Vincentian Collaboration

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

Vincent de Paul was a master in getting diverse groups of people to work together.

"St. Vincent brought together as many people as he could, rich and poor, humble and powerful, and used every means to inspire in them a sensitivity to the poor, who are the privileged image of Christ." (Constitutions of the Congregation of the Missions, Introduction, p.19)

The members of the Vincentian Family place increasing emphasis today on collaborative projects.

Understanding Vincentian Collaboration

Vincent wrote,

"The poor suffer less from a lack of generosity than from a lack of organization."
Source - #126. Charity of Women (Châtillon-les-Dombes)," Marie Poole, D.C., ed., trans., Vincent de Paul Conferences, Correspondence, and Documents (CCD), 14 vols. (New York: New City Press, 2003),13b:8. (The translation is different, but it is the source of the quote.)


The Genius of Vincent

We all know and appreciate his passion for the poor. His foundations came out of his passion for the poor.

Vincent was also a genius in organizing and networking. His passion for the poor expressed itself through an empowering humilty that invited others to share their gifts. As Fr. Robert Maloney reminds us,

"St. Vincent was adamant about this. Few saints are as concrete as Vincent de Paul. He realized that effective evangelization and service of the poor would require organization. To accomplish this end, Vincent created numerous lay groups ("The Charities") and founded two communities.
"He brought the same organizational skills to the formation of the clergy. He felt that the poor would be served well only if there were good priests to minister to them, and, to that end, he organized retreats for ordinands and priests, the Tuesday Conferences, and founded 20 seminaries.
"Nor did he stop there. He marshaled all of the resources he could find in the service of the poor: young and old, men and women, clergy and lay, the rich and the poor themselves. The seeds of his organizational gifts have continued to spread even to this day through the countless lay members of AIC, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Miraculous Medal Association, the Vincentian Marian Youth groups, and the more than 260 institutes founded in St. Vincent's spirit."

Collaboration among the various branches of the Vincentian Family dates to the time of the founders.

For example, the Vincentian priests ministering at Richelieu requested two Daughters of Charity to teach there in 1638. Vincent was prudently attentive to preventing problems of co-education when boys and girls were taught together, and he sought Daughters of Charity to work along with other lay educators. His goal, like that of Elizabeth Bayley Seton was to help the students develop marketable skills for a productive adulthood.
Sometime ago I wrote . . . to find out if Mademoiselle Le Gras . . . could be so kind as to furnish a good schoolmistress for the girls in this locality [Nanteuil.] However, it is to be desired that she be able to teach them a trade, because unless that is the stipulation, the inhabitants of the district will be difficult about taking them away from the schoolmaster, where it costs scarcely anything and where they learn along with the boys. That is a dangerous thing as well, as you know.
Vincent also wrote,
"Since charity toward the neighbor is an infallible sign of the true children of God, and since one of its principal acts is to visit and bring food to the sick poor, some devout young women and virtuous inhabitants of the town of Châtillon-les-Dombes, in the Lyons diocese, wishing to obtain from God the mercy of being His true daughters, have decided among themselves to assist spiritually and corporally the people of their town who have sometimes suffered a great deal, more through a lack of organized assistance than from lack of charitable persons."

Challenge of Collaborative Projects Around the World

Pope John Paul II challenged to our family in 1986:

"Search out more than ever, with boldness, humility, and skill, the causes of poverty and encourage short and long term solutions ; adaptable and effective concrete solutions. By doing so, you will work for the credibility of the Gospel and of the Church." (Osservatore Romano, English Edition, August 11, 1986, p. 12).


Robert Maloney writes...

