10-19-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

10-19-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1080 1080 SVDP USA

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

Contemplation — The Greatest Need

Contemplation — The Greatest Need 1080 1080 SVDP USA

The parable of the good Samaritan is a Vincentian favorite, and a powerful allegory for our own home visit, reminding us that Christ calls us very directly to serve the neighbor. Perhaps this beloved parable can also shed some light on what our Rule calls “adaptation to a changing world.” [Rule, Part I, 1.6]

The Samaritan cleaned and bandaged wounds, transported the robber’s victim on his own mule, and found shelter for him. Today, other than perhaps performing basic first aid, we would leave all the rest of that work to the paramedics. It isn’t that we’re lazy. Quite the contrary. In our time, it would be irresponsible for us not to call 911 immediately. To find help is also to help.

It would be rare, in our day and age, to find a bloodied robbery victim lying in the street as people look the other way as they pass, and equally rare that the victim’s only possibility for help would be from a stranger passing by. Yet there remain in our modern world many who are overlooked, ignored, or found too burdensome to assist, even if they are not always lying in our path. The Samaritan stopped to help. Vincentians must first “seek out and find those in need and the forgotten.” [Rule, Part I, 1.5]

In many cases, the emergency aid we offer by paying bills, or providing food and clothing are just as urgent as the bandages the Samaritan provided, but as we build relationships with the neighbor, we also identify and help prioritize other needs, not all of which can be referred to other organizations.

In this age of the internet, social media, phones in our pockets that can connect us with thousands of people, and with all the knowledge of history and science literally at our fingertips – with a thousand Facebook friends, people are lonelier and more isolated than ever.

Just as the robber’s victim lay bleeding on the side of a dusty road until one person cared enough to stop, so too do so many of our neighbors lie in desperate need of a connection that they perhaps can’t fully articulate themselves, but it is written on their hearts. It is written also on our hearts, because we are made by God to live in community – in communion – with one another. Each of us draws the others closer to God through our love. When we go to the neighbor it is our presence that matters most.

And when you think about that challenge given to Frédéric and his friend so many years ago, it was not a challenge to see how many bundles of firewood could be delivered; it was a challenge to show the good of the church in the modern world. The answer to the challenge was to go to the poor just as Christ came to us.

Anybody can give money. You can even do it online. Like the Samaritan, our founders chose to give of their time, their possessions, and themselves. Let us, as Jesus commanded, go and do likewise.


When I offer assistance, do I truly stop on my path to give my love, talents, and time?

Recommended Reading

A New Century Dawns

SVdP News Roundup October 7 – October 13

SVdP News Roundup October 7 – October 13 1080 1080 SVDP USA

With 100,000 Vincentians across the United States and nearly 800,000 around the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:



A Week in Prayers October 9 – October 13

A Week in Prayers October 9 – October 13 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Monday, October 9

Be with me, O God,
Your silent, loving presence
Reassuring me, giving me strength,
Giving me peace.
Act through me, my Lord,
Make me Your eyes,
Your hands, Your heart,
Your wordless witness,
In all that I do.

Tuesday, October 10

Be with me, O God,
Your silent, loving presence
Reassuring me, giving me strength,
Giving me peace.
Act through me, my Lord,
Make me Your eyes,
Your hands, Your heart,
Your wordless witness,
In all that I do.

Wednesday, October 11

Jesus Brother, Jesus Friend, Jesus Neighbor
Jesus in the morning, noon, and night
Jesus, Whom I love and Whom I follow
Jesus in my heart and in my soul
Jesus in the very air I breathe
Through You, Jesus,
In You, Lord,
And with You,
May I live for You,
And You, Christ, live in me.

Thursday, October 12

In my weakness, Lord, You have blessed me,
For in weakness I surrender fully,
Open only to Your will.
My weakness is Your strength,
Your strength is my hope,
On earth as in heaven.

Friday, October 13

Though weary in mind and in body,
When worry may turn to despair,
You renew me, Lord Jesus, in spirit,
I breathe in Your hope like the air,
‘Til my lightness outweighs
All the troubles of day
And You lift me beyond worldly cares.

Daily Prayers are written by Tim Williams, National Vincentian Formation Director.

10-12-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

10-12-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1080 1080 SVDP USA

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

Contemplation — For Our Mutual Friend

Contemplation — For Our Mutual Friend 1080 1080 SVDP USA

When the founders of this country publicly stated their intent to separate themselves from the British Empire, they closed with the stirring pledge of “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” No one reading that declaration doubted for a moment the seriousness of their commitment. When members join the Society, they similarly promise to “share their time, their possessions, their talents and themselves.” [Rule, Part I, 2.5.1] If we are living this promise, the neighbor should never doubt the seriousness of our commitment.

