05-26-2022 A Letter from Our Servant Leaders

05-26-2022 A Letter from Our Servant Leaders

05-26-2022 A Letter from Our Servant Leaders 1368 1387 SVDP USA

It is difficult for us to process the recurring news about mass shootings whether we try to do so as Americans, Catholics, or as family members. As Vincentians, however, perhaps we can add constructively to the conversation and to the question of “What can we do?”

This column won’t address the Second Amendment or gun control issues. Rather, as Vincentians we focus our prayers and services on people. What do we know, and what can we do?

We know that poor health (physical, and especially mental), leads to unhealthy situations including marriage challenges, rage issues, workplace violence, and child abuse. Many of us act differently when we are in pain, even if from a simple headache. Chronic pain often leads to worse choices and outcomes. Some pain leads to depression, hopelessness, and “acting out” in many forms. In our work with families, we can see more readily than most how deficiencies of income, health, medicine, and general medical care intersect, often in potentially dangerous ways. We know that some of our friends in need must make a choice between buying food or medicine. And since food is often for one’s entire family, food wins. If the medicine is for a mental or psychological condition that may not even manifest in physical pain, it can be an easier if more dangerous choice.

Some of our Councils have started free and least-cost pharmacies to help. With such support, a person in need has more money available for other basic needs. Some folks can’t even afford a doctor visit co-pay, so anything we can do is helpful in daily-life terms. Other nonprofits have initiated a prescription program in concert with their returning citizens work, wherein someone gets diagnosed and prescribed a mail order medicine before prison release and it carries forward when they are home. Imagine the mental health issues alone that are avoided with this program for a vulnerable returning citizen!

We look at not only emergency needs but also systemic change solutions for our neighbors in need to mitigate or even exit their poverty situation. We may need a more strategic look at how mental health services, medicines assistance, and general healthcare intersect with other poverty challenges. Vincentians don’t need to be the medical providers, but we can help organize the dollars, transportation, and scheduling and/or arranging the visits needed. All of this will require collaboration with public health offices, healthcare providers, funders, pharmacies, and other important players. We are pretty good at this in other areas of our work, notably food pantries and utility payments. Consider this another stream of basic needs we can contribute toward for those we serve.

We won’t know if helping someone manage their money to afford both healthcare and proper nutrition will result in positive societal outcomes. What we already know is that any help we can provide against the root causes of poverty is good help, and that no act of charity is foreign to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Even in such pain and tragedy as the national news brings us all too often, God is trying to tell us something. Those we serve have more than financial needs. Our Home Visits provide social interactions which, even by themselves, support mental health by having trusted friends to talk to in difficult times. We have such a unique perspective of being with people and families in need where they live. While we are not trained to diagnose, we can observe and listen, and then make services connections and offers to help with healthcare costs.

In our Council and Conference meetings, let’s broaden our discussion about how to help our neighbors and explore how we might support, and even lead, community health access and supports. In discernment and prayer, let’s partner as needed to do more. If needed services already exist in our community, we can at least advertise and refer.

All of this may never save one single life from a senseless shooting. Yet how many more shall we learn about before we ask if there is something, anything, we can do as Vincentians to help prevent this?

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer

  • Dave McNaughton May 26, 2022 at 5:33 pm

    Or could we recognize that weapons of war are being used to kill our children, and that our elected officials are doing nothing. Which if you think about it is depressing. The messaging of those that oppose common sense gun control is that we have a mental health problem. Your letter echoes that messaging. Truth is something that we are called to recognize and act upon. The truth is that mental illness is a huge concern in this country as it is for all the developed countries in the Western world. The one thing that makes the United States unique is the amount of guns that our citizens possess, and in particular the amount of assault rifles (AR-15s). No other country in the West allows its citizens to possess that weapon of war. We are the only one, and the one in which this problem of mass shootings at schools is a chronic problem. To write about this issue and not talk about gun control is not adding to the conversation in a constructive manner, and makes processing this issue more difficult. I think we should speak the truth on this issue.

  • May 26 2022

    Dear Fellow Vincentian Barringer,

    So many people hurting down there in Texas right now are Catholics, I believe. Thank God they have the church (some of them, anyway) to offer solace. It is too bad we can’t think of more to do as Vincentians than offering prayers, however. I believe there is a way to offer, and a plan for making things safer for kids, without touching on the highly charged issue of “gun control.”

