My husband and I have for many years identified ourselves as Vincentians. Mike was formed in the rich Vincentian tradition primarily through faith and service opportunities offered by campus ministry, as well as his academic studies and extracurricular activities, at Niagara University. I was welcomed into the family by the Daughters of Charity during a year of service with the Vincentian Service Corps in St. Louis, Missouri. I often call that transformative, hilarious, bizarre year “the best year of my life,” even after having been married now for over a year. Of course I mean no disrespect to my wonderful husband and family, nor do I intend to minimize the fabulous adventures that have made up the first 16 months of our marriage by making this claim. However, I firmly believe if not for that year, this marriage would not be.
Without that initial immersion into the Vincentian world, I never would have fallen in love with the Poor. I never would have experienced the profound conversion that came with the realization that my heart and my work belonged to Jesus, and that I was reaching my fullest potential when I allowed my heart to be soft and vulnerable and generous with love. I never would have learned the stories of Vincent, Louise, and friends, of their heroic response to Jesus’ call to mercy and love. Without that year, I, a K-12 music educator by training from the great state of Tennessee with very strong family ties, would not have gone in search of employment in higher education at a university a stone’s throw away from the Canadian border, covered in snow, ice, and gray slush for at least 5 months out of every year, over 700 miles away from my family. I never would have sought out and accepted the position of campus minister at Niagara University, if not for that life-changing year. I knew what happened to me upon hearing and entering into the story of St. Vincent de Paul and the Vincentian family made me better. Having become a part of that story and acknowledging what being Vincentian meant for my life, I accepted the charge to continue telling the story. I discovered my vocation to invite others into the Vincentian experience. This vocation is realized for me through college campus ministry and providing opportunities for young adults to encounter the love and mercy of Jesus Christ in service of others, especially His blessed Poor.
Without that year of Vincentian service, my life would not be nearly as enriched and joyful as it is today. And I believe, without the experience of that year of service, our marriage would not exist as it does today. Our paths would never have crossed at Niagara University, and I would not have placed as much value on all the wonderful Vincentian qualities that Mike exhibits.
My husband has maintained his Vincentian identity primarily through his work as assistant manager at a local food pantry and dining room. I’m most drawn to Mike when I am able to watch him interact with his guests at Heart, Love, and Soul – welcoming them by name, engaging in conversation, carrying their burdens. He often carries those burdens home. His friends’ troubles weigh heavily on his heart, and it is in those moments of raw emotion that I see Vincent’s influence, and Jesus Christ’s mission most clearly in my husband’s faith and work. It is in those moments that I give thanks to God for our Vincentian Family and the providential way this worldwide network brought the two of us together.
We chose to be married on September 27, the Feast of our patron, St. Vincent de Paul. In front of an assembly of family and friends, we listened to God’s call to build a household of service (Joshua 24: 14-15), persist in evangelizing ministry (2 Timothy 4: 1-5), and act with compassionate care (Matthew 25: 31-40). That day we made a promise to each other and God, and our promise extended much further – to all those present, to our family and friends, and, in a special way, to the Poor who we would come to know individually and as a family. We are fortunate to build our marriage and family on the solid ground of our shared faith in Jesus Christ and love for the Poor.
This is only the beginning of what I know will be a great love story, a friendship unlike any I’ve ever known personally or witnessed second-hand, a promise, a covenantal union between two people who desire wholeheartedly to grow and lead the other closer to the Lord. The first 16 months of our marriage have been a graced time filled with lots of laughter, tears, humility, and forgiveness as we adjust to this new and even greater way of living for another.
During my service year, the Corp’s motto said, simply, “A year of service makes a lifetime of difference.” I am still discovering those differences to this day, and I can’t imagine a better way to live this life than as a Vincentian with a Vincentian.
To my fellow Vincentians of Wherever: I encourage you to be bold in your life as a Vincentian; honor the legacy of all those who have gone before you by living the gospel; keep a soft heart, be vulnerable and generous with your love; remain attentive to the Spirit of God who calls you to your greatest potential. Finally, take comfort knowing you are not alone in any of your good work. #IAmVincent #WeAreVincentian #VincentianFamily
We would love to hear about other couples who found their way to each other through the Vincentian network. How has God used your marriage and family to further the mission of Vincent de Paul in your outreach and love for the Poor?
[Kristina Daloia is Director of Campus Ministry at Niagara University]