, then with Maria Lia Zervino, Institutional Director of World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations, and lastly with The Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Sister Alessandra Smerilli, and Fr. Patrio Salgat of that office.

Each of these meetings was vitally important to the work of the Society, both here in the United States as well as globally. The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development was established by Pope Francis in August 2016. The work of the Dicastery, as directed by Pope Francis, is to express the Holy See’s concern for issues of justice and peace, including those related to migration, health, charitable works, and the care of creation.

The Dicastery promotes integral human development in the light of the Gospel and in the tradition of the Church’s social teachings. The Dicastery also expresses the Holy Father’s care for suffering humanity, including the needy, the sick and the excluded, and pays special attention to the needs and issues of those who are forced to flee their homeland, the stateless, the marginalized, victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters, the imprisoned, the unemployed, victims of contemporary forms of slavery and torture, and others whose dignity is endangered.

That mission certainly sounds a lot like what we do as members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, doesn’t it?

This meeting was important in helping us understand how we can work more closely with the Church and the Bishops in supporting the work of the Holy See in areas such as Integral Human Development.

Similarly, our meeting with the Office of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations was very informative, as we learned about the work of the Church in helping to empower and lift women out of poverty across the world. SVdP USA does an incredible amount of Twinning and project support overseas, and it was good to hear about project work being done through the Vatican. Additionally, the Vatican is looking for our support in some of the work they want to do in the United States, especially around poverty, women, single mothers, and other areas. We will be honored to help!

The meeting with the General Secretariat of the Synod was very interesting and enlightening. We had a wonderful discussion about VisionSVdP, and team at the Vatican were thrilled to hear about what we are doing! They had a lot of questions about our reasons for launching the effort, and were excited that we were modeling our efforts on the theme of Adapting to a Changing World.

One of the things that Msgr. San Martin kept emphasizing was the changing technology of the modern world and how we must adapt not only our processes and procedures, but also our approaches, to ensure we do not lose the spiritual closeness in the drive to technical efficiency and the electronic world. He was speaking my language! He was saying what I have been saying since I first put myself forward as a candidate for National President.

While we can, should, and will change and adapt our systems and our technology to make ourselves more effective and efficient as an operating organization, we cannot, must not, and will not ever lose the human-to-human, Christ-centered Encounter that is the foundational basis of who and what we are. At our core, at our spiritual center, at our faith grounding, we are people serving people through a process of encounter: Encounter in a Home Visit, a food pantry, a thrift store, a pharmacy, a housing program, a shelter, a prison visit, any of the many special works we provide.

My visits to the Vatican helped to define further areas and opportunities for collaboration and cooperation between SVdP and the Holy See to support people in need in the United States and internationally. Those visits also helped to reinforce to me the outstanding work of the Councils and Conferences across the country in support of our neighbors in need and in alignment with Catholic Social Teaching.

Peace and God’s blessings,
John

05-09-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-09-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

By Dave Barringer, CEO

Most of the time, this column is written just for you. This one, however, is written at least as much for the leaders who will come after you, and even the generation that will come after them.

When we don’t take care of something, weird and bad things can happen. Don’t mow your lawn and nature takes over at the first opportunity. Ignore your bills and you can be out on the street. Forget about your spouse’s birthday and, well, let’s not go there!

About once a month I hear of a new situation where a store or other special work was initiated, funded and actively run by the Society for years, but because of inattention to good governance or benign neglect, the “business” slowly changed. The operational purpose may be exactly the same, but now it’s a parish ministry rather than a Society special work. Worse, over time even the parish isn’t involved; it has fallen into the hands of well-meaning but often overwhelmed volunteers who may not even belong to a formal organization. They just wanted to help and now they are running it and feel they own it.

This third-generation operation carries some significant issues. For example, it may still formally be a Society property, thus liable for legal, financial, tax and other obligations. It may still carry the Society’s name and logo on the door even though our local group doesn’t have a leadership or operational role any longer, or even knows of its existence. We can also imagine other scenarios, few of them good, when people give to what they believe is a nonprofit such as the Society but the group isn’t really in the picture. That’s often known as fraud.

