For those who are participating in the Vincentian Symposium,  the Vincentian Family Office will be publishing a short biography of the Speakers and a summary about their conferences.

First conference: Vincentian Spirituality and its Prophetic Challenge.

by Tjeu van Knippenberg c.m. em. professor of practical theology at Tilburg University and Peter Reijers a business consultant and coach, mainly active in the field of communication skills, often in building companies, in the field of construction. Both of them are involved in the Vincent de Paul Center The Netherlands.

How can the pope’s dream become true: strangers integrating in a common house? Can we learn from the Bible, fromVincent de Paul, from our own experience?

Looking at the Bible, we see that the relation to the stranger is an ambivalent one. At the one hand JHWH is only there for Israel, the chosen people with its own land, language, and rituals. At the other side: how can other peoples be saved? The attitude towards the stranger is an ambivalent one. In this ambivalence, JHWH calls the people to keep the memory alive that it has been a foreigner and stranger itself in Egypt. Leviticus 19:33-34: ‘The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ Exodus is a call to come to our destination – when Israel was in Egypt land: let my people go. From slavery to freedom, from unconsciousness to consciousness, from selfishness to love, from ruling to serving. Return as a people and as an individual to your own history. Go back to your most inner self and see how it is to be a stranger and to be welcomed in a common house.

The Dutch moved on, from exploiting slaves (we also invented apartheid, not something to be proud of) in VOC times, to being a country that has a solid place in the ranking of the happiest countries in the world. Year after year we are in the top ten. Consider this: Holland is the only country in the world without stray dogs. We are, let us say, organized. The building has a thorough foundation. Maybe as strong as the foundation of the Vincentian charisma?

Maybe we learn from the poor, and the stranger, how to be better at it. Maybe Vincent would be seen as a stranger, by some. Let us investigate, not judge. After all, only then will he inspire us all to make no small plans, to be pragmatic and effective. To be a movement and not an institution.

A Dutch marketer claims that vision without action is hallucination. Let us think, ask, listen, learn and act. On our way to welcome the stranger whenever and wherever we can.

Second conference: Vincentian Formation and Communication in the Information Age.

by Margaret Ann O’Neill,  Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth Convent Station, New Jersey

  • Ministry in Suchitoto, El Salvador, Central America .1987- present
  • Professor of Theology, Iona College, New Rochelle, NY. 1970-1990
  • Director Centro Arte para la Paz. Suchitoto, El Salvador 2007-Present
  • PhD Religious Education. New York University
  • MA Theology. Marquette University

“Let God be God; Let Love Be Love.”

This session will explore the Loving Energy in the universe as mutuality, relatedness, and belonging. It will connect the spirituality of Vincent and the urgency to see its position in our own world context.

We are coming to Rome to remember, to re-commit, and to rejoice. This session of the Vincentian Symposium will focus on Vincent’s gift to the church and to the world: the desire to express his freedom to love, especially to love the poor. Despite the harsh context of Jansenism, where there was stress on Original sin and human depravity, Vincent saw God’s compassion and mercy as a gift, not as something earned. He knew the power of partnership and so Vincent and Louise together, birthed a revolution in faith, a revolution in tenderness, and love.

We gather here in Rome to pledge to stay awake to what began 400 years ago and to re-commit ourselves toward boundless loving. In this, our time, we invite all Vincentians to look deep inside the mystery of Trinity, to probe aTrinitarian revolution… nothing less. This unearthing of the Trinity cannot come a moment too soon. Our world seems so broken… so disconnected.  The Trinity is not ultimately a teaching just about God, but rather a teaching about personhood! God is relationship itself, absolute relatedness, and the Good News is all of creation and humanity are invited into a divine dance. The life of God does not just belong to God alone… there are no spectators, no strangers… everything is connected! It is urgent to apply this to the heart of our ministry, to recommit to build solidarity with each other and the world, with nothing less than a Vincentian zeal.

Third conference: Vincentian Ministries: From Here to Where?

by Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, CM is executive vice president and chief operations officer of Ascension, the largest health system in the United States and the world’s largest Catholic health system. With 2500 sites of care, Ascension provides nearly $2 billion annually for care of persons living in poverty and other community benefit programs.

SUMMARY: As the organizations that continue St. Vincent de Paul’s work begin their fifth century, it will be important that they do so with a certain freedom for change so that their work will be effective for the needs of the poor today. Our work will be greatly enhanced if we work together, rather than as separate organizations. It will be expanded even further if we learn to work more effectively with NGO’s and other non-Catholic organizations having complementary aims. We will benefit if we learn from the lessons of those who study “collective impact” and the many other bodies of knowledge that have been developed from observing effective social outreach. Our own deep knowledge of the poor, personal relationships with them and the trust they have in us are powerful elements that we can contribute to these many outside organizations in turn. Just as importantly, it is time we spoke clearly and powerfully to the world about the lives, struggles, and needs of the poor. The poor need our voices, just as they need assistance to make their own voices heard. Finally, we must accept the responsibility to pass on the tradition and work of St. Vincent, just as it was once given to us, to ensure that this extraordinary spirituality and work continues.

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