02-29-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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

  • If our voices matter, how do we share them? Not all can attend conferences.

  • All good things to consider

    The one thing you haven’t mentioned is advocacy
    The Voice of the Poor is not effectively reaching down into conferences and councils
    My ministry is advocacy for social justice , and one reason I joined the Vincentians in addition to the spirituality, is to promote advocacy. We have to get to root causes of poverty and hunger. We will always need to do charity but if we act as faithful citizens in voting (everyone) and advocacy (some) we can alleviate some of the hunger. BTW, our young people today who may not go to church support the ideas of Catholic Social Teaching and that would be excellent for recruitment.
    Chris Kondrat
    St Pius x Conference in the Portland Council

    • Christine, thank you for bringing the topic of advocacy up- it’s not something I have heard spoken of in my Conference. I will bring this up at our next meeting.

    • I agree thank you for mentioning advocacy. I had to start my own program to do that locally. Things just aren’t connecting to the ground level. Feeding the poor is a a huge part of what we do but that’s what’s doing the burn out. You don’t see your efforts pay off. I don’t think the conferences are supported well enough to change that aspect. I don’t want to sign another petition for my states voice of the poor. I want to stand in the line at a county city building with my Catholic brothers and sisters in action. That’s what the youth want and it needs to be displayed on channels we actually use. That burn out is real when you think all you can do is food assistance and Ozanam. We need to see what each other are doing, be inspired, and be able to ask how? I want CST but I also want studies and research on what actually works. I want an app or some way to talk with conferences and share ideas and be connected so I don’t feel like I’m watching conference by conference die out.

    • totally agree Voice off the poor in Detroit dormant….no focus….need to get Vincentians that can’t Do the physical stuff…write letters to our government representatives

  • Gerald Legge 35+ years February 29, 2024 at 4:42 pm

    The past number of years we have experienced the lack of respect for others…….you that respect for our volunteers in the work they want to do……some are great welcoming people / phone people …other Perfer to work deep in the food pantry….But for me the lack of respect for the past 15 years covering call from outside our parish area and when calls for Rent (1 month 90,000$ ) and the Central office refuses to stop advertising we have solutions or 900,000$ spent annually for housing …..Reason fundraising that never gets to the conferences……. Yes we need to listen to those doing the Work of the Society… And a special focus on the failing parishes in the poorest parts of the city…..your article was so timely and gives me hope…..even though our conference has been closed for starting a conversation……… continue on

  • I agree with Christine. I try to be aware of actions happening in our state government and regularly comment on the way that I as a Christian look at the proposed legislation or regulation. Being a part of pro-life and choice advocacy, as well as other committees at our parishes, schools , cities and county level of government; any place where our neighbors are being affected by change, we should be noticeable and vocal.
    Marjorie, Olympia Wa

  • I agree with Christine. Our conference has been working through an excellent workbook supplied by the National Council titled “Serving in Hope, Our Vincention Home Visit” Module VII. In session 7.3, Advocating With a Vincention Heart, it states that we as Vincentions are called to advocate with a Vincention heart. The charism of Vincention spirituality speaks both to the macro and micro levels. At the macro level the focus is on changing legal, cultural, environmental, and social conditions that impact and marginalize persons and populations. Our advocacy goal is to effect systems that promote economic stability of those we serve. The micro level focuses on changing individual lives. This can be very personal and means one person individually touching another person’s life, as Jesus did, through one-on-one relationships: “person to person” friendship. I hope this sheds some light on the subject of advocacy to Jane and supports Christine’s thoughts. I also strongly suggest this work book written by James Davis which is a video/formation guide complete with a five minute video. There are seven work books with corresponding modules. Our conference president and conference spiritual advisor present the materials and all members of our conference take turns reading parts of the module followed by discussing the questions asked at points throughout the sections. All of the information is excellent towards ongoing formation for any conference. John Fischer St. Gregory the Great Conference Milwaukee Council

  • I feel the burn out comes from visiting with people, actually advocating for them as far as finding agencies and programs that can help, providing them with financial help, food, household items, praying with them keeping them in daily prayers and after a few weeks they are in the same boat as they were before. They have either declined or abused the services that were offered to them. I ask the Lord many times if we are helping or enabling.

  • Deacon Paul Erickson March 3, 2024 at 5:46 pm

    President Berry,

    Thank you for addressing the elephant in the room. We have experienced most all of the negatives, but a few positives in these post-COVID years. Our small group of six or so, do 25-30 visits a month. The good thing about COVID is that most people now come to us at church, so we actually are able to serve more people now than we did before. We see so many people in two weeks, meetings are close to 2hrs long. Many members who don’t do home visits but help in other ways, don’t come more to a meeting more than once.. Home visits are during the day, so one has to be retired to engage in that part of being a Vincentian. Most of the people in our council have been Vincentians for close to 20 years and are encountering more health issues. As the Spiritual Director, it is sometimes a struggle to get to the spiritually of being a Vincentian when there is so many home visits to cover. We have found the Serving In Hope books mentioned by John Fischer, to also be very useful in keeping us focused on the why rather than just the what of our service to the poor. The need in our community is very great., The few people we have doing home visits often see many people a day, and often spend the whole day, many days a week on home visits. Burnout is a very real danger, where we become no better than a social service agency that runs people through a process that strips them of their dignity as humans.

    We plan to discuss your letter at our next meeting, and look forward to hearing what responses you get, and direction you take.

    Thank you for all you do to help Vincentians help those in need.

  • I think advocacy is super important – what I want to know is who is going to wade through all the muck, additional issues that are attached to the resolutions and Bills that could very well do more harm than good if voted through. I think the numbers of people wanting to advocate for the poor and homeless is very high. Where you lose the numbers is in deciphering if it is truly a legislation you are willing to recommend to other people and stake your life on.
    If someone would do the deciphering and formulation a letter of advocacy that could then be transmitted to the different Conferences/Councils where members could put their signatures on the line and send it to their voting representative – I think you would have a lot more advocates.
    You would have to give a synopsis of the Bill/Resolution/Issue up for vote. 40 and 50 pages is just too much to expect people to find time to read and analyze.

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