Thank you for a Great National Assembly!
This past week, Vincentians from across the country and a few special guests from the international SVdP community in Mexico and Paris came together to celebrate this year’s National Assembly in Providence, R.I.
The week focused on allowing Vincentians to renew their spirituality. Through daily masses celebrated by a number of visiting celebrants, like Cardinal Sean O’Malley from the Archdiocese of Boston, Reverend Doctor Clarence Williams, CPps, PHD and director of the Institute for Social Sobriety and Bishop Thomas Tobin from the Diocese of Providence; as well as adoration, attendees were able to celebrate their faithfulness with their fellow SVdP members.
Vincentians gathered each day for workshops covering a variety of topics from systemic change to clergy relations and multicultural challenges and opportunities facing the Society today. Workshops were hosted by visiting guest speakers as well as Vincentians themselves.
The National Assembly welcomed special guest speakers such as Fr. Clarence Williams who spoke to attendees about diversity and systemic change.
A group of panel members came together to answer questions about clergy relations and the Society. The panel was made up of Rev. David E. Green, pastor of St. Martha Church in East Providence, Rev. Clarence Williams and Julien Spiewak, SVdP International Secretary General.
Throughout the panel discussion, the members spoke about a number of different topics including the importance of youth Conferences, maintaining the Society’s spirituality and the role of evangelization in charity work. They also described some of the road blocks that Vincentians may run into when trying to form a Conference and working with clergy members.
Spiewak attended the Assembly to address the importance of youth and young adult involvement in the Society. He spoke about the crucial part the group will play in the future of the SVdP.
This year’s National Assembly held a special place of importance for young people. A group of young Vincentians from the Providence area were there all week to help out. The group of boys and girls, ranging from junior high to college age call themselves, “Next Gen.”
For many Vincentians, the National Assembly serves as the one time a year they get the opportunity to come together with most of their fellow-Vincentians from across the country and renew their Vincentian spirit as one.
“It is the only place where you get the true whole picture,” said Irma Colabrese, president of the District Council of Camden, N.J. “It takes you out of the problems you have to solve and you get the view of what you’re really supposed to do.”
For some, it offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Vincentians from another country and see how another National Council operates.
Aurora Bravo Inclan and Gladys Herrera Torralba traveled all the way from Mexico to visit the National Assembly. When asked what her favorite part of the Assembly was, Torrabla said, “the masses and the music. Hearing all of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul sing together was beautiful.”
Of course, this event would not have been possible without an incredible local Council working tirelessly to get everything ready for the arrival of 600 plus Vincentians.
Mark Gordon, Providence Council president and event co-coordinator worked with a team of dedicated people to put together an incredible event. “Our goal was to have a classy event that we could all be proud of and we think we achieved that,” Gordon said. “We wanted a deeply spiritual event that we hoped would be transformative for people and we think we achieved that as well. People said the spirituality and focus on liturgies really were meaningful to them and that made it all worth it.”
Renee Brisette, executive director of the Providence SVdP Council, and all of her children played a big role on-site during the Assembly. They worked on everything from registration, to a new attraction this year called, StoryBooth, a special video-taped segment where Vincentians could answer questions about their time with the Society. Each day, recorded segments were shown to the attendees.
Brisette’s children even had the opportunity to participate in a special video conference with other young people from around the world. There were youth from Chile, Guatemala, London, Paris and many other countries all over the world that participated in the call!
“I think there is a natural sense of honor and excitement that comes along with hosting the National Assembly,” said Brisette.” For my family and I, spending the week sharing stories and experiences with so many remarkable people, making so many new friends, catching up with treasured friends from many miles away and participating in such spirit-filled masses together, quickly brought about an overwhelming sense of humility and awe that will remain for some time to come. We have been so blessed to have been a part of hosting our amazing Vincentian family here in our home Diocese of Providence!”
Gordon ended the Assembly on Saturday night by “handing off the baton” to next year’s National Assembly host, the SVdP Council of Columbus, Ohio.
Next year’s assembly will be held August 30 – September 3, 2016 in Columbus.
We cannot wait to see everyone there for the 2016 National Assembly!