Dear Vincentian Friends,
A topic that I have talked and written about for the past few months is the need for our Society to increase our capacity to serve. We need to increase our membership, need to be better prepared to meet the changing environment we live in, and need to attract more supporters of our work. A key to this effort will be improving our communications about who we are and what we do.
A speaker at a past National Assembly observed that the Society is a wonderful example of the Gospel mandate to not let our left hand know what our right had is doing when we perform acts of charity. He reminded us, however, that the Gospel also tells us to not put our light under a bushel. I have shared this story before, but I repeat it because we need to walk the appropriate path between these two poles.
Frederic Ozanam was keenly aware that we are called to perform our acts of charity with humility and confidentiality, but he also reported the work his Council was doing in Lyon back to Paris, often on a monthly basis. We know that because we have letters of his with those reports, which sometimes included an apology if the report was sent too late to be shared at the meeting of the Council General.
I hope you looked at the 2022 Impact Report released by the National Council last week. It is an excellent example of a best practice I hope all of our Councils and Conferences will adopt. Formerly, we called these our Annual Reports. They were full of financial data and membership information. While that may be interesting to some people, what most people want to know is how did we make a difference in our communities and in the lives of those we serve. That is why we now provide an impact report.
When you read the report, you will see a few articles that provide statistics for volunteer hours worked or funds provided, but you will also find stories about how we made a difference in people’s lives. The report relates, too, some of what our members experience as they serve. As we focus on systemic change and advocacy, tables of data, and statistical charts fail to capture much of what we do.
Certainly, we must be very careful to protect those we serve. Even if neighbors in need agree to let us share their stories, let’s be sure we are not pressuring them to share their names and images. Confidentiality remains a strong and still-needed tradition in our Society.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a light that we must not hide. Our Society gives help and hope to neighbors in need and offers our members the opportunity to put their faith into action. The light our Society shines provides much-needed hope to the communities we serve and real credibility for the community of Catholics to which we belong. If our pastors, fellow parishioners, community leaders and donors understand who we are and what we do, we will have a strong Society able to attract new members and supporters to better serve our neighbors in need.
Serviens in spe,
National Council President