05-11-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-11-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

05-11-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 900 900 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Last weekend I met Sister Norma Pimentel at a regional meeting of our Society in Texas. She is a highly respected leader of relief efforts for immigrants in the Rio Grande area, and I have long admired her work. In the next few weeks, you may see Sister Norma interviewed on national news programs because the situation with refugees on the U.S. southern border will receive a lot of coverage. Talking with her put me in touch with the human stories of suffering and fear that are often ignored in the political narrative the surrounds this complex problem.

Some have called Sister Norma the Mother Teresa of the Rio Grande, but I think she is more like our Blessed Sister Rosalie Rendu. Sister Norma is trusted and beloved by those refugees she serves, and she is also trusted and respected by border patrol agents and their leaders. (She tells me the agents all have her cell phone number and regularly call her.) Like Sister Rosalie, Sister Norma is trusted by the poor and is trusted by those who have the resources to provide aid.

Sister has stories to tell that humanize the refugee situation at our southern border. She emphasizes that you need to get close to the people to understand, and she believes that it is possible to protect our borders and still respect humanity. We Vincentians understand the need to get close to the situation and listen to those who suffer. We serve people who are without shelter, without food, and without adequate healthcare, and who are also portrayed with a narrative that fails to capture the real suffering and fear experienced by people living through complex, difficult realities.

The answers to migration, homelessness, unemployment, addiction, hunger and lack of healthcare are complicated, with people of goodwill disagreeing on how to respond. Frequently, however, the political narrative is not centered on finding solutions but rather on scoring political points and demonizing people with opposing ideas. Let’s not get caught up in this as we advocate for compassionate responses to the serious problems from which we see people suffer.

Sister Rosalie and Sister Norma are role models for us in their sharing of stories that show the human faces of those they serve – so that the real people involved are not cast as mere pawns in divisive political debates. We can do that, too, but we need to take the time to have actual conversations in which we listen to those we are helping. That takes some extra time and effort, not just talking to get the information to fill out an application or voucher.  When we do that, Frederic Ozanam says, “we begin to know the elements of this formidable problem of misery; then we have the right to propose serious measures, … instead of frightening society.”

In that same speech Ozanam gave in 1848, he also tells us, “when the times are so difficult, the problems so serious, the designs of God so hidden, how could the finest citizens not be divided and not bring to their opposite opinions all the passion of their patriotism?” There will be a lot of political news in the next few weeks that affects the people we serve, and we Vincentians will not always agree amongst ourselves about what should be done. Let’s be sure we always respect each other and work to preserve the human dignity of all who suffer – because in them we have seen the face of the suffering Christ.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

  • Maria Pimentel-Gannon May 11, 2023 at 6:21 pm

    D greetings Dearest Ralph,
    This is Maria Pimentel-Gannon. It sounds like sister Norma is a person after my own heart. What an honor it would be if I learned that we are somehow related! I would love to be able to help her in her journey, and in her quest, to serve our brothers and sisters at the border. Thank you for sharing, not just about Sister Norma and her work, but how we, as individuals and as Vincentians, could approach any matter in such a way t hat we remain Christlike in that approach. Your article was very well written and rather timely.

    Unfortunately, this is the first opportunity I have to get into any of the E-Gazettes, but the good Lord willing, it will not be the last! I am very excited about the work of the Society, and even more excited about the passion and love that I see on the faces of those with whom I’ve been meeting and interacting. I was just at the training in St. Louis for the Formators, and I can tell you, I left there extremely excited and motivated and hopeful for finding people, especially Spanish speakers, to continue the work done by our predecessors. I am honored and blessed to be able to contribute my tiny grain of sand in God’s masterpiece and in His major plan!

    Prayers of thanksgiving and a plethora of blessings for all that you do to continue the amazing work of our predecessors! Thank you, Ralph, for having the heart of a servant leader! I look forward to learning more from you. May this last week of the Easter season be insightful and powerful for you! May the beauty and meaningfulness of this Easter season remain an integral part of your daily living for the days, weeks, months, and years to come! God bless you, your work, and your entire team!

    If I can be of service to you at any time, especially if you are in need of any prayers, please let me know. I thrive in my prayer life because of my love for the Lord!

    Yours in Christ,
    Maria Pimentel-Gannon.

