Dear Vincentian Friends,
During the past several months, it has been my pleasure to attend three regional meetings of the Society and the meeting of the International Executive Committee in Paris. It was wonderful to be with Vincentian friends I have not seen in many years, and to meet new people taking leadership roles in our Society. Sure, we did get many people to participate in the Zoom conferences held during the past two years, but there is nothing like being together, sharing meals, and interacting with workshop presenters and other participants.
In a couple of months, we will have an opportunity to get together in Baltimore for the National Assembly themed “Come to the Water.” Please do come; I hope to see many of you there Aug. 30 through Sept. 3. It will make you a better Vincentian. When I attended my first National Assembly many years ago in Milwaukee, I saw for the first time the bigger picture of this international network of charity. I came home with many great ideas and renewed enthusiasm for our mission. Most importantly, I came home knowing like-minded Vincentians from all across the United States.
The Baltimore Council is working to host a wonderful meeting. We have developed a great program with excellent keynote speakers and dozens of topical workshops that will be led by knowledgeable presenters. I especially want to encourage our East Coast members to take the opportunity to attend. We move this meeting around the country to provide more people easy access to this experience. That is why I attended that first meeting. It was an easy drive for me, and I have not missed many since then.
This meeting will be special because it will be the first time Renato Lima de Oliveira, the President General of the International Council, will be attending our National Assembly. He is an enthusiastic ambassador for the Society everywhere he travels. He will share with us a perspective on what it takes to be a worldwide network of charity. Renato will be with us for the entire meeting; so, you will have many opportunities to meet and talk with him.
Another opportunity you will have at this National Assembly will be to meet and speak with the next president of the National Council of the United States. We don’t know who that will be yet, but all four nominees will be at the meeting. You can talk with them at Thursday’s Host City event or listen to their campaign speeches at the Saturday business meeting. At that Saturday meeting, the National Council Members will vote to reduce the number of candidates to two.
An important part of any National Assembly is our spiritual enrichment. We will celebrate the Eucharist on Friday with our National Episcopal Advisor, Bishop Donald Hying, and on Saturday with Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. This year, our Friday morning of reflection will be led by Dan Schutte, who has written many of my favorite liturgical songs. Dan was one of the original St. Louis Jesuits and has continued that ministry by composing music and leading retreats.
If you are one of the more than 800 graduates of the Invitation for Renewal program, there will be a special event celebrating the program’s 20th anniversary. Come to rekindle friendships, continue to grow your leadership skills, and renew your Vincentian heart. Those who have not attended may receive some encouragement to do so after learning about the impact Invitation for Renewal has had on so many of our current Vincentian leaders.
A scripture quotation that Frédéric Ozanam and our other founders frequently repeated is, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” This Gospel passage certainly captures our Vincentian reliance on Christ journeying with us. In Baltimore, however, let’s shoot for “where 700 or 800 are gathered.” We have a great program in place, but what will make our National Assembly truly great is having you there. I think you will have a great time, but please do not regard this gathering as Vincentian tourism. When you get back home, what you will have discovered in Baltimore, you’ll need to share with fellow members, and what you will have learned there, you’ll need to put into practice. So, what’s your next step? Plan to sign up today, and be sure to get the early-registration discount!
Serviens in spe,
National Council President