Servant Leader

11-30-23 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Be Like Vincent

One of the many things I learned from Deacon Gene Smith, former President of the National Council, is that Vincent de Paul was actually a fundraiser. And not just a part-time, run-of-the-mill fundraiser, but one who set the standard for all of us.

So how do we non-saints (at least, that term applies to me) go about raising money to support our Conferences and those in need? After all, most of us are not professional fundraisers. It starts by creating a culture of philanthropy in your Conferences and Councils. I have seen firsthand how this type of culture can significantly increase funding — but only when people and organizations have the genuine desire to do so.

Where do we begin if we want to “Be Like Vincent?”

First: Become a Storyteller. Not just any storyteller, but someone who passionately shares with others the exceptional work of your Conference and/or Council. Tell people about the single mother you visited this week — how she is working two jobs and is still not able to pay her rent and utility bills because one of her young children has ongoing medical expenses. Talk about the veteran who skips meals in order to pay his rent, and the recently unemployed father who is desperately seeking work. These individuals would likely all become homeless if not for our efforts.

Although we might think we don’t have many stories to share, in fact, the stories are too numerous to count. Take a moment to reflect on the people you have met in just the last few days — I’m certain you’ll recall a story. I have often heard people say, “If only I had known about…. (fill in the blank) I would have gladly helped.” Let’s make sure they do know. We can tell our stories in-person, from the pulpit, during meals with friends and colleagues, in parish bulletins, in local newspapers, emails, mailings — the opportunities are virtually endless. The key is, we have to be willing to share the work we do as Vincentians with others. We simply must.

Second: Ask. Yes, ask. We cannot be afraid to ask others, anyone, everyone, if they would be willing to help a neighbor in need. Our true calling as Vincentians is to ask others to support our work. Some will say no, but think of how wonderful it is when someone says, “I’d love to help.” Not only are we then able to help more people in more ways, but we have also given the donor the opportunity to experience the joy and the satisfaction that comes with helping another person.

Few things bring as much fulfillment as knowing that our efforts made a real difference in the life of another. While I can still get nervous when asking someone for a gift to support St. Vincent de Paul, reciting the simple prayer “Come, Holy Spirit” reminds me that this is not about me. It’s never about me. It is between God and the other person. And even when someone says no, I’ve come to understand that many times, a no is simply a “not today.” Often at a later date, we receive a gift from that initial “no,” and it is sometimes far greater than anything we would have imagined.

Third: Say Thank YOU. Showing appreciation and gratitude — sharing with a donor how she or he made a “real difference” in the life of another person. Saying Thank YOU in person, on the phone, via email, and maybe best of all, through (multiple) handwritten notes, is essential. It is almost impossible to show too much gratitude, yet very easy to show too little.

I have never heard a person express unhappiness for being thanked multiple times. But I can’t begin to count the number of times when someone shared disappointment about being overlooked. An unexpected thank you letter, especially months later after a gift, provides another opportunity to “story tell” about how an individual’s contribution helped change lives and/or save lives. This is one of the greatest blessings we can provide to our donors. Additionally, showing genuine gratitude goes a long way toward helping secure future gifts, larger gifts, monthly gifts, planned gifts, and even estate gifts.

Creating this culture of philanthropy isn’t difficult, but it does take a real commitment. It doesn’t require an advanced degree or a high-priced consultant to be successful — what it does require is a Vincentian desire, to Be Like Vincent, to continue his legacy, and to become our own hero using the three steps to guide you:

  • share stories
  • ask others
  • show gratitude.

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from the movie A League of Their Own, when Tom Hanks (Jimmy) tells Geena Davis (Dottie; who just informed him that she was quitting the baseball team he manages because it got too hard):

It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.

If every Vincentian told one story each week (just one) and asked one person each week to support our mission (just one) and wrote one thank you letter each week (just one) — countless new individuals would become part of our Vincentian family, enabling us to serve more people. We would change our community. We would change our country. We would change our world. Think of how proud Vincent de Paul would be with each of us.

Please let me know how you are doing. Call or email me, I really mean that. I can be reached at (480) 556-7122 or  I’d love to hear from you, learn from you, and offer any thoughts or suggestions as each of us strives to “Be Like Vincent.”

Advent and Christmas blessings, and a prosperous New Year — may this be one of those resolutions we really do keep.

