01-25-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

01-25-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

01-25-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 150 150 SVDP USA

“Excuse me if I’m late in writing to you, but it’s the fault of my laziness.”
– Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

 If you know me… I am sure you just read that line and laughed to yourself. I constantly find myself running from one thing to the next… and usually late. I stumbled upon this quote on Facebook as I was multitasking: watching a webinar “Successful Strategies to Engage Black Catholic Young Adults,” catching up on emails, and eating my first meal of the day. (Did I mention it is 8:36PM?) I then found myself doing a deep dive through the World Wide Web trying to fact check this quote… because it seemed too good to be true coming from a Blessed. I have always been inspired by how human our Saints and Blesseds were. (Maybe there is hope for me yet… despite my chronic lateness!) Did you know Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was named patron of Vincentian Youth in 2017? In the 1920s, Frassati was a young Vincentian involved in a SVdP Conference. He enjoyed visiting neighbors in need and had an unwavering love for the poor.

Unfortunately, it seems that this quote attributed to Blessed Frassati was one of those quotes inspired by knowledge of him, but not actually something he said. But while reading further, I found this validation, “He was often scolded for being late for meals, but he never revealed that his tardiness was due to feeding the poor, running errands to buy them medicine, or finding widows and their children a place to stay for the night.” Clearly he was not lazy, but doing all he could and as much as he could for those in need. As Vincentians, I know many of us can relate.

It is an honor to be able to write a Servant Leaders column. I promise my procrastination in writing this was not due to laziness, but to prioritizing serving our neighbors in need, as well as filtering through the numerous thoughts I wanted to share with you all.

Starting the year off, some of our young adult Vincentians had the opportunity to attend SEEK — a Catholic event hosted in St. Louis for College Catholic Students. There were over 20,000 young people present. SEEK is the perfect way to start off the new year. The joy of Christ radiates the space with young people passionate to find their way through this crazy world guided by their faith. You may have seen some of the videos on social media about just how generous and selfless some of these young people were. There was a request shared prior to the event, challenging the young adults to “Pack for the Poor.”

Planning ahead isn’t necessarily every young persons’ strength, so during the event, we had a sign with the challenge, “Would you give the shirt off your back?” We thought this was a great conversation starter, and even a way to encourage these young people to return another day with items of clothing that they no longer wanted or needed, as many purchased new items at the gift shops and vendor tables. But, to our surprise, every time we turned around, we saw someone else removing their t-shirt or taking off a layer and leaving it in the pile. It was truly inspiring. Our workshop had a full house, with over 600 young people attending. (I promise you, we spoke to many many young people who are eager to find ways to get involved back home!) Reach out to your local Catholic universities, Newman Centers, Diocesan and Parish Young Adult groups, and young people in parish pews. Invite them to serve alongside you.

As I continue to write this and listen to this webinar on engaging young adult black Catholics, everything they are discussing is the same across the board. If we truly want younger and more diverse members, we need to do better. We need to invite. We need to make space. We need to listen. We need to make new members feel welcome and encouraged. Don’t be afraid of a little change. New ideas and perspectives can inspire and uplift. Let the Holy Spirit be the driving force, and don’t be afraid to invite someone, and don’t be afraid to invite them again. Look even within our own families, our children and grandchildren, our friends, our parishioners. Tonight I received a text from a friend jokingly with an invite for an event, “… I suppose we can just keep going back and forth with these invites, until one of us gives in…” Sometimes it is just not the right time. We have to be understanding and patient; personal invites are always what works. When the time is right, the Holy Spirit will give them the nudge.

Flipping back to my open tab on Frassati, I read on. He encouraged his college classmates in a speech on charity to join Conferences. This brought me back to standing on the stage a few weeks ago talking to our SEEK audience, “I don’t know if you are all aware of these institutions that were so marvelously conceived […]. It is a simple institution suitable for students because it does not involve commitment apart from being in a particular place one day a week and then visiting two or three families every week. You will see, in just a little time, how much good we can do for those we visit and how much good we can do for ourselves.” (Now, most Conferences meet less than once a week!) Honestly, if it wasn’t for these personal encounters with those we serve, I honestly don’t know if I would continue serving as a Vincentian.

There was a time Blessed Frassati was frustrated within his Conference for abandoning a needy family, and so he resigned and joined another Conference. As a Vincentian for almost 10 years now, I can relate to this. Although in my heart, my want to abandon and resign is always outweighed by my passion to help and encourage a change of heart for my Vincentian friends. Although sometimes Conference meetings can be discouraging, I find immense inspiration from the young members in one of the youth Conferences I help facilitate. On their days off from school, they often volunteer at various capacities on projects or offer their time to shadow on Home Visits. Although when first beginning, they didn’t have an understanding of poverty. Throughout the years, through encounters, poverty education, and long discussions, I am constantly impressed by their forward thinking, generosity, and compassion.

In a recent situation, we were presented with an opportunity to help a family with their last steps out of generational poverty. This young mother is embarking on her last semester of nursing school, and is steps away from the finish line, but a health situation set her a few steps back. Something like education can be hard for some to feel as an essential need when others do not have food or roofs. It was encouraging to hear these young Vincentians explain the importance and life-changing assistance we could provide to this family; helping not only this young mother, but opening doors for the future of her two small girls.

It is so frustrating to see how these young people were able to grasp this so quickly, and my Conference didn’t seem to see it at all. I challenged these young Vincentians with some of the responses I received from my Conference, and their responses were so eloquent. This work is not too mature for high schoolers. Young people can begin serving as early as they feel comfortable. The conversations and works may look and sound different, but the younger we begin talking, educating, and advocating, the more young servant leaders are developed. Someone on the webinar remarked, “The Church needs young people and young people need the Church.”

