04-03-24 VisionSVdP Update

04-03-24 VisionSVdP Update 8335 2555 SVDP USA

Dear Fellow Vincentians,

Now that the Midyear Meeting, where we rolled out VisionSVdP, is over, I want to give you a report on how things went at the meeting and let you know about the next steps in this important ongoing national initiative.

You will be hearing much about VisionSVdP over the next two plus years; this is one of the most important and impactful things we have undertaken as a Society in the last 25 years. And it will take the commitment, dedication, and full participation of every Vincentian at every level of the Society to make sure that the work we do will enable us to adapt to a changing world and ensure that our work and our relevance in supporting His people in need and growing in our own holiness and spirituality will continue for generations to come.

The launch of VisionSVdP at the Midyear Meeting was exciting and powerful! Almost 250 people, attendees and staff, participated in five separate listening sessions. Was there some nervousness? Some confusion? Some desire for structure and specific questions to answer? Of course there was! If there was not, I would have been very concerned. This is new ground we are breaking. This is quite easy for some people and exceedingly difficult for others.

These listening sessions require that we not only listen to each other, but that we listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to us and through us. They require that we be candid and open and honest and free thinking. If we gave you a bunch of questions and asked you to answer them, what we would get is — a bunch of answers to questions we asked. What we would NOT get is the things in your heart and in your soul that matter deeply and passionately to you. We would not get the voice crying out in the wilderness with the idea that might make all the difference in the world.

So going forward, if you are looking for a lot of structured conversations in VisionSVdP you might be disappointed, because you are not going to get that — at least not in this phase. But if you come to this process with an open heart and an open mind then I think any disappointment will turn to excitement and joy as you journey together, you and your fellow Vincentians on this path to adapting to a changing world. What this synodal process will provide you is an opportunity for open dialogue; listening sessions that are freeform and unstructured with thinking that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

So, what is next? 

Now we are going into the Regional Meeting phase. We will hold listening sessions at every Regional Meeting over the next few months. I will be at many Regional Meetings to help facilitate; but since I have not yet figured out how to be cloned, I cannot get to them all. So, Dave Barringer will be at the ones I cannot attend, and the RVPs all participated in the launch at Midyear, so they are familiar with the process. There will be a video from our National Spiritual Advisor, Archbishop Andrew, to kick off each session and help center us on the task ahead.

After the Regional Meetings we are asking all Councils, Conferences, and Special Works to hold VisionSVdP Listening Sessions, preferably before the National Assembly. And I want to make a key point here. When I say we want all Vincentians to participate in VisionSVdP, I mean all Vincentians; Full Members, Associate Members, Staff, and Volunteers. And at some point, we will also determine how we can engage with the people we serve, our neighbors in need, to get their views on the Society and how we need to adapt to a changing world to best serve them.

All the comments from all the sessions will be gathered into a national database where we can all look at it. And when I say we, I mean we — you, me, and every Vincentian — because every voice matters, today and tomorrow. In Phase II, we will all begin to ask ourselves: What does all this mean? Then we will start to determine patterns, similarities, trends, commonalities, and areas where we want to focus. But we will also be looking for that voice in the wilderness.

There will be further updates as we continue the process. Thanks for your continued participation and support.

Peace and God’s blessings,

John Berry
National President

The VisionSVdP Prayer

The VisionSVdP Prayer 8335 2555 SVDP USA

The VisionSVdP Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit, open our eyes, our hearts, and our imaginations to Your inspiration as we embark on our VisionSVdP journey and seek to discern the Father’s holy will for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and how it will adapt to a changing world.

Come, Holy Spirit, transform our doubts, ignite our zeal. Help us discern new and innovative ways to bring more people into the joy of service in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Come, Holy Spirit, grant us the simplicity to share honestly with each other, the humility to serve a mission greater than ourselves, and the gentleness to listen to each other without judgment.


Oración de la VisiónSVdP

Ven, Espíritu Santo, abre nuestros ojos, nuestros corazones y nuestra imaginación a Tu inspiración Divina mientras nos embarcamos en nuestro viaje hacia la VisiónSVdP y lograr discernir en la santa voluntad del Padre, en cómo se adaptará la Sociedad de San Vicente de Paúl a un mundo cambiante.

