Society of St. Vincent de Paul

03-11-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders

03-11-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders 275 287 SVDP USA

After five years of driving through my neighborhood, I thought I knew it pretty well. But when my wife worked briefly for the U.S. Census, she would point out small shops I had never realized were nearby. She could show me the home with an insane number of people living in it, and which were rentals or owned residences. The neighborhood took on a completely different perspective because she had walked the streets instead of driving while focused on traffic lights, bikes, and pedestrians.

This, my friends, is why the Society conducts Home Visits.

During the pandemic period, many Conferences adjusted to not visiting homes with counter-top services and phone interviews. Most Vincentians will quickly tell you that they miss the stronger relationship of a true visit in someone’s home or even visiting with them in a nearby public place. You see different things, and people often share a bit more not only about their specific problem, but also about their family and their life. There is understanding and empathy, not just a transaction.

It is also difficult to understand poverty until you at least see it, if not experience it yourself. In many ”rich” neighborhoods, we drive by and see the opulent lawns and large homes, assuming easily that everyone in that neighborhood must be wealthy. If you spent real time there, however, you would see that so many neighbors bought much more house than they could afford. The homes are often empty of furniture and the owners have trouble paying their bills. They tried to buy status through their house or their fancy car. The neighborhood’s true millionaires often have the used car and a modest home, but also money in the bank and a lot less stress.

Likewise, people in poverty live in or around these homes. They may have service jobs for the wealthy, or they operate the small businesses sprinkled around the opulent neighborhoods. They are often the invisible underclass that keeps our economy going, the working but underemployed families that we encounter in our Vincentian service.

During the past year we changed our service delivery as needed to be safe and legal. It was not usually our choice, but we did this because of our love for those we serve. We did not want to deny them whatever we could bring to demonstrate our, and God’s, love in these tough times.

We have all heard about not understanding someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. As Vincentians, we know that we don’t understand someone until we at least walk through their neighborhood. As Springtime comes, and pandemic restrictions slowly lift, let’s take that walk. Let’s get to know our neighborhoods, and our neighbors, once again as we venture together out of the darkness.

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

03-11-2021 News Roundup

03-11-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 SVDP USA

Through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vincentians across the United States and around the world are finding spiritual growth by providing person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:

International

National

Help us share the good news of the good work being done in your local Conference or Council! Email us at info@svdpusa.org with the subject line Good News.

SVdPUSA Texting

SVdPUSA Announces New Texting Program

SVdPUSA Announces New Texting Program 2560 1707 SVDP USA

These days, our phones are bombarded with calls we’d rather not answer, and our inboxes are flooded with emails from online stores and political campaigns. It can be hard to reach through the noise and connect with the people and ideas that really matter.

The National Council is pleased to announce that it’s now easier than ever to stay in touch with us! You’re invited to opt-in to text communications from the National Council. All you have to do is text JOIN to (844) 464-2992.

When you sign up, you’ll receive a Vincentian contemplation and reflection from National Director of Formation Tim Williams sent straight to your phone every Monday morning. We may also send you periodic news updates or occasional opportunities to support the work being done by the National Council.

Says National Director of Fundraising Programs Nathan Martin, who helped spearhead the program, “Vincentians are called to journey towards holiness. My hope is that every time we email out a Monday Contemplation, we are helping Vincentians on that journey.”

The National Council is partnering with SmartConnect to share the benefits of this program with local Conferences and Councils. If you’re interested in learning more, contact Nathan Martin, National Director of Fundraising Programs, or John Hosack from SmartConnect at (727) 463-9987. Or visit their website to learn more.

Contemplation – A Harmony Between Souls

Contemplation – A Harmony Between Souls 940 788 SVDP USA

Friendship is one of the Essential Elements of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Certainly, it is easier to work together when we all get along, but the friendship we are called to is of a very special character. This friendship is sacred, Bl. Frédéric wrote, it is “a harmony between souls.” [Letter 142, 1837]

St. Vincent loved to remind his followers that Christ treated his Apostles as his friends, teaching that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends. For Vincent, then, we can have no better friend than God! Therefore, “must we not love all that He loves and, for love of Him, consider our neighbor as our friend!” [CCD XI:39]

God created us to live in community, and just as the Holy Trinity shows us that the Divine life is a shared life, so our pathway to it is also shared. We are formed as Christians through our relationships with others. Our call to friendship, then, is an essential part of our call to holiness.