I know the last few columns have been focused on change — Let’s change our mindsets. Let’s change our attitudes. Let’s change our hearts. Let’s change the world.

God Bless,
Kat Brissette
2nd Vice President and National Vice President of Youth, Young Adults, and Emerging Leaders

PS: This message was brought to you Kathleen, caffeine, and the Holy Spirit!

  • Hello Kat (fellow classmate IFR 36!)

    What a delight to hear your voice and smile at the energy of a younger…(ok, much younger)…. perspective of our. Society.

    What a gift to have you on the Board!

    Thank you for reminding us of the enthusiasm and desire to serve of our future Vincentians…. and inviting us to invite (you might have to remind us of that again!)

    Looking forward to more!

  • Hello Kay,

    I truly enjoyed your column maybe late but very inspiring for us who may be older. It is rewarding to hear of your success with young Vincentians and I will take your advice and look to see how we can add more young people to our conference. We had one young lady join us last year, she attends College but still makes the time every week to do home visits. She is making a difference in all of our lives including our clients with her enthusiasm and love of helping others.

    Thank you and God Bless you. Keep the advice coming even late it is most welcome.
    Teri. .

  • Loved , loved your column! Thank you for your words of inspiration – yes, we need to make personal invitations to get more young people involved! Thank you also for your enthusiasm, service, time and energy that you are sharing with the poor and our organization!

  • Sarah Elfrink, Perryville MO Conf January 25, 2024 at 9:57 pm

    Dear Kat,

    Thank you!!! I saw your beautiful, young face and the funny quote and decided to click to read the rest of your column / message. I’m so glad I did!

    As a younger, working member of my conference I relate to your tale of trying to get many things done at once. I often find myself answering emails and writing up special needs cases at 10-11pm. I’ve learned – it’s ok.

    I also want to say how important your points are about bringing the young folks into our conferences. We must invite them! (Maybe many times so they know we actually mean it.) We must make them feel welcome! And we must remember we can learn from them!

    On a whim, I invited my daughter (in her 20s) to help out on special needs cases. And then I invited her to a meeting. To my surprise and delight she joined! And she keeps giving! She got her husband and cousin to help a local disabled man move into a new accessible apartment. On a Saturday!!! Now she’s joined the on-call list! Words cannot express how proud I am of her.

    Also I want to speak up for the older members of my conference. I have never met more dedicated people. They may be older but they are fierce in their desire to help the poor. They inspire me to find time to serve because the poor need us. The leaders of my conference embody the principles of friendship, service and spirituality. I am blessed to have them as friends and I hope my daughter and I “grow up” to be just like them!

    Thank you for your message; I look forward to many more.

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, ideas and most of all your inspiration. I am a believer of our youth and your article made me want more!

  • Thank you for your insights, I have been thinking about this very topic. We have an active, inspired conference, but only a few of us are under the age of 70. There is a serious need for the development of the next generation of Vincentians.
    As we seek out the poor with loving hearts and kindness, we must also seek out those who will carry the torch with that same love and kindness.

  • Kat, you and all of the young folks you are seeking out are truly the future of our Vincentians family. God bless you for the wonderful work you are doing.

  • Just 10 minutes before I read your letter Kat I had replied to a student’s request for help with tuition with sorry, that’s not something we normally do. Your words stopped me in my tracks so powerfully that I had to forward the request along with your essay to my Conference for consideration. Thank you for your thoughtful and Spirit filled letter.

  • Our Conference, and our church for that matter, would welcome any members of any age. There is no better way to live out the Catholic faith than to join SVdP, is there? Of course, we know it’s not all wonderful. I have days on the phone trying to set up visits, speaking to building owners, etc. and it seems like I’m not helping anybody. I’ll stare up at the kitchen ceiling and say “Why would anyone want to do this?” The very next day, phones are being answered, people are being helped, and I’ll say to the kitchen ceiling “Why doesn’t everyone want to do this?”

    In the book of James we read “Suppose a brother . . . is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him ‘Go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” We all know this Bible passage, and this is part of what we do. But the more important part is what the Pope says, that we must integrate the poor into the Church and society, rather than simply see them as objects of assistance. This will take a long time but we need to start now. Otherwise, our neighbors will remain stuck for years and will just continue to suffer stupidly instead of meaningfully.

    Can one person change the world? Yes, but it’s very difficult, although it is a bit easier for bad actors to do it because they raised their armies to destroy. Frederic Ozanam changed the world by raising his own army, and he did it the hard way by raising an army that would comfort and heal. It is crucial we raise our own army in our conferences – young, old, and in between.

    Thank you for sounding the alarm. This has inspired me. The next time I feel like procrastinating, I’ll just put it off for later.

  • Kat,

    You are an inspiration. God Bless, keep up the wonderful work!

  • I’m trying to figure out why I enjoyed this column so much, and a couple things came to mind.
    It’s a personal letter. I feel like I’m getting to know the author already, and she’s a delight!
    The information on Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was interesting and thought-provoking. I want to know more.
    The vignette from the SEEK event was perfect. It gave me a feel for the atmosphere and enthusiasm there.
    Great practical tips and examples on ways to engage our new members, and young members.
    The resounding enthusiasm and positive final message left me fired up to go make a difference.
    Thank you for the wonderful article. Hope to see you again soon Kat!

    AND as I mentioned in one of the replies above: eGazette, please give us a LIKE button. I enjoyed so many of the replies that others made. Some really great thoughts there that I just wanted to acknowledge with a LIKE. Thanks much

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