Servant Leader

12-1-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leader

12-1-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leader 900 900 SVDP USA

Many of us have tried out a store or restaurant because of great and appealing advertising, only to have an unsatisfactory user experience once we arrived. Maybe it’s a price we didn’t expect, unfriendly or even rude personnel, or simply a feeling that the reality just didn’t live up to the expectation. Perhaps it is even worse when we walk into a favorite establishment to find it isn’t what we remember, but now only some shadow of its former glory and our former fondness.

As we think about inviting a friend or fellow parishioner to join the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, are we unknowingly guilty of the same bait-and-switch between how we sell the Society to others and what they experience when they come to our meetings or otherwise encounter us? In marketing terms, we often think of promotion first to attract new members, when perhaps we need first to review and change the product. We may need to change who and what we are – not the Rule but our behaviors – before we can promote ourselves.

Do we only meet during the day, making it nearly impossible for working people to join our meetings and become an Active member? Could we meet once a month during the day, and another time at night or on the weekend to allow for more people to join based on their comfort and other commitments?

Likewise, do we conduct Home Visits only when convenient for us, but not for others who would like to help, or even for the friends in need who may not have our flexibility?

Are our meetings full of Conference business (Service), and don’t offer much if anything in the Society’s other Essential Elements of Friendship or Spirituality? Do we take the time to pray and reflect? Do we even take the time to enjoy each other’s company and make new or better friends among fellow members?

Is everyone invited to participate, or is it often the case that just 2-3 leaders or salty old vets dominate the conversations, planning and meetings? Do we follow term limits, and create leadership posts that don’t require experience, just interest and dedication?

When someone new attends, how do we treat them? Do we give them an opportunity to serve? Do we give them a Member Handbook and then review it with them? Or do we shunt them to the sidelines, don’t let them speak, and don’t follow up after the meeting to gauge their interests or ideas?

Do we quickly train and engage prospective members in our Home Visits, food pantry, or other works? Do they learn how these works are Vincentian faith in action, or are they just another service project?

How quickly do we begin Formation activities from introductions to Ozanam Orientations to Conference use of Vincentian Reflections? Is this a coordinated Conference priority, or is it left to individuals to figure out on their own?

Are young adults and people of color invited, and made to feel welcome? Or do we focus our recruiting and our meetings only on those who look like those already in our ranks? Does our membership reflect the parish demographics? The community’s?

All considered, are we who we say we are? Are we even who we think we are ourselves?

Between fall recruiting season for parish ministries and the added activities many Conferences take on during the holidays, it’s a good time to step back and assess the “product” of our local Society’s offering to prospective members. There may also be good value in asking someone from the outside to attend and tell us what they think of the Society from that experience. We might be surprised to learn how we have drifted toward certain behaviors and habits that make our Society less attractive, even less accurate, than who we say we are. Before we spend resources of time and money to advertise our product, let’s be sure it’s the product that we want to be and indeed, God calls us to be!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

11-23-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Dear Vincentian Friends,

Almost 40 years ago, I was part of a group that started a free community meal program. In the beginning, many of our guests were homeless and living on the streets. On one occasion, one of my fellow organizers pulled a man aside to address some behavior issues and concluded by telling the guest, “You only have one job here and that is to be grateful, and you are not doing that very well.”

As the years passed, this friend and I realized that the pithy comment we once thought was on-target no longer matched our hoped-for relationships with meal program guests. How different that comment is from what our Rule tells us in the section titled “Gratitude to those we visit.” This is where we read, “Vincentians never forget the many blessings they receive from those they visit. They recognize that the fruit of their labors springs, not from themselves, but especially from God and from the poor they serve.”

Often, we think of being grateful for material things – the stuff we have. That’s maybe why we often expect those we serve to be grateful; we are providing “stuff” for free. We eventually learn, however, that what we are most grateful for are the relationships we have with family, friends, and those we serve, and – most importantly – with our God. I am grateful for my daily bread, for a warm place to live, for meaningful work and for beautiful sunsets. I think all of these blessings are more meaningful, however, when I have someone with whom I can share them.

Giving thanks is not just for a once-a-year holiday. It is something we should do always and everywhere. Those are words we hear at Mass to begin the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayers. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and just. It is truly right and just, our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks.” What are we thanking God for? Is it for food, clothing, or the beauty of the earth? No, the Eucharistic text goes on to tell us that we give thanks for Jesus, who was sent to us to restore our relationship with God, and that we should be grateful for this always and everywhere.

