Being part of a Vincentian Conference is a magnificent gift from God. In it we can practice our beautiful Catholic faith, make sincere friends, meet new people, help those who need it and improve our spiritual life. All are benefits for those who participate in it, because we become better Christians when we fight for a more just, fraternal and supportive society. Helpers are also greatly favored by receiving a helping hand in times of suffering and despair.
So what is the mystique of Vincentian Conferences? Their great secret is that, by divine inspiration, the Conferences are true places where faith, hope and charity are practiced. In other words, the Conferences are communities of faith, hope and charity. Thus we define them because they contemplate Christ in the face of the poor, performing a concrete and practical service, in coordination and friendship among the members.
In addition to the welfare works, Vincentian action occurs in the context of the Conferences, which are small communities formed by brothers and sisters, who meet every week to grow in spirituality and service to others. In the Conference the Vincentians meditate if they are really living, with devotion and dedication, the evangelical gesture of helping the brothers who live in poverty (material, moral, psychological or spiritual).
The Conferences are communities of faith because they take the Word of God outward (time of visits to those assisted) and inward (weekly meetings), highlighting the sacramental life and active participation in the Church. Each Vincentian, in meetings, perfects his inner life through spiritual readings that fill his spirit and renew his gaze of faith. In addition to the meeting, retreats and spiritual meetings also take place, promoted by the Councils, which offer innumerable opportunities for faith development. Therefore, it is clear that the Conferences are authentic communities of faith, at the service of the brothers.
Cultivating faith, we believe in and live the Holy Trinity: the Creator God (who is the Father), the Savior God (who is Jesus Christ) and the Sanctifying God (who is the Holy Spirit). And through the practice of faith we understand the truth that comes from the Most High, feeding our spirit and witnessing the Good News to all those around us.
Conferences are also communities of hope. This is evident during home visits, when the partners encourage those assisted to trust in Divine Providence, in the value of work and in the certainty that they will leave the delicate moment in which they live in those moments, having God at their side. . The Vincentian’s role is this: to show the neediest brothers that it is only possible to overcome life’s challenges by having God in charge, guiding our steps and showing the way. This hope is so firm in the Vincentian bosom that the motto of the International General Council is “serving in hope.” As it is perceived, the Conferences are evident “communities of hope.”
Hope is the virtue that helps us to desire and hope for better times for our life (here on earth) and to be sure that we will conquer eternal life, that is, our happiness in heaven. The Vincentian, as he befriends the poor, also addresses to them that message of hope and trust in the Lord.
The Conferences are, by nature, communities of charity, because the main reason for the existence of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul – and the other Vincentian branches – is the integral practice of charity, based on the Gospels and love of Christ. Thus, the Conferences are the ideal place to practice charity and love: among us, the Vincentians, and with those in need. This double dimension of Vincentian charity (with the poor and among the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul) strengthens the missionary and secular nature of the entity, reaching more and more people and carrying the saving message of Jesus sacramented to all parts
On charity, it is worth remembering that love of God and love of neighbor are the same, so that one depends on the other; therefore, the more we love our neighbor, in Vincentian Conferences, the more we will love God; and, in turn, the more we love God, the more we love our neighbor. There lies the heart of the charity community of which we are part.
In summary, the Conferences are, let’s say so, true communities of theological virtues, because there you can practice faith, hope and charity, elements that connect us directly with God. By faith, we recognize the holiness of God; by charity, we show that holiness to the world and conquer our sanctification; and for hope, we spread the joy of the future, which will undoubtedly be next to God.
Thus, it is the mission of every member to testify that Vincentian Conferences are, in fact, communities of faith, hope and charity, within a secular spirituality that aims to serve the poorest of the poor. We have received a great blessing as part of a Vincentian Conference! A question to reflect on: is our Conference really a community of faith, hope and charity, or has it been reduced to a group of people of good who exercise social activism?
Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th General President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul