Each year in the United States we celebrate Martin Luther King. His dream significantly shaped the civil rights movement in the United States. But he was not the only one who had a dream.
Almost 200 years earlier Frederic Ozanam also had a dream! He and his friend Léonce Curnier exchanged letters about Frederic’s dream “to encircle the world in a network of charity”.
Today, that dream is quite literally a reality! The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is established in 150 countries around the world.
His dream had its roots in St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. It has expanded well beyond the Society to include the well over 1 million followers of Vincent and Louise in more than 200 branches of the wider Vincentian Family.
These numbers do not count the growing numbers of people who walk in the way of Vincent and Louise even though not affiliated with any group.
An overview of the growth of the Vincentian Family
The conscious roots of the Vincentian Family in North America go back to a 1986 meeting of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Over 1000 participants focused on the theme The Vincentian Family: Responding to the Cry of the Poor.
Convened by Father Robert Maloney, CM, the leaders of key branches of the Vincentian Family began meeting annually Rome in 1994. (See his reflections on the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian Charism).
In 1998 Father Maloney invited representatives of the Vincentian Family to the General Assembly of the Congregation of the Mission. The international website for the Vincentian Family, famvin.org, grew out of this meeting.
1999 saw the first US Vincentian Family Leadership meeting in Los Altos California. Five Vincentian Provincials, five Daughters of Charity Provincials, the SVDP President and the President of the Ladies of Charity USA attended.
In 2000 the group of international leaders decided to form a commission to assist in coordinating the activities of the Vincentian Family.
Now the international Vincentian Family has its own offices in Germantown, Philadelphia.
A call to dream
As we celebrate the dreams of Martin Luther King, Frederic Ozanam, Robert Maloney and innumerable other dreamers let us recall that without dreams the people perish (Proverbs 29:18} and pray for the spirit of Acts 2:17 where “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”