Dear Vincentian Friends,
This is my last Servant Leader column as your National Council President. It has been my privilege to have served you in this role for the past six years. Thank you for your support and prayers.
The columns I have written over these years have been reviewed and edited by my friend Ernie Stetenfeld, who succeeded me as CEO of the Madison Council. When I retired, I asked if he would continue to edit my writing, which he has done faithfully. I am grateful to him for that favor. When he would send the review copy back to me, he frequently commented on what he liked about the column and always provided a “track changes” version. Sometimes, I would ask what it was he liked since there were more red changes than the black original in his revisions, to which he responded that “it had good bones.” Thank you, Ernie; you made me look good.
Ernie is just one of a whole cast of Vincentians that I was privileged to serve with during my term. We had an excellent Board of Directors, and I am especially grateful for the work of the Executive Committee: Vice President Brian Burgess, Treasurer Jim Dodd, Secretary Guadalupe Sosa, and CEO David Barringer. In addition to the Board, we have been well served by our many committees and the staff at our National Office. As David Barringer pointed out in this column last week, in spite of having to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we accomplished a lot in the past six years because of this great team.
Certainly, the next few years will be crucial to the future success of our organization. The Society in the United States is well-positioned to succeed under the leadership of John Berry and his newly appointed Board of Directors. I have confidence in his leadership and the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Please use the tools we have made available so that we build upon a firm foundation. The most important of these resources are the Standards of Excellence. Continue to use them to be sure we have good governance of our Society and are following the best practices they detail. We also have dozens of excellent training materials available, as well as a revised Vincentian Pathway tool to help our members access the guidance they need most. Please use these materials; if you do, we will have a stronger organization — one better prepared to welcome new members and to serve our neighbors in need effectively and compassionately.
Some have asked what I will do with my newly acquired free time. I hope to enjoy having fewer commitments, less email and fewer meetings. As was announced at the National Assembly several weeks ago, however, our new International President General, Juan Manuel Gómez, has appointed me as the Vice President of the International Council General. I am grateful for his trust in me to contribute to the success of the International Council, which will involve continuing my work with international twinning and disaster aid. Beyond that, I suppose my work, like that of any vice president, will include “other duties as assigned.”
As I wrap up these six years, I look back on the importance of Vincentian friendship. The friendships I have found in the Society over 35 years have sustained and inspired me. Those friends are now spread all over the world. I hope your vocation in the Society is built on what is now very well-articulated in our new Mission Statement. We are: “A network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.”
This Mission Statement reveals the heart of how our founders understood the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Living in separate cities four years after founding the Society, Frederic Ozanam wrote this to his friend and cofounder Auguste Le Taillandier: “As each of us grows older, may we also grow in friendship, piety, and zeal for good!”
That is also my parting wish for each of you, my friends: “As each of us grows older, may we also grow in friendship, piety, and zeal for good!”
Serviens in spe,
National Council President