God Bless,
Steve Zabilski
2nd Vice President and Chair of the National Development and Communications Committee

11-22-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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We tend to think of Thanksgiving as uniquely American, and in some ways it is. Over 400 years ago the Pilgrims in the Plymouth colony shared a harvest meal with the people indigenous to the area. Who knows, maybe there were turkeys involved. We do know that first Thanksgiving helped bring people together; it helped build relationships.

Over 200 years later in the midst of the destruction of the Civil War, President Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving, again trying to unite the nation. It wasn’t until 1942, during World War II, that Thanksgiving Day was declared a national holiday, again uniting the country.

But “thanksgiving” didn’t start in America. Gathering around a table to give thanks has been part of our Christian tradition since the time of Jesus. The last meal Christ ate with his apostles on Holy Thursday night was a thanksgiving celebration. The word “Eucharist” is Greek for “giving thanks.” We continue to give thanks each time the Mass is celebrated.

We, as Vincentians, have much to be grateful for. Personally, I am grateful for my now deceased parents, my wife and sons, as well as my friends. I have a good career, as well as my health — that is a lot, but there are other things for which I am also grateful.

As each of us live our lives, we are instinctively searching to find our place in the world. We each have a place where God wants us to be; our mission is to find it. Some people do, sadly some do not. We Vincentians are uniquely blessed in that we have found our vocation through the Society. We are where we ought to be, with our Vincentian friends, nourishing our spiritual growth through service to our neighbors in need.

Whether we serve through Home Visits, visiting those without homes where they are, helping at a homeless shelter or food pantry, or serving the Society in other ways, we are all doing the same thing together — building relationships with those who need it most.

Notice I didn’t focus on the material which we may provide. That is important, but not paramount. What is most important, and for which we should be most grateful, is the opportunity that is given to us to listen to those who may not have been truly listened to in years, to form friendships with those who may have no friends. Even if our Conference is low on funds, just being present can be the most valuable gift.

Vincentians visit those in need in pairs. We do the work together, so we can lean on each other. The task before us may be large, but nobody is expected to do it alone. We give thanks for our Vincentian friends with whom we share the burdens. We cannot do it all ourselves, but together we can do almost anything.

As we gather around our Thanksgiving Day tables, in addition to all the other thing we recall, let’s be thankful for finding our vocations as Vincentians.

Peace and God’s Blessings,
John Hallissy
1st Vice President and Chair of the National Governance Committee

11-15-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Next week, we start what is the traditional year-end holiday season that extends through early January.

Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, New Years. Food, prayer, presents, parties, and football. Usually a lot of food, a lot of presents, a lot of parties, a lot of football. More than enough food and parties to cause a lot of us to begin that new year with another new diet. More than enough presents to tempt us to cut up those credit cards and swear off debt. And more than enough football…. well actually, there is never enough football.

But is there enough prayer? Is there ever enough prayer?

The thing about holidays and Holy Days is that they focus us on prayer, gratitude, and spirituality. But what about all those other days that aren’t Sunday Mass days or holidays? When it’s bitter cold in mid-February and the car is stuck under a snow drift, do we pray? Or maybe — do we curse? When it is 115 degrees with 89% humidity in August, do we pray — or do we curse? When it’s just a plain ole normal day where nothing especially went right or wrong, do we pray? Or do we just let it go by, untouched by our spiritual selves? I admit, I’ve been on the wrong side of each one of those questions more times than I wish I had.

St. Vincent de Paul said, “Give me a man of prayer and he will be capable of everything. He may say with the apostle, ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me.’”

As Vincentians, we are women and men of prayer. And through that prayer, service, and friendship, we seek to grow in holiness and become closer to God and each other. Our meetings open and close with prayer. In our gatherings, we reflect and pray on scripture and other spiritual discussions. We sometimes pray with those we serve; we always pray FOR those we serve. Prayer is central to being a Vincentian.

So today, I pray that you and your families are blessed with happiness and peace this holiday season. I pray for those gone from us this past year who won’t be sitting around our Thanksgiving tables or won’t have presents under the tree. I pray today for an end to the war, violence, and hatred that has exploded across the globe. I pray today that civility, listening, and understanding return to our conversations and interactions in society. And I pray that those we serve find hope, healing, and relief from suffering.

And finally, I pray that when the holidays are over, the tree is back in the attic and it’s a normal boring Tuesday, that I pray. That day — and every day.