    • Thank you for your timely and thoughtful letter regarding the challenging situation at our southern border. It serves as a powerful reminder of the compassion and empathy we, as Vincentians, should bring to our interactions with all of God’s children, whether near or far. Your leadership has been a true blessing, and I am grateful for the guidance and inspiration you have provided. MyLabCorp

  • Great article here , Ralph!
    Thank you for putting a Vincentian perspective on this current, pressing, cathartic, humanitarian event in our country. There is no way as Vincentians can look at this moment in history with simply a political viewpoint. I hope we hear more- so we can do more.

  • So well said, as usual. Thank you, Ralph, for your commitment and leadership.
    Karen Thomas

  • Chris Strassburger May 11, 2023 at 9:42 pm

    Our Jesuit son lives in Brownsville and assists in a Parish but also works along side Sr. Norma and many other NGO’s that serve the migrant community across the border and on the US side. On our trip in early February we were able to witness the situation and the challenges they face. The Jesuits in Brownsville have put together the Jesuit Border Podcast to help all of us learn more about what is happening at the border.

  • Excellent commentary, Ralph. We at the Assumption-BVM Conference in Los Angeles have long stood by the premise of no politics. We love and embrace our members who possess both conservative and liberal political worldviews, but stand fast to immerse ourselves in our Vincentian vocation and culture. We understand that we must be present and immersed, within the spiritual dimensions of our vocation and faith. We never have to sacrifice our zeal for America; rather we simply choose a Vincentian path for expressing our zeal and citizenship.
    Robert Wyatt

  • Thank You for this commentary, I have contemplated on this very subject many times and tried to visualize myself in the migrants situation. What would I do if my safety and the safety of my family were in peril on a daily basis? Would I not do everything I could, even traveling thousands of miles in dangerous conditions for my families safety. Most of the migrants are just trying to escape an unbearable situation. On the flip side, the border states are overwhelmed and under supported with thousands of border crossings a day. I agree, migrants are not bargaining chips in a political standoff, they are our brothers and sisters. If the powers that control their fate can see them as suffering children of God, they prayerfully will make the humanitarian decisions to help alleviate their suffering.

  • Jerry Gallagher May 12, 2023 at 2:37 pm

    Sister Norma’s misguided efforts at the southern border are destroying the United States of America. She needs to help the people before they get to America so that there will be enough resources available to help these folks. Soon all of the funding that supports our work as Vincentians will be GONE because our government has failed for decades to address the migrant issue . The Biden administration has purposely exacerbated this migrant issue to destroy the United Stars of America . The St Vincent de Paul Society has flourished because of its rules. It is incomprehensible to me to expect our great country to throw out its rules and think that it can continue to flourish. We are headed to the same dismal fate the France created after the French Revolution. So very sad for all of us.

    • So What Would Jesus Do? I think he would tend to his flock, just as Sr. Norma & the Vincentians are doing. Replace Judgement with Care & Hope.

  • Christine Kondrat May 12, 2023 at 4:41 pm

    Thx for the article
    We need to here these stories
    I have heard of and met Sr. Norma
    She exemplifies Catholic Social teaching
    We need to move everyone fro charity towards justice

  • For a number of years we wintered in a southern Texas. We were able to volunteer in one of her sites, a church.
    The site included food, showers meals baby items they had bus tickets & a backpack with snacks & drinks to have on her way to
    Their sponsor .
    Sister was interviewed on TV in the area as well we too were fortunate to be in her presence one time as well
    Larry Schmitz

  • That was so amazing I loved that you are doing a great work And There are only one god .mcdvoice . Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this complex and often controversial issue. It is important to remember that behind the headlines and political rhetoric, there are real people who are fleeing dire circumstances and seeking safety for themselves and their families. It is a difficult and often dangerous journey, and we must approach the issue with empathy and compassion.

    At the same time, we must also acknowledge the challenges faced by the border states and the need for practical solutions to manage the influx of migrants. This is a complex issue that requires a nuanced and multifaceted approach, and we must work together as a society to find a way forward that balances humanitarian concerns with practical considerations.

    Ultimately, as you rightly point out, we must see migrants as our brothers and sisters and approach the issue with a spirit of love and compassion, rather than viewing them as pawns in a political game. By doing so, we can work towards a more just and humane society for all.

  • Dear Ralph,
    Thank you so much for this timely, necessary and so thoughtful letter to us about the sad and complex situation at our southern border. Such a good reminder of the mind and heart we need to bring, as Vincentians, to our interactions with all of God’s children – close to home and far away.
    Your leadership has been such a blessing.

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