As Vincentians our first and foremost goal is the relief of poverty across the world. We are ready to act and assist our neighbours in need in every way we can. In performing this act, we seek to find Jesus in the face of those we serve and in the very acts of charity and justice we seek to fulfill. You may recall Vincent de Paul took some time to finalize the rule or constitution of the Congregation of the Mission because he was too busy serving his people.
In todays world there is a need for adherence to government rules as well as our own rules and constitution as they affect how we act. I can only speak to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. It is likely wise to look at our current and at times, outdated governance. Are our higher levels truly being accountable to and inclusive of the general membership? Should we be looking at new more modern ways of communication rather than a very top down approach to matters? Are we representative of those we serve, both in culture and racial ancestry? Can we become a broader organization that while maintaining our Catholic character become more welcoming to other faiths?
Good governance can only achieved by making a commitment to internal systemic change in our current structures. One example is in the Ontario region here in Canada. In place of the long time format for electing a new president, we formed a nine member board of directors who were nominated and elected by the various councils in Ontario. The elected board members then elected one of their members as president. This process removed the old system that often included a new president appointing his executive which often put friendship ahead of competence. Our new Ontario Board also reflects diversity with 3 members being from an identified minority or special designation.
The most important component of any systemic change must include an emphasis on establishing ways to give every member an opportunity to voice their concerns, comments and questions about how we operate and act. This “grass roots” approach can only make us a stronger organization and one that may be more appealing to new members. In addition, by being a more diverse organization we can embrace and celebrate the various cultures of those we serve.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is a Canadian Vincentian. 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.
I respectfully acknowledge the traditional, unceded territories of the Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit, on which lands we meet, work and live.