The roots of the Vincentian tree

It came as a great surprise to me when I learned of a 1960 letter of Pope John XXIII to Fr. William Slattery, CM on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the deaths of St. Vincent and Louise. I was even more surprised by what the much beloved Pope had to say about the Vincentian Family… and how prophetic were his words.

Almost 60 years ago Pope John XXIII wrote the following statements in the official somewhat florid Papal language of that day. He began by sharing experiences from his time as Papal Nuncio in Paris. He was inspired by his frequent visits to the chapels at the Mother Houses of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity where their moral remains are to this day.

Here are five highlights.

  1. For indeed there is a great richness of the fruits of the Vincentian tree, the shoot of which has extended far. (He anticipated Sr. Betty Ann McNeil’s groundbreaking study on the Vincentian Family Tree by some 30 years.)
  2. For during the last three centuries St. Vincent de Paul has been by his example and inspiration the outstanding motivating force and counselor in producing and arranging works of Christian charity.
  3. The Ladies of Charity, the Little Daughters for Charity, the Little Friends of the poor, the Vincentian Societies founded by Frederick Ozanam and many other sodalities and works which, understand and adorned everywhere in the world by the guidance, spirit and sometimes the very names of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac, flourish and, vying in ardor, devote themselves to a manifold beneficence; they hat have spread through the entire Catholic world like an army bringing peace, which under evangelical standards, fights against every kind of wretchedness
  4. We are thoroughly convinced that the function which God entrusted to St. Vincent de Paul is not confined to these limits ample though they are, but that it will also expand in the future more widely and efficiently its innate power and virtue. 
  5. (These are times which) urgently requires other reasons and directions in addition to the old ones in our own times… when, with the distances between places almost annulled, … it behooves charity to contribute in due proportion to what may in the alleviate of need to reach remote nations and most extended distances.

See how prophetic John XXIII was about how the Charism has developed globally in the past 60 years.

Also, read the following outline of how the Vincentian Family developed in North America from 1986 to the present.

The Vincentian Family in North America

These following milestones are from a brief history of the Vincentian Family in the United States which I began to write almost 20 years ago …

1986  The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Annual Meeting Notre Dame, Indiana (1000 participants)
Title: TheVincentian Family: Responding to the Cry of the Poor

Keynotes:

Amin de Tarrazi, International President of SVDP
Richard McCullen, CM, Superior General
John Simmos, United States National President of the SVDP
Bishop Thomas J. Murphy, SVDP National Episcopal Advisor

Facilitators: Patricia Connolly, DC; John Grindel, CM
Introduction to Family Branches: Robert Schwane, CM; Jean Juliano, DC; Romilda Berling, LOC; Sheila Gilbert, SVDP.
Workshops: Leo Keigher, CM; Frank Ryan, SVDP; Elizabeth Keaveney, DC; William Hartenbach, CM; Mary Rose McGeady DC; Barry Moriarity, CM.

1986    Pope John Paul II in an address to the General Assembly of the Congregation of the Mission initiated the call to “Systemic Change”:

“…search out more than ever with boldness, humility and skill the causes of poverty and encourage short and long term solutions—acceptable and effective concrete solutions. By doing so, you will work for the credibility of the Gospel and of the Church.” (Pope John Paul II)

1998    Robert Maloney, CM invited representatives of the Vincentian Family to the General Assembly of the Congregation of the Mission.
Also, at his request, the international website for the Vincentian Family, famvin.org, was created.

1999  The first US Vincentian Family Leadership Meeting was held in Los Altos, CA. Attending: 5 CM and 5 DC Provincials, SVDP and LOC Presidents

2000    Robert Maloney, CM officially convenes the international Vincentian Family.

2001- 17 There followed a series to National Gatherings of the Vincentian Family North America.

2017 Over 11,000 members of various branches of the Vincentian Family gathered in St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the 400 anniversary of the birth of the charism and hear an address of Pope Francis as well as venerate the relic of the heart of St. Vincent with him.

In January of 2020 the leaders of some 100 branches will gather in Rome for the first such high level meeting.

Pope John XXIII seems to have been very accurate when he wrote 60 years ago that the Vincentian Family is “will also expand in the future more widely and efficiently its innate power and virtue.”

PS. We have the original of his letter in the Ducourneau Archive here in Philadelphia.

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