The Preferential Option for the Poor
Our Vincentian Charism and Systemic Change – Part One
In recent years there has been considerable discussion and at times some confusion over the topics of The preferential option for the poor, systemic change and our Vincentian charism. In my opinion, these three topics are, or should be, interwoven into all of our words and actions as members of the Vincentian family.
On July 25, 2013 Pope Francis tweeted “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty”. The Preferential Option, or love of the poor and vulnerable, is a perspective on the world by which we can measure the quality of justice in any society by the way its most poor and vulnerable are treated. Catholic Social Teaching calls us to discern, listen, see and respond to the cry of the poor through our words and actions. By doing so, we are not making a gift of what is ours to the poor, but we are giving back what is rightfully theirs to share.
Our Vincentian charism should describe the spiritual orientation and the mission and values we each live by as family members. On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian family, Superior General, Fr. Tomaz Mavric, CM stated:
“The Vincentian Charism is a way of life. As a way of life within the Church, it is a road to sanctity, the sanctification of our own lives and the lives of others. We can call the Vincentian Family a movement composed of persons who belong to a specific branch of the Family, as well as those who do not belong yet to a specific branch, but are inspired by Saint Vincent de Paul’s way and live it in their lives.”
Systemic change for people living in poverty aims beyond providing food, clothing, shelter, and alleviating immediate needs. It enables people themselves to engage in the identification of the root causes of their poverty and to create strategies, including advocacy, to change those structures which keep them in poverty. Systemic change requires transforming our way of thinking. Over the next month or two, I’d like to share further insights, information and comments about how every Vincentian can use our charism to demonstrate how we can effectively use systemic change and the preferential option for the poor as integral components of our words and actions. I shall begin this journey as a long time Vincentian and servant to the poor. Please join me.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is a Canadian Vincentian. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.