If this seems difficult at times, if there is tension between us, it is forbearance, Vincent said, that is “the bond of friendship that unites hearts in sentiment and action, not only among themselves but in Our Lord, in such a way that they enjoy great peace.” [CCD VI:51]

Serving each other as friends in Christ, we should take special joy in sharing each other’s burdens. Bl. Rosalie, replying to a request for a great favor from a friend, gladly agreed to help him, saying, “I cannot tell you how you please me in giving me the opportunity to do something for your interests. Always act this way with me, without any hesitation. It is the proof of friendship that I hope for.” [Sullivan, 237]

It is charity, the love of God, that connects us in friendship with each other and with those we serve. Charity, Bl. Frédéric said, is the strongest tie – the principle of a true friendship. Yet charity “is a fire that dies without being fed, and good works are the food of charity.” [Letter 82, 1834]

You may have observed that you grow closer to your friends when you share a meal, or go to a movie, or have them over for a cookout. Through these acts that we share, our lives intertwine; our bonds become stronger.

But if purely human acts have this power,” Frédéric explained, “moral acts have it even more, and if two or three come together to do good, their union will be perfect. Thus, at least, He assures us who says in the Gospel: ‘Truly, when you are gathered together in my name, I will be in your midst.‘” [Letter 142, 1837]

Contemplate: To have a friend, you have to be a friend. How can I be a better friend?

Recommended Reading: Antoine Frédéric Ozanam especially Chapter 7, ‘Friendship’

St. Anthony Messenger cover story

Society of St. Vincent de Paul featured in St. Anthony Messenger Magazine

Society of St. Vincent de Paul featured in St. Anthony Messenger Magazine 360 480 SVDP USA

St. Anthony Messenger magazine, an American Catholic family magazine published by the Franciscans of St. John the Baptist Province in Cincinnati, has selected the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as its March cover story.

The wide-ranging, multipage article touches upon several key aspects of the Society’s work in serving neighbors in need, including our food pantries, thrift stores, emergency financial assistance, and the Getting Ahead program. The print copy also includes many photos of Vincentian volunteers serving their communities, including several images of the Society’s international efforts.

While the article tells the Society’s story through the lens of the Bloomington, Indiana and Dayton, Ohio Conferences, programs from other Conferences across the country are also highlighted, including Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, North Texas, Chicago, and Cincinnati.

With a monthly circulation of more than 50,000, St. Anthony Messenger’s story provides the Society with a unique opportunity to reach new volunteers and donors. We hope you’ll read it and share it with your parish and community.

To read the article online, visit the St. Anthony Messenger website. To inquire about a hard copy of the issue, you can visit their subscription page.

Contemplation – One Heart and One Soul

Contemplation – One Heart and One Soul 940 788 SVDP USA

The Rule tells us that “All decisions are made by consensus after the necessary prayer, reflection and consultation.” [Rule Part I, 3.10] And that, “In rare circumstances, if consensus cannot be reached the decision may be put to a vote.” [Part III, Statute 16] Doesn’t that just drag things out? Isn’t it faster to vote?

These are the wrong questions! Our goal isn’t to reach the fastest decision, but to reach the right decision; the one that is aligned with God’s will.

The process of reaching consensus, then, is a concrete instance of discernment.

The foundation of consensus in our Conferences is for each of us to let go of our egos, “surrendering our own opinion,” as our original 1835 Rule put it, “without which surrender, no association is durable.”

This concept of surrender, of emptying ourselves, occurs throughout the Scriptures, and is a result of our Vincentian virtue of humility, which St. Vincent taught “causes us to empty ourselves of self so that God alone may be manifest, to whom glory may be given.” [CCD XII, 247] Even Christ “emptied himself” to better fulfill the Father’s will! [Ph 2: 6-8]

There is an old joke that voting is like two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner. In a similar way, consensus is like a group of friends deciding where to go for dinner. We would never make our friend with the fish allergy go for seafood, and it is obviously better to skip the pizza if another friend just had that for lunch.

When we keep our friendship foremost, our consensus on a dinner destination becomes obvious. Our differing needs and opinions don’t block the road, they light the path.

Just so, in our Conferences, with the bond of our Vincentian friendship enabling us to listen and speak openly, the group’s wisdom and insights will soon distill, revealing to us God’s will in the form of our consensus. Rather than vote fellow members off the island, we all remain in the same boat.

St. Louise often advised that “following the example of the Blessed Trinity, we must have but one heart and act with one mind as do the three divine Persons.” [Correspondence, p.771, 1647]

The Divine life, in the example of the Holy Trinity, is a shared life, and our pathway to it also is shared; in service, in spirituality, in friendship, and in consensus.

Cor unum, et anima una!

Contemplate

When have I let my own strong opinions shut down other voices in my Conference?

