So what! Go and serve!

by | Sep 17, 2013 | Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vincentian Family

paddonSo what if we are old, fewer in numbers, don’t have enough money, too many people are abusing the system.  We’ve all heard the excuses why we can’t do more. “Go, do not be afraid, and serve.” challenges Jim Paddon, President of the Ontario Council in Canada.  We “must start and end with one singular core value. That would be our love for Jesus Christ”.

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS TO ONTARIO AGA

VAL CARON-SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2013.

Dear fellow Vincentians:

The past year has been a most remarkable one with lots of exciting events and also its share of challenges. I cannot begin to talk about the past year without saying thanks to everyone, from my executive on down to the core of our humble Society, our conference presidents and members. I continue to be inspired by your dedication and hard work as we seek Jesus Christ in the face of our friends and neighbours in need. While today`s world can certainly be very negative and rather depressing to even look at, I also have great hopes for a better future. The election of Pope Francis is proof of the Holy Spirit being amongst us.

What a wonderful example of charity, service and sharing, humility, truth and justice and warm acceptance and cordiality. These also just happen to be the characteristics of a Vincentian that can be found in our Rule.   I shall use a couple of quotes from Pope Francis during this address.

I would like to take a few moments to reflect on our humble Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and poverty in today`s world. There seems to be an ever increasing demand for our works of charity and social justice. We cannot afford to be satisfied with the status quo and becoming comfortable in the belief that we are doing all that we can to relieve poverty in Ontario. There will always be more challenges presented to us and if we are not prepared to face these challenges, we will never have the opportunity to grow as followers of Jesus Christ. As Pope Francis told the youth of the world this year in Rio de Janeiro…Go, do not be afraid…and serve.

While I am always inspired by the efforts of my fellow Vincentians, please do not be afraid to try new ideas. Look at possible ways we can further alleviate poverty and give hope to our friends and neighbours in need.  It may be time for us to use our hearts first rather than being overly concerned with protocol and having enough money.

I`d like to refer to the efforts of Bill Graham regarding the Lac Megantic disaster. I can honestly admit to learning something from this particular topic. When Bill first proposed driving a truck loaded with supplies to Quebec, I recommended waiting and going through the normal protocol of having national and Quebec deal with the matter. What Bill did, with the help of fellow Vincentians, was to think with his heart as he not only took a load of supplies to those in need, but he also took something that the Society possesses in abundance, our love, understanding and desire to help others on a very personal level. Thank you Bill for teaching me a valuable lesson.

We must open our hearts and minds to doing more for those most in need. We`ve all heard the excuses why we can`t do more…….

We are getting old.

We don`t   have enough members.

We don`t have enough money.

Too many of “those people“ are abusing the system.

“Go, do not be afraid, and serve.“

Pope Francis has stated…..

“For us Christians, poverty is not a sociological, philosophical or cultural category. No, it is a theological category. I would say, perhaps the first category, because God, the Son of God, abased Himself, made Himself poor to walk with us on the road. And this is our poverty: the poverty of the flesh of Christ, the poverty that the Son of God brought us with His incarnation. A  poor Church for the poor begins by going to the flesh of Christ. If we go to the flesh of Christ, we begin to understand something, to understand what this poverty is, the poverty of the Lord.“

Let`s not use excuses but rather search for ways to improve our capability to do more, while not placing any limits on what we can accomplish.

How do achieve this. I believe it starts with the role of our presidents, whatever level this may be, Regional council on down to the conferences. The most important duties of all presidents should include being dedicated to the service of the poor, to the needs of their council or conference and to the spiritual and moral needs of the members.

The Ontario Regional Council has an obligation to help all presidents fulfill these duties and where there is a need for resource material, to develop and provide this information and support. We have ten Ontario committees whose leadership is committed to helping you wherever needed. Please use them and support their work. You will hear committee reports later today.  I would respectfully ask all presidents to review their roles and efforts and be open to your membership`s opinions and ideas.

Our Ontario Regional Council will be developing relevant material ready for your use in early 2014.We also invite your suggestions on how we can enhance current programs and develop ones. I must also re-affirm our commitment to social justice topics such as systemic change, advocacy and prison ministry. I sincerely appeal to you today to fully embrace these areas of work as a way to really make a difference in the lives of our dear friends who are experiencing the results of living in poverty. One example is the Ozanam education fund which in the past year has awarded grants to 16 applicants totalling $32,000.00 to assist with their further education. This opportunity to improve their lives and future is a way we too can see some hope for the future.    

As you may have noticed in watching coverage of World Youth Days, there are still a few youth interested in the Catholic faith and many are searching for ways to follow the words of Pope Francis. We must be supportive of youth as full and contributing members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Go…do  not be afraid..and serve.

Jason Hunt, our youth chairperson cannot be here today, as he is in Ottawa attending the National executive meetings in his added role of national youth chairperson. I have had the pleasure and honour of meeting many of our youth and youth leaders in the past year. In addition, within the past few months, we have the beginnings of youth groups in Brantford, Port Colborne and Thunder Bay.

From what I have seen, I truly believe we are in for a huge increase in youth development here in Ontario and across Canada.

 Of course, all that we do, must start and end with one singular core value. That would be our love for Jesus Christ. If we do not ensure that we place our Vincentian spirituality as the main focus of our works of charity and social justice, our committees, our council and conference meetings, and in our personal contact with our friends in need, we shall fail as an organization.      

In closing, I would like to thank the members of my executive committee for their support, advice and hard work. Thank you to all members across Ontario.

I will end with one final quote of Pope Francis, who recently posed these two questions …

“Tell me, when you give alms do you look into the eyes of the man or woman to whom you give alms….And when you give alms, do you touch the hand of the one to whom you give alms, or do you toss the coin“.

May God bless everyone.

Sincerely,

Jim Paddon

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