We aren’t out of the woods quite yet, but we can at least see the clearing ahead of us.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the U.S. has seen a lot since our 1845 founding. We are blessed that with every war, every pandemic, and every Depression, recession, and other disasters both man-made and natural, we have bent perhaps but not broken in our service to God and our neighbors in need. We pray and then we persevere.
While the story of our pandemic period is full of sadness, turmoil, and uncertainty, it is nevertheless a story of Vincentian spirit and service that deserves to be told and to be remembered. It’s our nature to say “Well, that was that” and move on to the next challenge, the next family in need, and our next Conference meeting. Before we forget these past 18 months and all the changes we went through, including most notably the forced isolation from each other, we should reflect on the experience and how, as individuals and as the Society, we too are changed.
This weekend (Friday at 5:30 PM and Saturday at 2:30 AM Eastern), a special pandemic edition of “Our Faith in Action: Today’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul” will air on EWTN. Set those DVRs! It’s a 30-minute look inside our Vincentian experience and how our members and Conferences continued in their formation journeys and in their service to neighbors in need. While cost, time, and travel considerations limited our filming to just three cities and Councils, this is really the story of all of us. If you squint just right you will see your Conference’s innovation in its food pantry, your Council’s changes in its thrift store, your fellow member’s continuing of Home Visits in unique ways, and maybe even yourself in the way you found the inner strength to just keep going.
If only our own members see this show it will be a success! Many of us did not know about the challenges overcome in different ways in Conferences across the country. The show gives us pause to reflect, and then to celebrate our common stubbornness, uh, I mean perseverance to serve in the face of chaos everywhere around us. Be proud; we are still here!
We don’t need a TV show, however, to educate ourselves. No, our communities and our supporters – parishioners, clergy, foundations, business partners, and others – deserve to see our story, too. They made our work possible with prayers, materials and financial support, and often during this period, new collaborations. While other social service and faith-based organizations pulled back, we stayed. We stayed in touch with our most vulnerable neighbors. We stayed in prayer with our parishes, clergy, and each other. We kept meeting, kept serving, and kept looking for how else we could serve God and share His love in our communities when it all shut down. The show tries to pull all this together in just 30 minutes. It’s a half-hour I ask you to share widely.
My hope is that each of us can share the show in a Conference meeting, parish gathering, annual dinner, or donor meeting. We own the show content, and will have it available through our website as soon as the broadcast rights clear in the next week. Trust me, EWTN will also appreciate the sharing as well!
To be clear, we all know that we don’t serve as Vincentians in order to get earthly credit; our rewards are more eternal. That recognized, we do need to tell our story more to recruit new members and to continue the public support we require for us to continue our works. Humility is a virtue. Sometimes, though, we need to remind everyone, and yes even ourselves, that we do good work and that our communities can depend on us to be there in good times and bad.
The pandemic resulted in Vincentian innovation, some of which will become lasting change. The pandemic challenged us to ask if “the way we have always done it” is now the most effective way for today and tomorrow. As we tell our story through the EWTN presentation, National Assembly workshops and otherwise, perhaps it will inspire us to consider even more changes, still consistent with our Rule while also consistent with today’s needs and service environments.
The “pandemic special edition” may drive innovation discussions in your Conference and Council. We wish that it didn’t take a pandemic to have these conversations! We appreciate nonetheless that God has blessed us with our journey together out of pandemic darkness to a new day in His service! Still here!
Yours in Christ,