Throughout the year of 2015, the various conferences of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul focused their reflection on the theme: weaving charity. The verb to weave was well chosen especially in view of its significance for the theme. To weave does not only mean to sew or to mend but can also be used in the sense of uniting threads in order to create a new piece of cloth. Those words, weaving charity, are indeed a profound expression of our ministry.
In choosing this theme the National Council in Brazil wanted the members to deepen their spirituality as they continued their search for ever more effective means to assist people. Together, weaving charity and approaching their work from a systemic change perspective, the members become stronger and are able to accomplish more. The members, however, must believe that all of this is possible and then, strategize on behalf of those who are poor, the poor who are their lords and masters.
In other words, in order to create this network of charity, which was dreamed about and prophesied by Frederic Ozanam, the members must sew and join all the threads together. To weave can also mean to mix which, in the environment of the Vincentian Family, is a most appropriate synonym. We are connecting the multiple parts of this social network and in the end the poor are those who benefit the most from our efforts and initiatives.
Those treads of charity are in reality ourselves, the members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and members of the worldwide Vincentian Family and those individuals who are assisted by the many branches of this large Family. Day after day we are weaving this network of charity and joining together all the threads that will allow us to join together with other sisters and brothers as we work together with and on behalf of those who are poor and marginalized and excluded from participation in society.
We create this network of charity when we seek the collaboration of others who can provide us with resources (final resources as well as the time and solidarity of various individuals) that enable us to reach out more effectively to those on the peripheries. We create a network of charity through the words of comfort and encouragement that we share with those families whom we visit and serve. We also create a network of charity when we provide people with information that empowers them to rise above their situation of poverty and misery. We create this network of charity when we reveal that together we are stronger.
In order to better understand the meaning of the verb, to weave, let us reflect on the work of the weaver, in other words, let us reflect on the person who prepares the thread and manufactures the cloth in industrial workshops and factories. Indeed, the weaver is key in this process. It is necessary to join together the stitches in such a manner as to correct any mistakes so that the finished product is perfect. The weavers are committed to the final product of their work. In order to achieve that result the weavers engage in their work with great patience, dedication and attention … necessary elements if they want to perform their work in a proper manner. We, as members of the Society and the Vincentian Family, are weavers of a network of charity, that is, we weave networks of solidarity and love. Therefore, we must also become ever more conscious of the great responsibility that has been entrusted to us.
Applying this theme to our daily life, we can affirm that to weave is to bring together three elements: faith, hope and charity. At the same time, we need to weave from the perspective of our strength, that is, from the perspective of love for neighbor, commitment and spirituality. All of this should be done for the honor and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and following the example of Vincent de Paul who has shown us various way in which we can engage in the process of human promotion through means of the network of charity.
In other words, we can affirm that weaving charity is the best expression of our united efforts that enable us to confront the challenges of systemic change. Such efforts will be successful if we join together with other branches and with other entities and become serious about integral human promotion.
To weave charity is an expression that reflects the manner in which we, as members of the Society and the worldwide Vincentian Family, ought to act as we seek to better the lives of those persons who are most in need, as we seek to break the cycle of poverty and empower those who are poor to become the protagonists of their own history … a difficult task but not an impossible task!
We are members of a civil society that is often opposed to the solidarity that characterizes the activity, the attitudes, the program and projects of the Church and the Vincentian Family. We are moving against the current in the midst of a self-centered society that excludes so many people from full and active participation. Therefore, we not only have to weave a network of charity, but we also have to destroy barriers of prejudice, injustice and oppression that corrupt society and crush the hopes for a better tomorrow.
To be members of the Vincentian Family is act like Jesus Christ and Vincent de Paul and Frederic Ozanam, namely, to proclaim the Good News and denounce injustice. In order for charity to be effective, integral and liberating the members of the Vincentian Family must engage in the task of weaving a network of charity, they must untangle the thread in order to weave a renewed and transformed network.
Written by: Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th General President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM
Eastern Province, USA