One of the greatest challenges for the Vincentian Conferences of the Society is, without a doubt, to prevent routine and monotony from invading the activity of the group. Unfortunately, it is true that many Vincentian groups lose their enthusiasm and are at serious risk of becoming extinct. Therefore, it is necessary that Vincentian leaders are motivated to seek out new members for the Conference … thus providing the possibility for new life and new ideas and new perspectives (and preventing the members from becoming caught up in the “same old same old.”
Spiritual reading should be framed by the following concerns: that the text provides the members with new knowledge and should be varied, sometimes focusing on a social/political theme, other times centered on a Vincentian/spiritual theme. Another initiative that may be useful is the distribution of the agenda of the meeting … in that way the members have prior knowledge about the topics to be discussed and can prepare better themselves for the discussion and decision-making process. The use of e-mail has also proved to be a valuable tool for presidents in conducting the work of the Conference. By email, the members of the Conference can exchange ideas during the week, share tasks, express opinions and prepare better for home visits.
During the meetings of the Conference, you can innovate by adding songs at the beginning and end of the conference, without prejudicing the order of the planned session. You can ask that the greeting to the visitors (candidates to brothers or sisters) be made by different members, on a rotating basis. In the division of tasks, it is also the President who indicates what each will do the following week, giving everyone the opportunity.
It is recommended that young people be assigned to missions in which they feel they can contribute to the creation of the future of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Many young people leave the ranks of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul because their ideas often clash with the prevailing traditions in many conferences. Let’s talk with young people in a way that allows them to experience the beauty of being Vincentian. Not all their proposals will be viable, but let them express their ideas and thoughts. Without youth, the conferences are not renewed and Society of Saint Vincent de Paul will age rapidly.
In the actions, projects and initiatives on behalf of the people we serve, especially in the weekly home visits, the brothers and sisters must avoid allowing these activities to become ritualistic, mechanical and predictable. Vincentians should be encouraged to create, think, innovate, and dream … they should not be afraid to express their opinion. Only then will we be useful servants of the cause of the Gospel.
All these recommendations prevent monotony from taking hold in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We cannot allow our weekly meetings or our spirituality meetings and our council meetings to become boring. Creativity in the Conferences is the remedy for boredom. In each meeting, we should feel renewed in our zeal as Vincentians and one of the results of this renewal will be our ability to attract more members to the Society. As the number of Conferences increase, so will our ability to assist a larger number of families also increase.
Finally, being creative means having a creative, inventive, ingenious vision. One of the characteristics of a good conference president is precisely this quality or ability to invent, to create, to innovate … placing one’s talent and that of the other members at the service of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and on behalf of families who are in need. St. Vincent de Paul once said: “Love is inventive to infinity.” John Paul II stated that same idea in the following manner: “Now is the time for a new ‘creativity’ in charity, not only by ensuring that help is effective but also by “getting close” to those who suffer, so that the hand that helps is seen not as a humiliating handout but as a sharing between brothers and sisters.”
 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” 50.
Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th General President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul