Every year in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an opportunity for new goals, leadership transitions, and reflection on our successes and challenges. At this year’s National Assembly in St, Louis, we did all this and more as we celebrated “Where It All Began” with a pandemic-delayed 175th (now 178th) anniversary.
The biggest set of changes is the transition from one National President and Board of Directors to a new set of national officers. John Berry, our National President as of next month, succeeds Ralph Middlecamp, who has led the Society faithfully and effectively through six years of pandemic, economic, and social uncertainties and what all of this has meant for the Society. John has selected a new Board of Directors, which was ratified by the National Council at our annual Business Meeting held this week. We are now poised with talent for leading in the immediate future.
But what will that future bring? President-Elect John asked all of us to be part of a national listening process as we determine what the Society needs to be to remain true to our Mission and Three Essential Elements in a changing world. Much more to come on this, to be sure!
It is easy to forget that while around 750 Vincentians attended the National Assembly, more than 80,000 or so did not attend. They need to know a lot of what was discussed in St. Louis. Watch for videos of Ralph’s farewell address and recognition of his service at the closing banquet, John’s inaugural member address that lays out his hopes for his upcoming term, and other videos of our general sessions and workshops. These take some time to isolate, edit, and post, etc., so be patient as we release these in the coming weeks. They will each be announced in the e-Gazette as they become website links that you can share with your Council and Conference.
Three general sessions deserve your viewing. Bishop Donald Hying provided another seminal spiritual reflection for us in his last appearance as our National Episcopal Adviser. (He will be succeeded under President Berry’s term by Archbishop Andrew Bellisario from the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau. More on this soon!) St. Louis Council’s Executive Director/CEO John Foppe delivered a powerful, personal, and inspiring talk to the Assembly based in part on his book, “So What’s Your Excuse?” and Vincentian Father John Rybolt, a foremost authority on the life of St. Vincent de Paul, provide insights on St. Vincent’s varied imagery through the years and thoughts on how Vincent would approach today’s challenges. Coming soon!
A new Ozanam Institute online learning program was launched during the week. More on this elsewhere in the e-Gazette – don’t miss it!
A highlight for many who attended was the Installation Mass for the new President and Board at the “New Cathedral” of St. Louis. While many had been to St. Louis previously, most had never seen the enormous basilica filled with beautiful mosaic tiles including images of our Society founders. And as St. Vincent de Paul is one of three of the city’s patron Saints, his image appears in both mosaic and statue in the Basilica. It was a beautiful and inspiring event!
The National Council enters the 2023-24 year with a profitable 2022-23, an annual budget passed this week, and money in the bank for new initiatives as determined by you and the new Board. Our three subsidiaries – Disaster Services Corporation, SVDP National Stores and SVDP National Foundation – are healthy and poised for growth and success in their respective missions. National committees are being re-formed under new and existing banners to reflect our Essential Elements and other priorities. National staff will add a second Stores Director to support new and existing local stores, and an HR professional to assist the National Council and its subsidiaries to manage employee benefits legally and effectively for employee satisfaction and retention.
Nearly a third of the Assembly’s participants were first-timers. Plan now to join them and hundreds of others at our next National Assembly in Phoenix, August 14-17, 2024.
Yours in Christ,