Servant Leader

05-26-2022 A Letter from Our Servant Leaders

05-26-2022 A Letter from Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

It is difficult for us to process the recurring news about mass shootings whether we try to do so as Americans, Catholics, or as family members. As Vincentians, however, perhaps we can add constructively to the conversation and to the question of “What can we do?”

This column won’t address the Second Amendment or gun control issues. Rather, as Vincentians we focus our prayers and services on people. What do we know, and what can we do?

We know that poor health (physical, and especially mental), leads to unhealthy situations including marriage challenges, rage issues, workplace violence, and child abuse. Many of us act differently when we are in pain, even if from a simple headache. Chronic pain often leads to worse choices and outcomes. Some pain leads to depression, hopelessness, and “acting out” in many forms. In our work with families, we can see more readily than most how deficiencies of income, health, medicine, and general medical care intersect, often in potentially dangerous ways. We know that some of our friends in need must make a choice between buying food or medicine. And since food is often for one’s entire family, food wins. If the medicine is for a mental or psychological condition that may not even manifest in physical pain, it can be an easier if more dangerous choice.

Some of our Councils have started free and least-cost pharmacies to help. With such support, a person in need has more money available for other basic needs. Some folks can’t even afford a doctor visit co-pay, so anything we can do is helpful in daily-life terms. Other nonprofits have initiated a prescription program in concert with their returning citizens work, wherein someone gets diagnosed and prescribed a mail order medicine before prison release and it carries forward when they are home. Imagine the mental health issues alone that are avoided with this program for a vulnerable returning citizen!

We look at not only emergency needs but also systemic change solutions for our neighbors in need to mitigate or even exit their poverty situation. We may need a more strategic look at how mental health services, medicines assistance, and general healthcare intersect with other poverty challenges. Vincentians don’t need to be the medical providers, but we can help organize the dollars, transportation, and scheduling and/or arranging the visits needed. All of this will require collaboration with public health offices, healthcare providers, funders, pharmacies, and other important players. We are pretty good at this in other areas of our work, notably food pantries and utility payments. Consider this another stream of basic needs we can contribute toward for those we serve.

We won’t know if helping someone manage their money to afford both healthcare and proper nutrition will result in positive societal outcomes. What we already know is that any help we can provide against the root causes of poverty is good help, and that no act of charity is foreign to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Even in such pain and tragedy as the national news brings us all too often, God is trying to tell us something. Those we serve have more than financial needs. Our Home Visits provide social interactions which, even by themselves, support mental health by having trusted friends to talk to in difficult times. We have such a unique perspective of being with people and families in need where they live. While we are not trained to diagnose, we can observe and listen, and then make services connections and offers to help with healthcare costs.

In our Council and Conference meetings, let’s broaden our discussion about how to help our neighbors and explore how we might support, and even lead, community health access and supports. In discernment and prayer, let’s partner as needed to do more. If needed services already exist in our community, we can at least advertise and refer.

All of this may never save one single life from a senseless shooting. Yet how many more shall we learn about before we ask if there is something, anything, we can do as Vincentians to help prevent this?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

05-19-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-19-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

One of my earliest leadership roles was in the fourth grade. I started a Legion of Super Heroes club among my classmates, based on a popular comic book at the time. Each of us took on the identity of one of the heroes – there were about 25 of them, thus a “legion” – and played that character’s role during the meetings we held at recess. I was, no laughing please, the Invisible Kid. In the comics the Kid was the elected leader, had a pretty cool uniform – with a headband! – and it could have been worse, like being Matter-Eater Lad whose superpower was, correct, to eat all kinds of matter.

As with many things at that age, the club lasted about three weeks. On the other hand, no super-villains ever attacked our school.

I learned at that point some valuable lessons. One, girls who were not that interested in boys anyway at that age, were even less interested in boys pretending games. Different members need their own motivation for joining and staying in a group. Second, and most important, was that you can have a cool name, interesting mission and, in this case, all the logos you could ever want, but you better have something tangible do at the meetings.

Here we are today with almost the same challenges. We might even argue that super villains really do exist, but that’s for another column.

We meet every two weeks or so with a group of heroes – we call them Vincentians. We don’t have a Legion, but we do have a Society, and it’s even global. The group has a cool name, a very interesting and important mission and, somewhat unfortunately, even multiple logos!

