05-02-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-02-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-02-24 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1200 1200 SVDP USA

In the South, where I live, the beginning of May signals the beginning of the end of the school year for students. My granddaughter in South Carolina has already had her Prom (yes, she was beautiful) and her Graduation from high school is in a few weeks. For most students in the northern parts of the country, the school year will continue on until at least Memorial Day. But in either case, come early June, most students will be off for the summer and free of the classroom, homework, and getting up early for school.

Some of you may remember the song written in 1932 by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess, “Summertime.” Its most famous line, oft repeated, is “Summertime and the livin’ is easy.”

How often do we think about children and summertime — no school, just having fun, no cares in the world — and think they’re “livin’ easy”?

For many, that’s likely true. But for too many others, their summertime is anything but easy living — because for too many children in America today, no school means no breakfast, no lunch, maybe no meal at all for the day. And for too many families in America today, no school means no childcare, no one to watch the kids while a single Mom or Dad tries to work so they can pay the rent or put food on the table or clothes on their children’s backs.

No, the reality in America today is that when school ends many, many families don’t celebrate, take vacations to Disneyland, or cook out in the backyard. They despair, and suffer, and try to hold on.

And that’s why we, the SVdP Councils and Conferences, must exert special effort and energy in the summer to support families in need. And for us that can often be a very big challenge, because our children are out of school, we are traveling, our Church attendance and collection amounts are lower due to vacations. Our need is highest when our human and financial resources are lowest.

Think for a minute about the counterintuitive nature of our work and our effort. I would venture to guess that we devote the largest number of volunteer hours, food drives, and organized Conference activities to two times of the year — Thanksgiving and Christmas. But when you think about it, so is every other charity, church, civic organization, and just about any other organized group you can think of.

What if we tweaked the narrative a little? By devoting a larger effort in the summer, when need is huge, and people aren’t as focused on helping, we could really make an impact on helping people desperate for help.

Think about it. Talk about it. Make a difference.

Maybe you can help make someone’s “summertime livin’” a little easier.

Peace and God’s blessings,

John Berry
National President

  • Annettte Giaquinto May 2, 2024 at 4:37 pm

    As a retired superintendent of schools and 39+ year educator in the public schools in NJ, this message really resonated with me. During the school year, many children receive free breakfast and lunch (and dinner in some after school programs). When the summer comes, these meals disappear unless the district or community has a program to assist. In Atlantic County, NJ, where I spent most of my career, we were fortunate to have one of our local law firms partner with the SJ Food Bank to provide non-perishables and fresh produce every other week for much of the summer. The food was delivered to one of our schools and families could come and pick-it up. Members of our staff worked the food distribution and always tried to make families feel seen and welcomed (and not uncomfortable about their need). There were some instances when families didn’t have transportation, and we tried to help with that. Although this is not the work of the Catholic Church or the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the service is in the spirit of helping our neighbors-in-need. For me, it was an example of living our faith and showing and seeing the face of Christ.
    Thank you for this important and insightful message.

  • Russell J Batdorf May 3, 2024 at 10:25 am

    Friends of the Poor Grant Award Winners Announced

    On Wednesday March 13, 2024, I observed the Board of Directors meeting as part of the National Society midyear meeting via the zoom invitation.

    As a CPA, I listen attentively to the treasurer’s report presented by Edward McCarthy. After the financial statements and related information were presented, one on the Board members stated, “we have to much cash on hand.” I agree and I recall there being a consensus among the board. In the financial report presented, Cash and Savings were $1.9 million, and Investments were $9.3 million. Total assets far exceeded total liabilities, therefore, net assets available for use, restricted and non-restricted, were comparable to Cash, Savings and Investments.

    It is my opinion, that the National Council can set the example for conferences of not holding funds — I believe the phrase is “hording for the future” when it is clear the present needs of our neighbors exceed resources in many conferences across the nation.

    I respectfully suggest that an additional $1.5 – $2.0 million be disseminated to the conferences through the Friends of the Poor Grant to meet the existing needs of our neighbors, including the challenges of summertime when schools are closed. In this e-gazette, The National Council stated it received 131 grant applications totaling $632,250 but grant awards totaled $83,500. In my opinion, all grant applications submitted should receive grant funds. If a conference applies for grant funds, it is because there is a real need.

