Once upon a time in a small town, a smart and ambitious young man sought tirelessly to earn a “secure job with benefits” to get his family out of poverty. Because of his intelligence and boldness, he met influential people who would help him to achieve his dream. But when he was close to attaining it, he met with Someone bigger than him and his desire. In that moment his life changed radically.
Four hundred years ago nobody knew who that young man was. After 400 years thousands of people follow his steps. This smart and ambitious young man was Vincent de Paul whom Jesus reached out to people who were poor. He became aware of the suffering and abandonment of poor people and this led to a deep interior conversion. As a result, he decided to consecrate his life to serve the poorest of the poor. It is 1617.
Saint Vincent quickly realized that the best way to serve the poor and marginalized was to work in collaboration with others. He brought together a group of women who he started to work with. He did not realize that this group would be the first of dozens of Vincentian groups that have spread all over the world. This small group was the beginning of thousands and thousands who decided to continue serving the poor.
The wider Vincentian Family
Twenty years ago, Sr. Betty Ann McNeil, DC, wrote a book “The Family Tree: A Genealogical Study”. In that project Sr. Betty Ann identified more than 200 Religious communities and Lay Associations that were founded by a Vincentian and/or were inspired by the spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul. Last year the Vincentian Family Office took up this research in order to update the branches of the Vincentian Family worldwide.
The VFO has used these criteria to identify a Branch of the Vincentian Family:
- They are formally established with:
- Written by-laws / constitutions /norms, and
- Recognition by at least local ecclesial authority
- Those communities or groups which have taken their inspiration from Saint Vincent de Paul and/or other Vincentian Family Founders.
- They define themselves as following the Vincentian Charism.
So far, the VFO has found a little more than 80 branches around the globe who claimed be part of the Vincentian Family. Why are not all of the 200 branches Sr. Betty Ann found on this new list? There are three reasons:
- The Office is still contacting the branches. Since last year the VFO has been trying to contact the Superiors General of each branch all over the world. Getting the current information (name of the superior general, address, phone number, email, etc) has not been easy.
- Some Religious communities have died or merged with others. Because of the age and lack of new vocations some communities, especially in Europe, have died. Others have merged losing their relationship with the Vincentian spirituality.
- Others do not identify their organization’s/congregation’s relationship to St. Vincent. While many of 200 hundred Religious communities and Lay associations were influenced by the Vincentian Charism, not all of them continue to identify themselves as Vincentian.
And the small mustard seed grew up…
That small group of Charities founded in 1617 in Chatillon, France, was the small mustard seed planted that has become a big tree. Two million people are part of the Vincentian Family. Such increase only comes from Heaven. St. Vincent used to say that he was not the author of this work and he never thought of that. We believe him. God had His own plan:
O Savior, o Savior O Sauveur! O Sauveur! Who could ever have imagined that this would reach its present state? If anyone had said that to me then, I would have thought he was making fun of me; yet, that was the way God was pleased to give a beginning to what you now see. Eh bien, my dear confreres, would you call human something no one had ever intended? For neither I, nor poor M. Portail ever thought of it. Ah, we never thought of it! It was very far from our minds! (SVP, May/17/1658)
If we focused our unique gifts in collaboration with one another, imagine the impact we would have!
The Vincentian Family Office shares this information with all those who walk in the steps of Vincent, Louise, and other Vincentian Founders hoping you can see how large, multicultural, multilingual, and prophetic our Vincentian Family is all over the world.
- Click to access the Updated Vincentian Family Branches
If you have questions, suggestions, comments or want to send some information about other branches, please contact the VFO at firstname.lastname@example.org