Vincentian View: “Founder’s Week”
In my day job, I am the Executive Director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society (VCCS) at St. John’s University. That sounds pretty impressive and it does fill up a business card. In my office, I have a terrific Executive Assistant (part-time) and a wonderful Graduate Assistant for 15 hours per week (when STJ is in session). We are the Vincentian Center.
One of the tasks of the VCCS is to organize Founder’s Week for the University community. We do not run all the events but we do direct the calendar and make sure that everyone is on the same page. To do that, we have a Planning Committee of about 15 people who represent different aspects of our community. Each year, Founder’s Week ends on September 27th with the Solemnity of St. Vincent. The previous seven days are devoted to events which engage various University groups in the remembrance and celebration of our founder and the Vincentian Mission.
Once the Planning Committee is constituted, the first task is to decide upon a theme for the week. We want something which addresses the situation of our world/community, and which also introduces a Vincentian value. For the past month, we have been at this stage and discussing possibilities. I have found it interesting to listen to people speak about what value they think needs to be brought forward for our world at this time. It is a lesson on how people view our context and on how they envision the proper Vincentian response.
At the beginning of our conversations, we resolved that we would not try to determine the final form of the theme in our first efforts. Agreeing on the value needs to start our pondering its particular emphasis. Let me share some of our thoughts without trying to put them in order. We are still working this out. The final form of the theme will probably be more pointed than any intermediate offering.
One value which has been put forth for emphasis is “truth.” People have suggested “Seek the Truth—Live the Spirit” as a theme. The current lack of respect for language and facts yearns for a clear expression of what is true. Responding to the real needs of those who are marginalized demands some clarity and honesty. Another recommendation focuses upon what has sometimes been called “the Vincentian question.” This theme takes the current form: “Be Vincentian: What must be done?” We recognize how this question of Madame de Gondi spurred Vincent in his formation of the Congregation. What response might it elicit from us now? A third item centers around “hospitality.” This value can direct our attention to work with homelessness, welcoming the stranger, and, with love, creating an environment for the principles of Catholic Social Justice.
Numerous other ideas have been proposed—as I said, it was a rich discussion. We talked about diversity, collaboration, creativity, science and reason (on the 30th anniversary of Fides et ratio), and other worthwhile foci.
I confess that the value which has captured my imagination for these days is “hope.” I am favoring a theme such as: “Be Vincentian: Anchored in Hope.” I know the importance of this virtue in my own life in the current time. What do you think?