As a member of the Social Justice Representatives of North America, I find myself grateful over and over again for the global view of the Vincentian Family. We find nourishment and inspiration through our discussions about social justice issues and through the actions that we hear about from the global network.
Recently, we received a short reflection from our Canadian friends written by Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie, national spiritual advisor of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Canada. Archbishop Lavoie is reflecting on how we can be “energized rather than discouraged” by our response to developments around the former Indian residential schools and the issue of unmarked graves (and many other issues as well). Many social justice issues today reveal atrocities that are part of our history as a culture, our history as a church. It would be so easy to be discouraged and to not know how to respond. And yet, we must, as the Archbishop is suggesting, find the moral high road and act on what has been revealed.
There are numerous issues for us to face and to find ways to act, and all of them reveal our need to go to the poor so that we can find God (St. Vincent DePaul). The world seems to be reeling with the mistreatment of those who are poor and marginalized, from starvation in Ethiopia to women’s rights in Afghanistan, from sins of the past in the ways we have treated native peoples to the incarceration of people of color in U.S prisons. We are called to act, to respond, to speak to the injustices. As a Vincentian Family, we are acting globally through homeless initiatives such as “13 Houses Campaign” and through even more local actions that include go-fund-me projects to help the people in Haiti as they rebuild after the earthquake.
At the same time that we are acting, we must also turn to prayer. Archbishop Lavoie said it so beautifully at the end of his reflection on the Church’s need to act in reparation for our past treatment of indigenous people. In addition to action, he said, “I also find myself called to be more contemplative, as the less I do, the more God can do. And finally, I need to trust in divine Providence – that God is in charge, and may be using these events to wake up the Church, purify us and make us humbler, and more attentive to the cries of the poor.” Vincent was the Mystic of Charity (see Fathers T. Mavrič, H. O’Donnell, R. Maloney and T. McKenna), who always called us to go to the poor, while also calling us to prayer. May we take the opportunities given to us to be purified, to be more humble, and to always be attentive to the cries of the poor.
Mary Frances Jaster is the Misevi Representative to the Social Justice Committee