Peace and God’s blessings,

John Berry
National President

11-09-23 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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A recent airline announcement at the boarding gate caught my attention. Passengers are no longer permitted to carry previously purchased alcohol on board to consume. Of course, the airline is still pleased to sell you some in your seat. A pilot seated next to me said that “too many passenger fights showing up on the Internet” was the driving force behind this new federal regulation. In that case, it might have been easier to ban cellphone videos rather than alcohol!

People who want to get drunk on an airplane will find a way to do so. They might have several drinks at that bar just a few steps from the gate. They might mix alcohol with that Coke or Sprite they just bought in the post-security gift shop. So long as they don’t appear too intoxicated when boarding, they can manage around the regulation. Therefore it’s the law-abiding good person, as so often happens with regs and legislation, who is the real disadvantaged patron of the rule, intentional or not.

Before we cry about this unfairness, let’s first look in our Vincentian mirror. Chances are, we have our own rules for serving people in need that were created because of one or two bad experiences. Remember that guy who came to us every month for rent assistance? That’s why we limit our help to (number) of times annually. Remember that family who asked for rent, then utilities, then food, then anything else not bolted down? That’s why we now have a financial limit on how much we can spend per family. The exception has sometimes driven our policy for everyone. In some Conferences, the people who needed the most help ultimately restricted the help we can give anyone.

In the interest of “fairness,” have we made life harder for some whom we seek to serve? In a quest to standardize operations and financial decisions for our volunteers, have we bypassed or totally cut out conversations about support around the Conference table? Have we forsaken the opportunity for personalized service, and even sound judgement calls? Do our policies not only demonstrate that we don’t trust those we serve, but also that we don’t trust our own members?

Any two Vincentians might disagree on how much or how often to help someone in need. The personal encounters we have in our Home Visits provide us with more information, and context, than can be provided in an application form or initial phone call. I hear all the time how someone came to a Conference for help, and we gave them more than what they requested, because they didn’t know the scope of our resources. Or perhaps they were embarrassed to ask, but our visiting team saw the need and asked if the Society could please help.

Please take time at an upcoming Conference or Council visit to review your giving and other policies. Perhaps dollar limits were set when your group had a different level of available resources. An annual assessment based on the past year’s experiences and economy might be a good idea. Do your rigid policies need to be only softer guidelines, subject to what we see and in individual cases and subsequent discernment?

Can policy be replaced in part with member training, so that everyone understands the need for some restraint but operates at a judgement level informed by experience and observations?

Can part of every Conference meeting be devoted to discussing those we serve, their needs and requests, and recommendations from our visitors for the Conference to decide together?

As a parent, would you ever limit your child to asking for help only once every year, or every quarter? Of course not. We might instead have to say No to some of their requests. The difference between the policy restriction and the individual response is in the formation and strength of our relationships. Help desks and nameless bureaucrats limit requests. Real people, especially Vincentians, listen whenever possible and seek solutions together even if money isn’t always available. We are the Face of Christ to those we serve. Would Christ ever tell us to come back and pray again for help in 6 or 12 months?

Resources are always limited. God’s love, however, is infinite. How can we as Society members do better to take both in consideration as we serve our neighbors?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

11-02-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? I don’t mean running a 10K, bench pressing 300 pounds, or completing the New York Times crossword in record time. No, I mean what was really the hardest thing you have ever done? Was it to leave home and venture out on your own? Was it to ask that pretty girl out on the first date that resulted in a lifetime of love and family? Was it to leave an unhealthy relationship or change an unhealthy behavior? Was it letting go when you really didn’t want to? Was it leaving that comfortable, well-paying, secure job to take a shot at a new opportunity?

And why did you choose to do that thing? Close your eyes a minute and think about it.

OK, welcome back. I don’t know what you might have decided was the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but I am pretty sure that whatever it was, there a very important factor that was involved in your decision to do it: Vision.

When you began the thought process about that decision, I am willing to bet that (consciously or unconsciously) you went through a process of imagining the ‘other side’ of it. You had a vision of the consequences of success — or  failure.. And as you contemplated your decision, you asked yourself “Imagine if I …”

Underlying that vision was an even more important factor: Faith.

Your faith — in yourself,  in others, and  in God — was the underlying core that made that vision something attainable and realistic, and thus gave you the courage to move forward. Likewise, in the decision process a lack of faith in any of those things might have given you the red light to say ‘No, this isn’t something I want to do/try/begin.’

