When I first signed up to be a Vincentian Volunteer, I must confess that I did not completely understand what it meant to be a Vincentian. I knew that it had to do with St. Vincent de Paul who spent his life serving the poor and less fortunate, and that was enough for me. I am now 4 months into the program and have realized that the term “Vincentian” has different interpretations depending on the individual and the circumstances. So what does the term “Vincentian” mean to me at this point in my journey?
First off I believe there is a slight difference in what a Vincentian does vs what a Vincentian is. Many say a Vincentian is one that alleviates the suffering and addresses the needs of those living in poverty. That is true, but I feel that is more of what a Vincentian does. A Vincentian, to me, is almost more of a state of mind – a different way to see people and the world around us, particularly in regards to those suffering from poverty. Poverty can take many forms. It can mean a lack of money, but it can also refer to a suffering or lack of something crucial in life.
Here are some of my thoughts:
- Someone with a Vincentian spirit sees people in a different way. While it is hard to describe in words, the simplest way is to say they see people as humans first rather than the situation they are in or the choices they have made in life. A Vincentian understands the importance of dignity and that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, no matter what the circumstance.
- Vincentians believe that those that are marginalized by society often give us and teach us more than we can ever give or teach them. When I started this programme, it was about giving of myself – my time and talents – to others. However, I can honestly say that those that I work with and interact with each and every day give me so much more than I can give them.
- They make a conscious effort to see God in all they do and everyone they meet. They are constantly asking throughout the day – “What is God trying to show me or teach me at this moment?” It’s an attention to Providence…the movement and action of God in our daily life and experiences.
- Vincentians approach experiences and people they meet with an open mind. They recognize the skills, talents, and opportunities with which they have been blessed with and the call to use these for the good and well-being of others, particularly to alleviate the suffering of the poor and marginalized, not out of pity but out of respect.
I strive every day to embrace and live up to these ideals, but I am still learning and transforming. It is a life-long journey and my 10 months as a Vincentian Volunteer in the UK is only one chapter in that journey and I am loving every minute of it. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me each and every day!
This is from the Blog of MANCHESTER UNIVERSITIES’ CATHOLIC CHAPLAINCY, Manchester, England. You can have a conversation with Julie by commenting on the original blog post.