In January 2020, Rome will host a meeting of the Superiors General and Presidents of the Vincentian Family. We continue this series of posts to deepen our knowledge of the many Vincentian Branches. Here we interview Renato Lima de Oliveira, XVI President General of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

How and when did the foundation of the Society take place?

On April 23, 1833, in Paris (France), the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) was established by a group of seven friends, aged 18 to 38, all of whom were active Catholics and committed to the Lord. They wanted to achieve two objectives: personal sanctification and the practice of charity on behalf of the poor. Our founders were seven individuals: Antoine Frederic Ozanam, Emanuel Joseph Bailly de Surcy, Auguste Le Taillandier, Jules Devaux, Paul Lamache, François Lallier and Félix Clavé. Ozanam was beatified by Pope John Paul II in August 1997. Currently, his cause for canonization is under examination by the Vatican. The international headquarters of SSVP is in Paris, and the current President General Renato Lima de Oliveira (from Brazil). The international board is composed of members from all continents who together strive to carry out the strategic planning defined by the organization … a planning that is based on the mission, values ​​and vision of the Society. More information about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul can be obtained at www.ssvpglobal.org.

How does the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul reflect the Vincentian charism?

Our organization is very blessed: the official name of our entity (Society of St. Vincent de Paul) contains the name of Vincent de Paul. Therefore, I do not believe there is any doubt about the obvious presence of Vincentian virtues in the daily life and practices of the members of the Society. We are one of the largest lay branches within the Catholic Church, and we have a true army of volunteers in 150 countries around the world, as well as hundreds of social works that provide services to children, families, youth and the elderly. Our group is composed of some 800,000 members in 50,000 different groups (the so-called “Conferences”). The on-going formation at the international and national level is high quality. All of our members frequently attend formation and updating  sessions in order to provide more affective and effective services to those people who are in need. The home visit is the main feature of the members of SSVP, whose practice was initially taught to our young founders by Blessed Rosalie Rendu (a Daughter of Charity). Visiting the poor remains a “registered trademark” of the Society, creating favorable conditions for the promotion of families.

Your hopes and expectations for the Vincentian charism as we approach the meeting of the leaders of the Vincentian Family, scheduled for January 2020, in Rome.

I am looking forward to meeting the other Vincentian leaders in Rome, in January 2020 and hope that we will be able to continue to share experiences, knowledge and best practices among the many different branches. The Society has much to offer, but it also needs the support of the other branches, especially in several countries where we are just beginning to minister. Only strong cooperation among the different Vincentian branches will strengthen us and extend the reach of the Vincentian charism. My dream is the same as that of Ozanam, who once wanted to “unite the entire world in a great network of charity.” Humanity needs more generous, supportive and kind men and women, who are willing to reach out to those who are the victim of the many various forms of poverty. The members of the Society are always available to serve those in need, always willing to extend a helping hand. Our conferences, our supervisory bodies (called “councils”) and our social assistance works are open to the other Vincentian branches and it is hoped that together we can make a difference and positively influence humanity … just as Saint Vincent de Paul did his lifetime.

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