"Of course, in a family with a tradition as concrete and practical as ours, one of the great challenges for the third millennium must be collaborative projects.
These are already taking place in many, even most, of your countries. I encourage you to join forces all the more in the future.
The third millennium will be the millennium of solidarity, of networking. It will also be the millennium of the laity, as Pope John Paul II has already proclaimed on numerous occasions.
Our service of the poor will be all the more effective to the extent that we can channel our energies, which are huge, into collaborative projects. I use the word col-laborate purposely. Each of us here has a missionary vocation, the lay women, the lay men, the sisters, the priests, the brothers ) each of us. In our family there must be no rivalries, there must be no clerical domination. We must be simple, humble servants of the poor. That is why humility is so important in our Vincentian tradition. "It is the foundation of all evangelical perfection," St. Vincent said. "It is the core of the spiritual life."14 Humility is the great collaborative virtue. It never seeks to dominate. The humble person looks for God's gifts wherever they lie, receives those gifts, as a steward, and hands them on to the poor.
Recently the heads of some of the principal branches of the Vincentian Family published six collaborative projects, from different contents, as examples to stimulate other similar projects.
Some challenges:
  • Can there be similar collaborative projects in every one of our countries by this time next year? This goal is realizable within a year, I am confident.
  • Can we envision foreign missions where the missionaries are not just priests or brothers or sisters, but also single and married men and women from all the branches of our family?
  • Can we develop programs in which the poor work side by side with us, in which they share in our formation, and in our prayer, and so become a living part of our Vincentian Family?
  • Can we develop a Vincentian justice and peace network within all of our countries, and internationally too, so that we can mobilize our energies, on specific issues, in action on behalf of social justice?
Source: Vincentian Family as Missionary Robert Maloney

Overview of examples of Vincentian Family Collaboration

Initial responses

St. Vincent de Paul told us “We should assist the poor in every way and do it both by ourselves and by enlisting the help of others…. to do this is to preach the gospel by words and work” (CCD 12: Conf. #195). The Vincentian family was invited to focus 2015 as the “Year of Vincentian Collaboration.” We were called to explore new ways to collaborate within the Vincentian family and reflect on ways we are already doing so.

By collaborating with the Vincentian family, the poor are more effectively served. The International Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul put it beautifully as they agreed: “A more extensive and effective charity could be achieved, bringing together ideas, creativity, work and spirituality, with the common mission of serving Christ in the poor and needy members and growing in their spirituality.”

In Fr. Greg Gay’s letter to the Vincentian Family on January 30 calling for the Year of Vincentian Family Collaboration, national and international Vincentian leaders were asked for their thoughts and reflections regarding the topic. The responses were as diverse as our family itself – not only in their countries of origin, but also in their answers.

The Year of Vincentian Collaboration was given the theme “Together in Christ we Vincentians make a difference.” That became evident as answers were received about how Vincentian collaboration is happening all around the world and continues to develop. The answer of what Vincentian collaboration meant to them was clear – to collaborate in simple ways to make their area of the globe better, so that the poor may be better served. While all expressed a great sense of desire for their collaboration to grow, all were already practicing collaboration in wonderful ways. Their practice of collaboration was diverse and creative.

Some Vincentian collaboration is done by various branches of the family working together in ministry. In Mexico, two works were created with assistance of various branches of the Vincentian family – “Casa Vicentina” (for human promotion) and the project “Foundation San José de Guadalupe of the Vincentian Family” (for the elderly). Further south, in Cali, Colombia, various branches work together at “Social Service Center Sister María Luisa Courbin.”

Other Vincentian collaboration is done by serving on boards or as spiritual advisors/directors for ministries run by other branches of the Vincentian Family. An example can be in the Western Province of the United States. There, there are CM’s who spiritually guide branches such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Ladies of Charity. It was also shared that new Conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are often formed by members of the Congregation of the Mission or Daughters of Charity.

Another way that branches collaborate is through celebration and the spread of our charism and vocations. Many around the world spoke of their connection to the Association of the Miraculous Medal, a wonderful way to connect lay people with this important devotion and vital part of our Vincentian history. The Association of the Miraculous Medal itself collaborates with branches of the Vincentian family, as can be seen in Spain. They support the Daughters of Charity in their service in a home for the elderly. They also collaborate with catechists of JMV (Vincentian Marian Youth), which leads into the next point. This collaboration also spread to young people, even extending to primary school. St. Vincent’s Parish in Sydney, Australia, was the first to establish a group called the Minnie Vinnies, “a programme for primary school children who are introduced through prayer and practical support of the needy to the Spirit of St Vincent.” The group has been a success. In Untermarchtal, Germany, Fr. Christian Rolke, C.M. of the Province of Austria – Germany, participated in a large youth meeting and presented a workshop on Vincentian vocations. Our work in collaboration within the Vincentian family, however, does not end with the closing of the 2015 – 2016 year. There is still much work to be done.

