A Canadian View: Charity, Social Justice and the Vincentian – Part Two

by | Mar 21, 2019 | Formation, Reflections | 2 comments

In my previous article we listed some of the common reasons why more Vincentians don’t get involved in social justice.  I also used the term radical thinkers to describe what Vincent, Louise, Rosalie and Frederic did in their times. To quote David Williams in his book, The Mind and Heart of a Vincentian,“They responded with dynamism, inventiveness, love and energy in a spirit of prayer, humility and great fraternity. We must rediscover our radical approach, to go out and find the poorest of the poor and bring them practical help. This is to be given with love and respect, which is what they value most, as Sister Rosalie told Frederic.” Williams goes on to say that… “A Radical approach will have its own appeal to those who want to put their faith into action. It should attract new members to our Society.”

I believe one of the solutions we may find to the various reasons for current Vincentians not being involved in social justice is to look outside of our current membership and search for new members who may have work experiences related to social justice or perhaps just a sincere desire to live their faith by changing systems and structures as well as how many people think in terms of poverty.

While the term radical can have a negative aspect to it, I think it also means having a desire to make changes which result in improving the common good. This would certainly apply to what our Society seeks to do regarding social justice. If we can develop some effective methods to attract new members from within our parish structures, it can only benefit our effort to be a strong and effective social justice voice. There could be several parishioners with a working knowledge or sincere interest in social justice. In addition, our current youth members as well as potential new youth members are usually supportive of taking on current systems and structures with the hope of making needed changes. I have been blessed to know and work with some exceptional youth who could well be the radical thinkers of today and tomorrow. These may work as solutions to more Vincentians embracing social justice.

About the author:

Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is past president of the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.



Opinions expressed are the author’s own views and do not officially represent those of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Tags: Canada


  1. Teresa Nairne

    With the due respect, I am not a ¨Zealot¨ (sectarian)… I am not an “activist”…I am trying to be a good Christian, a good Catholic and I consider that my actions have NOTHING to do with being a “Social Justice Warrior” rather, a humble follower of Christ. My actions in regards to our neighbors in need are not “social” but “Christian”. I don’t have a political agenda…and, should SSVP move towards the “look outside of our current membership and search for new members who may have work experiences related to social justice”, would be my last day in the SSVP.

    • Jim Paddon

      Hi Teresa. I respect your opinion but would to like to point out that social action is very much a part of our Vincentian charism. Frederic Ozanam was an advocate for issues such as workers pensions and a living wage. I am not sure how we can see the injustices many people are faced with every day without wanting to address the root causes of poverty through systemic change. If we can attract new members or volunteers with an interest in social justice would this not make a stronger force for needed change? Social justice is not only a Christian action but also ne that has a focus on human Dignity for all. I would also never suggest every member must be active regarding social justice.