This Thanksgiving week I hope you give thanks not only for the material blessings we enjoy but also for the relationships that enrich our lives. I appreciate the gifts I have received from everyone I have met this year, and I am grateful for you and the relationship we have in the network of charity that we have inherited from our founders.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

 

11-10-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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On occasion we will be asked by the media, or by Catholic interest groups, to show the impact of the Society on the community and how we measure our success.  I love to be asked about this, but I also hate it.

How do we measure our success as the Society? This is more difficult than you might first think.

For example, our mission states that we are a network of friends, growing in holiness and building a more just world. We do this through personal relationships with, and services to, people in need. No doubt, these are very good intentions! How, though, do we put a yardstick to “growing in holiness?” This is a lifetime journey, and the graduation certificate is earned when you are called Home. Our, ahem, graduates never write back with their alumni experiences!

We can measure services, but here we see a bit of Vincentian Paradox. We can grow, for example, the number of families that come to our food pantries. We can feel good that more people therefore receive some emergency help, and perhaps we can measure what percentage of those in need are helped. (That’s the impact study so much in vogue.) But hold on, our goal should not be to serve more people; in fact, a systemic change goal might be to serve fewer people! If we can help someone to take care of themselves and not need a food pantry, that’s a better result, right? We can instead aim to serve all who need us, but also work to reduce the number who need such emergency help. Don’t fret with how that makes our “numbers” appear – just do the right thing for that family.

When asked what the Society does to combat homelessness, there is an expectation that our answers reflect the numbers of houses we build and people we place into more permanent housing. Yet the larger service the Society provides is in homelessness prevention, by helping people to stay in their home with rent assistance. Even this is an incomplete number. When we help someone with a utility or food bill, this frees funds that can now be spent for their rent bill (and vice versa). Any wonder now why we drive the statisticians crazy?

Outsiders also find it perplexing when we tell them “We don’t count that number” for some of their usual statistics. This reflects our Rule in not being judgmental. Because most Vincentians also have a natural aversion to paperwork, preferring to serve rather than to count services, we count only the most need-to-know numbers. Often this is because a funder or food bank demands it.

We really appreciate that nearly all Councils and Conferences provide some common measurements such as those in our annual national reporting process. This counting tells the story of the Society to the rest of the nation, and most especially our Bishops, which in turn provides us with even more support. We try to keep the requested measures to a minimum, and they do tell a wonderful story of how the Society helps our neighbors in need across the United States. Thank you for completing these annual requests!

What can we reasonably do to measure our success? I propose that first, it is entirely legitimate in our case to measure intent. In an organization that serves people, one at a time, aggregations don’t always work but our individual intentions are charitable and even Holy. We can’t measure how many times someone in need sees the Face of Christ in our Home Visits. We pray that we provide that outcome in every encounter through our smile, our relationship, our prayers. Let’s therefore measure these encounters as outcomes, not just process, with intent in mind.

Further, we may not always measure outcomes, but we can measure excellence. We can work to provide more with less, ensuring that donated funds are spent wisely. Make no mistake, our goal is not to serve the poor efficiently! That thinking leads to impersonal interactions and one-size-fits-all services that often don’t work for the real, live people coming to us not just for material assistance but for prayerful empathy and God’s love. The decisions we make and services we provide through our Home Visits and Conference meetings may not be efficient, but we can assess and work to have truly helpful results for those we serve.

Let’s review annually what we measure and ask if it’s required by outside sources, meaningful to our goals, or just “nice to know,” and then revise to have confidence not only in how we measure but why we measure.

By the way, Vincentians also see the Face of Christ when we serve others. We hear this all the time from Vincentians, who often say that they get so much more out of their Society effort than they put into it. This aggregate result is something I would not dare try to measure. Let us be confident and satisfied that God sees this outcome in each one of us personally, and that He is well pleased.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

11-17-22 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

11-17-22 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 900 900 SVDP USA

Television watchers are used to mid-season breaks, long gaps between seasons, and mid-season replacements that all make it difficult to get into a viewing routine for their favorite shows. I’m not sure if the DVR was the answer, or part of the cause, for this programming chaos! Add in a pandemic that severely affected production schedules, and it’s no wonder that the Society’s very own TV show got delayed for its second season. But we are back!

