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Interview with Father Bernard Massarini, Coordinator of the Vincentian Family in France

by | May 10, 2021 | News, Vincentian Family | 0 comments

[1] Father Bernard, how and when did the initiative to gather together the distinct branches of the Vincentian Family come into existence?

This group came into existence in October 2014, before the Congregation of the Mission established the Province of France (January 25, 2015) and the Visitor-elect took office. We wrote an internal rule and decided on a membership fee. This group was composed of the International Association of Charity (AIC), the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP), the Congregation of the Mission (CM), the Daughters of Charity (HC) and the Sisters from Strasbourg. This group elected me as “coordinator”.

[2] What is its mission?

We set out to deepen our mutual understanding of one another and to coordinate common actions if possible. We created a map of the Vincentian Family in France, a calendar of the Vincentian saints, a portrait of Saint Vincent drawn but this was composed of the various faces of the people we welcome through the ministry of our different organizations (this drawing adorned the facade of Saint Lazare during the time of the 400th anniversary year of the foundation of the charism).

We have also made a short video about what our ministry with homeless people: https://youtu.be/qqdN3aTx-CI.

 

In November 2020 we opened a center for homeless women, and this was the result of the collaboration between the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and the International Association of Charity.

[3] In terms of coordination, what has been your response during this difficult time? Have you begun any specific initiatives in order to address some shared or common needs?

As a result of the health crisis, we held our two meetings in 2020 and our first meeting in 2021 via Zoom.

The members of the International Association of Charity organized exchanges between young men and women and the residents of nursing homes (this was done by videoconference). A young congregation, with a charism focused on families and education, created patronage sessions — youth activities — for example, brief video programs that have been very successful.

[4] Father Bernard, you participated in the first international meeting of the Vincentian Family that took place in Rome (January 2020). What were the most important lessons that you learned and what are the present challenges for this group?

Yes, I was there as a representative of an association of the Vincentian Family in France (the Archconfraternity of the Holy Agony) and organized the delegation of part of the Vincentian Family in France [this did not include representatives from the areas of health care and special education]. There were about 30 people, 15 delegates from the various associations and 15 school principals from institutions administered by the Daughters of Charity. The school principals stayed at  Trinite des Monts  while the other delegates stayed with the Sisters of Saint Joan Antida Touret and with the Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul.

What moved me most was the diversity of our family members, their youthfulness , and being able to enter into dialogue with the members newly created congregations and associations that share the charism and the experience of Saint Vincent de Paul.

[5] Father Bernard, could you share with us something of your experience as coordinator of the Vincentian Family in France … what has impressed you the most?

We have a beautiful but complex mission, and I am glad that I was able to contribute in some small way to the initial achievements … accomplishments that I consider minor. I also mention once more the establishment of the shelter for homeless women that I told you about above: the Louise and Rosalie Project.

It is very complex to integrate the newly established branches: six congregations that cannot participate actively because of either their small number or age. In some cases, the only connection that I maintain with these groups is a monthly visit to the houses of the older Sisters of the different congregations. I do, however, share with these religious women information about the Vincentian Family around the world.

We have not yet been able to integrate DePaul France, which three members of the coordinating group view as too modern with regard to their perspective on spirituality. Father Agostino, has acknowledged the difficulty of this desire for full integration (DePaul France participated in the Rome meeting and in the video on service on behalf of the homeless).

But I still have a desire to encourage the members to do more with regard to service on behalf of people who have lived alone for many years.

We have not yet found a way to communicate information about the good things that are being done by the different branches nor have we been able to create a common formation program or organize joint on-going formation sessions for the members (sessions that would create a common spirit).

The next coordinator, be it a priest, religious or a lay person, will still have to further develop the establishment of a common spirit so that we are able to give greater witness to the heritage of our founders Vicente de Paul and Luisa de Marillac.

Elena Grazini


Tags: France

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