Recommended Reading

Turn Everything to Love – especially “Listening to God’s Word

Black History Month Series – Mother Mary Lange, OSP

Black History Month Series – Mother Mary Lange, OSP 191 264 SVDP USA

Racism is defined as systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another. Fortunately, this “pain of prejudice and racial hatred never blurred [the] vision” of Elizabeth Clarissa Lange, a free, French speaking, Black woman.  She walked into her vision around 1813, into Maryland from Santiago de Cuba (born circa 1794). Her arrival in Baltimore coincided with Sulpician priests, Haitian refugees, free blacks, and slaves escaping violence from the French Revolution. In Maryland, they found a haven and home to one of the country’s largest populations of Roman Catholics. Unfortunately, it was also a state that accommodated racism and institutional slavery.

Through the pain of racism, God opened Elizabeth’s heart and spirit to see children of immigrants, unsupervised, and uneducated; she became an eyewitness of injustice in America. Using her own funds and skills, with help from a few friends, she opened her home to educate and house orphaned immigrant children of color. In their collective devotion to intellectual, spiritual, and social development of students, she established the first Catholic School for children of color, providing instruction in a hostile, slave era. Later in 1828, Elizabeth founded the first and oldest, continuously operating school for Black students in the United States, St. Frances Academy.

Despite attitudes of the times, she continued to hear God’s voice and embraced another vision. In 1829, Elizabeth and three ladies (Magdaleine Balas, Rosine Boegue, and Almaide Duchemin), answered their calling, took their vows, under the spiritual direction of  Reverend James Hector Nicholas Joubert, SS (Founder), and became the first female religious order of African descent in the world. After prayerful consideration, they selected the name “oblate,” meaning “one who is specifically dedicated to God or God’s service,” and became the Oblate Sisters of Providence. Elizabeth took the name of Sister Mary (Foundress). They embraced their calling, spirituality, and African identity by including St. Benedict the Moor as one of four special patrons for their religious community.

From the beginning, the Oblate Sisters of Providence confronted the humiliation of racism. Whites avoided them by walking on opposite sides of streets. Sometimes they were forced to walk in muddy streets because whites would not share sidewalks with them. Once Sister Mary almost met death by being pushed into a moving carriage because of racial hatred. They were never called Sisters, but Girls.

As people of color, they were required to sit in the rear of Church, and Holy Communion was offered to them from a different ciborium only after whites had received. Sister Mary knew God would provide, so she persevered, through prayer, to keep her new order vibrant, despite hatred among fellow Christians. Under the leadership of  Sister Mary (Mother Mary Lange), their faithfulness and numbers continued to flourish, and they provided an atmosphere of faith and hope to parents and children degraded by a slave society.

Unfortunately, racism continued to flourish in antebellum Baltimore, too. After the death of their founder, Fr. Joubert, financial hardships mounted. Although educated, with many skills, these Sisters never found opportunities to work beyond that of domestic workers. Also, housing became an issue for them: forced to move several times because of financial distresses; evicted because of their race; and uprooted abruptly for the City to run a street through their property to make them move (early days of gentrification). Unfortunately, their black lives made them vulnerable to unrelenting prejudice. Under the guidance of Mother Mary Lange, when people humiliated them, they prayed. When daily life tried to degrade them as a religious congregation, they served with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Catholic thinking of the day, considered them unworthy to wear veils, usually worn by white religious women, so they wore caps. All attempts to humiliate their religious community failed. Devoted to prayer, they worked hard to survive and gain respect for the Holy habit they did wear. Their habits made them visible, and their service made them indispensable in times of need. Requested to help during a Cholera pandemic that devastated the world in 1832, the Oblate Sisters of Providence chose to listen to God and served as nurses for victims of this disease. Again, God provided, and not one Sister lost their life because of that service. The Oblate Sisters adopted as their motto, “Providence will provide.” Yet the pain of prejudice never stopped.

In face of this relentless racism, many free black Baltimoreans of the times, protested, spoke out against racial discrimination, fought for organized schools and churches, built community institutions, criticized severely slavery, and advocated for emancipation, so did the Oblate Sisters of Providence. As foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, Mother Mary Lange became the first Superior of this religious community. At their pinnacle, membership included more than three hundred Sisters in the United States, Cuba, and Costa Rica. From the beginning of their founding, Providence enabled the Sisters to demonstrate leadership and divine daring in the face of poverty, racism, humiliations, and untold hardships. Documents attesting to the heroic life of virtues, self-empowerment, and works of charity of Mother Mary Lange were received by the Congregation of the Saints in Rome. As she awaits the final word for her beatification and canonization, we pray and remember that she was “endowed by God with humility, courage, holiness and an extraordinary sense of service to the poor and sick…the pain of prejudice and racial hatred never blurred that vision.”