When Season Two of “Our Faith In Action: Today’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul” (or as we lovingly refer to it, OFIA) finally airs this month on the EWTN cable network, it will have been more than three years since our last broadcast. Our Society’s production team of the Orlando Council’s Trace Trylko, independent videographers and hosts, and National staff couldn’t travel during the pandemic, and local services schedules were also thrown out of whack. Fortunately as the show illustrates, the Vincentian services continued during the entire period, even with sometimes significant COVID adaptations.

Set your DVRs or watch live during the week of November 28, daily Monday through Friday at 5:30 PM Eastern / 4:30 PM Central to see five new episodes of OFIA on EWTN. (With as always, programming subject to change.) Another five episodes will air later; at this time we expect this in February. That’s correct, we will air during the week of Giving Tuesday and for some people, the start of the holiday volunteer and giving season. We thank EWTN for this special opportunity – we can’t ask for funds during the broadcasts, but we really appreciate the exposure of our works nationwide to the EWTN viewers, potential material and financial donors, members, and volunteers!

Each episode features SVdP works in at least three different U.S. cities, told from the perspective of our members, their work and commitment, and how they see the Face of Christ in the people they serve. We will feature Home Visits, food pantries, systemic change classes, health programs, workforce development, and so much more that is testament to the variety of Society work as it is most needed in each local community. We also feature local clergy who extoll the works of the Society in their neighborhoods. We could not get to every community, but while you may not see your Council, you will more than likely see your work! Overall for Season Two we travelled to more than 30 locations.

You might also see a sampler of work that your Council or Conference might consider as a new practice, or best practice, for the future. Being creative unto infinity, our Conferences tweak program elements to fit their local needs, so there is always a different approach we can learn from each other.

Please consider watching the 30-minute shows as a Conference, either “live” or recorded. Have a viewing party! Consider using the shows, or parts of them, in your local promotional efforts. Our National office can help you get the clips you need, and the shows will all be on our website for sharing once EWTN airs them twice. The Society owns all of the content except for the EWTN commercials, so everything you see on the show is available to you!

Please help us to advertise the broadcasts this month. Include OFIA mentions in your parish bulletins and other Church and community communications. The National Council will have a broad social media presence to highlight the shows, but please help us to share the postings where you can. We want this great display of Vincentian services to be in front of as many viewers as possible – we are humble, yet proud of what we do for our friends in need. Also, one can’t help but want to join us when you see the hearts of our Vincentians in their work with neighbors. As the Society rebuilds our membership post-pandemic, the OFIA shows can be a great tool to introduce the Society’s charism and works to potential members in the comfort of their living rooms.

As Thanksgiving approaches just before the OFIA airings, I’m thankful as the show’s executive producer for the opportunity to work with so many in our Society to have this second season finally get on the air. Our Vincentian story is so big and so very beneficial that it deserves this broadcast spotlight. I’m thankful for all the Councils and Conferences that took part in our production for sharing their works and their heartfelt experiences of what it means to be a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. None of what you will see on the shows is scripted. In these days of often fake reality television, the “Our Faith In Action” experiences may be the more genuine human experiences as Vincentians demonstrate God’s love on camera. I pray that you will view these special programs and share them with others.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

11-3-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Dear Vincentian Friends,

I have spoken and written frequently this year about the need to build our capacity to serve. The first focus area of our Strategic Plan is to “Expand and Strengthen our Network of Friends,” with an underlying goal to “Strengthen organizational capacity at Council and Conference levels.” Our service to people in need depends on our organizational strength and capacity.

One of the objectives of this goal in our Strategic Plan is to reintroduce the Standards of Excellence, which were created about 15 years ago as a tool for councils and conferences to evaluate themselves. Those standards included the requirements necessary for our Councils and Conferences to be in compliance with the Rule and their bylaws and also offers best practices that are in place in our most successful locations. Our Governance Committee, with input from our Board of Directors, has dusted them off our Standards of Excellence and has updated them. We are asking every level of our organization to use them to evaluate their structure and operations.

