We need to work smarter

by | Oct 18, 2017 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change | 3 comments

We need to work smarter.

In a presentation to the English speaking participants at the recent symposium in Rome, Fr. Dennis Holtschneider shared his reflections on possible directions for the Vincentian Family – “From Here to Where?”  He just finished 13 years as President of  DePaul University, the largest Catholic university. The new job he refers to is serving as Executive Vice President of Ascension Health, the largest Catholic Health Association.

But my new job in healthcare makes university faculty seem tame by comparison.  In healthcare, most every conversation is about how we could change based on something that was announced the day before.  A treatment protocol; a new way of cleaning facilities; a more efficient use of computers in our work; a change in legal regulations.  People read twice a day in healthcare, if not more often.

Implications for the Vincentian Family

That should be true of us too.  The Vincentian Family should be reading the social impact literature; the amazing research on poverty; on homelessness; on creative ideas being deployed in other countries than our own.  You get the idea.  There’s so much there to learn from and to think more creatively from.  If I have conversations about what people are learning and reading in higher education and healthcare, I rarely have conversations like that among ourselves.  I’m not sure we’re always up-to-speed on what’s been written and learned about the best ways to address poverty.

Make no mistake, I’m edified and inspired by everyone I’ve met in the Society, the AIC, the Marian Youth, the Daughters, the Sisters of Charity and Congregation.  But few of us are experts in poverty-relief.  Perhaps we need to become so, or at perhaps even hire world-class experts into our organizations, either as full-time employees, consultants, or advisory boards.  I just know that it’s time to incorporate the best and latest research that’s been done.   We know the poor – that’s true.  And that’s unbelievably valuable.  But there’s more to learn, and my hope for the Family is that we will work even smarter going forward.  The poor deserve more than good-hearted amateurs.   They deserve experts.

Reflection questions

  • Do I believe that those on the margins deserve more than good-hearted amateurs?
  • When was the last time I learned something new about my attempts to serve?
  • Who are my teachers – those on the margins themselves, people who challenge us to think beyond immediate needs?

Look for Aidan Rooney’s reflection and a link to the entire talk tonight on famvin.



  1. Joseph sciame

    Thank you Father Dennis for your words and enlightenment. As someone who has lived in our NY area all his life, I too see the poor and homeless, and those who almost live in trains to and from NYC. But my question to myself regularly is where this all starts with the poor, how do we change it? And so, if there are more empirical studies that review it, evaluate and learn more, that could reduce the numbers of poor and homeless, and get some folks out of the rink that they appear to be in for many years of their lives.


    I would so like a book list of material that Dr. Holtschneider recommends as good reading on this topic. I would like to encourage a “book club” in our St Vincent de Paul District. If possible, could you please send a list to my email address in Albuquerque New Mexico? Thanks!!!!

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