Sister Lebia, where and how did your Congregation come into existence?
Our Congregation was founded on December 5, 1811 by Father Jacobus Guilielmus Benedictus De Beir, pastor of Lendelede, Diocese of Bruges, West Flanders in Belgium. It started with a group of three women who administered a school for poor children. Later, in 1827, a second group ministered on behalf of the sick and the elderly, and in 1838 a third group dedicated themselves to the sick in their own homes. In 1856, these three groups were united under the name Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul de Lendelede.
What is your present day charism and mission?
Today we continue to be called to remain faithful to the same charism and mission as the former Sisters, but we are called to do this in the midst of the realities of today’s society. As Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul, we are called to fully commit ourselves to serve the poor. We commit ourselves to love and be compassionate toward all those who need an attentive ear, a word of welcome, a word of hope, human warmth, company, shelter … everyone who is hungry or thirsty or infirm or an outcast or elderly, etc.
What does it mean to be a missionary in a small Belgium city? What are the specifics of your misión?
Being a missionary in a small town in Belgium means being present to people and communicating to people the joy of the Gospel. Being a missionary means that we make it clear to people that even today people are able to dedicate their lives to God. Indeed, we are called to be servants of Jesus who in turn, serve our brothers and sisters, especially those who are viewed as insignificant and yet, in great need.
COVID-19: what were the needs and difficulties that you encountered?
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we experienced a great lack with regard to Eucharistic celebrations and other spiritual encounters. We also experienced a certain loneliness due to confinement, as well as a fear of being contaminated, a of death and human loss, uncertainty about the future … moral, spiritual psychological and financial insecurity.
In 2020 you participated in the first international meeting of the 160 branches of the Vincentian Family in Rome: what impressions did you take from that meeting and what is the challenge for the future?
During the first international meeting of the Vincentian Family in Rome in 2020, I was most impressed by the testimonies of various individuals and by the exchange of ideas and experiences in the small groups. I was also most touched by our meeting with Pope Francis and by receiving the relics of Saint Vincent from Paul.
As members of the worldwide Vincentian Family, the challenge for the future is to be able to deepen our bonds so that we can share our resources and thus be able to spread the joy of the Gospel throughout the world; live boldly; engage in inventive collaboration and maintain effective communication among the many different branches. In summary, this is how we can serve together as members of the Family Vincentian as we clothe ourselves in the spirit of Christ, servant and evangelizer of the poor.