Different Ministries but the Same Mission: The Vincentian Family – Continuing education presentation from the AIC (LCUSA)
As part of their continuing preparation for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of their founding by Vincent the leadership team of the AIC offers another in its monthly ongoing formation resources.
Text: María Eugenia Magallanes Negrete — Translation: Father Charlie Plock
Introduction: The Vincentian Family, a powerful force with a long history
The Vincentian Family was founded by Vincent de Paul who discovered his charism of service and evangelization on behalf of those living in poverty and very quickly shared that charism with other people. Thus, the first branches of this fruitful tree came into existence: the Confraternities of Charity (1617), the Congregation of the Mission (1625) and the Company of the Daughters of Charity (1633).
Two centuries later two new branches of the tree came into existence: the Vincentian Marian Youth Association (the event that led to the creation of this Association was the appearances of the Blessed Virgin to Saint Catherine Laboure in Paris, France ) and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society (founded by Frederic Ozanam in Paris ).
In 1909 the Miraculous Medal Association (this Association also came into existence as a result of the apparitions of the Virgin to Saint Catherine) and in 1997 the newest branch, the Vincentian Lay Missionaries, was born as a result of the desire of the members of the Vincentian Marian Youth Association to engage in the work of missions ad gentes for an extended period of time.
These are “the official” seven branches of the International Vincentian Family (FAMVIN); throughout the world, however, there are more than two hundred fifty groups and movements that are inspired by Saint Vincent de Paul and/or by his spirituality. What unites all of these groups is a common mission of love and service on behalf of those who experience distinct forms of poverty and exclusion.
Development of the Theme: The Vincentian charism is shared by more than 250 groups, or in other words, more than 2,000,000 people
· The charism is shared
Beginning in 1995, Father Robert Maloney, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, encouraged all the associations that are inspired by Saint Vincent to live to the fullest their spirituality and their ministry and the present Superior General, Father Gregory Gay, has continued that work. This new impulse seeks to create bonds of unity and collaboration on the level of training as well as on the level of service on behalf of those living in poverty.
Since that time the Superior General of the Congregation has gathered together the International Presidents of the seven branches of the Vincentian Family and has also invited the leaders of other international groups that share the Vincentian charism to participate in the meetings. These groups have included the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity, the Brothers of Charity, the Brothers and Sisters of Mercy, the Religious of Saint Vincent, the Vincentian Companions, the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, among others.
· FAMVIN is concerned about the training of its members
Saint Vincent said that we continue the mission of Jesus Christ who came to evangelize the poor. This is also our mission… in fact we have no other mission except that of evangelizing those living in poverty. The task of evangelization is derived from our Baptism. As Vincentians we have to be evangelizers.
The fundamental theme of the pontificate of Pope Francis is that of the new evangelization. It is referred to as “new evangelization” because we live in new times. Indeed, the world has turned a page in its history and is in need of being evangelized once again. In accordance with this line of thinking the 2014 meeting of the Vincentian Family had as its motto: The Vincentian Contributions to the New Evangelization.
The International Vincentian Family is involved in an important training program which is geared toward providing better service to those living in poverty. This program is composed of five modules which are:  the Vincentian as visionary;  the Vincentian as contemplative;  the Vincentian as collaborator;  the Vincentian as catalyst;  the Vincentian as servant. In May 2013 this program was delivered for the first time and in June 2014 the second session was held.
Programs that assist those living in poverty
The branches of the Vincentian Family are engaged in projects that assist people trapped in “new forms of poverty” such as, people living with AIDS, drug addiction, refugees and migrants. As members of the Vincentian Family we are called not only to provide these people with food and clothing and medicine but even more importantly we are called to struggle with those who are living in poverty for justice and peace and education and the holitic development of all people. Some years ago the Vincentian Family began the “systemic change” initiative which, in imitation of Saint Vincent de Paul, is directed toward the causes of poverty. Thus we saw the creation of some important projects that transformed in a radical manner the life of those who were living in the midst of situations of poverty (for example, in Madagascar, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Haiti).
Representation in International Organizations
Several branches of the Vincentian Family, including our beloved AIC, have representation as a non-governmental organization at the Conferences of Catholic Organization, the European Council, the Pontifical Council COR UNUM, the United Nations (and their various bodies, such as, UNESCO, UNICEF, etc.).
Many of the projects of the different branches of the Vincentian Family are directed toward fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, which are:  to eradicate poverty and hunger,  to achieve universal primary education,  to promote gender equality and to empower women,  to reduce child mortality,  to improve maternal health,  to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases,  to ensure environmental sustainability,  to form global partnerships for development.
The Vincentian Family is invited to build a more equal and just world
As Vincentians we are invited to work for social justice. When we see someone on our streets begging for food, it is because there is no justice and therefore we must act. Social justice means that people have enough to eat, are free, are able to live dignified lives, have access to employment and education and are able to develop themselves as people. To work for justice is something concrete… it is action and not just theory. We have to be engaged in an on-going struggle against poverty and inequality and we must also attempt to make our dream of equality a reality. Even though we may not be able to achieve the goal in its totality, we must continue to work together to change those structures that imprison so many men and women; we must continue to struggle together so that those who are living in situations of poverty will be treated with dignity and respect.
The members of the Vincentian Family are called to be “revolutionaries” like Christ
Revolutionaries never use violence; they are people of integrity, that is, they do what they say. They persevere in the action and/or activity that they are involved in… they commit themselves to the accomplishment of a mission. Christ was a revolutionary because he wanted to transform the world and wanted to change people’s hearts. Christ was a revolutionary because he loved people so much that he gave his life so that others might have the fullness of life. It is most probable that we will not be able to completely change the world, but we can change the reality in which some people live if we can convince them with our example and our testimony.
Personal and Community Reflection:
Let us reflect on the following words of Frederic Ozanam, words that refer to the struggle for justice:
“Charity is not enough. To heal the wounds but not stop the blows that cause those wounds… charity is the Samaritan who pours oil on the wounds of the beaten traveler who has been attacked. The role of justice is to avoid the attacks”.
“The aim of the Society is based on two virtues: justice and charity. Nevertheless justice supposes great love because much love is needed in order to respect the rights of men and women”.
Activities and Questions:
- In your city or neighborhood, are there other branches of the Vincentian Family? Do you meet together as a family? How frequently do you interact with one another?
- As AIC volunteers are you involved with any Vincentian Family projects?
- In your center, are you involved in some project that is aimed at achieving one or more of the Millennium Development Goals? Describe that project.
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 may one day be united with you and them in your kingdom. Amen.