So writes … the National Catholic Reporter of Joe Flannigan who handed over leadership of the SVDP USA to Sheila Gilbert, the first woman to lead the Society in the US.

Some highlights from the article…

“Joe’s faith leads him to reflect on what’s the right thing to do for the right reasons — the mission, vision and values of the society — to serve those in need in friendship, to grow in holiness and see the face of Christ in everyone,” said Roger Playwin, the society’s national executive director. “Joe is a ‘convicted’ Catholic, a true Catholic gentleman,” Gilbert said. He continues to make home visits as part of his Vincentian commitment to serve the poor, she said.

An East Brunswick, N.J., resident, Flannigan and his wife, Patricia, are the parents of seven children, 13 grandchildren and another one on the way, and have volunteered as foster parents for 39 newborns over the years.

Systemic change has been a major focus by looking at how the society can better serve people living in poverty. It began with the view that people living in poverty are in the best position to know the best way to change that reality.

One example of systemic change fostered, in part, by the society, occurred at Sacred Heart Parish in New Brunswick, N.J. In the immediate aftermath of a parish priest being robbed at gunpoint, the parish and the local St. Vincent de Paul conference began a plan to reclaim 40 blocks surrounding the parish from crime and to revitalize the community. Residents themselves developed strategies to achieve this goal.

It’s been a substantial success and is now being replicated in an impoverished community near Philadelphia.

“When you get a calling, listen to the Holy Spirit, reflect on it and say yes,” Flannigan said. He also credits his wife, who has been his partner in his Vincentian vocation.

Flannigan was re-diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006. The tumor traveled to his liver. He and his worldwide Vincentian family committed themselves to praying to the society’s founder, Blessed Frédéric, for a miraculous intervention. The tumor was shrunk with chemotherapy and surgically removed, though the success rate of this strategy was in the low single digits.

Later that year Flannigan was inexplicably cancer-free.

Flannigan’s healing has been submitted as a potential miracle attributable to Blessed Frédéric. If approved, Blessed Frédéric will be declared a saint.


  • Do we explicitly and sufficiently thank our leaders who have served us and those we serve?
  • Have we been willing to “step up to the plate” when asked to serve in some leadership capacity?


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