When we invite new heroes to join us and save the world, or at least make our neighborhood better by caring for those within it, what do these recruits see? Do they see bickering current members, more focus on the snacks that day than the mission, or discussions not resulting in action, the main heroic purpose? Do they leave without an assignment, a mentorship, or even a member handbook?

Heroes need purpose, or else they hang up their capes.

How blessed I was to learn this at age nine! Through the years, I had plenty of other formal and informal leadership roles, as have most of us. We lead in our families, jobs, military, clubs, sports teams and even in our group of friends. Leadership decisions might range from formal goal setting to figuring out where to go tonight to have some fun. We set budgets, we organize and motivate the group for some purpose, and we evaluate our work for the next time. We might even do this without thinking about leadership concepts or lessons to carry forward.

It amazes me when someone is elected as a Conference President and act as if they have never led a group! Or worse, they did lead but apparently didn’t learn much from the experience. They act as if leadership is something new at the age of 60, or 70 or older.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has it own rules (and Rule!) for its leaders, tested and confirmed over decades. Every leadership experience has its unique set of rules of the game. If we choose to see it as such, it’s what makes it fun! Every rule set allows for different innovations and approaches, even when the basic leadership skills are more or less the same.

Please consider the various leadership roles you have experienced. You were thrust into some by circumstances, others you were elected into, and some you no doubt took on because no one else was willing to lead. However you got there, remember that God put you there. Just as He does with all aspects of our lives, God gave us these past opportunities to prepare for future opportunities. As we reflect on each of these experiences, let’s ask what we learned, or should have learned, and how that might help us in our Society leadership roles today. Also, how did these experiences help us to be better followers of other Society leaders?

We all know the saying of “live and learn” and appreciate its truth. To “lead and learn” as we approach new Society leadership opportunities allows us some confidence. We have the experience, maybe just not here. God has provided it for us if we just review the life He has blessed us to live. Everything He has given us prepares us for the moment before us!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

05-12-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-12-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

Every week, it seems we Catholics are asked for our positions of the social crisis of the day. For a religion that is so often ridiculed or ignored by the media, they sure do ask often for our opinions!

It fascinates me that our brothers and sisters in different faiths are rarely asked how they feel as a religion about the issues of the day. No, the Catholics are the standard. I choose that word intentionally.

We know that Catholics disagree with each other – just attend any Conference meeting! We also know that some Catholics are at odds with the Church on various issues including life, immigration and borders, climate, and others. We overlook sometimes that our faith is somewhat unique in that it has actual positions, derived over years – sometimes hundreds and even thousands – and that these positions are written down for everyone to see. When a Pope even suggests a departure through imprecise words from these positions, it makes worldwide news.

When some disagree strongly, they may face a crisis of conscience leading even to a departure from the Catholic faith, although many would tell you that they disagree only with the Church and not with the faith. They still believe in Christ and how He died for our sins. They just disagree with the “politics” of the Church. Which is also interesting in that using political yardstick measures, the Church is liberal in some regards and conservative in others. This is not inconsistency; in fact, the Church is remarkably consistent. Maintaining clear and consistent values can lead the Church to the right for some individual issues and to the left for others.

As a Vincentian and as a Catholic, you may be asked for your opinion of the Society’s position on the topic of the day. The Rule provides us with guiding elements to help us. The first is in Part III, Statute 29 on our Relationship with Civil Society. The Society does not identify with any political party, we are nonviolent, we bring Christian values to political matters, and those holding political offices are asked not to hold any “mission of representation” within the Society while in office. That alone covers a lot of ground these days!

The second relevant element is in the Rule, Part I, 5.3, in which the Society recognizes the right and duty of the diocesan bishop to confirm that the Society acts in accordance with Catholic faith and morals. In other words, while we are officially autonomous of the Church (see I.5.2), we maintain a close relationship with the church hierarchy and its values. Many of the political battles and policy decisions we face come down to moral decisions, don’t they?

The third relevant element is not in the Rule but in the Manual of the National Council of the United States, in Section 2.1: Speaking for the Society. It’s one simple sentence: “Only the National President may ‘speak for the Society’ on national issues. For local issues, this is delegated to the Council President.”

It is tempting, when asked for your opinion, to give it! As Americans, we enjoy freedom of speech. This freedom, however, does not extend to us speaking on behalf of most organizations to which we belong, including the Society. It can be challenging to hold one’s tongue when the issue is important and we have such brilliant commentary, but please do resist when asked about “your take” on any Society position.

