On November 25, 2019, the delegates of the National Coordinating Committee of the Vincentian Family met in the house of the Daughters of Charity (9 rue Cler de Paris). Present for the meeting: Joseph AGOSTINO, CM (International Coordinator of the Vincentian Family); Fr. Emile GHALI, CM (translator); Fr. Bernard MASSARINI, CM (National Coordinator of the Vincentian Family); Sister Blandine KLEIN, (Superior General of the Sisters of Charity of Strasbourg) who was accompanied by Ms. Fanny DOUHAIRE (responsible for the projects of the Congregation); the President of the Vincentian Marian Youth; Fr. DANJOU (Subdirector of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Agony) accompanied by Ms. Brigitte DARX; Mr. Michel LANTERNIER (President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul); Sister Marie-Vianney RESSEGAND, (Superior General of the Order of the Sisters of Union-Chretienne de Saint Chaumond); France MORANE (President of the Saint Vincent Teams of the International Association of Charity in France); Ms. Muriel WITTMANN, (Vice-President of the International Association of Charity in France); Fr. Gilles MORIN, (Provincial of the Religious of Saint Vincent de Paul); Sister Eliane BULTEL, (delegate of the Daughters of Charity); Fr. Jean-François DESCLAUX, (Spiritual Advisor of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul); Sister Pascale HARATYK, (Councilor for the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida); Marie-Pierre FLOUR (Communications Coordinator of the Vincentian Family) … in the afternoon the group was joined by Fr. Christian MAUVAIS, CM (Visitor of the Congregation of the Mission and Fr. Patrick RABARISON, CM,
After pointing out that the President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and the President of the International Association of Charity had met with Father Joseph Agosotino, CM (the International Coordinator of the Vincentian Family), Father Bernard Massarini gave a brief summary of the state of the relationship with DePaul (France). The group was reminded of the fact that even though they (Depaul, France) are members of the International Vincentian Family but are not part of the Coordinating Committee in France, nevertheless they have been part of our common initiatives: participation in the Symposium in Rome (2017), a video presentation on the occasion of the Second World Day of the Poor, mapping the presence of the Branches of the Vincentian Family in France.
Recommendations from the International Office of the Vincentian Family were given to each participant in order to guide the discussion. The International Coordinator commented on these recommendations. He informed us that there are 156 branches throughout the world. In light of this large number and also since it is impossible for each branch to have a representative on the International Council of the Vincentian Family, it was decided to create a Council composed of four ex officio groups (the Daughters of Charity, the International Association of Charity, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Congregation of the Mission) and representatives from the other branches who rotate every three years. Joseph Agostino proposed that the National Coordinating Committee in France elect two or three people who would redact a document that would take into consideration all those elements necessary for the functioning of the group.
The International Coordinator atated that these criteria should be communicated in a manner that would allow for new branches to be welcomed into the Committee. The following criteria should be considered:
- That the branch is founded by Saint Vincent and one of the saints of the Vincentian Family;
- That it is constituted as a group (with Constitutions and Statutes)
- That it is recognized as a legitimate movement (by the Church or the State)
- That its primary purpose is that of serving those who are poor.
A lengthy dialogue about our identity as family followed. We were also reminded about specific options taken to welcome new members and the difficulties encountered in continuing to develop our charism when limits are not clearly defined.
We were also reminded of the fact in order to be a member of the Vincentian Family, one must be willing to enter into a formation process to deepen once’s knowledge and living of the charism, thus deepening our Vincentian roots. The dialogue concluded with a decision to wait for the text of the international coordinator to rethink the text of the letter. This will be done at our next meeting.
At noon we celebrated the Eucharist at the oratory of the Daughters of Charity, a moment that enabled us to reaffirm our unity. After lunch there was a roundtable discussion in which each participant was able to share some news about his/her particular branch.
The Sisters of Charity of Strasbourg shared with us the news that they, together with the Sisters of the Charity of Besancon, made a retreat at the Berceau. That retreat was directed by Father Mauvais, provincial of the Congregation of the Mission. They also presented us with a book that one of their Sisters had written about their history of service among the most vulnerable: « Ce que vous faites au plus petit. Témoignage d’une sœur de la Charité – de la cornette à la tablette » [What you do for one of these least brothers or sisters – the witness of a Sister of Charity]). Sister Denise Baumann is the author.
The delegate from the Vincentian Marian Youth expressed her joy at being able to participate in this annual meeting. Their new website will be ready for the feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Fr. Rabarison, a delegate of the Commission for Vincentian Animation in France presented a commentary on the exhortation Christus Vivent … a commentary which he contributed to and which is intended for young people. He invited us to be inventive with regard to sharing and making known our identity and our patrimony.
