By: Joseph V. Agostino, CM
During the months of April and May 2018, I crisscrossed Europe to meet with members of the Vincentian Family, and most especially with the Superiors General of the various congregations which comprise the Branches of the Vincentian Family.
My journey started in Untermarchtal, Germany, where I was invited to present at the annual meeting of MEGVIS (the German speaking Central European Group of Vincentian Studies). There I had an opportunity to speak about the current structure of the Vincentian Family and the directions in which we are heading as an international movement.
I was also able to meet with most of the Superiors General of the Strasbourg Federation. Their new president, Sr. Teresa Slaby (Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul of Hildesheim) and I had an opportunity to speak about the work of the Vincentian Family Executive Committee, of which the Federation is a member. In addition, in a gathering with all of the Federation Superiors General, we shared about the strengths and challenges which they are facing, as well as explored more closely what it means for congregations to belong to the Vincentian Family Movement.
There was also a gathering of all the leaders of the German-speaking Vincentian Family in a plenary session. At that time, they decided to form a Vincentian Family coordinating committee for Austria-Germany. Their first organizational meeting will be in October 2018.
From Germany, I headed to Graz, Austria which became my staging area for my visits to 3 more members of the Federation in Innsbruck and Zams, Austria and Freiburg, Germany. I am grateful to Alexander Jernej, Bernhard Pesendorfer, and Joseph Swaris for all their organizational assistance with these visits.
The Vincentian Family in this region offers many insights to the international Vincentian Family. I will try to summarize what I learned from them:
- There is a great richness in the Vincentian Charism……one which I liken to a multi-faceted diamond: all unique, all brilliant, all essential for the beauty of the whole. Each branch is steeped in their Vincentian experiences, traditions, and understanding of whom we are – and need to be – as both Movement and Family.
- To a Branch, there was an affirmation of the need for collaboration among us. There was an awareness of the immensity of the challenges we face in the service of those living in poverty and of the impossibility and impracticality of any of us addressing these challenges alone.
- There is a profound recognition of the aging of the European communities and the immense challenges that they are facing. Along these lines, almost every congregation saw the urgency of the work of the Task Force on the transmission of the charism from religious to lay leadership.
- There was an expressed need for formation in the Charism, especially for younger members of the congregations in missionary countries.
- There was a request for communications with them in German if we hope to effectively reach out to all the Vincentian Family there.
- The decision that Austria-Germany would form one “regional council,” the name of which still needs to be determined, is indicative of the flexibility that needs to be maintained around these Vincentian Family structures.