You have accustomed us to look upon you as the meeting point, the counselor and the friend of the young Christians; your past goodness has given us the right to count on your future goodness; those you have had with me make me expect similar ones for my friends.

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Frederic Ozanam, Letter to Emmanuel Bailly, November 3, 1834.

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Reflection:

  1. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul celebrated, throughout 2017, a year dedicated to the figure of Emmanuel Bailly, first International President of the Society. At the time of the Restoration, Emmanuel founded the Société des Bonnes Études (where young people met, concerned with associating their religious formation with their work as students), from which in 1830 the Conference of History was born, (to which Ozanam belonged), with similar objectives.
  2. Largely, it was thanks to the generosity and support of Emmanuel that the Conference of Charity, the germ of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, could be instituted. Bailly, who was about 20 years older than the rest of the members of the first Conference, supported the youth initiative and offered them his place to meet.
  3. It is almost certain that was Bailly who imprinted the Vincentian character in the SSVP: both he and his family had a long history of collaboration with the Lazarists (as the Congregation of the Mission is known in France). The father of Emmanuel, during the great Revolution, kept the writings of St. Vincent. His relics were kept by Mrs. Bailly from 1831 to 1834. Joseph Bailly, brother of Emmanuel, was a member of the Congregation of the Mission.
  4. Mr. Bailly reminds us, among many other things, how important it is to accompany young people in their journey of faith; he teaches us to support them in their initiatives.

Questions for dialogue:

  1. What place do the young people have in our Vincentian branches? Are they given a voice? Do we respect their initiatives?
  2. How important is counseling in our groups?
  3. If I am young: do I let myself be accompanied by adults in my journey of faith and charity? And, if I am an older adult: do I care to accompany, or have the young people been accompanied?

Javier F. Chento
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