Wide-angle View of the Vincentian Family

by | May 5, 2021 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change | 2 comments

What is this thing called the Vincentian Family?

[The post first appeared in Vincentian Mindwalk]

The words Vincentian Family and Charism are relatively new to many, especially outside the family. It was certainly not part of my vocabulary when I entered the seminary over 65 years ago or even when I was ordained in 1965. We only began speaking of the Vincentian Family in the 1990’s.

What is the Vincentian Family? Is it an organization, a mindset, a federation of religious organizations? The list goes on and on.

What is this charism that the Vincentian Family is rooted in?

When I started Vincentian Mindwalk, I asked these questions. At that time I suggested that it is a way of looking at things shared by a number of people.

A way of looking at things

The Vincentian Family is a way of looking at things shared by some 4 million people.

It’s a way of looking at things as Jesus did… he was on a mission to bring good news to all, but especially to those on the margins and forgotten.

It’s a way of looking at things adopted by Saints Vincent and Louise. They saw themselves following Christ the “Evangelizer of the Poor.”

It’s a way of looking at things that has penetrated the hearts of more than four million people who bring good news to the forgotten in over 150 countries in the world today.

It‘s a way of looking at things most often embodied in the form of religious institutes… but by no means exclusively, as we will see.

It’s all of the above and more.


The Vincentian Family is a movement

We are people with a mission…”to do what Jesus did.” It is a way of taking seriously Jesus’ question at the Last Supper. Do you understand what I have done? We will be recognized as his disciples if we wash the feet of the poor and forgotten today,

It might be better to say the Vincentian charism is a movement that takes Jesus’ words seriously.

It is people who commit themselves wherever they are in life.

It is each and every one who recognizes the almost unbelievable generosity of God to themselves.

It is each and every one who realizes that they can never pay God back… buy rather “pay it forward” in foot-washing imitation of Christ.

It is washing the feet of others in a way characterized by Vincent’s five virtues or values...

  • Honest (Simplicity)
  • Approachable (Meekness)
  • Self-disciplined (Mortification)
  • Realistic (Humility)
  • Hard-working (Zeal for souls)

The genius of St. Vincent and St. Louise was that they invited and inspired people from all walks of life to carry on the mission of Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor. Their genius was that they realized sometimes it helps to organize and do things together as a family.

Today I still hold what I wrote then. But today I would add this. The movement is catching fire especially in groups of professionals in various fields. They are discovering one another. They are brainstorming with others in their profession. “How can we (lawyers, teachers, social workers, communication specialists, etc.) use the skills of our profession in frontline “field hospitals,” or mobilize those who are committed to seeking long-term solutions?”

I suspect most in established branches of the family are largely unaware of the Vincentian fire that burns in their hearts. (See a reflection “Vincentian Professionals – Flying Under the Radar“). I am fortunate to live with leaders in the Vincentian Family Office. So I hear of new groups sparking into existence especially, but not exclusively, in the Spanish-speaking world.

P.S. This last dimension is a 21st-century manifestation of what Vincent called “confraternities.”

What do you think?

  • Is there anything written here that is especially meaningful to you?
  • Can you explain why?
  • Would you be willing to share this?


  1. James E Ruiz

    Thank You so much. This is very informative to many of us old Vincentians and would be very informative to newer Vincentians.
    Thank You.

  2. Regina Bechtle, SC

    Excellent post, John – a clear expression of the breadth and depth of the Vincentian charism as it is lived out in real time and real lives.