In a few months we will begin what I have called our SVdP USA ‘Family Conversation.’  It is an opportunity for us to journey together in an exploration of the challenges and opportunities we have as we adapt to a changing world; just as we are called to do by The Rule, Part 1, 1.6.  As we work together in this guided process over the next few years and journey together to adapt to a changing world, let’s keep those two very important principles in our minds.

Vision: “Imagine if we …”

Faith: “What is God calling us to do as his workers in the field to support our Sisters and Brothers in Christ?”

Because if we can answer those questions and do the hard things that result from them, then we will create a beautiful foundation for the future and those who follow us in this amazing vocation.

Remember the words of St. Paul: “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”

Peace and God’s blessings,

10-26-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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Imagine my surprise when I saw several young adults at National Assembly wearing my chosen brand of athletic shoes. It was even more surprising to learn that their choices were based on seeing me wear the shoes at the Midyear meeting!  I had not chosen to be a “fashion influencer;” my shoe choice was based on having plantar fasciitis, and my trying not to scream with every step!

We are often influenced by others when they don’t realize it, and sometimes we don’t realize it either. A coach will tell athletes to make their bed in the morning and it gets done, even though the parents have tried without success for the same results over and over again. We wear something because someone on television wore it. We pick up language patterns from our parents and friends, mostly unintentionally.

As Vincentians, we may not realize how much of an example we set for others. We believe ourselves to be simple humble servants, but you may be heroes to other parishioners in the pews because you take on work for the poor that they appreciate but don’t feel comfortable doing themselves. You set an example for those we serve through your compassion and willingness to listen and to help. You also exhibit an example of perceived financial stability and success.

It is said that one’s character is who you are when no one is looking. We know as Vincentians that God is always looking! If you are a parent, you know that the kids are always looking – often at times you may not choose! Yet we may not be aware that others also see us when we aren’t thinking about providing any example, we are simply living our lives. We are who we are even when we aren’t “wearing the uniform” when we serve.

How many Conference or Council leaders act one way when leading a meeting, but seem to be completely different people when off of the meeting stage? How many of us are Saints when conducting a Home Visit encounter, but act, well, differently when among friends or family? Chances are, this difference in behavior and/or attitude is unintentional. It’s not that we are at times putting on a show; it’s more that we are aware of our capacity as example-setter when in certain situations and we want to perform in an exemplary manner.

Being the best we can be is hard work, even for small periods of time. We can’t be perfect every waking moment, even when we try. That’s okay, God is forgiving, certainly more than we may be for each other. Let’s give each other, and ourselves, some grace in those moments when we aren’t at our best.

That said, let’s work in our Vincentian lives to remember our role as community exemplars. We wear the Society of St. Vincent de Paul label as we serve our Church and the Poor, and granted, that can be a lot to live up to each day. Let’s nonetheless be intentional regarding our individual and collective language, behavior, appearance and anywhere else that may serve as an example for others.

Let’s work not only to talk the talk, but also to walk the walk. Apparently, I can recommend the right shoes!

10-19-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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During my career in business and government service we often found ourselves talking in an internal shorthand that made perfect sense to us but was usually very confusing to new members of the team, and nearly everyone outside the team. These acronyms, as they are called, are so common and confusing that many times you’ll find an ‘acronym list’ at the beginning of reports, books, or reference material so that people reading it can understand what they mean!

The use of these acronyms becomes so prevalent that oftentimes we don’t even realize we’re using them. And that is not good for clarity and understanding when we are discussing things as a Conference or a Council.

Take the term, Home Visit, for example. We all know what it means, right? Well, maybe not. A new Vincentian working in the Food Pantry or the Thrift Store may not feel they are participating in Vincentian service because they have never walked into someone’s ‘home.’  A Vincentian visiting a neighbor in need at a homeless shelter, or on the street, may wonder if they are doing ‘Home Visits.’

Interestingly, the words ‘Home Visit’ never appear in The Rule.

What does appear? The words “Personal encounters or visits.”

‘Home Visit’ has become our internal ‘code’ for the human-to-human, Christ-centered ENCOUNTERS we have with our neighbors in need. Of course we do Home Visits, it is a bedrock and foundation of that Christ-centered human ENCOUNTER. But that does not mean it is the only way we encounter and help our neighbors in need. Every encounter we have, whether it be in a home, a thrift store, a food pantry, a kitchen, a medical clinic, a classroom, or under the tree in a park, is a human-to-human Christ-centered opportunity for us to live our Vincentian vocation and grow in holiness.