References

02-25-2021 News Roundup

02-25-2021 News Roundup 1200 1200 SVDP USA

Through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vincentians across the United States and around the world are finding spiritual growth by providing person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:

INTERNATIONAL

CGI: Lenten Prayer Celebration for the Vincentian Family, February 28, 2021
IRELAND: Lockdown wedding after Cupid struck at Larne retreat centre

NATIONAL

AUSTIN, TX: Winter storm halts nearly everything but Texas hospitality
COLD SPRING, KY: New St. Vincent de Paul store and food pantry coming to NKY
MIDLAND, MI: Organizations team up to provide furniture to survivors of May’s floods
PHOENIX, AZ: He sought help for his garden. Now he grows vegetables, fruits and fellowship
ST. LOUIS, MO: Aquinas Institute of Theology and the Vincentians of the Western Province enter Cooperative Agreement
WESTON, MA: Weston residents lend helping hand at food pantry

Help us share the good news of the good work being done in your local Conference or Council! Email us at info@svdpusa.org with the subject line Good News.

02-25-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders

02-25-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders 410 382 SVDP USA

Cardinal Robert Sarah, in his book God or Nothing tells this story:

One day a professor was hired to provide training in efficient time management to a group of heads of major businesses. He had just one hour for the subject. He told them, “We are going to do an experiment.” From beneath a table, the professor brought an enormous pot that would hold several gallons, which he gently placed in front of him. Then he held up a dozen rocks, each about the size of a tennis ball, and gently placed them one by one into the big pot. When the pot was filled to the brim and it was impossible to add another rock, he looked at his students and asked them, “Is the pot full?” They all answered, “Yes.” He responded, “Really?” Then he brought from under the table a container filled with gravel. He meticulously poured this gravel onto the big rocks and gently stirred the pot. The bits of gravel filtered between the rocks down to the bottom of the pot. The professor repeated his question: “Is the pot full?” This time the brilliant students were beginning to understand his scheme. One of them answered: “Probably not!”  “Right!” the professor replied. Again he bent down and this time brought some sand from under the table. He poured it into the pot. The sand settled into the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Once again he asked: “Is the pot full?” This time in unison the group answered: “No!”

“Right!” the professor replied. As the students expected, he took the pitcher of water that was on the table and filled the pot to the very brim. Then the professor said: “What important truth does this experiment demonstrate for us?” The boldest student, who was no slouch, answered: “It demonstrates that even when we think our agenda is completely full, we can always add more meetings and more things to do if we really want to.”  “No,” the professor replied, “That is not it! The important truth that this experiment demonstrates for us is the following: if you do not put the big rocks into the pot first, you will never be able to make them all fit later.”

Then the professor asked them, “What are the big rocks in your life? Your health, family, friends, your dreams, your professional career? What you need to remember is the importance of putting the big rocks into your life first; otherwise you run the risk of failing to do so.  If we give priority to junk – the gravel, the sand, – we fill our life with futility and we no longer have time to devote to the important things.”

——–

Is Prayer one of the big rocks in your life, or does it take a back seat to unimportant things? How about seeking Holiness?

Are our Conference meetings filled with gravel or the big-rock subjects that need to be discussed?

What does your Council and Conference consider its big rocks? In our annual and strategic plans, are the most important concerns included first, or is the plan just a big container of everything large and small, more or less important to the life of the Society and its mission?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

spiritual twinning

Black History Month Series – Spiritual Twinning, Part 2

Black History Month Series – Spiritual Twinning, Part 2 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Throughout Black History Month, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s African American Task Force wants to stress the importance of Vincentians coming together and sharing our faith. In the second of a two-part series, National Director of Formation Tim Williams shares with us the experiences some of the Spiritual Twinning participants from Holy Name Conference in Minneapolis and Immaculate Conception-St Cecilia in Baltimore.

Missed Part 1? You can find it here.

In the Words of the Participants

Vera Moukam
Immaculate Conception-St. Cecilia Conference

My appreciation for our SVDP Spiritual Twinning retreat is based on my experience from the two sessions I attended. The very first one on race dynamics with respect to the George Floyd sad incident was deep, emotional but yet graceful. I learned about my own biases, struggles based on my experiences with race and prejudice. Most of all I had the opportunity to learn from others.

The second session was for me a fulfilling spiritual retreat that gave me an opportunity to examine where I am in my faith journey with serving the Lord in the poor and what I should do to be like Christ to others. Not yet there and thus the need for such spiritual exercises to awaken my lukewarm attitude.