    Mental health services are not free. I have worked in the medical field as an ethicist, an administrator and a volunteer. My father and grandfather were physicians from Italy, and both were committed to social service. They often worked with the poorest of the poor, including mental health patients.

    St Vincent de Paul Society, perhaps in cooperation with another non-profit (the Kennedy Center on Ethics at Georgetown, for instance) could propose minimal mental health care availability to pre-college young adults. Typically in the public health, different approaches might be proposed for Urban, Suburban and Rural settings.

    Another approach with the same goal in mind would be to produce a “White Paper” on what is being today at Catholic Schools grades K – 12 to offer mental health services to their students. The point of the paper would NOT be to criticize schools whatsoever, nor is it possible nor helpful to offer a survey of ALL Catholic schools. On the contrary, the paper would merely survey five – to- 10 “success stories” in the Catholic schools, perhaps showing the diversity of mental health programs that seem to be working today. As these programs are never free of charge, I think it important that each profile include a reference to program costs.

    With this sort of study in hand, Minimal Mental Health Services available to America’s Young could be one more lobbying effort we make to the U.S. Congress in cooperation with the USCCB.

    Marc Bruno,Treasurer
    St Vincent de Paul Society at St Peter and Paul Church

  • This was an amazing email. Certainly supportive and thought provoking. Our group has talked many times that as much as financial help that we believe our visits and conversations are so needed. Many of our clients just need someone to hear them. Thank you for this email.

  • Well stated Dave. Thank you for that perspective and challenge. Everyone can help be a part of the solution in their own unique way. God places us where He does for a reason and you put forward a connection to our calling and what is going on where we live.

  • Our conference has just completed the initial work to join the diocese of Biloxi to make medications available or at very low cost. The discussion came up after many home visits where we witnessed a different need that could help our friends have a much more normal life. So many of these troubled perpetrators have a back ground where a St. Vincent DePaul conference would have made a difference along with all the available local help agencies. You don’t know who they are until you visit their homes.

    • Candy Huttinger May 31, 2022 at 11:22 am

      I agree with comments made previously by Chuck Zannetti. Why aren’t we listening to and supporting the views of our Catholic Bishops. Why are most Catholics and Politicians ignoring the fact that gun laws and our country’s prolific gun violence are PRO-LIFE ISSUES? In my opinion this is very hypocritical.

  • Chuck Zannetti May 27, 2022 at 4:17 pm

    Catholicism is a both / and proposition. Regarding gun violence in our culture, all the things that Dave said about prayer, mental health needs, and helping people in need with money and medication are worthwhile and must be done. But all that will only address part of our problem. We cannot ignore the problem of guns in our country. The USCCB issued “Responses to the Plague of Gun Violence” in 2019. In it, they announced their support for the following; “… a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks, a federal gun trafficking bill, regulations on sales of handguns, improved mental health interventions, safety measures, and an honest assessment of violent images and experiences in our society.” None of these measures have been adopted. Catholic legislators helped voted them down. Gun violence is a pro-life issue and we should address it with the full weight of our Christian moral convictions. I would go further. Neither Moses nor Jesus authored the second amendment. Our constitution is malleable. Let’s read that amendment and see if we really need that well-ordered militia that forms the foundation of that right to bear arms. We need to talk about a repeal of the second amendment.

    Chuck Zannetti, SVdP St. Peter All Hallow, Sacramento. Ca.

  • I agree with those advocating for gun control measures in our country. It is not enough to blame these tragedies on mental illness alone. Our country’s access to weapons that cause mass injury and death in a very short time, is abominable. I would have hoped that our St Vincent de Paul leadership could have addressed this very big issue in this letter.
    Thank you
    Patty Espy

  • Candy Huttinger May 31, 2022 at 11:25 am

    I agree with comments made previously by Chuck Zannetti. Why aren’t we listening to and supporting the views of our Catholic Bishops. Why are most Catholics and Politicians ignoring the fact that gun laws and our country’s prolific gun violence are PRO-LIFE ISSUES? In my opinion this is very hypocritical.

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