From May 22 – June 11, I visited France, Germany, and Belgium.  The purpose of this visit was primarily to meet the Superiors General who still needed to be seen before the meeting in January 2020 of the international leaders of the Vincentian Family

First, an Overview:

In France I met with the following Branches:

  • Sons of Charity
  • The Rose of the Annunciation
  • Archconfraternity of the Holy Agony of the Lord

In Germany I met the Sisters of Mercy of Munster.

I also stayed with the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of Paderborn (thanks to Sr. Katharina Mock, Superior General) and visited there with Sr. Maria Teresa Slaby, president of the Strasbourg Federation.

Belgium: thanks to Sr. Clarette De Coene (Superior General, Gjizegem) who organized the week, Fr. Emile Ghali, CM who drove us to all the visits, and Katelijn Radic, from Croatia, who translated from Flemish to English, I was able to visit or speak with 25 Vincentian congregations predominantly in Flanders.

There were many lessons learned from this trip.  Here are some notes.

1. Language

Without Fr. Emile (French), Sr. Katharina (German), and Ms. Katelijn (Flemish) these meetings could never have happened.  And in the midst of our discussions, especially in Flanders, the concern for language and communication took on a critical importance.  Once again, it illustrates the point that the Vincentian Family cannot simply rely on a minimum of a few “official languages” if we are going to be an effective agent of change in the world.

2. Presence

The importance of these visits became even clearer to me on this trip.  The ability to share with each other about the Charism brought energy and a sense of belonging that can never be experienced in an email.

Size cannot matter!  Some congregations were shocked that we would go out of our way to visit them, with so few members.  But they were touched to know that they mattered to the Family and their living of the Charism enriches us all.  One group was near tears as we were leaving.  They said they felt alone, isolated, and forgotten.  But our visit filled them with a new hope for the future of the Vincentian charism and our shared mission.

3. The Future

New ways of living the charism are beginning to emerge – and we really need to be consciously aware of them if we are going to remain a prophetic voice for the poor.  This comes up frequently in conversations, but is an uncomfortable topic for some.  Yet it is a powerful sign of the vitality and relevancy of the Charism in multiple societies today.

Joseph Agostino, CM


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