“No work of charity is foreign to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul” is a slogan of our founders that is captured in the Rule. If we are faithful to the basic structures our Rule provides, we have unlimited opportunities to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit and use our time and talent to meet the challenges we encounter in our communities as we serve those in need. The Standards of Excellence process will help us address those challenges while allowing us to remain faithful to the foundational wisdom of our organization. Referring to the Rule of the Congregation of the Mission, St. Vincent de Paul said, “If you take care of the Rule, the Rule will take care of you.” His counsel certainly also applies to the Rule of the Society that bears his name.

Most of us bristle a bit at the suggestion of compliance, but St. Vincent suggests that we should see following our structure and the guidance contained in our Rule as liberating. It may be why those who came before us used the title of “excellence” as the goal of this process. It is a blessing that the structure of the Society has been laid out for us, and our time and talent don’t need to be spent in changing that.

After being your president for five years, I can tell you that the best Councils in our country have practices we can all learn from. They all will score high on the questions offered in the Standards of Excellence. Part of my duties include working with Councils and Conferences experiencing problems. From what I have seen, those problems are always rooted in issues that would have been identified if these Standards of Excellence had been applied and led to plans for change.

I suggest you go to the National Council website and review the Standards of Excellence documents for Councils and Conferences (click here). For each level there is a Questionnaire, a Reporting Document to be shared with the next higher Council, and a Notes Document that provides background for each of the questions.

You will notice each questionnaire is organized into three sections – with questions about required practices, standard operating procedures and practices, and recommended best practices. Special attention needs to be paid to anything that is not in keeping with the required practices, and a plan for improvement should be made. The other two sections will give you an opportunity to consider recommended best practices for future planning.

I hope this Standards of Excellence exercise will be embraced by your Conference and Council. Keeping our house in order and planning for the future are important for the well-being of our organization. We know many changes are happening in our parishes and communities. Let’s be prepared as a well-organized network of friends to meet the challenges we know are coming.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

 

10-27-2022 A Letter from Our Servant Leaders

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We often take modern conveniences for granted. How life has changed from just a century ago in the United States with air travel, television, the microwave oven, the computer, and the Internet. Some of it has even been good!

Let’s look back further to 400 years and to Paris, France. We see none of the items above. Heck, we don’t even see indoor plumbing, penicillin, or widespread literacy. Heating and cooling meant opening and closing a window and starting a wood or charcoal fire and cutting blocks of ice. This is the world of Vincent de Paul (before he was a Saint) and it makes his works all the more remarkable.

Imagine now if Vincent had a cellphone.

In his day, Vincent ran several businesses, raised funds, recruited volunteers constantly, and otherwise organized like the dickens the numbers, the meals, the fuel, the people, and the buildings to feed the hungry and serve God’s neediest across Paris and rural France. Distances were “longer” then because you either walked them or, if you were fortunate, you had a horse or carriage to carry you at a whopping five miles an hour. If Vincent needed someone, he either sent a runner or had to go get them; he couldn’t send them a text or pick up the phone. Leave a message? Ha! Maybe a note on the door or with a neighbor, and even that with hopes that the recipient knew how to read!

Saint Vincent gives us so many examples in which to lead our Vincentian lives. He used the resources of his time to do the best he could with what God gave him. No excuses, just the use of the blessings he had to do all he could to serve. How did he recruit others to help? He rang the church bell, went door to door, preached in the pulpit and met people where they lived and worked to ask for their time and resources to help their neighbors. He delegated, encouraged, and then organized the laity (the Ladies) the religious (the Daughters) and the clergy (the Congregation of the Mission). He then provided the structures (the Rule) and prayed. A lot.

As Vincent’s organizational descendants we have many more tools at our disposal, including relatively more discretionary time and money, than most of the Parisians of Vincent’s day. We have communications and transportation technology that make the loads lighter and the distances shorter between our volunteers and people we serve. We have only modern-world problems!

This month as we consider our Fall activities and start of our alumni gatherings, church festivals, and holidays, please think of St. Vincent for a moment. How would he utilize these days of friends getting together to recruit – in pairs, face to face? How would he organize an evening of Vincentians in a Conference meeting, each with the modern-day miracle of a cellphone and a roster of inactive members, to hold an old-fashioned phone-a-thon to make some calls to invite them back, celebrating with each “new-found” friend? How would he inspire a Conference President or young adult to give a brief Invitation to Serve address at Mass, followed in the school hall or elsewhere nearby by other Conference members welcoming prospective members into our ranks? As his example inspired a young Frederic Ozanam and his friends nearly 200 years ago in Paris, how can that same zeal demonstrated by Vincent inspire us today here in our community?