From another perspective, our donors and volunteers built that store, food pantry or other special work. Was it eventually sold to another party, or did one or more people just take it over? As Vincentian we give away resources all the time, but not usually an entire business or building! We owe it to those who came before to get value from such a transfer so that we may continue to use those resources to help others. And we owe it to ourselves and future Vincentian generations to keep our name and marks within our current true properties and operations.

How can we avoid all this? With many problems, prevention is easier than a cure, but it still needs to be done on a regular basis. First, every new leader should review each property and special work to ensure that it is properly governed and properly recorded within the Society and the state. Second, check on the board. What do the bylaws call for, and does the reality match the intention? Is the board clearly a Vincentian majority? To whom does the business and chair position report, such as to the Conference/Council President or full board? Who approves new staff positions and major expenses? Third, is there a clear and mutually understood accounting of all the funds? Who is responsible if the operation needs more cash? Where do any revenues and profits go? Which accounts are in play, and are they controlled by the Society? Is it responsible for any solidarity payments to the next level up of the Society? Lastly, if the special work is operating on a parish campus, is there a formal letter from the Pastor with understanding that the Society is paying rent or not, and that the control of the operation resides with the Society and not the Pastor or the Parish Council? This is helpful for the next Pastor as well! The same applies to other landlords, too.

Thinking that “everyone already understands all this” simply does not work. Assumptions get made, habits good or bad become traditions and then culture. And of course, leaders change with their own understandings that may or may not match the official records.

It may seem like overkill to review all this every leadership change. Actually, I prefer that it all gets reviewed every year! Leaders, including all on the board, and even all of the membership deserve to know its full inventory of services, properties, and most of all their responsibilities and obligations. We have seen from bitter and expensive examples that it can all slip away rather quickly without frequent review and renewed understanding by all involved parties.

If you came home one day after a vacation to find another family living in your home, you would be understandably upset. If you had little or no record that you are indeed the owner, paying the mortgage and taking care of the home, you’d be a lot more miserable! As Vincentians, we need to apply the same level of ownership diligence to keep Society assets available to the next generation and beyond of our leaders and those they will serve.

Yours in Christ,

Dave Barringer

05-02-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-02-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

In the South, where I live, the beginning of May signals the beginning of the end of the school year for students. My granddaughter in South Carolina has already had her Prom (yes, she was beautiful) and her Graduation from high school is in a few weeks. For most students in the northern parts of the country, the school year will continue on until at least Memorial Day. But in either case, come early June, most students will be off for the summer and free of the classroom, homework, and getting up early for school.

Some of you may remember the song written in 1932 by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess, “Summertime.” Its most famous line, oft repeated, is “Summertime and the livin’ is easy.”

How often do we think about children and summertime — no school, just having fun, no cares in the world — and think they’re “livin’ easy”?

For many, that’s likely true. But for too many others, their summertime is anything but easy living — because for too many children in America today, no school means no breakfast, no lunch, maybe no meal at all for the day. And for too many families in America today, no school means no childcare, no one to watch the kids while a single Mom or Dad tries to work so they can pay the rent or put food on the table or clothes on their children’s backs.

No, the reality in America today is that when school ends many, many families don’t celebrate, take vacations to Disneyland, or cook out in the backyard. They despair, and suffer, and try to hold on.

And that’s why we, the SVdP Councils and Conferences, must exert special effort and energy in the summer to support families in need. And for us that can often be a very big challenge, because our children are out of school, we are traveling, our Church attendance and collection amounts are lower due to vacations. Our need is highest when our human and financial resources are lowest.

Think for a minute about the counterintuitive nature of our work and our effort. I would venture to guess that we devote the largest number of volunteer hours, food drives, and organized Conference activities to two times of the year — Thanksgiving and Christmas. But when you think about it, so is every other charity, church, civic organization, and just about any other organized group you can think of.

What if we tweaked the narrative a little? By devoting a larger effort in the summer, when need is huge, and people aren’t as focused on helping, we could really make an impact on helping people desperate for help.

Think about it. Talk about it. Make a difference.

Maybe you can help make someone’s “summertime livin’” a little easier.

Peace and God’s blessings,
John

John Berry
National President

04-25-2024 A Letter from Servant Leaders

04-25-2024 A Letter from Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

By Pauline S. Manalo
National Vice President of Vincentian Programs and Services

Christ is Risen! We continue to celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection for 50 days. The Easter season is an opportunity for us to reflect on what Easter means to our Vincentian vocation.

Finding the tomb empty Mary Magdalen “raises the question that Christians are meant to ask: WHERE IS HE NOW?” (Fr. Robert P. Maloney, CM; Easter: Our Resurrection Faith, VinFormation). He is present in the Eucharist, the Real Presence. We meet the Risen Lord in the Eucharist. He lives on in us, in our community, in our families and friends, and especially in our neighbors in need. “When I was hungry you gave me food. When I was thirsty you gave me drink. When I was naked you clothed me.” (Matt. 25)

At a spiritual retreat, former Episcopal Advisor Bishop Donald Hying drew a parallel to our meeting Jesus in the Eucharist and Vincentians’ personal encounter with neighbors seeking our assistance. We meet the person of Jesus in our suffering neighbor struggling in poverty. Our Vincentian vocation is to seek and find Christ in those in need, in the forgotten, and in the victims of exclusion or adversity. (Rule 1.5) A local conference had a novel idea seeking those who need help by placing 250 door hangers—Need Help? Call Us! –in selected areas they serve.

“I am the resurrection and the life. “(Jn 11:25) The risen Jesus gives us hope. The gift of eternal life transforms us. We express our belief in the resurrection of the body and eternal life reciting the Apostles Creed. Despite pain, suffering, and uncertainties in our own lives, we carry the hope of Easter. We do not keep this gift of hope to ourselves. As Vincentian disciples of Christ, we are called to follow Him, through service to those in need and to bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love…Vincentians serve in hope. (Rule 1.2) We are called to adapt to a changing world. (Rule 1.6) We listen more intently to neighbors in need and to fellow Vincentians, we seek to be more aware of the changes in poverty within our society, and most of all we ask the Holy Spirit the wisdom to offer transformative hope that empowers neighbors to emerge from poverty.

04-18-2024 Letter from Servant Leaders

04-18-2024 Letter from Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

By John Berry
National President

Over the last few months, as we’ve launched our VisionSVdP initiative and begun to conduct our ‘family conversations’ regarding how the Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA will adapt to a changing world, the feedback I have received from Vincentians across the country has been overwhelmingly positive and excited. People feel that this is the perfect time for us to have these conversations and in many cases, they feel the conversations are long overdue.

From the very first email that went out about VisionSVdP, people have been sending me their thoughts and ideas. Although the process is designed to take place in the Listening Sessions (which begin at Regional Meetings across the country this week), people felt so passionately about the things that they believe needed to be discussed, that they decided to send comments in via email.

Be assured that, if you were one of those people, your comments will be included in the process. But I hope that you will still actively participate in the Listening Session at your Conference, Council, or Region and make your views known. Because your voice matters. Every voice matters.

The number and variety of comments I’ve received have been very interesting. They range from the very specific to the very broad. And that’s fantastic because it is exactly what VisionSVdP is all about — to raise up all thoughts, opinions, and ideas on all aspects of the Society and how we can adapt to a changing world.

This week, the most important phase of VisionSVdP begins. Listening Sessions at Regional Meetings (the Southeast meeting starts Friday) will begin an all-out national network of Listening Sessions at EVERY Conference, Council, and Special Work in the country.

Within the next few weeks, a very simple process for conducting the Listening Session at your location will be sent out. The process is very easy. Some guide rails and guidelines for the sessions will be included. And most importantly, the process for getting the output from the session back to the National Office will be provided. A link to a video from Archbishop Bellisario and a link to a spiritual song and prayer to kick off the conversation will also be provided.

We are asking all Councils, Conferences, and Special Works to have their Listening Sessions completed by the National Assembly in August.

But not everyone is on board. Some people still have doubts about why we’re embarking on this effort. And some people don’t understand how it’s supposed to work. Some people are uncomfortable without strict process guidelines, and some people are uncomfortable sharing in a group.

I understand that. And I appreciate that we’re never going to get 100% buy-in to anything we try to do. No one does. That’s just life. Baskin-Robbins sells 31 flavors because not everyone likes chocolate, right?

But EVERY VOICE MATTERS. Even the ones who think theirs doesn’t — or those who don’t want to share theirs — or those who don’t understand why we want to hear it. But it matters. And we need to hear it. And you deserve to have it heard.

So please, put aside your doubts (should you have any), put aside your fears (should you have some), and put aside your hesitancies to participate (should you hold them) and let us know what you think.

Because every voice matters. Every. Single. One.

Peace and God’s Blessings,
John

04-11-2024 Letter from Servant Leaders

04-11-2024 Letter from Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

We take ZIP codes for granted as a mechanism to get our mail from one place to another more efficiently. What started as five numbers to remember later became nine for presumably better service. Recently, I learned that a ZIP code can say quite a bit about you, and even predict how long you will live!

Social scientists now use ZIP codes to recognize how where you live predicts and/or influences your education options, income, housing costs, food insecurity, personal and property crime rates and much more. Living in one ZIP code versus the neighboring one in another city means that you are likely to live ten fewer years! Seems to me that this would be good to know before buying a new home.

Some Vincentians tell me that “there isn’t much poverty where I live.” This may be somewhat true, although if you squint you can see poverty everywhere. Maybe it’s not the homeowners but the working poor who serve them as housekeepers and landscapers, as well as the workers in nearby stores and restaurants. You may not see people who are homeless in your neighborhood, but they are there. And because they are homeless, they may not show up in the address-based ZIP code or Census tract analysis.

Most of us know our area fairly well. We know that one area is that part of town where we don’t want to conduct a home visit. We don’t even want to drive through the area! Another part of town is where the “rich people” live because we see large homes, or where the DINKs (double income, no kids) hang out at happy hour.

When considering how our Conference and Council can make a greater community impact, such studies of Census tracts and ZIP codes can show us exactly where the need is greatest, confirming or surprising us with what we thought we knew about where we live. These maps are usually available from local government, the library and United Way. Overlay these maps with where our Conferences operate, and we can see if resources match the neediest areas. This can then help us determine where we most need a new Conference, where local Twinning can increase community impact, and where we need to focus our services delivery.

Where is the best location for a food pantry? For a low-cost pharmacy? For a shelter or other housing options? Where will systemic change solutions attract the most potential users? We can go where the “customers” are, our neighbors in need, or we can continue to operate where it is convenient for ourselves and wonder why we don’t make much of a difference. Yes, people in need will travel where they need to go for urgent help. Thrift store shoppers who have fewer affordable retail choices will go where required to save money, versus donors who give out of convenience as often measured from the distance between their homes and the collection center.

Geography matters. As cities grow, we see retail centers move from downtown to the suburbs where big boxes proliferate. Downtowns often are where we see food deserts with little or no access to fresh produce. High school and church enrollments shift with the moving of families with school-age children. Yet because our parish has been in the same location for many decades, it can be easy to ignore the changing community and operating environment around us. Then one day we look around and exclaim “Hey, where did everyone go?”

The ZIP in ZIP code originally stood not for zippy service, but for a Zone Improvement Plan. Imagine what we can do as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul if we took those words to heart, adapting to our changing local world to create meaningful zone improvements where the ZIP codes point us to the most need.

