The President of the Ontario Saint Vincent de Paul Society takes on the the topic “The Spirituality of Vincentian Leadership” at their annual general meeting.
- Where is Jesus to be found?
- How do we have personal contact with Jesus?
- Do you really seek to see Jesus in those we serve?
- Did Vincent make systemic changes?
Jim Paddon sets these questions in the context of the mission, values and vision and then reflects on Discipleship and Covenant and reminds us that this is journey. “I welcome you to join us on this journey. Let’s walk it together with Jesus, Vincent, Louise, Frederic and Rosalie and our newest and very special member, Pope Francis.”
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul was founded by a group of students who adopted Saint Vincent de Paul as their patron saint with their desire being to emulate both Vincent and Jesus in their service to the Poor.
The mission of the Society is to live the Gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice and joy.
Our values are to
- see Christ in anyone who suffers
- come together as a family
- have personal contact with the Poor
- help in all possible ways
- To serve and to minister to all the poor, making no distinctions of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender or political opinions
- To promote their dignity and advancement in accordance with Christian values and the philosophy of the Society as expressed in the Rule
After reading our mission, values and vision I believe what we do as Vincentians can be very simply explained in two words…Discipleship and Covenant.
Discipleship simply means we are followers of Jesus Christ. Our main focus as disciples should always be to seek and find Jesus Christ. Where is he to be found?
Again, a very simple answer. Jesus told us where to find him. He offered us two very personal ways to have a very personal contact with Him.
The first is the Holy Eucharist. At the last supper Jesus told us he would be present in the bread and wine, which would become his body and blood. This was his gift to us. When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we do so in the belief we are eating his flesh and drinking his blood. In doing this we are also receiving the gifts of faith, hope and love from Jesus. We must take these gifts and use them, do not put them on a shelf for later use. Let us share them.
Where do we share them? One of the best ways is when we meet Jesus amongst the poorest of the poor.
When we as Vincentians meet and interact with our friends in need, we should always have the reverence that we have when receiving the Holy Eucharist. Remember it is Jesus we are talking to, listening to, serving. If you do this, it becomes very simple to remove all judgement of the individual, and truly experience the presence of Jesus in our midst.
Saint Vincent told us that we are evangelized by Jesus Christ through our contact with the Poor.
If we accept this fact, just as we accept the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we shall also be blessed with the same gifts from Jesus that we receive at the Eucharist, faith, hope and love.
I’m sure you can remember an incident involving someone in need where you really felt the presence of God. Perhaps as much as we seek to find Him in our work with and for those most in need, our Lord Jesus Christ is also searching for us. Perhaps He desires to use our meeting with the needy as another way to touch us, to teach us and to Love us. Cherish these opportunities as there are many others who would love to experience just once what we can experience every time we act as Vincentians.
Discipleship also provides us with a special place in the heart of Jesus as well as in the hearts of those friends and neighbours we serve. As Vincentians we make a commitment to Jesus to follow his example of love and service to the most vulnerable. However, this commitment goes beyond signing a piece of paper or making a promise. We form a covenant with the Lord to follow Him and love the poor.
If we are to truly honour our part of this Covenant, we must also be prepared to be open to the acceptance of new ideas and ways of doing what we have done for many years. We must also be prepared to undergo the same personal transformation that Vincent experienced many years ago. When Vincent first became ordained, he knew all about Jesus and church doctrine. However, he did not really know Jesus until he began his ministry to the poor. It was because of this personal relationship with Jesus in the poor that Vincent was transformed. It was then that he looked at how he could make changes aimed at improving the life of the poor. Today we would call this new spirituality systemic change. Systemic change seeks to address the root causes of poverty and to work with our friends in need to make changes that can help them escape poverty and have hope for a better future.
Did Vincent make systemic changes? He sure did, even though he was not familiar with the term as we use it today. Vincent formed the new Congregation of the Mission order of priests to go out to the poor and minister to them. Vincent formed the lay order, Ladies of Charity. Also, with the help of Louise de Marillac, formed the first non-cloistered order of nuns, the Daughters of Charity, who left the convent and went out to the poor.
Vincent was able to accomplish this work because of his personal transformation and desire to seek and find Jesus where he was told to look.
As current day Vincentians, do you really seek to see Jesus in those we serve? Do you keep this unique brand of faith as an integral part of all that you do as Vincentians?
You are likely aware of our efforts to find programs, resources, training and other methods whose goal is to simply make our current and future leaders more effective. I believe we are on the right track, but I fear our success will be limited if our presidents and leaders, today and tomorrow, do not include Jesus in your ministry. If our leaders are to be more effective, they must lead their members on a higher level, one that is above all of the necessary policies and procedures, above the need to have insurance and screening, above the need to have proper and accurate financial records. If you are to be an effective leader within the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, you must also be a spiritual leader. Place the spiritual welfare of your members above all else. If you can accomplish this task, we will all realize great success in our works of charity and social justice.
I welcome you to join us on this journey. Let’s walk it together with Jesus, Vincent, Louise, Frederic and Rosalie and our newest and very special member, Pope Francis.
Wonderful reflection. I love the perspective of treating those we encounter with the same respect we afford the Eucharist. Not always easy to do, but is it not one Body of Christ that we profess?