As a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul team, I’d like to say a few words about our part of this important family journey.
The Vincentians in NYC recently hosted our new President General, Renato Lima de Oliveira, the 16th President General of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Renato is a young man from Brasilia. A husband, a father, and a Vincentian since he was a teen. He brings a unique view to his role within the society. He spent several days with Vincentian Family in the area. I had an opportunity to interview him during his short time with us.
I asked Renato about his 20 point program.
He told me it was divided into 3 main parts;
Spiritual, Management, and Projects.
Spiritually, he’d like to see us strengthen the society’s nature as a global network of people seeking holiness through a responsible commitment to those who live in deprivation and need.
Managerially, he has new views on training, formation, youth, communication and strategic planning.
Projects, he has positions for an Ombudsman, Circular-Letter, partnerships and other initiatives.
Of course, we have six years to fulfill his suggested plan.
I asked how the issues of migrants and refugees as well as human trafficking affect the Society internationally.
Renato responded, “This is the most important subject today, worldwide. SSVP is, of course, part of it and has been affected as a result. In many countries, our conferences are working to relieve the suffering of those poor people. First of all, we treat them with respect and dignity. To the best of our ability, we offer them better living conditions and help provide food for themselves and their families. We also assist and support them so that they may acclimate to their new environment quickly. They left their homes, their countries, not because they wanted to, but were obliged to. We expect that the new General Secretary of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, who has lots of experience in these matters will bring new, proactive ideas to find a better solution for all mankind. The UN can count on us, SSVP and the Vincentian Family, as well. I sent Antonio Guterres a letter expressing CGI’s congratulations for this very important role in the world’s political scenario.”
And my final question was regarding a home visit Renato made with me while he was in NYC. As we were leaving the woman’s apartment Renato told me it was an eye-opener for him. He said he viewed it as a new form of poverty. I asked how it might affect him as a Vincentian, and as our President General.
Renato replied, “The experience I had when we made that home visit in NYC was very remarkable for me. I’m used to making a different kind of home visit; to people who have nothing, or almost nothing, and help them live in dignity. The lady we visited in NY craves a different kind of aid. Thank God for our members there who had the resources and knowledge to help her. It was an excellent opportunity for me to witness and serve. This reinforces the notion that although poverty is a global infliction, the life experiences and geographical location of people has a great deal to do with how the suffering will present itself. This event left a huge impression on me and has impacted me ever since. This experience will certainly form part of my reflections moving forward. Thank you for coming along with me on that visit. No Vincentian can say, “I already know everything” because life teaches us new things every day! Finally I ask you to pray for me. Please, continue to strive for the poor at the United Nations through your hard work and good intentions. You are the voice of the poor!”
You may be wondering what this has to do with our work at the United Nations. I believe the common thread, or threads would be spirituality, and poverty. As Renato said, we find poverty in many forms and places. As Vincentians we go those in poverty wherever they may be. In NYC it may be a homeless shelter, on the street, or a Manhattan high rise. As members of the UN team we’re exposed to the suffering of people in other parts of the world. No matter where we find poverty, we address it in the same way, offering what we can to alleviate the pain.
This week the members of the Vincentian Family at the UN will be presenting a “Side Event” with the support of the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN. We have invited several dynamic speakers to discuss “The Triad of Grass Roots Engagement, Advocacy, and Systemic Change in the Eradication of Poverty.”
We hope to showcase our “boots on the ground” approach to assisting people living in poverty. We also hope to offer a view of our form of advocacy and systemic change.
“Through 400 years of working closely with persons living in all phases of poverty, the Vincentian Family has directly witnessed the beneficial link between grass roots efforts, systemic change, and advocacy in over 150 countries around the world.”