Technologies change over time. Yet history reminds us that many of the needs of our world are timeless and universal. Fortunately, so too are our Church’s eternal examples of the Saints, none so more than our Society’s patron, St. Vincent de Paul.  Let us learn from, and live by, the examples with which he has graced us.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

10-20-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Any parent knows that time is elastic. The days can be long, but the years fly by quickly. The moments in emergency rooms are like eternity, and the joyous celebrations of graduations, birthday parties, and weddings go by so quickly. Such is life for all of us.

Our daily lives are also so full of work, family, and personal obligations as well that it is easy to forget about events that take place more than a few miles away from our routines. If it isn’t a part of our life today, then out of sight, out of mind.

It’s only been a few weeks, but the hurricane and affiliated storms and surges in Florida and the Carolinas are largely out of the news cycles except in the immediate areas. While local residents in Missouri, Kentucky, California, Texas, and elsewhere are still reeling from major disasters this past year, many of us have moved on.

Yet while both time and distance can hamper our personal ability to remember and to respond to tragedy, God provides nonetheless through the collective care and organization of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.  We are blessed to be a part of this long-term approach to provide for the victims of disasters through the Society’s Disaster Services Corporation, our international Society, and through the cooperation of our National Council and local Councils and Conferences throughout the United States.

When you donate to the annual Disaster Relief Campaign, currently underway, you provide funds that will be available to help all year for both large and small disasters, many of which never make it into the news. Local Conferences and Councils can apply to the USA National Council for disaster grants to help their neighbors, while preserving their traditional funds for the usual Home Visit needs.

The Disaster Services Corporation (DSC), a subsidiary of our National Council and recipient of some of the campaign’s funds, provides disaster preparedness and response skills training for Vincentians nationwide. As a member of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD), DSC also responds to major disasters nationwide to provide for long-term disaster relief and is in place weeks and even months after a disaster to help neighbors rebuild their lives. Your contributions help pay for the infrastructure costs that often are not reimbursed by FEMA and other federal or other grant funds for DSC’s work, and which are needed between the specific disasters when things quiet down just a little, but the work goes on.

Your contributions to the Disaster Relief Campaign help internationally, too. When a major disaster such as a typhoon, earthquake, or fire strikes another country, especially in a poor nation, the Society’s International Council is asked for assistance from the local National Council. An established international fund helps year-round when needed instead of trying to raise funds when the disasters hit.

All in all, then, this single annual appeal recognizes our human nature to tend not to keep track of events, even major ones, that are far away, and after weeks or months go by. Our Vincentian hearts care even if our minds sometimes forget. This appeal helps us to plan ahead for the inevitable disasters, and to have funds ready to help our fellow Vincentians to serve our neighbors.

Your giving today says that just as Vincentians know that God is always with us, our beloved Society is with us as well, in good times and in bad times, ready to help. Just reach out, we are standing by, prepared with financial resources to help your local Vincentians in support of your neighbors in need to rebuild their lives after major disruptions, even if it takes weeks or months. We will continue to be the Face of Christ along with you, and we have prepared for this moment to help you just as the Lord has always been at your side.

If your community has not been hit by floods, fire, earthquakes, major storms or other disasters, say a prayer of thanksgiving. By the grace of God, it wasn’t your turn. Please help others whose turn has come, or whose turn may be next, by giving on your own and with your Conference and Council to the Disaster Relief Campaign.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

P.S. – Please send appeal gifts to the National Council SVDPUSA to “Disaster Relief Campaign.” Please DO NOT include the names of states, countries or individual disasters. If you would like to give online, click here.

Thank you!

10-13-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Dear Vincentian Friends,

Looking at the history of our Society, it is clear that the providence of God has given us the leadership we have needed at every point along our path so far. This month President Renato Lima de Oliveira declared the International Year of Jules Gossin, to honor the second President General of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Gossin succeeded Emanuel Bailly and served as president from 1844 to 1847. Except for Bailly, our founders were young college students. Yet, when they selected his replacement, they looked to a man who was actually five years older than Bailly. The Society needed Gossin’s stable guidance for a few more years before it turned leadership over to a 28-year-old Adolphe Baudon, who would become our third and longest-serving President General.

We are in the process of electing our next national President. What is the leadership that we need next? You are each invited to participate in that discernment process through prayer and review of the material available on each of our two final candidates. Before you vote in your Conference meetings, I urge you to view the videos of the speeches John Berry and Brian Burgess gave at our recent National Assembly. You may even want to watch their speeches as part of a Conference meeting, and you should read their written platforms. We have two very qualified candidates; so please take the time to make an informed choice. We trust that in God’s providence we will be blessed with the leadership we need for the future.

Let me return to Jules Gossin and share a little about his contributions to our Society that are still relevant today. His presidency was a key bridge between our Society’s founding and its becoming a stable worldwide institution. Several years earlier, Gossin had founded another organization of Catholic lay people, the St. Regis Society, which was dedicated to regularizing the marriages of the poor. From the development of that group, he undoubtedly learned many lessons that were applicable to the challenges our Society faced as it grew.

Gossin’s most important contribution was the maintenance of a central governing structure that aggregated new conferences and required adherence to the Rule. Our first United States Conference in St. Louis was welcomed by Gossin with a letter dated May 25, 1845. The letter informed the Conference that its application for aggregation had been enthusiastically approved at the February 2 meeting of the General Council. The letter encouraged the Conference members in their work and their hopes for continued expansion in the United States. Today, some Conferences would prefer to act independently from the structures provided, but that would not be in keeping with the model passed on to us.

Even more interesting to me is that in the next letter from Gossin to the U.S. Conference members, he insists that they submit an annual report. At this time of the year, I hear complaints about having to file our annual reports. Some say that this is onerous and should not be required in our organization. Don’t look to history to validate your opinion. Gossin wrote to the new Conference in St. Louis on Nov. 16, 1846, “Dear Sir and Brothers, We have the pleasure of sending you herewith a report form for the use of your Conference and we beg you to answer it. We are asking this to enable us in the General Report for 1846, which shall soon occupy our attention, to give all information concerning your Conference. We hope that you will comply with our wish and that you will not only answer with the statistical sections but especially that you will give us details concerning the works which you are performing, their moral results and the good which you expect to accomplish. … Before leaving this consideration, may we add a few technical details. It is hoped that in totaling the amount of your income and disbursements you will terminate as of October 31st. Thus we will be enabled to give to the Conferences the exact amount of revenues for the year.”

Gossin continued, “We also pray you to send us the report by mail as soon as it is compiled. Each year we make greater and greater efforts to hasten the publication of the Report, and we hope this year to achieve our ambition.”

Our annual reporting requirements are important and have always been part of our tradition. I echo our second President General’s request: Please get your reports in by the deadline so that we can publish our National Council Annual Report in a timely manner. It is by this means of accountability that we can give testimony to the good we accomplish together for so many.

Serviens in spe,

Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

P.S. I really enjoy history and will share a few more of Gossin’s insights during this year dedicated to his memory.

 

10-06-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leader

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It is often said that history is written by the winners. For example, if our country’s Revolutionary War had been won by the British, our Founding Fathers would have been largely forgotten traitors and Benedict Arnold might be remembered today as a protector of the Empire. Perspectives are largely formed through the prisms of those who have benefitted from the experiences.

Let’s consider this, then, from a Catholic perspective. Who decides when something is the work of the Holy Spirit?

We hear this all the time when something good happens, right? When our position wins in a courtroom battle, when a storm misses our home, and when just the right leader has taken our parish or our Society’s Council to greater heights, we thank the Holy Spirit for being present and gracious in our lives. But hold on a minute. Does this mean that the Holy Spirit was actively working against that other position, those other homes that were damaged by the storm, and those other candidates who offered to help but who weren’t selected to lead?

Is the Holy Spirit really that personally involved, and indeed even that capricious? That doesn’t sound like part of the Holy Trinity to me.

We know from the Book of Isaiah that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and neither are our ways the Lord’s ways. Thus, we can’t begin to understand the presence and plans of the Holy Spirit, except perhaps to believe that the Holy Spirit is always with us, from our worst days and most unspeakable tragedies and pain to our most joyous days and celebrations. It’s all part of God’s plans for us that we don’t, and may never, understand.

