Rome, Italy – January 22-24. The first biennial Gathering of the Vincentian Family International and National Leaders’ Gathering kicked off with a Getting-to-Know activity. Seventy-two participants coming from 31 countries representing 19 branches of the Family greeted and met each other in the common language of fraternal love. The meeting which revolves around the theme “Vincentian Family Collaboration” also anticipates the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism in 2017.
The following morning a video on the theme of Collaboration set the mood for the first reflection. This was followed by the Keynote Address of John Darley of DePaul International. To stress his point, he quoted the N’gambai African Proverb “If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.” Mr. Darley reiterated that it is only by working in genuine collaboration with one another that we can promote the kingdom of heaven here on earth.
Fr. Joe Agostino, CM, Vincentian Family Office Coordinator, presided at the Holy Mass. In the homily he reminded everyone that while people often misunderstand our work of service as something crazy, we are really doing God’s folly.
The first part of the afternoon session was spent in language-group sharing on concrete works of collaboration and service to those in poverty situations, taking into account the opportunities and challenges we experienced. Two major themes were expressed. The first is on common formation among the VF members while the second one spoke of resistance, fear of giving up and insularity. It takes time and trust to overcome the latter issue.
The “Emmaus Walk” followed. This sharing was done by pairs according to branch and/or region to discern opportunities for collaboration. Individual commitments that were made were received symbolically by the Superior General, Fr. Gregory Gay, CM, during the Evening Para-liturgical Service which interwove the Vincentian Family Prayer and the Prayer Attributed to Blessed Oscar Romero.
After supper the international and national groups continued exploring possibilities of collaboration.
The third day started with congregation reciting the Vincentian Family Prayer in Spanish. After the recap of the previous day’s activities, a series of information presentations began.
First off was the report of the Vincentian Family Office (VFO). The VFO team composed of Fr. Joe Agostino, CM, Sr. Marge Clifford, DC and Fr. Flavio Pereira, CM presented the history, focus, mandate and challenges that the office is facing.
This was followed by Fr. Aidan Rooney, CM who showed the assembly the new ideas of .famvin and the new look of the famvin.org website as well as its plans to make it more interactive and to reach more people faster (e.g. centering the project in social media). The target of the revised website to be fully functional will be in June this year.
Fr. Giuseppe Turati, CM, Coordinator of the Systemic Change Commission came next. He not only presented the accomplishment report of the previous year, but he also laid out the strategic plan for 2015 – 2018.
For the Vincentian Family Haiti Initiative, Yasmine Cajuste shared about the fish and educational projects they are undertaking. She also made mention about some of the challenges they are facing at present and the future plans of the Initiative.
The last presenter was Mark McGreevy of DePaul International. He gave the assembly a feel of what the Vincentian Family Collaboration had done, from the VFCAP sessions in the different countries to the other activities in celebration of the Year of Collaboration. He ended with a presentation on the upcoming 400 Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism in order to involve every Vincentian worldwide. The detailed plan will be put up in the website sometime in March.
- Some of the issues that were raised during the meeting were:
- Clarifying the identity of the Vincentian Family
- Financial sustainability of the VFO and the different VF groups
- Maximizing the use of the VFO and the famvin.org
- Defining the “national” leadership of Vincentian Family
The Vincentian Family International and National Leaders’ Gathering culminated with a Mass presided by the Superior General, Fr. Gregory Gay, CM. He reiterated that though many, we are one… and as one family, our mission is clear: To proclaim the Good News to the poor.
Pamela B. Mantuhac, Philippines