On October 5, 2019, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, members of the various branches gathered together in order to participate in XV National Meeting. Among the branches were: the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity, the International Association of Charity, the Vincentian Marian Youth, the Association of the Miraculous Medal, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and collaborators in the Vincentian mission. The worldwide Vincentian Family is composed of 150 different branches: associations, movements, institutes and congregations that have been inspired by the charism of St. Vincent de Paul.
The meeting began in the morning in Paul VI Pastoral Center. Brother José Nunes, OP, gave a presentation entitled: The Mission in a Dechristianized World. Brother began by tracing the experience of faith in Europe at a time when the culture was marked by Christianity but now that same culture has become secularized. Brother highlighted the Church’s response to humanism, scientific progress and the masters of suspicion (a expression that was utilized in reference to Marx, Nietzsche and Freud) … a response that came at a time when the Church was losing power and influence. At the same time, Brother presented the various “worlds” that should be influenced by the process of evangelization: first, the mission ad gentes (those places where Jesus and his gospel are unknown); second, Christian communities where the Church exercises her pastoral ministry and a process of accompaniment; third, the process of evangelization should also influence the members of those communities that have Christian roots but who do not view themselves as part of the Church because they have lost an understanding of the faith. Brother concluded by referring to the reality that modernity and the myth of progress have not resulted in the happiness that was proclaimed and therefore, we have a great opportunity to proclaim the Good News. This proclamation should be characterized by approachability and dialogue and ought to include dialogue with the culture and with other religions as well as a strong desire to transform the social reality.
After a musical interval which featured the Vincentian Choir de Chaves, there was a second presentation which was given by Father José Augusto Gonçalves Alves, CM (Visitor of Portugal). He developed the theme: the present challenges of evangelization and the inspiration of Saint Vincent de Paul. Father began by speaking about Vincent de Paul — the man and his historical context — and from there explored the path of charity that Vincent traveled … a path that continues to serve as a model for all those who seek to grow in Vincentian spirituality. Father José pointed out first, that prayer is the energizing force of the process of evangelization. Therefore, today as in the past, people cannot speak about God unless they have had an authentic experience of God. Such an experience can only be had in prayer, in the silence of the heart, in questioning everything that surrounds us and doing so from the perspective of God. Second, Father underlined the universality of charity (traditionally linked to an elite group of people) and the element of drawing close to people as essential characteristics in the process of evangelization. Third, other elements include boldness, courage, imagination and creativity. Father pointed out the ministerial role that Vincent restored to women as well as his commitment to the laity. Father concluded by saying that today as in the seventeenth century, a personal encounter with Christ is indispensable for the mission. If the priest, the catechist, those who visit the infirm, youth leaders and all those involved in any form of ministry have not had this personal encounter then their activity becomes something to do during their leisure time. The mission will only be successful when men are women are prayerful, contemplative and scrutinizers of the Mystery of God within them, in the people around them and in the world.
The morning concluded with a presentation of the song: Todos somos misión en esta tierra (We all have a mission on this earth). This song won the Song Festival sponsored by the Vincentian Marian Youth and, representing the Diocese of Viseu was also presented in the National Song Festival (sung by the members of the Vincentian Marian Group of Orgens and the Vincentian Choir of Chaves [dressed in traditional clothing]).
The afternoon began with the celebration of the Eucharist in the Chapel of the Death of Jesus … the celebration was presided by Bishop Augusto César (bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Portalegre-Castelo Branco). The choirs of the parishes administered by the Congregation of the Mission, coordinated by Father Albertino Gonçlaves, CM, animated the celebration. In his homily the bishop highlighted the work that was being done by the Vincentian Family and encouraged the Family to deepen their commitment to the evangelization process.
After the Eucharist, the members of the Family raised their eyes to the Mother of Heaven, went to the Chapel of the Apparitions, and prayed the rosary (led by Father Álvaro Cunha, CM and animated the Vincentian Marian Youth in Cucujaes (Oliveira de Azeméis). At the request of Pope Francis, the group prayed that the Spirit would awaken in the Church a new missionary springtime. Then before departing, the group also prayed together the prayer for the Extraordinary Missionary Year and asked our Lady of the Rosary to intercede with the Father so that the Father might bestow upon the group the grace that would enable them to be witnesses to the gospel, to be courageous and vigilant so that the mission that has been entrusted to the church might find new and effective expressions that provide the world with light and life.
National Council of the Vincentian Family
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM
Eastern Province, USA