Allow me to offer two alternatives. When asked for my opinion “as a Catholic” I can often respond by directing the inquirer to the local bishop or to the USCCB. When asked by media for my view as a Vincentian, I let them know that even as the national CEO I don’t speak for the Society, but often I will add a question of my own. “What are the consequences of this issue, intentional and perhaps unintentional, for the poor? Please consider them in forming your story.”

Catholics, through the formal Church and its many informed and cause-related organizations, have a voice, even if this voice is sometimes ridiculed or ignored. The poor, however, often have no voice at all. It seems that every social issue affects them more than everyone else, and usually negatively. As Vincentians we can work to free their own voice, or if not possible, work to speak on their behalf.

As noted above, the Catholic viewpoint is often used as a standard. Let our Vincentian actions speak as standards of love and care for our neighbors, humility, and everyday work to make our world a better place for all. Our own lives are testament to our Catholic faith and values. By our lives we can be the standard for Good.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

05-05-2022 A Letter From Your Servant Leaders

05-05-2022 A Letter From Your Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Last weekend the National Football League held its annual draft of college players. It has become a major sports-media event as team managers take their turns identifying the new talent their teams need to complement their current rosters. Fans are interested in these picks and speculate on the contribution of new players for the future of their teams. Are you a talent scout? Do you work to build the Society of St. Vincent de Paul team by identifying the people in your community who might have the talent your Conference needs?

Who is your replacement? That was a frequent question my friend Mary Steppe would raise in talks when she was the vice president for the North Central Region. None of us can forecast how long we will be in a position to do our Vincentian service. Do you have a roster of talent ready to grow and strengthen our organization?

I encourage each of you, regardless of your position in the Society, to be a talent scout and recruiter. Unfortunately, some Conferences are satisfied with their current roster and don’t feel the need to actively look for new members. If there are enough members to do the work, then why look for additional people? Adding new people might rock the boat. Eventually, however, a once-thriving Conference with that sort of perspective will struggle to maintain a healthy membership.

Too often I have seen Conferences just rely on people to “sign up” at a parish talent day. That is not scouting and recruiting. Instead, try identifying people you think would make good Vincentians, and then talk with them about what the Society means to you. If we value what we do, each of us ought to be recruiting our replacements. For that purpose, nothing beats personal invitation.

The Society’s Rule tells us that our leaders “provide an encouraging atmosphere in which the talents, capacities and spiritual charism of the members are identified, developed and put to the service of the poor and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.”

Mary Steppe was good at providing that encouraging atmosphere and inviting people to take jobs. That is how you can position people to take leadership positions in the future. She pulled me into participating in the Society beyond my own Council by putting me on the National Stores Committee. When I became an Executive Director, she assigned me the task of presenting a workshop on the spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul. That first talk I gave was pretty awful, but it set me on a path that would lead me now to being on the International Council’s Historical Commission. This willingness to invite people to take on tasks big and small is necessary if we want to grow the leadership for our network of charity.

Take the opportunities available to grow the leadership of the future. A good team builds on the talent it has recruited. Provide good training, give new members responsibility and invest in their development. I encourage you to send members to your Regional Meeting, to the Invitation for Renewal leadership-formation program, and to our National Assembly. Soon, registration will open for our National Assembly in Baltimore. If you can send some of your members to that meeting, I guarantee they will come back with new ideas and the motivation to see our Society thrive.

Your efforts to build our Society may not be as high-profile as the NFL draft weekend, but I think what you do to scout and recruit our future leaders is far more important for the good of our communities.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

4-28-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

4-28-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1363 1363 SVDP USA

It surprises many people to learn that the function of advertising is not to create sales, but to build or drive traffic. Sure, that Buy One, Get One offer or sales price advertisement gets you into the store, but from there you still make a purchase decision on your user experience. In marketing terms, Promotion gets you in the door, but Place, Price, and Product close the sale.

I mention this because the same principles apply to recruiting volunteers, and in our case Vincentians. That pulpit talk or yard signs or parish bulletin announcements all have their place to get people into the recruiting space, usually a Conference meeting or a phone call from a member asking one to join. Personal invitations are often the magic key to a new member, however they come to you.