We are blessed with many branches of the Vincentian family but knowledge of each one’s special charism and ministry still needs to grow. Relationships between some branches still need to be made and kindled. Mgr. Ing. Libuša Miháliková, president of St. Vincent de Paul Society in Slovakia, admitted that collaboration has decreased in the country and they truthfully don’t know a lot about other branches. This concern was not limited to Slovakia, as the Association of the Miraculous Medal in Spain suggested meeting to get to know the various branches of the Vincentian Family. The Daughters of Charity in Milan, Italy recommended more meetings to animate and sustain growth in Vincentian collaboration.

An understanding that all branches of the Vincentian Family (consecrated or lay) carry a key to the charism still needs to be promoted. The “key” to the charism doesn’t solely belong to the Congregation of the Mission or to the Daughters of Charity. St. Vincent and St. Louise emphasized the need to learn from others. We can all agree that oftentimes we learn more from others, whether it be those we serve or other branches of the Vincentian family, than we ever could teach them.

Fr. Mick Walsh, Visitor of the Province of Oceania, brought up an important point – “Here in Oceania, we pride ourselves of working with, learning from, and being inspired by many other Christian, non-Christian and secular groups who care for the poor. Famvin [the Vincentian Family] should open us to the goodness of the world not only tie us down to those who are related to Vincent.” Not only are the needs of the poor calling us to this, but so is our Church.

When speaking at the International Meeting for Peace in 2013, Pope Francis said “Dialogue can defeat war. Dialogue makes people of different generations live together, who often ignore one another; it makes citizens of different ethnic provenance and different convictions live together. Dialogue is the way of peace. Because dialogue fosters understanding, harmony, concord, peace. Because of this, it is vital that it grow, that it spread among people of every condition and conviction as a network of peace that protects the world and the weakest.” While the Holy Father used the word “dialogue,” the same could be said for “collaboration.”

Zafen, a non-profit for micro lending in Haiti, is a perfect example of how this can work. While two of the founders included the international Vincentian Family and DePaul University in the United States, it also included two secular groups – Fonkoze and the Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group. Where the needs of the poor exist, so do others that care.

We thank the leaders of the Vincentian Family around the world, who spoke so honestly about their thoughts, struggles, and joys of Vincentian collaboration. We pray that this Year of Vincentian Family Collaboration was an inspiration to us all to not lose heart and to seek new and creative ways to work together into the future on behalf of those living in poverty.

Annual Meetings of International Vincentian Family Leaders

  • [www.aic-international.org/en/ publications/meditation/daypayer27-09-2004.pdf 2004] (pdf)

Annual Day of Prayer in the Vincentian Family

PRAYER OF THE VINCENTIAN FAMILY

Lord Jesus, you who willed to become poor, give us eyes and a heart directed toward the poor; help us to recognize you in them – in their thirst, their hunger, their loneliness and their misfortune.

Enkindle within our Vincentian Family unity, simplicity, humility, and the fire of love that burned in St. Vincent de Paul.

Strengthen us, so that, faithful to the practice of these virtues, we may contemplate you and serve you in the person of the poor, and we may one day be united with you and them in your Kingdom. Amen.

International Meetings Focused on the Vincentian Family

International Collaborative Projects

Jubilee Declaration on Behalf of the Poor - (2000)

Hunger Project (2001)

"...after much reflection on the various urgent forms of poverty in the world today, we decided to focus as a family, from September 27, 2001 to September 27, 2003, on a single issue: hunger. The motto we will use during this period is: “The Globalization of Charity: Fight Against Hunger.”
As a response to this call, many branches of the Vincentian Family have developed projects and resources to assist in this effort. There is a powerpoint presentation available to demonstrate the issues involved in this campaign.
We also pray with one voice for the healing of this injustice in the distribution of resources in the world today.

Malaria Project (2003)

Miscellaneous Projects

This is but a beginning list.

National/Regional Family Gatherings

ENGLISH SPEAKING

This is but a beginning list. Please send notice of omissions to freundj@stjohns.edu

History of Vincentian Family Gatherings in the US