An important challenge in the life of every member of the Society is, without a doubt, to reconcile their Vincentian work with their other daily activities. Vincentians must engage in a process of discernment in order to balance their missionary activity with their family, work, and parish commitments … among many others.

We often hear that some Vincentians pay too much attention to matters related to the Conference and the Council, leaving family, educational and even professional life in the background. This is not desirable, since family coexistence is the basis of civil society and people cannot be truly happy if they do not find happiness in their family. A wise Vincentian said: “The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is content to occupy the third place in our lives, that is, after God and the family.”

On the other hand, if we do not give the best of ourselves when we are involved in the activities of our Conferences and Councils, then our Vincentian activities on behalf of the most needy members of society as well as our struggle to overcome poverty and hunger and homelessness can wither and slowly undermine the solidarity that moves our “great network of charity.” Therefore, we have to be attentive to the demands of our family/personal life and, at the same time, ensure that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul continues to transform the reality of exclusion that affects so many members of our society.

Here is a special message to the many women who are members of our Society, especially those who have had the blessing of being mothers: you have had to confront many additional challenges that the male members of our Society cannot even begin to imagine. You  have been really successful in all of this and deserve our applause. Thanks to your dedication, the conferences have achieved many successes and so for this we express our gratitude to you.

Finally, it is important to remember the appeal that Pope John Paul II made to the Vincentians: “the time has come for a new creativity of charity.”[1] The then international president[2] of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul affirmed that all the members must be “Vincentian 24 hours a day.” The “24-hour Vincentians” are those who fulfill all the obligations set forth in the Rule and incorporate  the charism of Saint Vincent and Ozanam (uninterrupted charity, humility and solidarity) into their personal life.

Charity begins at home. We can only be truly Vincentian if we start our charitable action in our homes, with our family, our friends, our domestic employees, relatives and acquaintances, work colleagues … Only after doing so will we be able to think about practicing charity. “Forgive our offenses, as we forgive those who have offended us.”[3]

[1]     Message of the Holy Father John Paul II to the International Coordinating Committee of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, in the Vatican, on February 14, 2001.

[2]     Brother José Ramón Díaz-Torremocha.

[3]     Mt 15:23.

Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th General President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul

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