Yours in Christ,

Dave Barringer

04-04-2024 Letter from Servant Leaders

04-04-2024 Letter from Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

It has been six months since I assumed the office of National President of the Society. The time has flown by, and it is hard to believe that it has been that long (although to be honest, sometimes it feels like it has been six years!). I have been truly blessed to meet so many of you, and I am looking forward to meeting many more of you as we enter the 2024 Regional Meeting ‘season’ and I get out to many of the meetings.

Since I served on the Board of Directors for six years when Ralph Middlecamp was President, I was aware of what to expect as National President. But I must say that I have been saddened and disturbed by the number of situations that the Board, the Staff, and I have had to deal with in just six short months about individuals, Conferences, and Councils that have needed intervention or disciplinary actions.

As I reflect on these situations, many still ongoing, it has become obvious to me that they almost always stem from root cause failures in one or more of three areas: money, spirituality, or governance. In one case it is usually too much — money. And in the other two, it is usually not enough — spirituality and governance.

The money issues we deal with are not all what you might expect as you read this. They are not all about people stealing or diverting resources. No, most problems we see with money are the improper use of Conference and Council funds in violation of The Rule and hoarding. Coming out of COVID, we were (and are) blessed with bank balances in some places that are exceptionally large, well beyond the needs of the Conference or Council in the short or even medium term.

All too often, what happens is that, in good faith and with good intentions, they decide to see who else they might help. So, they decide to help the Parish get that new roof, or build a playground, or donate to the local Red Cross, etc. These are all wonderful things. The Rule also forbids them. If you have excess funds, reach out and find other Conferences and Councils in your area or beyond who do not — there are A LOT OF THEM! — and give them some help. Twinning is what we do.

Spirituality is another area that underpins so many of the issues I see as National President. Or rather, to phrase it properly, a LACK of Spirituality is what underpins so many issues. And it is not just that we do not focus on spirituality, it is that we focus on the wrong spirituality! If your Conference of Council is not using the Vincentian Spiritual resources provided by the National Formation Team to create your spiritual reflection periods at your meetings, then you are doing it wrong.

We are the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We are not the parishes’ Adult Education Program. You should not be using the Spiritual Reflection time at your meeting to be focused on those things that are not related to our work as Vincentians. If you need help in putting together a great spiritual time of reflection, contact Tim Williams or Sister Consuelo in the National Office. They will set you up. Oh, and if your Spiritual Reflection period at your meetings is a five-minute reading of the weekly reflection and then ‘on to the business stuff’ please give them a call — you need them!

Governance is the last and most complex area where we see ongoing issues. Governance can be tricky and complicated, and not everyone understands it. As the former Chair of the National Governance Committee, I have a special passion for governance and governance issues. It is an area that can quickly get you into trouble, both legally and internally with the organization. We have a robust and ready Governance Committee led by First Vice President John Hallissy. If you need any support, have any questions, or just want to have what you are doing checked out, contact John.

We can all do things a little better to make our jobs easier. I understand most of you are volunteers — so am I. But that does not mean we should not be doing everything we can to be the best volunteers we can and be doing things right, every time.

Peace and God’s blessings,
John

03-28-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

03-28-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

Challenges of a Vincentian

In my 40 years as a Vincentian, I have made many mistakes. From my mistakes, hopefully, I will become a better person. My hope is you will learn from my mistakes. Here is my list of My Challenges:

  1. It’s about me. I call this the Santa Claus effect. When I first became a became a Vincentian, giving something to somebody made me feel good. I got to “help” someone, but it cost me nothing. Then I learned it was not about me, but the person I was helping. This was a very valuable lesson for me to learn as a Vincentian.
  2. Poverty is a lack of money. I thought this way in the beginning. As you help people, you realize poverty is a mindset. Improving the situation of a neighbor in need takes education, hope, culture, time, work, acceptance, and, yes, some money.
  3. Learning from fellow Vincentians. I had the idea that I could do this by myself. I did not need the support and encouragement of my fellow Vincentians. There is a reason we visit and talk to the poor in pairs. There is a reason we have Conferences with a group of Vincentians.
  4. Cynicism. I was cynical. The poor are only interested in money. I was lied to, used, and taken advantage of. These events were few and far between, but it does instill a cynical view. A Vincentian needs to take each person and interview as a fresh start for the person you are meeting and for you. I needed to get past the cynicism and realize Christ did not judge. We need to do the same.
  5. Why am I doing this? As a Vincentian working week after week, sometimes hearing from the same people week after week, a bit of “why am I doing this?” may set in. This is the most dangerous of all my mistakes. I am never going to solve all the social issues. I am never going “to fix it.”  Not me, not on my own. With prayer and help from my fellow Vincentians I may be able to help one person or one family at a time.
  6. Arrogance. Sometimes I would miss an opportunity to really meet someone. I would think the encounter with the poor is just a business transaction. I did not learn about the person, their situation or background. I would just take care of the monetary problem, but not see the person for who they are.
  7. Acceptance. This was very difficult for me. Sometimes a lack of funds — or a lack of a solution — makes the work very frustrating. This is one of the greatest challenges to a Vincentian. I must accept that I cannot solve everything. I may have some setbacks as a Vincentian, but with God’s Grace, I must acknowledge it is not defeat.
  8. Don’t lead, just follow. This mistake is one with its own limitation. I would not have experienced the next level of being a Vincentian if I never accepted a leadership position. MY positions of leadership have been extremely fulfilling. There are many opportunities in the Vincentian life — Conference President, VP, District President, Treasurer, Committee person.
  9. Evangelization. One of the things I did not do for many years was tell non-Vincentians about SVdP (Vincentian Friendship, Service, and Spirituality). Please go out and spread the word about our great organization. There are a lot of people looking for an organization like SVdP.

I am sure there are more, but we are limited in our space for these articles.

Yours in Christ,
Ed McCarthy
National Treasurer

03-21-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

03-21-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

In my mid-20s, I joined a recreational volleyball group that resulted in some lifelong friends (and even in meeting my wife). It was a group of mostly singles that played every Wednesday night, and then everyone went out for pizza and beer at the local pub. Newly arriving women were invited to the pub part right away; for us men, it might take a few weeks before new dating competition was asked to join in!

My first interest in the group was from reading about it in the local newspaper. I didn’t know anyone there, so it was a risky move for me to step outside my comfort zone to meet new people. For two or three weeks, I heard the side chatter about getting together afterward, but I didn’t speak up. I played and then went home.  Eventually a friendly guy asked me to join everyone and, despite my initial shyness, I accepted. Looking back decades later, that personal invitation changed my life.

Sound familiar? Despite our own examples of such invitations, some Vincentians still believe that prospective members will read about the Society in the parish bulletin and just show up. That does happen, albeit rarely — but is that our recruitment strategy? While we aren’t asking fellow parishioners to join us, we instead sit in the Conference meeting and complain that we don’t have enough help!

Perhaps even worse is when we take part in the parish ministry fair or have a table in the back of the church. We operate like a trade show booth, advertising our product and maybe even posting a sign about when we meet. We keep that table between us and our prospects, and the activity is a drive-by interaction. It’s no wonder that we see few (if any) new members from this form of recruiting.

Picture a huge funnel. At the tip (or bottom), there is a new member. At the widest part of the top, we can list advertising, posters, and other mass marketing tools and activities. The next level down is where we find the parish booth, and then the Invitation to Serve pulpit talks. (Check it out on our website!) The most crucial level is next, what we call the “close” — the personal invitation to join. In marketing lingo, we go from a broadcast approach to a targeted, specific call to action. That’s how it works. In fact, it’s almost the only way it works!

Ah, but there is also a hidden, second funnel. It goes in the opposite direction from the new member’s arrival. You see, the process should not stop when they walk in the door.

At the tip of this second funnel is the welcoming at the new member’s first meeting. Are they welcomed by name? Are they encouraged to participate? Do they receive a Member Handbook and/or other materials that explain who we are and what we do? Do we treat them like new friends?

The next part of the funnel is the Onboarding process. Granted, this can be different for each Conference, but it should involve getting the new member out with a team for a Home Visit. You might assign a mentor to answer all those initial questions. Please don’t forget to include all three of our Essential Elements of Friendship, Spirituality and Service in these orientation weeks. We want them to have a welcoming exposure to every part of our mission.

Notice that I did not include an Ozanam Orientation thus far in this funnel. This deserves specific attention. Some Councils only offer Orientations at set times throughout the year, so you may be held hostage a bit to the calendar. If you recruit enough new members, add a new Ozanam Orientation to meet demand! Otherwise, look to schedule this for every member, new and old, within a brief, reasonable time.

The widest part of the second funnel is the everyday activity of the Conference (and perhaps your Council). Where do the interests of each new member lie? Are some attracted to filling out paperwork (just kidding, no one ever chooses this one), food pantry work, systemic change classes, prison visits, or maybe, God bless them, do they only want to go on Home Visits? Let’s meet new members halfway, matching initial interests with anything we do, instead of forcing them into where we need them the most.

At the center of the funnels is the personal ask. Weren’t you asked at some point by a friend, priest or fellow parishioner to consider joining the Society? Why should we believe this ask to be unnecessary for others?

It’s always a good time to ask someone to join you for pizza and beer. It is likewise always a good time to ask someone if they would like to meet Jesus and join the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
National CEO

 

03-07-25 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

03-07-25 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

This is the last in a series of three Servant Leader columns before next week’s Midyear Meeting that address VisionSVdP.  Today I’d like to explain a little more about how the process will work over the next year, and talk a bit about how you can get involved.

We will formally ‘kick off’ VisionSVdP at the Midyear Meeting in St. Louis with five Listening Sessions. All Midyear attendees will be randomly assigned to one of five groups and will meet for approximately 1 ½ hours. This will occur following a session by me on the process, and after a Keynote Address by the National Council President of Australia, who will speak about the process there, and a Spiritual Retreat by Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, CM, our National Episcopal Advisor.

At the Listening Sessions, Midyear attendees will have a free-flowing discussion about the Society. They will all begin with the same question: What does the Rule, Part 1, 1.6: “Adaptation to a Changing World” mean to you?

From there, they will discuss anything and everything that they want to. Someone at each table will capture everyone’s comments — because every voice matters. Two moderators per room (typically Regional VPs) will then attempt to capture the essence of the discussions; when the entire group reconvenes, we’ll have a conversation about the process. The goal is not to highlight any comments as more important than any other, but to debrief how people felt. Were their voices heard? Did they learn anything? Did anything ‘click’ from the conversation?

This process will repeat itself at the Regional meetings.

So, you ask: What about me? I’m not going to Midyear or the Regional Meeting. How do I get involved??

GOOD QUESTION!  You get involved because we want every Conference and every Council and every Special Work to do this as well. AND WE WILL HELP YOU!

Now, let’s be very open and very, very honest here. We will face many naysayers and people who just want to keep on doing things the way we always have, either because it’s easier, or because they fear change. Then we’ll have the inevitable organizational inertia that will never find the time to schedule the sessions — we’re too busy, we’re too important doing other “real Vincentian work,” etc, etc. They will all resist doing these sessions. WE CANNOT LET THAT HAPPEN.

Engage with the VisionSVdP process at your Conference and in your Council and Region. Become a Champion for the effort! Contact your Regional VP, contact your Council President, contact me. Make sure the process gets to you and is carried out. Because your voice matters.

After all these sessions are held in 2024 (including at the National Assembly in Phoenix), we will start a National Conversation process in 2025 about what we have heard and what it means for how we adapt and change.

Peace and God’s blessings,
John

John Berry
National President

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