We suffer sometimes from great advertising but less than great first impressions and other follow-up with prospective members. How many times have a dozen parishioners come to an introductory meeting but are never seen again? Did we fail at genuinely welcoming them, giving them something meaningful to do, listening to their questions, or even simply describing who we are and what we can offer them in our Essential Elements of Spirituality, Service, and Friendship? Don’t shoot the messenger of advertising and promotion; instead improve our product introduction and its benefits!

Product in our case is the set of local Society activities including service to the poor, spiritual formation and the friendships we build through Society membership. Place is the distribution models we use to deliver our services in neighborhoods, provided once again post-pandemic face to face, which is so unique and allows us to see the Face of Christ. The Price is the commitment to meet and to pray regularly, and to serve others as one is able. Since we often hear that Vincentians receive so much more than we give, our “price” of membership is quite reasonable!

Most of this member marketing process is local. After all, that’s where we hold our Conference meetings and where we conduct our works.  Yet the larger Councils, including the National Council, have supportive roles to play. These larger groups can “advertise’ through media on a larger scale than your neighborhood, and build relationships with people and groups in large numbers. This is especially true when we seek out greater diversity in our members, whether it be through age, ethnicity, skill sets, or other distinguishing characteristics.

As this week’s e-Gazette is published, the National Council is promoting the Society at two national Catholic events. The first is Raices Y Alas, a convening built upon the strengths of the recent V Encuentro process for Hispanic Catholics. The second is the annual gathering of Young Catholic Professionals, designed for adults up to 40 years of age. Both groups are important as recruiting opportunities for the Society, and so we will sponsor, provide scholarships, have an exhibition booth, and most importantly, send current Society members to talk up our works and our sincere invitation to join with us.

But none of this activity or expense will recruit one single new member.

No, this week’s work is an investment on behalf of our local Councils and Conferences to start the ball rolling toward local recruitment – that selfsame Product, Price, and Place discussed above. These national events may result in some specific names of people interested in joining, which will be sent to the local Council where they reside. The greater benefit, we pray, is that the events add to the Society’s favorable exposure for participants to learn more about us over time and inquire about joining on their own terms and timetables.

Such marketing investment should not be limited to a few times a year, or only through national event participation. It needs to be consistent (in other words, our branding) and continuous, too, because people are ready to listen to our message on their schedule, not ours. The truth is that we all need to be recruiting at the national, Council and Conference levels all the time, creating a pipeline for new members. Again, however, all those sales leads end up at your local door where they can be turned into members – or just turned away.

There has never been a time in our Society’s history, locally or globally, when we had enough members. Even Conferences that have hundreds of members (yes, these do exist!) should welcome more members seeking their way to greater holiness! Too many members for our parish boundaries? Twinning isn’t just about money; share your membership wealth with more needy neighborhoods. Expand your programs – often our limitations aren’t about funds, they are about people capacity. The needs will always be greater than our membership.

It’s funny how memberships evolve. Every year, we all tend to get one year older! Therefore, we have a constant need to replenish our member ranks, even if those new members are in their retirement years. What are we doing – today – to market and build our ranks of faithful servants trying to get to Heaven?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

4-21-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

4-21-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 520 468 SVDP USA

A priest, not a C.M., gave a homily, about service to others. Father’s final comments, “Remember the less fortunate, and when you see a needy person, look to see the face of Christ in their faces. In all we do, it is important to take care of the children and the elderly. That is what our faith and our Lord wants us to do, especially the young and the old.” Father could have been talking about our Society. Our service goes beyond financial assistance, food, and clothing. We take care of our neighbors in need, as well as provide a safe environment whether in our Home Visits, dining rooms, or thrift stores.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul lives out the belief that all individuals are created in the image and likeness of God and, thus, entitled to respect and dignity. Our mission includes protecting the rights of the weakest among us including the poor and vulnerable. In today’s world, the sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children is a problem of epidemic proportions and one that demands a response from us.  Such a response must not only include a position statement but the development of policies and programs that educate, screen, and protect the young and vulnerable from potential offenders and inappropriate interactions and situations.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People has given rise to a variety of programs and companies that are available to Catholic Dioceses, parishes, organizations, and outside groups. These range from full-service programs that offer member & volunteer databases, foundational and renewal courses, and background checks to locally developed and implemented programs. Each SVdP Council is encouraged to take a look at the various programs and models to decide what best meets the requirements of our national Safeguarding policy and the needs of their area and Council.

The task of developing a Safeguarding policy should take into consideration local policies, both as determined by your Diocese as well as officially authorized legal entities that the council/conference operates within. This may be an area that you will need to discuss with your appropriate legal advisor. It is recommended that exploration of the existing Catholic Diocesan Safe Environment Training (SET) program and screening processes used in your area can significantly aid in the development of your policy. Use of existing commercial Safe Environment training programs such as Virtus, Praesidium, and Catholic Mutual and their screening processes are already in place in many of our Councils’ areas and will offer the ability for compliance as requested in this important area.

Also, your insurance provider may have resources available that may be suitable for your specific jurisdiction and already are working with you on other liability issues, so a discussion with them on this topic may reveal a program that can be used.

Councils should consider how staff, vendors, volunteers, and contractors are able to safely voice any concerns through an established procedure, ensuring reporting abuse or potential abuse in a safe and secure manner. Employees, volunteers, sub-contracted agencies, vendors, and partners must receive your appropriate training on safeguarding annually and upon the start of a new working relationship.

Establish an efficient recording of all training and put a monitoring system in place.

Demonstrate how you will meet legal obligations of local, state, and federal guidelines.

Work with the local diocese to reflect their safeguarding policy as it meets the legal requirements. Identify responsible parties for internal investigations and reporting to authorities with written process in place to follow. Conduct background checks to prevent the employment of individuals in work with children and/or adults at risk where they have been barred by the state and federal authorities.

Display the Safeguarding policy in your facilities. Promote it to the community by sharing it with everyone including all volunteers, partners, vendors, contractors, and those you serve. Organize training that demonstrates how to handle situations that may occur, so your staff and volunteers are comfortable with the process.

Yes, there are questions, and the task force is here to help and will make every effort to assist Councils, albeit every diocese or jurisdiction has their own requirements. Our priority is a safe environment to protect our neighbors we serve, as well as Vincentians, employees, and volunteers.

We thank all Vincentians and councils for their efforts to create and advance their local Safeguarding policies. We appreciate the help from the national office, and members of the task force: Shirley Smalley, District President, Phoenix, AZ, Cathy
Wilhite, Executive Director, Peoria, IL, and Mark Zirnheld, CEO/Executive Director, Buffalo, NY. As stated by Pope Francis, “The protection of minors and vulnerable persons is an integral part of the Gospel message that the Church and all its members are called to proclaim throughout the world.” We are all there to follow the Gospel and teachings of our Society.  God bless you all.

Guadalupe E. Sosa
Chair, National Safeguarding Task Force

04-14-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

04-14-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

We Vincentians often say that we “see the face of Christ” in those we serve. Do we recognize the crucified people who surround us? Do we stand faithfully by them? How long and how far are we willing to accompany them?

During Holy Week, the Gospel accounts of Christ’s suffering and death are told with a great amount of detail that allows us to see the diverse responses of Jesus’ friends, enemies and followers. I wonder how we would have responded to the events that took place. Maybe we should look at how willing we are to expend the effort and take the risks necessary to stay with Him in the person of the suffering people we meet as Vincentians.

Some of us, like Saint Peter, may deny that we recognize those suffering injustice or poverty. Even though we have met them and been in their homes, we are often unwilling to identify with them or to advocate for their well-being as they suffer. We may not be like Judas and actually betray someone for money, but there are people in our communities who are willing to profit from misery and poverty. Are we willing to challenge those who prey on our neighbors in need?

I may be most like the disciples who would not stay awake and pray with the distressed and frightened Christ before he was taken prisoner. It is not that I am tired, but I often ignore the gravity of the events taking place and rest in the comfort of the status quo. I ignore Christ’s invitation to be alert and pray.

From the cross Christ prayed, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” This is a prayer found on the lips of many in this world. It is the prayer of those now suffering in war, of the refugees at all borders, including our own, of those who are homeless, of those who are ill, and of all living in our midst who suffer poverty in its many forms.

For us, standing at the foot of the cross may be making a home visit, eating a meal with a homeless family, or visiting a prisoner. We will not hear the cry of the poor unless we are willing to step out of our comfort zone. We may not be able to take the cup of suffering from them, but we are invited by Jesus to pay attention, to pray and to accompany them so that they may have hope and know they are not forgotten. As St. Louise de Marillac told the Daughters of Charity, “The love of Christ crucified compels us.”

In these times of suffering, wars and illness, we need to believe in the promise of the risen Christ. We serve in hope. May you and all you love have a blessed Easter.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

04-07-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leader

04-07-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leader 1363 1363 SVDP USA

The establishment of the U.S. Census by our nation’s founders was a genius move. While originally designed to help apportion members of the National Congress, later Census tallies helped us all to know more about our growing country’s population, its shifts from one region to another, its ethnicities, and its economics over time. A lot can happen in the ten years between the full Census counts!

We are now at a time when such a Census of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s membership is vital to understanding our capacity to serve. We have all heard about decaying Church membership – our “member prospect universe” – and the anxieties over whether or not some of the U.S. Catholic membership can rebound or is lost forever. A national pandemic that shut down Mass attendance along with so many other faith-based activities certainly did not help.

Within the Society, we are proud that during the pandemic, we kept going. It was for us a simple matter: people were still poor, so we kept serving them. We adjusted with virtual Home Visits and Conference meetings where we could, though we missed seeing the Face of Christ in person. What, though, has been the lasting impact on our membership numbers? Recruiting was more difficult when we could not meet with anyone interested in joining us, and many of the informal service opportunities that attract future Vincentians were suspended for weeks or months at a time.

Conversations among some of the Society’s English-speaking National Councils uncovered a disturbing recognition that up to 70 percent of their membership has not returned to serve. Some died, some moved away and others changed their contact information, and this happens all the time. The disturbing big change was that the habit of Vincentian service was so severely disrupted that some members “dropped out” either to express their faith in different ways, to retire from active Society services, or to fade away from the Society and perhaps from the Church itself.

For years now we have maintained a membership of approximately 100,000 Society members in the United States, serving in nearly 4,500 Conferences and other locations. For the first time, I’m not very confident that these numbers are accurate. You likewise should not assume that your local numbers, names, and contact data are the same as they were just three years ago.

We aren’t structured to perform a national Society Census; we are a grassroots organization at our core. I ask you to please be intentional in seeking out everyone you believe are your members, see if they are still willing to serve, and if you have all the membership data you need to operate your Councils and Conferences. We can’t assume this data any longer; we need to verify it to see where we truly are and then plan, likely much more vigorously, for member and Conference growth. While we pray that we have not lost 70 percent of our members, we should not be surprised that some loss has occurred at least temporarily.

A Society member census can be performed not just to count, but to re-engage our members. Consider the counting as a series of wellness checks on where our members are, and also what they need to come back into Vincentian service and regular meetings. Let’s work together to re-count, re-engage, and re-inspire our members toward their own spirituality through Society membership and service to others. And by the way, if you encounter potential new members along the way, invite them in!

We will only know where we are nationally with our membership numbers after we start to know more locally. In your counting process, please take the time to send the information up the line toward your local Council and the National Council with updated database input, improved Annual Report completion, and subscriptions to this e-Gazette. All this has benefit for your members to stay informed and to stay connected with all levels of the Society nationally.

With today’s inflationary pressures, which always affect the poorest the most harshly, we are needed in our neighborhoods more than ever. We don’t intend to be “small but mighty” to do our works. We prefer the “many hands make light work” approach! No matter our membership size, can’t we always welcome, or welcome back, someone else who desires to be closer to God?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

3-31-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

3-31-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1367 1520 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

For the past four and a half years, I have been privileged to serve as your National Council president. Now the process for identifying the candidates to be your next president begins. You will find the details of that process provided in next week’s edition of the e-Gazette. I have a year and a half left to continue in my leadership role. During that time, I plan to focus on advancing our Strategic Plan and strengthening the capacity of our network of charity to serve our neighbors in need.

An important element of a strong organization is a careful transition of leadership. The process for selecting the next president is established by National Council Resolution 131. The National Council Board has approved a committee chaired by Raymond Sickinger to oversee the process. Other trusted Vincentian members of the committee are Sr. Kieran Kneaves, Michael Syslo, Marie Wicks, and Gladys Hoerner, with David Barringer and me included as non-voting members. Please pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be with us throughout the process.

If you or someone you know is interested in being nominated for the position of president, please carefully read the documents provided. I encourage any Vincentian considering this service to then have a conversation with me, Dave Barringer, or past National Council President Sheila Gilbert. This is a servant leader position that is complicated and time-consuming but also richly rewarding.