Patti Klucas, Spiritual Advisor
Holy Name Conference

I was very impressed by the twinning experience. It made me feel connected to other Vincentians in a way that I hadn’t experienced. It was personal and caring. Oftentimes I feel overwhelmed and alone in our work, even as the spiritual advisor I find myself floundering in a feeling of lack of support from those who don’t really understand and lost in a way to express that spiritual strength that comes from community. This gave me a connection with what I thought might be a totally different group and made me realize that we all are floundering in our abilities to serve and to grow. It has been amazing to hear that we all have the same struggles. I looked forward to every meeting. We have decided to continue meeting quarterly. We don’t want to lose contact with that feeling that we are all community. The whole experience was well worth it and now I know I have friends in the East!

Marie Wicks
Immaculate Conception-St. Cecilia Conference

What a blessing the Spiritual Twinning Retreat has been for our Conference, Immaculate Conception-St. Cecilia-Baltimore. In preparation for this retreat, we met several times, via conference call and Zoom, to discuss our thoughts on racial injustice and our role in serving people in need.  As conference in Baltimore City, where Freddie Gray was killed, we wanted to be sure that our feelings about being black in America did not interfere with getting to know this white Conference, Holy Name, serving in the neighborhood of George Floyd. Our Conference was ready.

Well, it worked, thanks to our moderator, Tim Williams, National Director of Formation. (The conversation was different from what we expected, no racial tension at all.) Using lessons and quotes from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s founders, the Rule, and Fratelli Tutti, he encouraged us to look inward first, examine our feelings, describe how we serve, and think about how we want to serve. Both conferences found themselves discussing their inner feelings related to faith and serving. Immaculate Conception-St. Cecilia Conference members left each session feeling grateful that we had discussed our thoughts and expressed all our hurt to each other before-hand because that enabled us to listen with our hearts. We weren’t disappointed in the topics because through them emotional and spiritual connections were revealed that opened the door for developing a friendship with Holy Name Conference. Our preparation enabled us to be present in the moment to truly listen and respond to one another from a God space.

Of course, there were moments to express personal thoughts, too. Those moments were different and shed light on how we react to events in our lives as parents, siblings, and friends. We heard the knowledge, compassion, and grace that sprang from those events and believe they influence our service as Vincentians greatly. In those discussions, we found so many similarities, which we will treasure.

Finally, we all agreed that what makes us stronger as Vincentians are our combined experiences in our faith walk and ministry of service. As we celebrate those conversations, we look forward to more interactions. Who knows where God will lead us in our growth as Vincentians, together or apart! Wherever it is, we will be ready to join the conversation with open minds and hearts.

Judy Aubert
Holy Name Conference

It was a privilege to participate in two twinning retreats with the SVdP conference from Baltimore. By answering questions presented by Tim Williams in regard to how we felt about different topics, we were able to get an idea of how we are alike and how we can learn from each other. It is obvious that the Baltimore Vincentians care about each other and they were very supportive of us and our feelings. I am looking forward to spending more time with them in the future.

Joan Scott, President
Immaculate Conception-St. Cecilia Conference

When our Conference, Immaculate Conception and St. Cecilia Catholic Churches, was asked about twinning with the SVdP Conference in Minneapolis, we were so thrilled.  We thought, “What a wonderful opportunity to speak with some of the people in Minneapolis who would have firsthand knowledge about the events surrounding George Floyd.” After conversing back and forth with some of the key players, we learned that the meetings, at first, would be along the lines of a spiritual retreat.  We always welcome the opportunity to sit back and focus on our Lord, so we agreed to begin the process.  Our first meeting, via Zoom, was mostly an introduction and a sharing of ideas on diversity and inclusiveness.  We shared ideas and agreed to meet again.   We have met several times and both conferences agreed that we would continue the Twinning experience.  We decided that it would be beneficial to share ideas about fundraising, recruiting new members, home visits during this pandemic, and other activities. 

Jim Sharpsteen
Holy Name Conference

I’ve been very pleased with the opportunity for Twinning with the conference in Baltimore and to see and hear their vision of Vincentian Spirituality in their own lives.  Each of the Twinning Retreats have helped me to get to know the Vincentians in Baltimore, and have helped me to gain new insights into how the Vincentian experience deepens our spiritual lives through our conferences’ missions, and helps us to grow closer to CHRIST and to each other in the Holy Spirit. 

Learn More About the African American Task Force

The African American Task Force seeks to promote the thriving of servant leaders in the Society as well as to embody an inclusive love and openness to all members in the spirit of the Gospel and Catholic social ethics.

To learn more about how to connect your Conference or Council with the AATF, please reach out to your regional representative. They are:

 

 

 

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