Peace and God bless,
John Berry
SVdP National President

10-12-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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A few years ago, we added to the Invitation For Renewal content a new item under the Governance learning session. This guidance on “first steps for Society leaders” has been highly requested as a workshop. Instead of limiting this to a few dozen meeting participants, I present it here instead for everyone to see. Why everyone? Because if you are not a newly elected leader yourself, then you are a follower of one and you certainly want to be helpful. If both you and the leader know the priorities, you can plow through the steps offered below and be confident that the Conference or Council is operating legally and with the infrastructure checked for moving forward.

If you have just been elected to a Presidential term at your Council or Conference, it may feel overwhelming. Where to begin? What needs to be done, and maybe done first? What compliance issues, for example, were left behind from the former President, or maybe not validated for (gulp) years? Instead of assuming that everything is in order and risking all sorts of problems, take the time to check, review and update to start your term on the proper footing. Please remember that a leader’s job is not to do stuff, but to get stuff done. Use your fellow members to divide and conquer the tasks below and speed up this process to focus more quickly and securely on serving others.

Here then, in no order, are the 14 first things you need to do as a Society leader pending any hanging-fire, emergency operational decisions. After each item, I suggest how often the information needs to be reviewed thereafter.

  1. Have your Articles of Incorporation been filed and located? (ONCE) Review this critical state document to be sure that you are still are “who you say you are” and in compliance. It may have been filed decades ago! This may only apply to your Council.
  2. Are your Bylaws current and adequate for your existing structure? (3-5 Years) Do your bylaws match your operations, including new Special Works or your board membership? Are you using the approved national sample bylaws appropriate for type of organization?
  3. Is your tax-exempt status current for every part of your organization? (Annual) Since 2017, most Councils have changed their federal status to be apart from the Church. Have the Conferences been included appropriately, or separated out by design? What about your stores and other Special Works? Who is responsible for filing the annual IRS Form 990 or 990EZ?
  4. Do you have current Liability insurance and Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance coverage? (Annual) Does your carrier have the board roster? Who has been paying these bills? Do Conferences need their own insurance, or are they under the Council’s coverage?
  5. Are the bank account signatories up to date? (Annual and after Elections) Are deceased leaders still on your bank accounts? Who should be allowed to sign the checks?
  6. Are officers keeping to proper terms of office and proper elections? (Annual) This needs to be monitored and held to, as it can quickly slip into improper over-staying as a President.
  7. Who will follow us? Succession planning begins now! (Always) A Vice President is not assumed as the “heir apparent” in the Society. A good leader is always cultivating future leaders. Don’t wait for the next election to get started!
  8. Are regular meetings being held, with Agendas? (Always) Does each meeting include the Society’s three Essential Elements? Are meetings held in compliance with the Rule’s minimum number?
  9. Are we following the Rule? (Always) Leaders must know and review this critical document to be sure we are operating properly as Vincentians and SVDP members. Consider reviewing Rule sections at your meetings.
  10. Do we have current annual and strategic plans? (Annual) These should be active documents for your organization to chart the future. Do we all agree on where we are going?
  11. Are we following an approved budget? (Annual) A budget is the annual plan in numbers. Has the leadership and membership approved your direction, and know the finances needed to get there?
  12. Do we have current job descriptions for our leaders? (Annual) Not just for staff, but also for volunteers? What can we change based on recent experiences?
  13. Do we have the appropriate governance policies for the Board, staff relationships, CEO Limitations? (Annual) Is the Board and staff on the same leadership page? How can this be improved? Check all the various policies you may need for your operations, including Safeguarding.
  14. Are we monitoring the financial health of the organization? (Monthly) Don’t let small problems become big ones due to neglect or indifference. Even small Conferences can have huge financial swings, so stay on top of the numbers together.

If you can work as a team to feel confident about the status of each of these important items, your Council and Conference is poised for Vincentian action. This pause during a new election cycle is prevention against the entire organization stopping in its tracks when a bigger problem arises. Don’t assume anything, or wait until you are caught in expensive noncompliance; get it right, right from the start!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

10-5-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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This past weekend, I was in New Jersey to attend the Sunday Night NY Jets game at the Meadowlands (sometime in the past I must have done something really bad to have been burdened with the unique torture of being a committed NY Jets football fan). While there I attended Mass at St. Joseph’s Parish is East Rutherford, NJ. Waiting for Mass to begin, I was looking over the parish bulletin.