    Imagine the Holy Moments that will occur through the spirituality of the home visits with the release of these additional funds.

    The Need is Great – Cash is Available – Let’s Fill the Need

    • Thank you for your comment Russell. I agree that we must do a better job in moving funds that we have in reserves out to the Conferences and Councils where they can be put to work supporting people in need. We are working on revamping the Friends of the Poor grant process to make that happen and hopefully you’ll see a better process rolled out soon.

      • Valerie Johnson May 10, 2024 at 3:52 am

        Thank for the great article and reminder of the impact summer break has on many families in need. Appreciate your response also to Mr. Batdorf …as a new Conference readying ourselves for service by July, we look forward to seeing Christ in our neighbors and building sustainable funding and securing grants is definitely one means we desire to pursue.

    • Valerie Johnson May 10, 2024 at 3:40 am

      Very insightful and true. A statement I make often at the human services nonprofit I work for is the mission must live internally as well as externally….thanks for raising awareness to this matter.

  • Russell J Batdorf May 4, 2024 at 6:24 pm

    Thank You John for your reply.

  • Children may not have meals during the Summer due to school closings. Noted. It’s a bad situation, and not the children’s fault. But schools are not restaurants. I attended Catholic grade school in the 1960s and of course, this was unheard of. Everyone went home for lunch or had something their parents (parents with an ‘s’ on the end) sent to school with them. But back then, we were living in a Christian nation. There wasn’t any “no-fault” divorce. No “Great Society”. No Roe v. Wade. No “same-sex marriage”. Now we live in a pagan society.

    Nevertheless you are right, for now we can step it up during the summer. But we need to exert at least the same amount of effort on the other side of the street to end this dysfunction. I always thought there was no such thing as a free lunch, and our present situation proves it. The “free” school lunch was bought at the price of parents not expected to provide it. Can there be a lower bar for parents than that? They can’t afford a low cost school lunch? Or they can’t send a PB&J and an apple with their child?

    It was also bought at the price of accepting, even celebrating, single motherhood. Where are these hip, happy go-getters I keep hearing about? I’ve been doing home visits for seven years now and every one of the single mothers I visit has been exploited and poverty stricken.

    What can we do to end this dysfunction? On page 45 of “Ozanam Orientation” it asks Are We Evangelizing? It says we help anyone. It says to bring the love of God as best you can. It says to ask if they belong to a faith community, suggest local churches of any denomination, and be ready to talk about their faith.

    I have just completed a PMD (Parish Missionary Disciples) program in the Diocese of Covington, KY. It was all about evangelization. This program is a bit late, but at least somebody finally recognizes that we have become a pagan nation and we have to defend our Christian faith and bring it back. On home visits we pray on the spot, and present those we visit with a listing of all Catholic and Christian churches in their neighborhood. We may have a few minor disagreements with these churches, but all Christian churches need to come together now. We can argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin 60 or 70 years from now, after we get this mess straightened out. We take 25 seconds to state our Catholic positions: that we believe an intimate relationship with God is real, that we celebrate family, we believe fatherhood is very important, we honor women, we give our best to our children, we believe there are universal truths that need to be protected, we admit our sins and own up to them, and we live out our faith by performing loving actions for others.

    This sounds like a lot but I saw a priest on a video (Fr. Jonathan Meyer in Indiana) state these things and it indeed takes about 25 seconds to restate them. Even in America 2024, everyone has at least that much attention span.

    The Parish Missionary Disciples program took 30 hours and was worthwhile, but it could have all been (and in fact was) summed up at the last meeting. The facilitator said that now in 2024, as Catholics, everything we do should be evangelization. And all I can add to that is that everything about our Catholic lives should be a Light that others should be attracted toward, and that whenever we have the opportunity to share the source of that Light, we shouldn’t hide it under a bushel basket.

    Help the children in 2024 by providing their lunches now, and set the goal of 2084 to overthrow our present pagan society and restore a Christian one where each child’s parent can provide his or her lunch.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

    Skip to content