The president of the Society of Saint Vincent spoke about two initiatives with homeless people in Seine-Saint Denis and in Val de Marne. The Society has also sent members to collaborate in projects that are being developed in other countries (these individuals went to the Ivory Coast and to Burkina Faso where they are collaborating with the Religious of Saint Vincent de Paul and another group went to Cameroon where they are working with members of the Congregation of the Mission). The Society is looking for other place where they might send members as missionaries. The idea was raised about reestablishing a Vincentian cooperation entity in France, (something like MISEVI).
The Sisters of Union-Chretienne de Saint Chaumond continue their educational ministry in the schools. This year a member made her solemn profession and another, her temporary profession. They are preparing for their General Chapter which will take place in July 2020.
ESV-AIC in France participates in the monthly meeting at the Ministry of Social Integration. The project Louise and Rosalie is moving forward (a house that will receive women and is located at 97 rue de Severes in Paris … this house should be ready by the beginning of July 2020 and officially inaugurated in September. The house is designed to accommodate 15-20 women).
The Religious of Saint Vincent de Paul will hold their General Chapter in May 2020 and are preparing to celebrate the 175 anniversary of their foundation (March 2-3, 2020).
The Association of the Miraculous Medal continue to take telephone calls eight hours a day from people who call in for various reasons.
The Daughters of Charity are meeting on three levels: local and provincial (2020) worldwide (2021). There were four formation sessions for leadership during which they highlighted the discovery of the charism in the schools that they administer. Some Sisters are dedicated to the formation of the laypeople in their schools and in their health and social centers (eight sessions are planned in these institutions over the course of the next two years). There is an attempt to deepen people’s understanding of the charism within the context of the various problems that people encounter. Focus is placed on caring for the person and on ecological issues.
The Archconfraternity of the Holy Agony continues to develop an environment of piety and prayer with Jesus in Gethsemane … people gather together on a monthly basis in the Holy Agony Chapel at 95 rue de Severes in Paris and pray for the world.
The Sisters of Gethsemane are no longer ministering in Paris but have found a way to use their former house so that it continues to reflect the Vincentian charism … they have rented their house to the members of an Association that offers lodging to people who find themselves in various difficult situations.
The Sisters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida shared with us news about the profession of vows of some Sisters in China. They also received five Vietnamese postulants in Besancon and another five in Rome. Their General Chapter will be held in Rome in May 2020. They also spoke about sending young men and women on a foreign mission where they are able to engage in various forms of ministry: teaching, health care, construction, social services etc. After a time of formation these young people are sent forth to minister and upon their return they engage in an evaluation of their ministry.
At the end of the afternoon election was held for the coordinator, the secretary, the communications director and the treasurer. The participants were reminded that presently Marie Pierre Flour holds the position of secretary/treasurer/communications director. After some dialogue about maintaining the three positions as one, Marie-Pierre Flour was reelected to her position and Fr. Bernard Massarini was reelected as coordinator.
In order to better our communication as members of the Vincentian Family in France, the various branches have been requested to send to Marie-Pierre Flour information about contact persons in the area of communication. There is a desire to enter into dialogue with them in order to obtain some information and areas of interest that could be published on the Famvin website in French.
Joseph Agostino then spoke about some of the activities of the International Vincentian Family:
- The Meeting of the Heads of the Vincentian Family in January 2020 (Rome) in order to deepen our understanding of a culture of vocation … looking for ways to provide tools to everyone (a webpage will be created for this dynamic).
- Research in order to better the transmission of the charism with a view toward publishing a guide about various existing practices.
- The 13 Houses Project established on the occasion of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the charism: the executive committee invites every branch to participate in this project on behalf of homeless individuals.
- The publication of a missal of the saints and blessed of the Vincentian Family that would also contain some information about the various branches of the Family. After two years of work this missal will be presented at the 2020 meeting for discussion and commentary. This will be made available to all the branches and members of the family.
There was then dialogue about present services for homeless people that should be communicated to the French representative of the Homeless Alliance. These services should be part of the mapping process: the Maraudes SSVP in Toulouse and Paris; the shower bus of DePaul France; Chenil SSVP in Brest; the establishment that was created in 1995 by the Sisters of Charity of Strasbourg that is constantly evolving with the Foundation Vincent de Paul: l’Escale Saint-Vincent; the Louise Rosalie project (mentioned above) and MSMA funeral services for people who have died on the streets (ESC-AIC, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Congregation of the Mission participate in this project).
The meeting concluded at about four in the afternoon. The next meeting is scheduled for March 6, 2020 at the Motherhouse of the Congregation of the Mission, 95 Rue de Sevres in Paris
National Coordinator of the Vincentian Family