A LETTER TO MY YOUNG FRIENDS IN THE VINCENTIAN FAMILY
Just like you, my life is shaped by Vincent; in a real sense, however small, I am Vincent. So are you.
I met some of you for the first time at the USA/Canada Vincentian Family Gathering. Some of you I’ve known for a long time. I found some of you through Sr. Mary Beth and the USA Vincentian Lay Missionaries. For several weeks now, it has been my privilege to sit with you, to chat with you, to break bread with you (okay, to eat Pad Thai or pizza with you), to search with you, to wonder…. Jess, RJ, Mike, Suzanne, Emily, Katy, Josef, Claudia, Jess, Lynne, Brian, Tom, Chuck, Katherine, Gianna, Michelle, Alex, Mary, Catherine, Kate, Clare, Coleen, Karli, Alison, Kristen, Loren, Natalie, Mary Frances, Bill, Katie…
We talked about who we were, and what we were looking for. We talked about connections, and futures, and letting the charism grow. Some of us knew about the studies of “unaffiliated Lay Vincentians” being conducted out of DePaul University. Do you recognize yourself in this?
So, what are we talking about?
Vincent started his professional life feeling like we all do: trying to make a living and trying to make a life. That’s not a criticism. Your reality is that you’re in a Vincentian or Setonian university, or a service program like the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers or the Vincentian Mission Corps or the Vincentian lay Missionaries, or recently have left one of these, and now it’s time to begin a new life. Sometimes that means moving to a new place. One of the big pieces of the puzzle was how can I keep “feeding” my Vincentian spiritual life? We had great conversations about effective online resources that might mirror “iamdepaul” or “Humans of New York. (thanks Mary)” It can all help us to go deeper. how about “iamvincent“? We talked about a Job/Mentor bank through a LinkedIn connection.
Looking more deeply, we knew that we had to find a way of putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Claudia mentioned the work and ministry of the Jesuit Collaborative and the resources they provide for their “alumni.” Why couldn’t we develop something along those lines. I promised to speak with my friend Sean Sanford who works with the Jesuit project. He’s Jesuit educated, but formed as a lay Vincentian, too. The work he began with my small help continues. So, what is it we’re looking for? The former superior general of the Congregation of the Mission, Robert P. Maloney, always reminded us that to be Vincentian is not so much a spirituality to be understood, rather it’s a “way” to be practiced. Can we develop something using the resources available at .famvin and at DePaul University to form the basis of “formation in the Vincentian way?”
What was clear in the conversations is that transformative experiences in our way are to be found close to the poor and marginalized. We all knew that to be true in our lives at some point. Some of us are living it now. Can the Vincentian Family provide these kinds of experiences all over the world without us having to join something? Sure, some of us will want to join other branches, but not right now. “We’re trying to get our lives grounded — starting new jobs and starting our families.” We need something that fits the already-full-life that we are living.
Our conversations helped us to realize that life isn’t a puzzle — it’s a labyrinth that can lead meditatively to the center. Amidst a fast paced life we need to know that we’re on the path — following the way that was sketched by Vincent, Louise, Elizabeth Ann, Frederic, and our hometown heroes like Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, Mary Oliver, and Anne Lamott and so many more.
As I said earlier, resources are available at vinFormation and other places. We’ll try to lead you more deeply into this “way” of a man called “Charity’s Saint.” We’ll create and connect easy-to-access materials that can show up in your inbox, and on our social media channels as often as you want or need. Your friend Guillermo (Memo) Campuzano, C.M. said it well: “Dream with us!”. Maybe a start is like “setting the table”: Some great spiritual reflection available now can serve as a “first course” of what we hope will be rich fare to strengthen you for the journey. Take a look.
So, start using #IamVincent and @famvin on
@famvin on Twitter and on Instagram @social.famvin. Let your voice find its way to the Vincentian “public forum” so that your sisters and brothers will know you’re out there. Subscribe to famvin updates and see if you’re finding what feeds you. Meanwhile, we’ll be working on the job bank idea and the continuing, life-long formation idea that you came up with. I’ll be in touch all along the way, because this has to be your project. You’ve shown me so much already, but I know I’ll have to learn more from you. Please do consider joining in this effort — not just consuming what’s placed on the table, but bringing what you have to the feast. A kind of Vincetian “pot luck!”
Work. Spirit. Mercy. Food. Connection.
That’s what I heard. That’s what we’ll create together. I hope you clicked on everything blue. If not, go back again and again. It’s good stuff.
Blessings to you. Connect with me by commenting on this reflection, or use my email if you have it. Or tweet @fatherratgmail if you just want to talk with me, or @famvin if you want to talk with everyone!
Thanks to the resources at famvin.org and the Mission and Values Office at DePaul University, and for the gracious hospitality of the Vincentian Brothers and Fathers and Mike and Katie at DePaul University and Kelli at DepaulUSA, and that of Bill and Mary Frances Jaster and the CVV community of Denver, CO.