Ven, Espíritu Santo, transforma nuestras dudas, ilumina nuestro fervor.  Ayúdanos a discernir con formas nuevas e innovadoras de llevar a más personas a la alegría del servicio en la Sociedad de San Vicente de Paúl.

Ven, Espíritu Santo, concédenos la sencillez de compartir honestamente los unos con los otros; la humildad para servir a una misión más grande que nosotros mismos; y la gracia de escucharnos unos a otros sin juzgarnos.


03-07-25 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

03-07-25 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

This is the last in a series of three Servant Leader columns before next week’s Midyear Meeting that address VisionSVdP.  Today I’d like to explain a little more about how the process will work over the next year, and talk a bit about how you can get involved.

We will formally ‘kick off’ VisionSVdP at the Midyear Meeting in St. Louis with five Listening Sessions. All Midyear attendees will be randomly assigned to one of five groups and will meet for approximately 1 ½ hours. This will occur following a session by me on the process, and after a Keynote Address by the National Council President of Australia, who will speak about the process there, and a Spiritual Retreat by Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, CM, our National Episcopal Advisor.

At the Listening Sessions, Midyear attendees will have a free-flowing discussion about the Society. They will all begin with the same question: What does the Rule, Part 1, 1.6: “Adaptation to a Changing World” mean to you?

From there, they will discuss anything and everything that they want to. Someone at each table will capture everyone’s comments — because every voice matters. Two moderators per room (typically Regional VPs) will then attempt to capture the essence of the discussions; when the entire group reconvenes, we’ll have a conversation about the process. The goal is not to highlight any comments as more important than any other, but to debrief how people felt. Were their voices heard? Did they learn anything? Did anything ‘click’ from the conversation?

This process will repeat itself at the Regional meetings.

So, you ask: What about me? I’m not going to Midyear or the Regional Meeting. How do I get involved??

GOOD QUESTION!  You get involved because we want every Conference and every Council and every Special Work to do this as well. AND WE WILL HELP YOU!

Now, let’s be very open and very, very honest here. We will face many naysayers and people who just want to keep on doing things the way we always have, either because it’s easier, or because they fear change. Then we’ll have the inevitable organizational inertia that will never find the time to schedule the sessions — we’re too busy, we’re too important doing other “real Vincentian work,” etc, etc. They will all resist doing these sessions. WE CANNOT LET THAT HAPPEN.

Engage with the VisionSVdP process at your Conference and in your Council and Region. Become a Champion for the effort! Contact your Regional VP, contact your Council President, contact me. Make sure the process gets to you and is carried out. Because your voice matters.

After all these sessions are held in 2024 (including at the National Assembly in Phoenix), we will start a National Conversation process in 2025 about what we have heard and what it means for how we adapt and change.

Peace and God’s blessings,

John Berry
National President

02-29-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

02-29-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 8335 2555 SVDP USA

Last week I announced the kickoff of VisionSVdP in an email to all Vincentians. Today, I’d like to spend a little more time discussing the reasons we’re launching this very important initiative at this time.

Let’s start by looking at why VisionSVdP is so important for us from the standpoint of all the great and positive things going on across the Society — things like these. (And there are a whole lot more!)

  • While we have seen declines in Conference membership as a whole (more on that later), we’ve also seen new Conferences being created, new membership growth in places, and even new Councils being formed. We need to talk about how and why that’s happening so we can capture the best practices; figure out how to support and scale those gains across the country; and help reverse the decline in membership we’re seeing in many places.
  • During COVID, many Councils and Conferences found an incredible surge of innovation and creativity in programs and services. New ways of serving people in need have been implemented and are now part of a better, more effective, and more far-reaching support system for our neighbors in need. We need to talk about those programs and help others implement them locally.
  • Councils and Conferences across the country have developed programs that are providing free medications to people with low income, moving people from the streets to homes, feeding thousands of people a day (yes, a day!) through kitchens, providing food via food pantries, doing so much more. We need to talk about how they’re doing these things, while other Councils and Conferences are struggling to answer the phone calls. What is making the difference?

And we also need to talk about the negative things. Here are just a few to think about.