In their revolutionary pledge, the founders promised this total commitment to each other; it was truly a pledge of friendship, an unbreakable and sacrificial bond for the sake of the liberty they sought together. Ours also is a pledge of friendship, between not only the members themselves, but with God and the neighbor. It is “a three-fold relationship with God, the poor, and one another – mutual support and friendship.” [Rule, Part III, St. 5]

Christ, who told us that there is no greater act of love towards one’s friends than to give one’s life for them did exactly that for us, and so, St. Vincent asks, “Can we have a better friend than God?” When our friends – our best friends – ask us to join them at a movie, a show, in a hobby or pastime that we otherwise might not choose, we do it not for love of that hobby, but for love of our friend. Similarly, then, St. Vincent continues, “Must we not love all that [God] loves and, for love of Him, consider our neighbor as our friend!” [CCD XI:39]

The neighbor is truly loved by God; it is the neighbor for whom He died no less than He died for us. When we pledge to share our time, our possessions, our talents, and ourselves, we make this pledge in true friendship, knowing that there is no act of friendship greater than self-sacrifice, and always mindful that one of the friends in this “three-fold relationship” has not only already made, but kept this pledge.

So, when the neighbor calls us, we never respond by seeking a way to limit our help or to serve our own convenience first. Instead, like we would for any true friend, we drop everything in order to “serve the poor cheerfully, listening to them and respecting their wishes.” [Rule, Part I, 1.8]

Charity, the love of God, is to do for others what we would reasonably want them to do for us; it “causes us to do for our neighbor the good that a person has the right to expect from a faithful friend.” [CCD XII, 216] The American founders “mutually pledge20 to each other,” to their friends, a very great commitment. May we mutually pledge to our friends – to each other, to God, and to the neighbor – in our words and in our actions, a true declaration of charity.


Do I ever allow myself to give less than I would expect to receive from a friend?

Recommended Reading

Faces of Holiness

SVdP News Roundup September 30 – October 6

SVdP News Roundup September 30 – October 6 1080 1080 SVDP USA

With 100,000 Vincentians across the United States and nearly 800,000 around the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:



A Week in Prayers October 2 – October 6

A Week in Prayers October 2 – October 6 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Monday, October 2

Lord Jesus, help me serve the neighbor
For the love of the Father alone.
May the bread that I bring be forgiven,
And my words be words of hope.
May the hand that I clasp
Clasp mine in return.
Help us know You are present with us.

Tuesday, October 3

Soften my heart, Lord Jesus,
Let me see with the eyes of love.
Help me hear the cry of the suffering.
Send me to do Your will.

Wednesday, October 4

In times of joy or sorrow, Lord,
I long to see Your face.
I know that You are present, Lord,
In every time and place;
In every neighbor, every friend,
In every flower and tree,
Broken and shared in bread and wine,
Enter now, Lord, in me.

Thursday, October 5

Help me to trust in your providence, Lord;
To give as You call me to give,
Not limited by my human judgment,
But generous beyond reason
With my time, my talents, my possessions,
And myself.

Friday, October 6

You are with me, Lord.
In the darkness before the dawn,
Hear my prayer.
You are for me, Lord.
Against all trials and temptations,
Be my hope.
You are within me, Lord.
When I empty myself of self,
For Your love alone.

Daily Prayers are written by Tim Williams, National Vincentian Formation Director.

Disaster Services Offers Aid to Northern California Fire Victims

Disaster Services Offers Aid to Northern California Fire Victims 938 943 SVDP USA

When massive wildfires hit Northern California without warning, entire towns were destroyed, thousands were left homeless, and 16 people were killed. But thanks to your generosity, the St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services Corporation was there to help the Sacramento Diocesan Council respond and rebuild.

Survivors were living in RVs, leaving them vulnerable to the elements, while waiting for delayed state assistance to help them rebuild. Thanks to help from donors like you, DSC and the National Council were able to:

  • Assist 15 Households: The grant provided essential materials and supplies for survival and recovery.
  • Weatherize RVs: By equipping 10 RVs with roof coatings and caulking materials, the project protected families against the elements.
  • Solarize: Solar panels provided heating and cooling needs for a household living in an RV.
  • Provide Hot Water and AC: Families received hot water heaters and window AC units, restoring essential comforts.
  • Control Erosion: Supplies including paint rollers, caulking guns, gloves, fans, flashlights, batteries, and jack pads, were distributed to address pressing safety concerns.
  • Build Community: A poignant remembrance event connected 150 survivors with vital community resources and distributed 400 trees for reforestation and erosion control, fostering a sense of unity and renewal.

But the impact didn’t stop there. The second half of the grant helped volunteers complete vital solar repairs, bring damaged RVs up to safety standards, and distribute gravel, as well as providing fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors, and smoke detectors.

Program Manager Simona Gallegos can’t thank donors enough. “Without this funding, these wildfire survivors would have remained stuck in a never-ending loop of destruction. This funding has equipped them to better deal with extreme weather situations and made them more sustainable in their recovery.”

To donate to the Annual Disaster Campaign, visit

10-5-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

10-5-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 900 900 SVDP USA

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,

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

    Skip to content