A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 02-15-24

A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 02-15-24

A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 02-15-24 1200 1200 SVDP USA

The 2024 Midyear Meeting is about a month away in St. Louis. Every year as we approach Midyear, Regional Meetings, and the Annual Assembly the same question comes up. “Is it appropriate for Conferences and Councils to use their funds to pay for members to attend these meetings”? Or a variation on the same question. “Does the Rule allow the Conference or Council to use the funds they have raised to pay for members to attend these meetings?”

The answer is a clear, resounding, unequivocal YES! Not only is it appropriate and allowed, but it is a very important — and smart! — way to improve service to your neighbors in need, make your Conference or Council better and more effective, grow your membership, develop deeper spirituality within Conference and Council, and deepen friendship and community within the Society across the country.

The RULE (3.12 Formation of Members) states:

It is essential that the Society continually promote the formation and training of its members and Officers, in order to deepen their knowledge of the Society and their spirituality, improve the sensitivity, quality and efficiency of their service to the poor and help them be aware of the benefits, resources and opportunities that are available for the poor. The Society also offers members higher training in order to better help to raise the cultural and social level of those who request this support.

I have heard people say that spending money on sending people to the Midyear, Regional, or Annual Assembly is “taking food out of the mouths of the poor.” Well, with the deepest love and respect to those who say that, let me say that I could not disagree more!

If you want to put more food on the tables of those who are hungry — come to the Midyear, Regional, or Annual Assembly and learn how your fellow Vincentians across the country are innovating amazing new methods to collect food, create food pantries, develop partnerships with supermarkets and others, and delivering food to the hungry as we are called to do in Matthew 25.

If you want to help house the homeless and prevent those who are housed from losing their homes — come to the Midyear, Regional, and Annual Assembly and learn from your Vincentian Family across this country how they are developing incredible programs to move people from the street to homes, from extended stay motels to homes, preventing evictions, and working with community partners to address the many and complex issues of homeless prevention.

If your Conference is suffering from burnout and a lack of Vincentians to help the people in need coming to you for support, don’t suffer in isolation and silence – come to the Midyear, Regional, and National Assembly and learn what your Vincentian Family is doing to address the Spiritual needs we all have. We are all called to grow in holiness. See ways in which other Conferences and Councils across the country are innovating and creating exciting spiritual growth opportunities for their members.

If you are struggling to make the checkbook balance last until the end of the month it may seem counterintuitive to spend money to go to a meeting. But how else are you going to learn how to get over that fundraising challenge? Reach out to National and your Council and your Region and get the scholarship support you need (and YES — contact ME for help) and get to the meeting and learn some new development techniques so you can begin to be effective in helping to grow your monthly collection income.

St. Vincent once said, “The poor suffer less from a lack of generosity than from a lack of organization.”

When the Society was in its early days, Members gathered often for meetings to exchange ideas, learn from each other, grow together in spirituality, and grow in friendship and community (Our Essential Values). But remember that these Men (and they were all Men back in the day) were all wealthy individuals who paid their own way and funded the Society.

Today the Society has members who bridge the socioeconomic spectrum. We proudly have Members who were once people we helped. We have young people, retired people, rich people, and not-so-rich people. We are One Society representing ALL of American Society.

That is why we must use the resources we have been given — diligently, judiciously, and with discernment — to help train and empower our membership to lead us into the future. Our work is NOT just happening locally, in the vacuum of a Conference or Council, but in the community and friendship afforded them by attendance at a Midyear, Regional, and/or Annual Assembly.

Be prudent, be reasonable. Many people can pay their own way. Many, many people do. But many cannot. And do not just send your leadership, but look at the Emerging Leaders, the unsung heroes of the Conference/Council, the spiritual leaders, the new people who will come back and fire up the others. And support as many as you can to attend the Midyear, the next Regional, the Annual Assembly.

Peace and God’s blessings,

John Berry
National President

  • I have read many, many, many letters in this column and this may be the best one to serve the long term growth of the Society. Conferences need to understand that in order to promote growth in numbers and in service they need to learn. They need to listen to the opportunities all around them that they would never hear about except gathering in a group such as Mid Year, Regionals or Annual Assemblies. Well said and I hope all Conferences use it at their next meeting to get the whole Conference on board about spending money to grow in service and spirituality. Amen!!!

  • John that was perfect! Exactly what a large number of Councils and Conferences need to hear. Thanks for much needed support. Tom

  • I would like to express my opinion that I respectfully disagree with John Berry’s article and the National Council’s position that it is OK to used donated funds for the purpose of sending Vincentians to mid-year, regional, annual or any other type of meeting.

    When people donate to the conferences of SVdP they are doing so to assist in the core values of the Mission Statement and we as Vincentians must be good stewards of those funds. I see the value of the meetings, however, if someone wants to attend, they should do it with their own personal funds, as a form of a contribution to those we serve and their desire to enhance their Vincentian knowledge and experience. Someone taking a college course or attending a seminar for their personal betterment and serving others use their personal funds.

    To suggest that one should attend the meeting to learn the innovating new methods to enhance the objectives of providing food, housing, meeting spiritual needs and fundraising techniques is not justified. These innovating methods should be shared with the entire Vincentian community via zoom seminars, e-Gazette publication, etc. like the many other topics offered under such platforms.


    • Dear Russell, I understand your heart, but I must disagree with your opinion because we are all now and always in the school of the Holy Spirit who will show us new ways to love and to be loved, to serve and to be served, and to grow in the love of God and our neighbors. The Lord is not finished with any of us yet, my brother. Many conferences and other ministries fail or grow lukewarm because they are not stirring into flame the gifts and the core reasons for Saint Vincent De Paul conferences and the like. Just as we attend Mass each week to give thanks, to learn and grow in our faith, so these assemblies are very valuable to warm our hearts and enlighten our minds. As we remember and learn together, God is glorified. Jesus never fails! He continually encourages us to come and rest a while with him and with those of similar minds and hearts. Blessings and joy to you and all those who you love! 🔆🕊🔆

  • I have long advocated this approach John. Every VOLUNTEER needs to learn as much as they can about this vocation of neighbors helping neighbors. There is no substitute to NOT learning from National’s team and any subject matter experts brought in to enhance the Vincentian Way. When I was the ADCC President for Washington, I repeatedly urged attendance for ALL who could attend when money was the reason preventing attendance ( other reasons that are as legitimate would be work and family commitments and in those instances, I urged enrolling in the online coursework to get as much information as possible). Thank you for your timely letter and I hope others in the Society will try to see your point of view for what it is, Vincentian training and interaction on a national level that promotes the well-being of the communities in which we reside in order to serve them in the most effective and professional way possible.

  • Right on, Tommye!
    As a new president, I am often perplexed about what to do, although other leaders and former leaders generously help.
    I look forward to this meeting, especially since my plane doesn’t leave BWI until 10:30 AM.

  • Thank you! We serve

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