  • Since 2016, we have lost almost 1,000 Conferences and nearly 10,000 members. Why? What can we do about it? Is it our structure? Do our meeting schedules make it impossible for working people, young families, and students to attend? Is it something else? Is it a combination of things?  We need to talk about how we make the Society a more welcoming and supportive community for people to serve, grow in spiritually, and grow in friendship and community.
  • The reality — and part of the answer to the question above — is that our Vincentians are getting ‘burned out.’ They are overworked, not fed spiritually, and burdened with necessary (yet still challenging) paperwork and reporting. We need to talk about all of these things. We must determine new ways to make being a Vincentian a joyful experience.
  • Face it, people generally run away when we ask them to consider Leadership roles in the Society. We need to talk about why. And then we need to talk about how we are going to fix it.
  • Our efforts to increase diversity have not kept pace with the growth in the diversity of the Church. While we have moderately increased the number of Hispanic, Latino, and African-American Vincentians, the percentage increases have not tracked with the increases in the Church.

So — that’s a bit of a deeper dive into why we’re launching VisionSVdP.

We need you to be part of it. For one simple reason.


Peace and God’s blessings,

John Berry
National President

VisionSVdP: Because Every Voice Matters

VisionSVdP: Because Every Voice Matters 8335 2555 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Family,

Over the last six months you have likely heard and read about the launch of VisionSVdP, our “family conversation” that will occur over the next two years as we answer the call in our Rule to “Adapt to a Changing World.”

I first spoke about this in my remarks after my Installation as National President last year in St. Louis, and I have written about it often in the e-Gazette Servant Leader column and other places. Well, VisionSVdP will officially kick off at the Midyear Meeting in St. Louis March 13 – 16, so I wanted to provide some information and detail on what is ahead. There will also be more in next week’s e-Gazette.

The question that is probably first in many people’s minds is “What is VisionSVdP?”

Let me start by telling you what it is NOT. It’s not a program, it’s not a strategic plan process, it’s not a reorganization, it’s not a fundraising campaign, it’s not a make-work effort for already burdened Vincentians trying to serve people in need.

Well then… what IS IT, you ask? Well, it’s a conversation. That’s right, it’s a conversation. A Synodal (from the Greek for Journeying Together) conversation about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. What’s good about it? What’s not so good about it? What are we doing right? What might we be doing better? What are we doing that we don’t need to be? What aren’t we doing that we should be doing? What’s enriching your spiritual life as a Vincentian? What’s stressing your spiritual life as a Vincentian? Why are we getting older and greyer even though we are trying to bring young people into our membership? Why can’t we move the needle on increasing diversity despite years of trying? Why are we still using pen and paper to complete casework forms when our grandkids are using tablets to do their homework in first grade??

Get it? This will be a conversation guided by, blessed by, and driven by God through the Holy Spirit.

The next question on your mind is probably “Why are we doing this?” There are a lot of reasons!

As I mentioned above, The Rule, written in 1836, call us to periodically “Adapt to a Changing World.” In Part I, 1.6 The Rule says: “Faithful to the spirit of its founders, the Society constantly strives for renewal, adapting to changing world conditions. It seeks to be aware of the changes that occur in human society and the new types of poverty that may be identified or anticipated. It gives priority to the poorest of the poor and to those who are most rejected by society.”

The last few decades in the United States (and in the world) have brought changing conditions that demand we look at how we must adapt and renew. Those changes were accelerated and exacerbated by the pandemic and the economic challenges faced here and abroad. We must look at the Society in the light of the reality of today and tomorrow — and we must change where change is called for.

Finally, how are we going to do this? We’re going to do it by talking, listening, respecting every person’s views, and then planning how we move forward. We are going to talk for a long time. We are going to talk for at least a year at every level in the Society — because EVERY VOICE MATTERS.

At the Midyear Meeting, we will hold Listening Breakout sessions. These are exactly what they are called — LISTENING Sessions. We are going to all listen to each other, because EVERY VOICE MATTERS. At the Regional Meeting we are going to hold Listening Sessions — because EVERY VOICE MATTERS. And then every Council and every Conference and every Thrift Store and every Food Pantry and every Special Work in the Society is going to hold Listening Sessions — because EVERY VOICE MATTERS.

And then we’re going to assimilate it and talk about it. But that’s next year’s work. This year we’re gonna talk — a lot!


Peace and God’s Blessings,

John Berry
National President

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