During his lifetime Vincent de Paul wrote some 30,000 letters and we know that Frederic Ozanam wrote at least 15,000. Have you ever thought about the manner in which Vincent and Frederic would communicate if they were alive today? Surely, they would rely on the Internet and the other Social Network platforms. Their homilies and discourses would touch the hearts of many. They were great communicators and have given us an example to follow.
If we do not feel prepared for the mission that we are called to accomplish, there is still time to become competent. Take advantage of the formation sessions that are offered to you. Ask the members of the General Council to promote formation courses on the theme of communication. Seek to better your communication because that will enable you to draw closer to people, will enable you to reduce the distance that separates you from others, will enable you to reveal the face of God to others and will ultimately enable you, and those whom you serve, to attain greater holiness.
To communicate is to reduce the distance that separates people from one another and to draw closer to others. To communicate is to create favorable conditions for beneficial dialogue. We, as members of the Society and the worldwide Vincentian Family, are invited to be effective communicators. We are faced with a tremendous challenge, namely, to provide material assistance to those people who are suffering and at the same time, to prove those same individuals with spiritual assistance. We will either be good communicators or else we will be simply distributors of food baskets.
We should take time to reflect upon the following. We might be the only Catholic presence on the peripheries and therefore, we may be the only instruments of communication between God and those persons who have been marginalized and excluded. Thus, we have a great responsibility to be messengers of the gospel and heralds of charity. Our gestures, our way of being and acting, our way of serving and caring for those men and women who are poor … all these actions are observed by everyone. That is why we must be prepared and competent in our ministry.
To be effective communicators means that we develop the characteristic of empathy, that is, that we take the time to place ourselves in the position of the other, in the position of the recipient of the message. In other words, we must take the time to discover the situation of those who are receiving the Word. Do we use the correct language? Perhaps we are too formal when we read the gospel during our home visit? Have we been a model of holiness for those who might observe us? Do we communicate the message of Jesus or are we simply repeating the words of Scripture? Do the poor, whom we serve, see in us the face of God?
In the communication process, there are certain elements that contribute to the message being heard and received (without noise or interference). Among those elements, we mention the following: clarity of the content to be transmitted (a certain mastery with regard to the message that is being communicated), an ease of expression (an ability to speak in a direct manner, without irony or subterfuge) and an ability to interact with others (our words reveal our desire to enter into dialogue with others) .
In theory, all of this seems quite easy, but we know that, in practice, the process of communication has difficulties. Therefore, we need formation in order to be effective communicators, especially at the time of our home visits.
Written by: Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th General President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
Translated by: Charles T. Plock, CM: Eastern Province, USA