We can be defeatist about all this and assume that because it won’t matter anyway, let’s just sit and be God’s lump of clay, simply exist with as little effort as possible, and wait until He calls us home. Or, since you are probably a Vincentian reading this column, you have instead assumed that God put you here for a purpose. You may not fully understand that purpose, but you assume it is for good! You further understand that the Holy Spirit helps you develop your potential for that good.  The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is just one of the tools given to you to build your spiritual formation, to serve God’s chosen people the Poor, and to help develop the good in others, too. Indeed, how could the Society have blossomed around the world to more than 150 countries and 800,000 members without the Holy Spirit’s guidance?

Who decides when the Holy Spirit is at work? At times, at least, we do. Not only when, but where- in the streets, in homes, in prisons, in nursing homes, in hospitals and shelters, wherever we do our works of mercy and hope. It is there extensively, and consistently – every day around the country and around the world. We are the chroniclers of today’s presence of the Holy Spirit through our lives and service.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

09-22-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Editor’s note:

The following is a shortened version of the letter from Rev. Tomaž Mavrič, CM, Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission and leader of our Vincentian Family. Links to the compete letter in multiple languages are found later in this edition of the E-Gazette.

To the members of the Vincentian Family throughout the world:

Dear sisters and brothers,

May the grace and peace of Jesus be always with us!

We are fast-approaching the Feast of Saint Vincent that officially falls on 27 September, but, given the reality of a country, the celebration may be held on some other day to allow the greatest number of persons to attend.

We are seeing the return to in-person gatherings, which bring us joy and encouragement, since we are able again to witness as family, as persons of faith, participating in the Eucharist and other celebrations that a year ago were still hampered by the pandemic. This is an additional reason for us to put all our efforts and talents into making this observance of the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul a memorable one after these past few years of very limited gatherings or their prohibition.

In fact, the whole month of September is called a Vincentian month. Depending on the structure and program of the Vincentian Family in a given country, different events, gatherings, and initiatives may be offered throughout the month. These might include days of recollection for youth who are discerning a vocation to the consecrated life, as well as formation and charity initiatives to deepen our Vincentian spirituality and charism. We also invite others, who may not know Saint Vincent de Paul and the other Saints, Blessed, and Servants of God of the Vincentian Family, to get to know our Vincentian spirituality and charism through our words and deeds.

The title of this year’s letter for the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul is, “From a Vincentian Family Structure toward a Vincentian Family Movement” and “Vincentian Centers of Spirituality and Formation around the world.”

Not so long ago, the international leaders of the different Vincentian Congregations of Consecrated Life and Lay Associations began to gather every year to build closer relationships and collaboration, as belonging to the same spiritual and charismatic group, even though each one retained its own specificity and uniqueness. This group began to be called “the Vincentian Family” and was symbolized by a tree with many branches. The central part of the tree with is roots is our common Vincentian spirituality and charism, and each branch represents an individual Congregation or Association. That is why we often use the word branches, having in mind the beautiful symbol of a tree.

The structured groups of Women’s and Men’s Congregations, and Lay Associations presently number 165. In addition, many other people, attracted and inspired by the person of Saint Vincent de Paul and the other Saints, Blesseds, and Servants of God of the Vincentian Family, do not belong officially to any of its branches. They are drawn to the Vincentian spirituality and charism through books, articles, the internet, radio, television, and social media. They would like to further their knowledge of the Vincentian way of thinking, speaking, and living, thus becoming active participants in the spirit of Saint Vincent de Paul, having the right to be called “Vincentians.” Already, a large number of persons who do not belong specifically to any group, because of their way of living out their lives, serving, thinking, speaking, and acting, embody the Vincentian spirit and charism. Here I see the further development of the Vincentian Family and this wonderful Vincentian Tree into what is becoming a so-called “Vincentian Family Movement.”

I would like to encourage all the international, national, and regional leaders of the structured branches of this beautiful tree called the Vincentian Family to invite as many members as possible of the Confraternities and the collaborators who do not belong to any specific group to participate in the different events that will be organized in the various countries throughout the month of September.

May Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Saint Vincent de Paul and all the Saints, Blesseds, and Servants of God of the Vincentian Family, intercede before Jesus for us all!

Your brother in Saint Vincent,
Tomaž Mavrič, CM

Please send us pictures and videos of the various celebrations you organized throughout the Vincentian month of September, or short articles about them, to these two email addresses, and we will try to share the information through different means of communication.

Javier Fernández Chento: chento@famvin.org

Hugo Marcelo Vera, CM: nuntia@cmglobal.org

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