I was struck by their Mission Statement, prominently displayed on the cover page. It read: “A community of communities where each person can encounter Christ and lead others to him. Our vision is what you do for the least one, you do for Me.” What a beautiful expression of faith, friendship, and service.

It certainly occurred to me that it was a statement that could apply to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We are truly a community of communities; diverse in our backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, ages, genders, and races, yet united in our faith and our commitment to serve the least of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We lead people to Christ not by our words, but by our actions. To paraphrase St. Francis, we “Preach the Gospel at all times through our service, and when necessary, we use words.”

I am truly honored and blessed to be able to serve you over the next six years as your National President. It is my hope and my prayer that I will have the opportunity to meet you all in visits to you or at National and Regional meetings. I want and need to hear from you about what you think and what you need from me, our new Board of Directors, and our tremendous National staff to support your efforts to live out our three essential elements of spirituality, service, and friendship.

To that end, and as I discussed in my inaugural remarks at the National Assembly in September (you can view the video here), I am asking us, as a Society, to embark on a two-year period of conversation, discernment, and prayer to look at our future and adapt to the changing world we are in. Our Rule calls us to periodically do just that. We will model our discussion on a synodality process. Synodality is a Greek word that comes from ‘journey’ and ‘together.’ We will journey together is a conversation and discernment that will guide us as we build a bridge to the future so that our community of communities can and will continue to encounter Christ through our service and help lead others to him through our example.

You will hear a lot more about this exciting journey in the months to come.

Peace and God bless,

09-28-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

09-28-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

This is my last Servant Leader column as your National Council President. It has been my privilege to have served you in this role for the past six years. Thank you for your support and prayers.

The columns I have written over these years have been reviewed and edited by my friend Ernie Stetenfeld, who succeeded me as CEO of the Madison Council. When I retired, I asked if he would continue to edit my writing, which he has done faithfully. I am grateful to him for that favor. When he would send the review copy back to me, he frequently commented on what he liked about the column and always provided a “track changes” version. Sometimes, I would ask what it was he liked since there were more red changes than the black original in his revisions, to which he responded that “it had good bones.” Thank you, Ernie; you made me look good.

Ernie is just one of a whole cast of Vincentians that I was privileged to serve with during my term. We had an excellent Board of Directors, and I am especially grateful for the work of the Executive Committee: Vice President Brian Burgess, Treasurer Jim Dodd, Secretary Guadalupe Sosa, and CEO David Barringer. In addition to the Board, we have been well served by our many committees and the staff at our National Office. As David Barringer pointed out in this column last week, in spite of having to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we accomplished a lot in the past six years because of this great team.

Certainly, the next few years will be crucial to the future success of our organization. The Society in the United States is well-positioned to succeed under the leadership of John Berry and his newly appointed Board of Directors. I have confidence in his leadership and the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Please use the tools we have made available so that we build upon a firm foundation. The most important of these resources are the Standards of Excellence. Continue to use them to be sure we have good governance of our Society and are following the best practices they detail. We also have dozens of excellent training materials available, as well as a revised Vincentian Pathway tool to help our members access the guidance they need most. Please use these materials; if you do, we will have a stronger organization — one better prepared to welcome new members and to serve our neighbors in need effectively and compassionately.

Some have asked what I will do with my newly acquired free time. I hope to enjoy having fewer commitments, less email and fewer meetings. As was announced at the National Assembly several weeks ago, however, our new International President General, Juan Manuel Gómez, has appointed me as the Vice President of the International Council General. I am grateful for his trust in me to contribute to the success of the International Council, which will involve continuing my work with international twinning and disaster aid. Beyond that, I suppose my work, like that of any vice president, will include “other duties as assigned.”

As I wrap up these six years, I look back on the importance of Vincentian friendship. The friendships I have found in the Society over 35 years have sustained and inspired me. Those friends are now spread all over the world. I hope your vocation in the Society is built on what is now very well-articulated in our new Mission Statement. We are: “A network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.”

This Mission Statement reveals the heart of how our founders understood the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Living in separate cities four years after founding the Society, Frederic Ozanam wrote this to his friend and cofounder Auguste Le Taillandier: “As each of us grows older, may we also grow in friendship, piety, and zeal for good!”

That is also my parting wish for each of you, my friends: “As each of us grows older, may we also grow in friendship, piety, and zeal for good!”

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

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