Four and a half years have passed quickly, and we still have some important work to do together. It has been a challenge to navigate the changing environment, but thanks to the work of the National Council’s board, committees, and staff, we have adapted to the restrictions of the past few years and have created many resources to advance the mission of our Society. I hope all members of our National Council leadership find ways to share these tools, which were highlighted at our recent Midyear Meeting in St. Louis. These presentations were recorded and can be accessed by clicking here.

To meet the challenges of the future, we must return to the basics of our organization. Belonging to our Society is a vocation. Right now, we must actively invite others to join us, but we must be certain that we are living the vocation we wish to pass on.

We need to be meeting in person to maintain our spiritual grounding and the friendships that bind us together. If caution has prevented us from visiting our neighbors in their homes, we need to return to that practice whenever possible. Sending a check to a landlord after having a phone call with the neighbor in need cannot replace our Home Visit. Helping a family with groceries should be more personally engaging than putting a bag in the trunk of their car. The Vincentian vocation is to develop personal relationships with those we are privileged to serve.

I hope each of you commits to renewing our Society to build a network with increased capacity to serve those in need. That is what I will be focusing on in the months ahead, and I will be looking for Society leadership at every level to join me in that endeavor.

Developing dedicated and trained leadership is crucially important at all levels of our organization, not just the National Council. I encourage each of you to discern how you might be called to a servant leadership role. To ensure our Society will remain viable, we especially need to encourage greater diversity among those who serve as officers at every level of the organization. The National Council presidents and National Council Board members of the future need to be called and encouraged to become presidents of our Conferences and Councils this year.

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to aid us in finding the servant leaders that Blessed Frederic Ozanam described when our founders looked for the successor to our Society’s first president, Emmanuel Bailly. Frederic suggested that our leaders must have the habit of devotion, the spirit of true fraternity, and the experience of good works. Our Society’s leaders, he observed, must join the zeal that founds with the prudence that preserves, and they must be able to maintain the Society in the paths of simplicity and prudent liberty along which God has led it.

Let those called to lead today continue to guide us along those paths.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
National Council President

3-24-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

3-24-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1363 1363 SVDP USA

More than 200 Society leaders attended the first live Midyear meeting since 2019 last week in St. Louis. It was great to see so many of us in one place!  A few National Council Members (usually the Council Presidents) attended only the Business Meeting by Zoom, and this was good as well to participate. Here are a few highlights from our time together.

President Ralph Middlecamp opened the gathering with a discussion on Capacity. He specifically discussed the situation in Ukraine and surrounding countries, and how the global Society of St. Vincent de Paul is structured to help refugees and other impacted by the current violence. (Please see a separate article in this eGazette on how your Council/Conference can participate beyond what has already been collected in our annual Disaster appeal.) This process is also used for natural and manmade disasters that occur anytime during a year.

National Formation Director Tim Williams provided the spiritual retreat, engaging the audience to see the various faces of Christ in our work. This is recorded for your viewing and sharing!

Father Patrick McDevitt, C.M., the Provincial Superior for the Vincentians Western Province, gave an insightful keynote address on Vincentian Synodality. This address is also available as a video.

Much of the Midyear time was spent in National Committee meetings, National Region meetings, and National Subsidiary meetings that produce so many products and services to our members through out the year. The Business Meeting featured reports/presentations from many of these groups, which are all available to you as individual videos (see accompanying article on Midyear videos).

The Business Meeting was unique in that there was no new business to vote on this time! However, it was full of information from the committees, included a recognition of new National Council Members, reviewed our very positive National Council financials, and provided the process and schedule for the election of the next National President. The Call for Nominations opens on April 1!

We closed the Midyear with a Vincentian Mass led by Father Jim Cormack and a Recommitment Ceremony, both at the Old Cathedral where our first U.S. meeting of the Society was held in 1845.

We are thankful for the many sponsors and partners who help make a Midyear possible with their meal sponsorships, and their exhibits that are so helpful to our leaders in finding resources for Council operations.

Perhaps the greatest value of a Midyear meeting is not in the activities outlined above but what happens between these activities. Vincentians take full advantage to learn and share in the hallways, meals and free time. Coming out of a challenging pandemic environment, and with so few live meetings in the past two years, this opportunity to be with each other and express our Essential Element of Friendship together is worth the trip!

We are already deep into planning our next big meeting, the National Assembly to be held in Baltimore on August 31 – September 3, 2022. We expect more than 800 members to be with us at the Marriott Inner Harbor – will you please join us?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

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