I have a dream!
St. Vincent was not Martin Luther King. He didn’t give a speech that would be echoed for decades, but he did live a dream that is alive after four centuries. And it was a dream that embodied the Popes’ dream for Mission Sunday.
Vincent’s original dream seemed to be to find comfort for himself and his family. Then in 1617 at Chatillon and Folleville he began to wake up to Jesus’ mission and dream of bringing good news to the poor. We know how he spent the rest of his life working to fulfill God’s dream for humankind. We know he did so much that at his funeral it was said: “he just about changed the face of France.”
What we forget is that he did not do it alone. Vincentian scholars are beginning to connect the dots that show he was a master at engaging the laity, especially women. He also changed systems simply by always asking the question “why” and addressing root causes.
He not only realized that he had a mission from God to walk in the footsteps of Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor. He instinctively realized that the laity constituted a sleeping giant. He especially realized that women could be a powerful force in fulfilling God’s dream. As they say, the rest is a history that we know so well. We are part of that dream and a continuation of that dream today.
The past and the present of Vincent’s Dream
I ask you to look at the two attached pages in that light.
The first image tells the story of what is called “the Vincentian vitality curve” of that dream over four centuries. It demonstrates an ebb and a flow, highs and lows. Notice how the peaks were marked by extraordinary leaders who drank deeply of the spirit of Vincent and Louise.
The second link from the Vincentian Family Office tells us how that dream is being lived out today. Today there is an amazing number of people who share that dream… over 4 million by the latest count.
But sadly, we are not really conscious of how many others share it. We are not conscious of the power of that dream if we collaborate in working toward the fulfillment of that dream. (Unfortunately, it seems that the effective definition of collaboration in the Vincentian Family is – “lets you and me collaborate in my project.”)
Today their dream is a dream with a long history, filled with new challenges as it goes forward into a future in its fifth century. It is a dream that is going to look different from what we thought it would look like. Vincent said “the community is not now what it once was… nor is it what it shall be.”
Today we have a mission and a dream that will be a new version of Vincent’s dream of awakening the laity in the service of bringing Good News to the forgotten and the marginalized.
The vitality curve shows us the challenge and opportunity for us today. Look at the lower right-hand corner of the Vincentian vitality chart. Notice where the chart ends… it has an upward tick. Notice the growing reappearance of the laity – Vincentian Marian Youth, Vincentian Lay Missionaries, and Vincentian Volunteers …all lay groups!
Look at just a few facts about the Vincentian Family Movement today.
- The Ladies of Charity/AIC of the oldest functioning group of laywomen. And it has over 150,00 members serving in 53 countries.
- The Congregation of the Mission still counts some 4,000 members serving in 88 countries.
- The Daughters of Charity currently number over 25,000 sisters ministering in 91 countries.
- The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is the largest lay association in the church with over 900,000 members in over 150 countries.
Ozanam’s dream of encircling the globe with a network of charity is alive. Thomas Agustine Judge, CM (+1933) dreamt of Every Catholic an Apostle.
Mission Sunday and Vincent’s dream
The theme set for Mission Sunday 2019 is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.”
Certainly strong echos of Vincent of our call to walk in the footsteps of Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor! When we are invited to return to the vision of Vincent calling the laity to accept that mission we are living Mission Sunday throughout the year.
The dream of Vincent and Louise is our dream – a dream with a history, a dream lived in the present, and a dream calling us to new forms of service to the marginalized in a world desperately seeking hope and God News.
Food for Thought on Mission Sunday
- Do I recognize my “mission” on more than Mission Sunday?
- How do I live that mission every day of the year?
- Do we accept that this mission calls us to collaborate?
PS. Mission Sunday should have special meaning for all who associate themselves with the Congregation of THE MISSION! “‘Jesus Christ is the rule of the Mission’ and shall be considered as the center of its life and activity (SV, XII, 130).” Vincent
“The Vincentian vitality curve” Courtesy of Sr. Kieran Kneaves, DC, circa. 2004.