From the CEO

From the CEO – February 2019

From the CEO – February 2019 1000 1000 echomedia

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians:

Peace be with you. Our new year is off to a great start! On January 21st, roughly 250 gathered at Sacred Heart Seminary to celebrate a beautiful Mass, enjoy a delicious breakfast, and attend our Annual Meeting. In many respects, our gathering was nourishing for all who attended.

This year’s Annual Meeting program consisted of a two part program.

First, I had the privilege of reporting on the numerous aspects of our Council as a business. The immediately following article in this Conference Connection is my report that summarizes what our Council accomplished this past year. In light of that summary, which does not include the roughly 45,000 home visits Vincentians made last year, no one could seriously challenge our commitment to serving neighbors in need. Overall, we served more than 300,000 last year. Well done, All!

Our collective service should be a source of quiet pride for all of us. It should also serve as a sobering reminder of just how many neighbors in need we have in the Archdiocese of Detroit alone.

Secondly, our meeting introduced a new project aimed at promoting spiritual growth. Our newly formed Spirituality Group successfully launched a spiritual exercise that focused on Vincentian transformation as they respond to the gospel call of serving neighbors in need.

A. Our Spirituality Group – Why, Who, and How?

Let me briefly address some underlying reasons for formulating our Spirituality Group.

1. Why Have One?

Our Detroit Council is comprised of staff, Board members, Foundation Board members, Vincentians and, in a real sense, donors and friends of our organization. Each is called to a journey of service together that leads to holiness, Rule 2.1. Absent growth in holiness, the sustained, dedicated service referenced above can lead instead to spiritual exhaustion, cynicism, intolerance, and eventually becoming judgmental of neighbors in need and of each other. This is understandable. But Rule 1.9 expressly provides, in pertinent part, that Vincentians “. . . do not judge those they serve.”

So we explored this important issue by asking how best our Council can spiritually “nourish” each of its participants. We wanted to create a model that provided each person within our Council with an “opportunity to walk together” and thereby help each other bring out the spirit that resides within every person. We believe that these opportunities will allow what’s deepest in our hearts, in our values, and in our spirits to be gifts to each other. Otherwise, the dedicated service at the levels our staff and Vincentians sustain leads to the unintended, undesirable consequences of being harshly judgmental of those we serve as well as those we serve with.

2. Who Is Involved?

Catholic orders of Sisters have a millennia of wisdom and experience when it comes to community, activism, and, above all, spirituality. In addition, even when their leadership capacity has not always

been recognized, they have demonstrated remarkable capabilities of sustaining themselves. They are humble and most willing to share their extraordinary expertise in these critical respects whenever they are asked to do so. And, even when asked to participate and contribute to a project that involves members of different orders, they role model by subordinating their personal interests to those of the group. Could this enviable group behavior work for a group as eclectic as our Council? I decided to invite several sisters to assist our Council in this critical respect.

I have recruited six truly remarkable Catholic sisters to help create and implement a spirituality program that helps each group within our Council to “journey together towards holiness.” Rule 2.1. To a person, each enthusiastically responded to my invitation to serve. They include: Sr. Noreen Ellison, Sisters of Charity (SVdPD Associate Spiritual Advisor); Sr. Maryellen Thomas, Daughters of Charity; Sr. Joan Drega, Daughters of Charity; Sr. Linda Werthman, Sisters of Mercy; Sr. Shelley Marie Jeffrey, Felician Sisters; and Sr. Felicity Marie Madigan, Felician Sisters. In addition, Therese Frye, Debbie Jackson, and I are members of this group. We have met several times to explore how to create a practical, effective model that provides spiritual nourishment to each group within our Council (e.g. what works for Vincentians may not necessarily be effective with staff).

3. How Will It Proceed?

The results, even at this early stage, are very promising. At the Annual Meeting, our Spirituality Group facilitated group discussions at each table of Vincentians. Attendees were asked to reflect upon: 1) how they had changed since becoming a Vincentian; 2) how members have stayed committed to the values of SVdPD and how they have grown spiritually; and 3) what they thought would help our Society remain effective in living its mission and values. Attendees had time to ponder each question, share their reflections with those at their table, and then report out to the entire gathering. The program was well run and, based upon more than 200 submitted evaluations, incredibly well received. We received numerous comments on the importance of seeing Jesus in those we serve, in strengthening bonds of friendship within conferences and districts (i.e. we need each other), in the gift of prayer, and especially in remaining focused on our incredible mission were recurring themes. It proved to be a very special gathering.

Heartfelt thanks to our Spirituality Group and to everyone who attended our Annual Meeting for engaging and remaining open to spiritual growth. The inaugural efforts of this talented group underscored the need for one another in order to grow spiritually. It reminds one of the South African proverb, “a person becomes human through others.” The group will be offering similar programs designed specifically for the perceived needs of our staff, our Archdiocesan Board, our Foundation Board, and others.

B. Potential Impediments

In our quiet moments, when our world is somewhat at peace, this inspirational proposition of helping neighbors in need (and each other) seems indisputable. Of course! And yet, each of us knows that it is far more difficult living this belief than articulating it. Countless reasons exist for why that is. I sometimes think that a primary reason is that God filled our world entirely with imperfect people who challenge each of us to thereby become more accepting, more tolerant, more loving. That can be a very tall order. Let me share just two potential impediments that we face on our personal and collective journey toward growth in spiritual holiness.

1. Being Judgmental – Rule 1.9

During our daily mission of living the Word, we have countless opportunities to see what we perceive to be the frailties in others. My colleagues see them in me all the time! We see them in fellow workers, family members, friends, and neighbors in need, among others. At those moments, we make a choice: to confront and criticize or to see through more compassionate eyes. I believe that we are wired at the beginning of our Life journey with the former and, in the name of Jesus Christ, strive to convert to the latter.

By way of example, as a Council, we made 45,000 home visits last year alone. Amazing commitment to service! Among those we served, there were surely more than a few times when Vincentians wondered “of course, I am committed to being a Vincentian. But, does this neighbor in need deserve our help?” After all, she/he isn’t entirely destitute, has several material possessions, or, based upon a very short intake interview, could “probably work if he/she chose to do so.” IF you have ever felt that way, you are not alone. That is your “confront and criticize” wiring. We all have it. When that feeling arises, it is essential that Vincentians help each other (and thereby grow in holiness) stay focused on our mission. In that regard, Rule 1.9 expressly provides,

“Vincentians endeavor to establish relationships based on trust and friendship. Conscious of their own frailty and weakness, their hearts beat with the heartbeat of the Poor. They do not judge those they serve. Rather, they seek to understand them as they would a brother or sister.” (emphasis added).

A recent gospel (Luke 4:14-21), sheds light on this very issue. During a meeting on the Sabbath, the people confronted Jesus with the book of Isaiah, written almost 700 hundred years previously. Jesus opened it and read that the Lord’s spirit had chosen us to tell the good news to the poor, to those imprisoned, and to give sight to the blind. As those who have been baptized and committed to Vincentian values, we have been chosen to share the good news to those who suffer. Sharing with neighbors in need, or fellow Vincentians, or fellow colleagues that they are not “worthy” of our love and support is not good news! Let us help one another to see more clearly with our hearts when it comes to the sacred and noble cause of helping neighbors in need.

The following Sunday’s readings included, among others, St. Paul’s priceless letter to the Corinthians in regard to love. This passage, very popular as a wedding ceremony reading, has particular applicability to our Vincentian mission. St. Paul eloquently speaks of a love that is easier to describe than to live day by day. But try we must; and if we support one another with friendship and the kind of love of which St. Paul speaks, then we will grow in holiness. Otherwise, even if one speaks “in human and angelic tongues” but does not have love, then he/she is merely “a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”

How then does one incorporate this kind of love into daily life? In his book, The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama shares practical advice on this elusive issue as well. He differentiates between empathy and compassion. Empathy involves feeling what another living being feels, while compassion causes one to see the world through the lens of another for the purpose of alleviating suffering. He offers the following distinction:

“Picture yourself walking along a mountainous trail. You come across a person being crushed by a bolder on their chest. The empathetic response would be to feel the same sense of crushing suffocation, thus rendering you helpless. The compassionate response would be to recognize that the person is in pain and doing everything within your power to remove the boulder and alleviate that suffering.”

By generously extending each other friendship and support, by pausing each day to pray, by loving our neighbors, and by dealing with our neighbors in need with compassion, we will surely grow in holiness.

2. Lack of Gratitude 

A second potential impediment challenges us to grow beyond our personal code of conduct. No matter where each of us grew up, to some extent or another, we made lives for ourselves and our families. Day by sometimes bloody day, we worked, endured setbacks, and enjoyed small pleasures. We established and perpetuated traditions. No matter how successfully or disastrously our journey turned out, we created lives that included working and celebrating, laughter and tears, successes and failures. Within that life each of us created, we also established a code of conduct that we lived by and shared with our children. Worship Our Lord. Respect one’s elders. Do onto others as you would have done onto yourself. Be grateful. Sounds reasonable.

The question that we face all too often, however, is how do we respond when the charitable way that we treat others (e.g. neighbors in need, fellow Vincentians, fellow colleagues) is not reciprocated? Do we then say “Game On!”? Herein lies where many well-intentioned get sidetracked, including me. If I am willing to leave my comfort zone and help another voluntarily, then surely the recipient(s) of my generosity should express gratitude, no? But Rule 1.8 suggests otherwise. It provides,

“Vincentians serve the poor cheerfully, listening to them and respecting their wishes, helping them to feel and recover their own dignity, for we are all created in God’s image. In the poor, we see the suffering Christ.” (emphasis added).

Gratitude is an understandable component of our personal code of conduct; and it should be. But many may not be in a position to express it as we extend a helping hand. Vincentians are called not only to see the face of Jesus in those we serve, but also to see the suffering Christ. That is why Vincentians give “priority” to the “poorest of the poor and to those who are most rejected by society.” Rule 1.6.

To be sure, neighbors in need, fellow Vincentians, and fellow colleagues very frequently express profound gratitude for our assistance. But on those occasions that someone chooses not to extend gratitude or may simply be incapable of doing so, remember this: for all the miraculous works of mercy and kindness He extended, Jesus never received a thank you note. As we attempt to bring those in need “good news” and “a glimpse of God’s great love for them” Rule 2.1, we do not need one, either.

C. Conclusion

At moments when we confront suffering, let us not ask whether the person with a boulder on their chest is “worthy” of our assistance or “grateful” enough. We have been chosen to share the good news to those who suffer. Accordingly, may we help each other become more compassionate.

As stated at the outset, the sentiments expressed herein are much easier to state than to live. To live them, we need each other. To grow in holiness involves growing in friendship. Spiritual formation is more communal than personal. In that spirit, let us renew our commitment to our mission and to one another. When we do, we experience our faith, every faith, at its very best.

Last month, my column discussed our slow road toward inclusion. In a similar vein, I think that we should embrace all experiences as a necessary and essential step of our journey toward becoming a more complete human being. That includes disappointments, missteps, as well as joyful moments. A former Secretary General of the United Nations best captured the concept with this brief, but inspirational, prayer.

“For all that has occurred, thank you. For all that will be, yes!” – Dag Hammarskjold

Will we be judgmental when faced with certain circumstances? Perhaps. Will neighbors in need, fellow Vincentians, and fellow colleagues fail to express gratitude? Perhaps. But, at the end of the day, each of us chooses how we respond to those and other situations. Let us support one another to stay focused on our mission and our Vincentian values. Moreover, as we do, I encourage you to remember the following, incredible poem written by St. Theresa of Calcutta. God bless.

The Final Analysis
by Mother Theresa of Calcutta

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
…Forgive them anyway!

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
…Be kind anyway!

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
…Succeed anyway!

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
…Be honest and frank anyway!

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

…Build anyway!

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
…Be happy anyway!

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
…Do good anyway!

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
…Give the world the best you’ve got anyway!

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

From the CEO – January 2019

From the CEO – January 2019 260 286 echomedia

Conference Connection – January 2019

 

Dear Sister & Brother Vincentians:

Peace be with you. My hope is that each of you and your families had a safe, enjoyable, and blessed Christmas holidays and that each of you has a healthy, happy, and peaceful new year. But those experiences do not flow for all simply because the calendar suggests they should. Indeed, the passing of a loved one, illness, loss of a job, depression, and countless other realities can temper, if not extinguish, the hope and joy that Christmas and a new year brings among both our neighbors in need as well as within our ranks. In that sense, while we celebrate a sacred holiday collectively, everyone’s experience is unique. It is my hope that, no matter your personal experience, all felt God’s love and the renewed hope that our annual celebration of Jesus’s miraculous birth offers.

Year-end also tends to be a time of reflection, e.g. lessons learned from last year, resolutions and goals for what lies ahead. Individuals tend to make resolutions. Organizations should, too.

1. Collective Beliefs

Frederick George Marcham taught at Cornell University for seventy years. He was brilliant and yet very compassionate and patient with those less gifted (like me). During his extraordinary tenure, he taught tens of thousands of students and mentored thousands more. I was truly blessed to know him. Indeed, to this day, he was one of the most influential people I have ever met. After suffering and surviving a massive, internal hemorrhage, Professor Marcham would begin each new year by sitting down with a few sheets of blank paper and write an essay that began with the words, “I believe.” He called it his annual, personal act of creation (e.g. was it consistent with prior years or different?). Doing so provided him with serenity in a world that so often seemed spinning out of control.

Organizations, even nations, create collective beliefs. In the spirit of Professor Marcham’s annual exercise, it seems fitting to begin our new year of “Seeing the Possible” by briefly reviewing certain core concepts that we as Vincentians and as Americans believe, i.e. our collective acts of creation. In a real sense, these collective beliefs help provide both wholeness and belonging no matter where one may currently find herself or himself. They also serve as guideposts for charting the course ahead. So, in the spirit of Professor Marcham, let us pause and briefly reflect upon the core beliefs of our Society and of our Nation. Doing so helps lay a solid foundation for the new year.

a) Core Vincentian Beliefs

By design, our truly inspirational Vincentian beliefs have remained virtually intact for centuries. How truly blessed we are to be temporary custodians of an organization so fully dedicated to helping neighbors in need and each other.

The following has been excerpted verbatim from Part 1 of our Rule. Everyone is encouraged to make a new year’s resolution to read our Rule in its entirety. You’ll be glad you did.

Our Society remains an international Catholic voluntary organisation of lay people, men and women. Our members follow Christ through service to those in need and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love. We serve in hope. No work of charity is foreign to our Society.  It includes any form of help that alleviates suffering or deprivation and promotes human dignity and personal integrity in all their dimensions.

Our Society serves those in need regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender, or political opinions.  In fact, Vincentians strive to seek out and find those in need and the forgotten, the victims of exclusion or adversity. Our Society constantly strives for renewal, adapting to changing world conditions.  It seeks to be ever aware of the changes that occur in human society and the new types of poverty that may be identified or anticipated.  It gives priority to the poorest of the poor and to those who are most rejected by society. Vincentians serve the poor cheerfully, listening to them and respecting their wishes, helping them to feel and recover their own dignity, for we are all created in God’s image.  In the poor, Vincentians see the suffering Christ.

Vincentians endeavor to establish relationships based on trust and friendship.  Conscious of our own frailty and weakness, we strive to have our hearts beat with the heartbeat of the poor.  We do not judge those we serve.  Rather, we seek to understand them as we would a brother or sister. We endeavor to help the poor to help themselves whenever possible and to be aware that they can forge and change their own destinies and that of their local community.

Vincentians are sincerely concerned with the deeper needs and the spiritual well-being of those we help, always observing profound respect for their conscience and the faith they believe in, listening and understanding with their hearts, beyond both words and appearances. We serve in hope.  We rejoice in discovering the spirit of prayer in the poor, for in the silence, the poor can perceive God’s Plan for every person.

Each generation of Vincentians has relied on these core beliefs for guidance and for spiritual and personal formation.

b) Core American Beliefs

By design, our nation’s core beliefs, which are also truly inspirational, continue to evolve. That is entirely understandable given our pluralist nation with its incredible diversity of thought. Briefly, the teachings of three noted historians also shed additional light on why our core beliefs continue to evolve.

First, Gordon S. Wood, observed that America is constructed on the idea that all are created equal. In our nation, that idea has stood for the proposition that equality should transcend ethnic, racial, religious, or any cultural tribalism. In 1776, that idea was in stark contrast to other nations. In some respects, it still is.

Secondly, John Meacham, referencing Professor Wood, observed that when Thomas Jefferson first enunciated that profound concept of equality, not all men (or women) in America were equal – obviously.

Finally, our Declaration of Independence provides, in pertinent part, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our nation’s collective belief is that all are equal and have inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and that “we hold these truths to be self-evident”.

Professor Patrick Allitt of Emory University claims that one might believe in those rights. But he rejects that they are so self-evident as to be indisputably true. According to Professor Allitt, these propositions were and apparently still are highly contentious. He concludes, therefore, that the introductory words, “We hold” are critically important.

When viewed collectively, therefore, our nation’s core beliefs should be read to mean that, whether, in fact, they are beyond dispute, our nation believes these noble concepts to be true. Moreover, as explained, the development of these core beliefs has involved a mighty, several century, collective struggle to become more inclusive. That struggle continues.

Currently, we are the temporary custodians of these inspirational, evolving collective beliefs. They should be viewed in a historic arc. Notwithstanding a lack of universal acceptance or a full application of these noble “inalienable” rights, our nation has since its birth remained committed to expanding these collective beliefs. We can contribute to strengthening them or to allowing them to weaken. How consequential our actions become! We, therefore, must remain ever mindful that the very foundation of our collective beliefs are the structures upon which we have steadily built our constitutional republic and the core beliefs upon which that system of government is based.

This collective legacy has been handed down from our nation’s ancestors. Those beliefs have been advanced and defended at enormous personal and collective sacrifice. And yet, at any given time, our republic may be more fragile than we imagine. Accordingly, we need to be ever vigilant in our protection of it. Indeed, whether Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, our democracy is lubricated by our collective trust, our faith in our nation’s core beliefs, and our firm belief in our system of government.

Practically speaking, how then do we best combine these two above-referenced essential belief systems – one constant for centuries and the other continually evolving? I believe that the answer is Social Justice.

 

2. The Voice of the Poor Committee – Rule 7.5

A recent Washington Post Op-Ed offered advice on how best to embrace what lies ahead. It referenced an observation that was drafted and delivered more than 150 years ago. When seeking a meaningful resolution for the new year, the Op-Ed recommended that one should visit the Lincoln Memorial. There, inscribed on a wall for all to see and ponder, is the following excerpt from President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds . . . and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Herein lies a brilliant guiding light for merging the two above-referenced essential collective beliefs. Furthermore, we have a vehicle for converting these inspiring concepts into practical, transformative action.

Our Rule 7 is dedicated to social justice. In particular, Rule 7.5 provides, “A voice for the voiceless. The Society helps the poor and disadvantaged speak for themselves. When they cannot, the Society must speak on behalf of those who are ignored.”

In late November 2018, pursuant to Rule 7.5, our Detroit Council’s Governance Committee adopted a resolution that creates a Voice of the Poor Committee. Our Board has adopted it as well. Doing so is both timely and potentially very impactful. It provides, in pertinent part, that our Council “believes that Social Justice is the work of every person. It believes that persons baptized in the Catholic tradition have a special obligation to foster Social Justice. It continues by clarifying that Social Justice means ‘changing policies, structures, and institutions’ so they work on behalf of the common good.” Equality and justice – for all. Let us as Vincentians continue to expand the collective, national beliefs declared by our Founding Fathers.

Vincentians should act as agents of social change. Our Rule demands no less. We surely should continue to give material assistance to neighbors in need. But we should also help those we serve to take ownership of their futures by helping to address and eliminate institutional barriers (e.g. policies, structures, and institutions) that effectively prevent them from improving their overall condition. Indeed, Pope Francis has said that “No one must say that they cannot be close to the Poor because their own lifestyle demands more attention to other areas. None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and social justice.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 201).

Our efforts should be based upon what we learn from the everyday experiences of our neighbors in need. Indeed, to truly follow Jesus is to walk with our sisters and brothers who are poor, not just to talk about them. We should feel challenged to identify and confront the underlying causes of poverty as being an integral component of our fundamental commitment to following Jesus. Our neighbors in need are extraordinarily vulnerable. We should strive to find innovative ways to help. Pope Francis also urged that we always listen to the lives of the most vulnerable in our society and use our voice on their behalf.

In our incredibly diverse nation, perhaps the greatest commonality we share is vulnerability. How we choose to deal with it can be restricting. It can also be life changing! Accepting “vulnerabilities” miraculously converts crises into opportunities to grow. When we see and accept shortcomings in others, we allow God to manifest Himself through us and for us. Likewise, when we accept our own flaws, we tend to see others through more compassionate and forgiving eyes. As the late Leonard Cohen aptly put it,

“. . . there is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

There is a crack in everyone, too. Our willingness to see ourselves and others “as is”, flaws and all, is how God’s light gets in – for each of us. Choosing to do so will also help make compassion contagious.

 

3. Conclusion

From both a Vincentian and national standpoint, we face many barriers. But for those who commit to inclusion, the above-referenced beliefs can play undeniably crucial roles in one’s spiritual growth through acceptance of others, particularly those who are somehow different. Embracing both sets of core beliefs is precisely how we discover God’s real presence by making us ever more aware of and inspired by His infinite nature and profound love.

In addition to belonging to our Vincentian and national communities, each of us has a personal relationship with God. To advance that relationship, spend time alone to pray and reflect. Rather than pray for others to change, seek change within yourself, e.g. God asks each of us “who do YOU say I am?” What is your answer? Everyone has a story to share, but only if we are willing to listen. Choose to listen. It can involve not much more than saying, “Welcome neighbor. You matter.” However you define the term neighbor, struggle to make that concept for you more inclusive. Choosing to do so will be entirely sympatico with our core Vincentian and national beliefs.

May 2019 be the year when, collectively, we see the possible and serve even more in need for the greater glory of God. I look forward to seeing you at our January 20th Annual Meeting. Meantime, when your schedule permits, consider taking out a few sheets of paper and writing an essay that begins with the words, “I believe.” God bless.

 

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Daniel P. Malone

November 2018 Update

November 2018 Update 260 286 echomedia

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians:

Peace be with you. Our nation has many annual holidays that celebrate great people, events, and causes. Collectively, they reflect what values we as Americans hold dear, e.g. welcoming the stranger, dignity for all human beings, equality under the law, love of the truth, and the Four Freedoms. Countless fellow Americans have fought and died to protect those and other sacred values. We should diligently protect them against all threats as well.

We will soon celebrate a most special holiday that encourages us to pause, possibly gather, and celebrate another core value: giving thanks. President Abraham Lincoln codified our nation’s version of Thanksgiving in 1863. Imagine that. With this nation seemingly hopelessly entrenched in a most savage, brutal Civil War, Mr. Lincoln advocated for the healing of “the wounds of the nation.” Thanksgiving has remained remarkably “non-commercialized” ever since. What a wonderful holiday whose very name epitomizes the powerful gift of gratitude. It is in that universal spirit that I share the following.

This past year, our world, our nation, and our church has found itself seriously challenged, even torn, in many critical respects. Indeed, this month’s America Magazine explores whether a civil war currently exists within our church. To be sure, there is considerable cause for concern. But, as Fr. Matt Malone, S.J. reminds, “. . . there is no civil war in our church because Jesus Christ has already won the only war worth fighting, . . . ” Notwithstanding the turmoil, there is so much for which to be grateful.

It has been suggested that, “Thanksgiving is about stopping. Stopping. Stopping the focus on our discontentment that things are not as we think they should be and reflecting on the good things that are. [Stopping] to contemplate what we are grateful for. [Stopping] even when we’re going through difficult times. [Stopping] to ponder the many things we have to be grateful for gives us a new, more accurate, positive perspective. . . . [T]ake a moment to make a list of things you are thankful for; it’s guaranteed to lift your spirits.”

So why do we often neglect to be grateful? A wise, beloved uncle of mine, who role models by joyously living our Catholic faith every day, says that the answer can be found in our expectations. He reasons that humans are basically optimistic. Our problems will be solved, our aches and pains will be cured, and our bad days will be replaced by good days. All will be well! When our expectations are met, why be grateful – it was inevitable! We act as if we are entitled to our expectations. Then the unthinkable occurs: our expectations are not met. If we are not humble and understand that we have been gifted rather than entitled, we may crumble. Indeed, we probably will. We should, therefore, practice gratitude.

Clearly, making a gratitude list isn’t a panacea. But it will help. Here goes!

A. Professional

1. Neighbors in Need

How often do we give while expecting something in return? Helping those in need with seemingly no ability to give back may seem to be little more than an act of mercy. Instead, it can be an act of spiritual growth. Our Vincentian mission ministers to people who are suffering, while they are here and while we are here. As one gets deeper into such growth, doors (and hearts) open. Life happens. It invites. Jesus walked with people in need. We too can help those we serve to believe in the sacred spirit that lives within each of them. Last month, I cited a verse from The Servant’s Song. Here is another.

“Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace
to let you be my servant, too.”

Heartfelt thanks for our neighbors in need.

2. SVdPD Staff

I have served as the SVdPD CEO for nine months. Others have served considerably longer during some incredibly challenging times. Still others arrived after me, but have hit the floor running. All have contributed to our concerted efforts to stabilize our Council operation. Together, we have achieved noteworthy accomplishments. Here is just a sampling.

  • successfully filled several key positions;
  • created and launched a comprehensive development and marketing plan;
  • launched an exciting new website, www.seethepossible.com (check it out!);
  • improved the Human Resources aspect of our Central Office by adding an HR consultant and creating job descriptions for every team member;
  • implemented new and successful sales promotions and cost savings measures in all of our thrift stores;
  • reduced legacy debt by more than 50% in just one year;
  • held several successful annual events;
  • favorably renegotiated our debt obligations with the Archdiocese;
  • successfully completed an independent audit and created our 2019 budget;
  • successfully completed the state EAP application process and received 100% of what we requested;
  • successfully completed Phase I of a Culture Assessment and Planning Session led by Human Synergistics; and
  • formulated a leadership team that has met regularly for the past nine months.

Together, we have achieved these and other noteworthy accomplishments. They lead me to believe that our Council’s best days lie ahead. First, we stabilize. Then we thrive! Heartfelt thanks to our entire SVdPD team members – new and old – for their steadfast commitment to our mission.

3. SVdPD Vincentians

Under the leadership of Debbie Jackson and our District and Conference Presidents, among others, our dedicated Vincentian corps has achieved many noteworthy accomplishments, as well. Here is just a sampling.

  • Completed and funded its 96th annual Camp Ozanam experience, which sent roughly 400 deserving boys and girls to camp free of charge to them or their families (more than 175,000 children have attended Camp Ozanam);
  • Conducted roughly 45,000 home visits;
  • Directly touched the lives of at least 300,000 neighbors in need;
  • Started four new conferences, reactivated three conferences, and revitalized nine conferences;
  • Held fourteen training programs;
  • Successfully recruited and trained ten new formators; and
  • Oversaw and participated in special works such as Bridges to Hope, Matchan Nutrition Center, Journey to Housing, the Justice Initiative, and collaborative efforts with Catholic Community Response Team (CCRT), Rochester Area Neighborhood House (RANH) and Starfish Family Services.

Thank you to our Vincentians who faithfully follow Christ through service to those in need and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love. Let our Council continue to serve anyone in need regardless of creed, race or social background, health, gender, or political opinions. Let us always remain open and serve the poorest of the poor and those who are most rejected by society.

When we truly live our mission, we are our faith – every faith – at its very best.

4. Volunteers

My job did not come with instructions! Each day reminds me of how much I need others to function in this role. Since I began, the number of family, friends, former colleagues, and many, many others who have generously contributed their support and talent to helping our Council in some meaningful way has been a source of humility and inspiration. This, of course, includes our Archdiocesan and Foundation Board members. It includes Tim Kuppler and Robyn Marcotte of Human Synergistics, www.humansynergistics.com, who have generously led our Council through culture training essential to our organization’s growth. It especially includes a remarkable group of talented and dedicated Catholic religious sisters from various orders who have embraced our Council. Each is willing to walk with us and in doing so, help us grow spiritually by facilitating what’s deepest in our hearts, in our values, in our spirits, and thereby to be gifts to each other.

As we become ever more mindful of the divine privilege of helping neighbors in need, doors will continue to open, talented volunteers will continue to arrive, and “the possible” will become reality. In Isaiah 43, the prophet says, “Behold, I am making things new; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”  Thank you to all who have contributed to our Council this past year.

5. Deceased Vincentians

Every year, legions of people pass away. Most we never met. But nothing stops us in our tracks and causes us to reflect more than losing a loved one. If that happened to you this past year, I extend my condolences. We are defined by our loss. Our Council lost many valued members. In fact, each of our ten Districts hosts an annual Mass to celebrate those who passed. I imagine that every one of those precious souls, if they could, would seize something that, no matter where we may find ourselves, we all still share: Life. Let us be forever grateful for and affected by loved ones who have passed, but remain an integral part of us.

6. Generous Donors

We serve as the bridge between those who care and those in need. We simply could not function without the financial support of those who believe in our mission and choose to support us. Every day we do our best to earn the trust that an army of supporters places in us by generously supporting our mission. Whether it is a major gift or, regardless of amount, whatever one can afford, we feel the strength and support of our treasured donor base through each gift that we receive. Heartfelt thanks!

B. Personal

Briefly, on a personal level, I am blessed with a loving wife of forty years, three remarkable children, a wonderful daughter-in-law and an incredible son-in-law, and three adorable grandchildren. I also have a boatload of extended family! Notwithstanding busy lives, all have been as supportive of this essential leg of my journey as they were during all previous ones. I sincerely hope that I have been as supportive of each of them. Being a member of our family gives me great joy and purpose. During this national celebration of gratitude, I want each member of my family to know how much I feel blessed to share the journey with you. Thank you.

This past year has hardly been all smooth sailing. To the contrary, it has included many moments of considerable challenge, genuine doubt, and seemingly intractable, painful impasse. As my dedicated, compassionate Pastor advises, especially at this time of year when the harvest is gathered, it helps to reflect upon the “gathering” of God drawing us all into communion with Him and each other. That should include all others. In the words of the Our Father, “. . . give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Amen.

On each step of this journey of growth, good and bad, I continue to feel God’s presence. I sincerely hope that you do too, as you embrace the opportunities and challenges of each day.

C. Conclusion

In her book, “Finding our Way”, Margaret Wheatley urges us to practice gratefulness in our daily lives. She observes: “[H]ow often do you take time, daily, to count your blessings? The wonder of this process is that as we take this daily inventory, we grow in gratefulness.

We start to notice more and more—people who helped us, grace that appeared, little miracles that saved us from danger. The daily practice of gratefulness truly changes us in wonderful ways.”

Inspiration comes from so many different sources. Recently, I came across an internet website entitled God411. It features daily reflections. One such offering is entitled “Have you counted your blessings today?” In a pertinent part, it points out the following:

  • If you have food on your table, clothing on your back, and a roof over your head, you are richer than 75% of the world’s population.
  • If you have money in the bank and in your wallet, you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.
  • If you wake up with more health than illness, you are more blessed than all those who will not survive the day.
  • If you have never had to endure the fear of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, or the agony of torture, then you are better off than 700 million people in the world.
  • If you can attend church without fear of arrest, or even death, then you are more blessed than 3 billion people.
  • If you can hold your head up and smile, then you are unique to those who despair.
  • If you can read this message, you are more blessed than the two billion people in our world who cannot read.
    • If you see this message on your own device, then you are part of the 1% in the world who have that opportunity.

Are we exactly where we want to be? Of course not. We may never be in this world. So first we stabilize; and then we thrive. Our best days for SVdPD are surely ahead, especially if we work together and remain mission-focused. Going through this reflection has lifted my spirits. Along the way, may we always “stop” to count our blessings. What’s on your list?

Happy Thanksgiving to all who contribute in any way to our Detroit Council, including our neighbors in need. God bless.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Daniel P. Malone

October 2018 Update

October 2018 Update 260 286 echomedia

On September 29th, more than 1000 Vincentians gathered at Belle Isle for our annual Friends of the Poor Walk. It was a gorgeous Saturday morning in Motown. Debbie Jackson and her team did a terrific job organizing the event, which was our largest walk to date. Those who attended shared the moment with family and friends, met Vincentians from other Districts and Conferences, and enjoyed tasty refreshments prepared and served by our fellow Vincentians from Matchan Nutrition Center.

Overall, we celebrated friendship and community. We also shared a leisurely three mile journey that lasted only a matter of hours. By design, that journey was intended to end when it did.
As you know, our Council’s inspirational journey of service has lasted 134 years. By design, it is intended to continue for decades more to come. We are committed to making that happen and can surely do so, especially if we grow spiritually and remain mission-focused.

1. SVdPD – Our Longer Journey of Service

Our Council has been engaged in an enduring journey of service that focuses on a powerful relationship with God: loving our neighbor, especially those in need. Vincentians dedicate themselves to the poor and marginalized. When teaching us about service, Jesus made no mention of limiting our help to “deserving” or “worthy” neighbors. Instead, as Matthew 25 and our Rule 2.1 reminds, we should see Jesus in those we serve. We should also see Jesus in each of our fellow Vincentians. These teachings allude to two practical ways in which our organization can grow.

2. Our Internal Opportunity – Inclusion

It has been suggested that the only thing that remains constant is change. Long ago, when my ancestors poured into this country from an impoverished Ireland desperately looking for work, they were greeted by sign after sign after sign that simply read, “Irish Need Not Apply.” Italians, Germans, Poles, Jews, Chinese, and many others were met with similar or worse unkindness. And how our nation treated Native Americans and African Americans for centuries stands among the most tragic episodes in human history.

Imagine our Conference Connection in those early years (had there been one). Consistent with our Rule, it surely would have urged a more compassionate response to the cries of the poor. In time, and in part because of early Vincentian help and recruitment efforts, those brothers and sisters in need became Vincentians. Indeed, over the decades, inviting immigrants and those who faced truly unfortunate impediments of various kinds to join our ranks helped create the global service institution SVDP is today. We need to perpetuate that inspiring process of including and welcoming all who share our mission.

The winds of change are blowing hard these days. The journey for those who seek to be included continues. But, according to noted Boston College professor, Dr. Hosffman Ospino, who spoke forcefully at our National Conference in San Diego, our Vincentian ranks remain overwhelmingly Caucasian. Dr. Ospino pointed out that, thirty years ago, the U.S. Catholic Church was 90% Caucasian. Today, it is roughly 55% Caucasian.
SVdPD should see this reality as an opportunity to experience a truly “Vincentian moment”. We should examine whether our internal culture is as inviting and welcoming to our brothers and sisters of color as it should be. We need to invite and attract more neighbors of color into our ranks.

As part of its contribution, our Council intends to promote inclusion proactively. Likewise, our District and Conference meetings should consider discussing what can be done to promote aggressively more recruitment of Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and others who share our mission.

As we do, we should also be ever mindful of certain troubling realities. For example, according to Dr. Ospino, our nation has more Catholic children today than it did fifty years ago. But it has less than one-half of the Catholic schools it had then. How many neighbors of color are in need? How many live at or below the poverty level? How can those neighbors even support a Catholic church in their neighborhood, let alone a Catholic school? Consider this: fifty years ago, the City of Detroit had roughly 100 Catholic grade schools. Today it has four.

How will this sobering reality affect our next generation? Will it impact their willingness to serve and help others? Perhaps. Catholic schools surely helped to promote and perpetuate that interest, which has served as a cornerstone for our organization’s ability to sustain itself for many generations.

Surely, as much as it may want to do so, Vincentians cannot create a school district for fellow Catholics and others in need. But Vincentians can and should discuss and explore practical, innovative, effective ways of mitigating this and other alarming trends and thereby help Catholic (and other) neighbors in need.

3. Our External Opportunity – Compassion

Our Rule encourages us to see Jesus in all who we serve. In light of so many such neighbors (and the number is growing), that can be a very tall order. Dedicated service can lead to exhaustion, cynicism, and becoming harshly judgmental of those we serve. Such a mindset is clearly contrary to our Vincentian spirit. But when sustained service is not accompanied by spiritual nourishment, it happens. I share two practical suggestions on how we might reduce the possibility of “service burn out” within our ranks.

a) Setting Realistic Expectations – Ministering to People

In a previous column, I challenged the recent inaccurate proclamation that our nation’s War on Poverty was over; and that we had “won”. It is entirely likely that we may never eradicate poverty. But that should not be our goal as Vincentians. Rather, we should minster to people in need. Consider the following excerpt.

“I knew a minister who labored for decades in the inner city. He worked among the poor and oppressed. Oddly, he had one associate pastor after another. The average tenure of the ministers who came along side to help him was two years. I asked him, “Why don’t they stay?” He said that the problem was that they quickly became disillusioned. They came out of seminary and came to the ghetto because they wanted to labor for Christ where people were hurting. But soon they became depressed and left. I asked him, “Why have you been able to stay all this time?” He said., “because of the words of Jesus, ‘The poor you have with you always.’ ” I replied, “Every time I’ve heard anyone quote that, it was cited as an excuse to neglect the poor, not to minister to them.” He said, “Well, what I understand Jesus to say is that I will never be able to eliminate poverty. Therefore, when I came here, I had no expectation that I was going to be able to solve all these problems. I never thought that I would eliminate poverty even among my parishioners. My mission isn’t to get rid of the poor or to get rid of all these problems. My mission is to minister to people who are suffering from these things while they are here and while I am here.” (emphasis added). Amen, brother!

Herein lies the essence of our Vincentian mission. After all, compassion is a willingness to walk with another and share in his or her chaos, not necessarily to rid them of their burdens. Clearly, compassion should be a gift that we generously share with fellow Vincentians as well. Like all humans, Vincentians carry burdens, too.

b) Spiritual Nourishment

Our collective efforts to serve those in need are more akin to running a marathon than a sprint. To sustain our efforts, we need spiritual nourishment. Our Rule contemplates as much. Like the dedicated, local hero minister in the ghetto, many Catholic sisters have faithfully served brothers and sisters in need for decades and have found ways to sustain themselves. These are women whose own church has not always recognized them for their tireless, selfless efforts.

Our Council has initiated a dialogue of reflection with several extraordinary Catholic sisters. The fundamental goal of these reflections is to one day offer a practical, useful “spiritual nourishment program” to all involved in our Council who are seeking to grow spiritually. I hope that it will be an invitation to walk together and to allow what’s deepest in our hearts – our values, and in our spirits – to be a gift that we give generously to each other. Doing so will motivate and nourish us to remain filled with the spirit of our mission.

Indeed, as Jesus walked with people in need, we too can help those we serve believe in the spirit that lives in them. Doing so on a sustained basis is our faith – every faith – at its very best.

4. Conclusion

By design, our 134 year Vincentian journey in the Archdiocese of Detroit continues. As temporary custodians, it is our time to make our lasting contribution to a most inspirational, unbroken, century and one-half legacy of service. May our contribution to this awesome legacy consist of proactive inclusion within our ranks. In that sense, each of us is like a building stone. By our personal choices, our building stone either becomes part of a wall or part of a bridge. Which do you prefer?

Our legacy must also remain focused upon our mission of serving those in need. Those needs are changing. So, too, must we. As we do, let us remember a verse from the Servant’s Song, a song we sing in church as we praise our God. The message has much broader application.

“I will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh, I’ll laugh with you. I will share your joy and sorrow, Til we’ve seen this journey through.”

See the Possible, fellow Vincentians, www.svdpdetroit.org. Thank you for caring. God bless. Peace,

Daniel P. Malone

Help See The Possible

Help See The Possible 260 286 Keith Koppmeier

We live in consequential times. Prosperity and economic growth have helped some. But poverty stubbornly looms large across Michigan and our nation.  In fact, the inequality gap has alarmingly grown as government’s role has stalled or declined.  That has left many to suffer needlessly.

These realities raise several fundamental questions. How did this happen? Why are there still so many neighbors in need? What kind of world are we leaving or creating for our children and their children? How can those who care help?

Partly as a result of these concerns, I decided to make a career change. On March 1, 2018, I left a rewarding, 39 year legal career to accept this leadership opportunity with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Detroit. My expectations were realistic. I could not do everything. But, like you, I surely could do something.

My career shift has required a new skillset. Since arriving, I have been so blessed to discover many – including colleagues, family, friends, and members of my former firm – who have willingly and generously helped. It has been a humbling and spiritual journey. My seven month experience has left me with this discovery: as one gets deeper into serving others, doors open, things become possible, and life invites. I am most grateful; and I look forward enthusiastically to what lies ahead for our Society and those it serves.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an incredible, centuries old organization that has global reach. Its inspirational mission is simple, yet profound: help neighbors in need regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health or gender. It acts as a bridge between those who care and those in need. Last year alone, the SVdP Council of the Archdiocese of Detroit helped more than 300,000 neighbors. Among other things, our 3,300 dedicated Vincentian members in the Detroit Council made more than 45,000 home visits. At its core, SVdPD helps to restore hope among our suffering brothers and sisters.

While SVdPD remains loyal to its many traditional community outreach programs, there is also great potential. We are proactively exploring new and innovative ways to help those in need. For example, SVdPD has engaged in impactful collaborations with Matrix Human Services and My Community Dental Clinics to better assist neighbors, and in late 2018, we expect to launch a much needed wellness center. These and perhaps other services are transforming our Central office into an Oasis of Hope for those who need us most.

We are also determined to proactively provide inclusion within our ranks. This includes all who share our vision and mission.  In particular, we hope to attract young people so that they can perpetuate the wonderful Vincentian traditions of spiritual growth and service.  In that sense, we are simultaneously sustaining tradition while creating something new. As the prophet says in Isaiah 43, “Behold, I am making things new; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

When we live our Vincentian values, we are our faith – every faith – at its very best.  

We see a world where every person has promise. What do you see? With your help and financial support, we will continue to discover ways to help create pathways out of poverty. Won’t you help? Please see the possible in our brothers and sisters in need by choosing to support our programs. You’ll be so glad that you did. God bless.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Daniel P. Malone

CEO

August 2018 Update

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Dear Fellow Vincentians,

Last month, we paused to celebrate Independence Day. As Americans, we have so much for which to be grateful! Since its inception, through good times and bad, our nation has been and continues to be great. As many remind, the cost of our freedom is to defend our core beliefs and institutions from any and all threats. But, even then, a growing number of our citizens continue to fall through our social net. Their existence has become a daily struggle just to survive the crushing yoke of chronic poverty. It creates an existence that, for a variety of reasons, has become increasingly difficult to escape.

Last month, I discussed brief perspectives from our Rule as well as shared a courageous comment from then – Senator Robert F. Kennedy regarding the “violence of institutions” that so appallingly and disproportionately impacts the poor. Our Rule 7 urges us to be the voice for the voiceless. This month, I call your attention to the balance of that rule which focuses on striving for a more equitable society for all.

1. Rule 7 – Work for Social Justice

Our Rule is so inspirational. I am particularly motivated by Section 7, Part I. It specifically instructs that Vincentians not only alleviate need, but identify unjust structures that cause poverty and contribute to eliminating it. It then recognizes that because Jesus particularly identified with those who were excluded from society, Vincentians should strive for a more equitable society that promotes a more equitable and compassionate social order for all. It expressly directs that where injustice, inequality, poverty, or exclusion exists and are caused by unjust economic, political, or social structures or to inadequate or unjust legislation, our Society should speak out and demand improvements. Indeed, our Rule encourages us to see issues of social justice from the perspective of our neighbors in need who suffer from injustice.

2. Injustice, Inequality & Poverty

On July 12th, the White House reported that our nation’s War on Poverty has been “largely” won (i.e. it’s over). After all, unemployment has dropped to record lows, our stock market continues to climb, and we are enjoying the longest period of economic growth in U.S. history. In light of these positive developments, the number of neighbors in need who find themselves suffering from injustice, inequality, and poverty surely must be declining.

According to the Brookings Institution, however, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) says that the number of Americans living in poverty (i.e. below $25,100. annual income for a family of four) has risen and has continued to rise since 2010.

Merely giving a job, particularly one that pays minimum wage, to a person HHS classifies as poor is not a stable, sustainable solution unless myriad other issues are also adequately addressed. By way of example, before sustainable solutions can be claimed, housing instability, adequate and reliable public transportation, trustworthy child care, addiction rehabilitation and counselling, competitive educational achievement, and many other crucial issues need to be adequately addressed. Few, if any, are, however. As a result, notwithstanding very positive developments, we are witnessing an increase in poverty, inequality, and injustice.

The facts are truly startling. Here is just a sampling of recently released data.

A. Nationally

Last month, the United Nations released a report on poverty in the United States. Among many other things, it found that:

i) 40 million Americans live in poverty;
ii) 18.5 million live in extreme poverty; and
iii) Among OECD states, our nation has the highest youth poverty rate and the highest infant mortality rate.

According to Forbes Magazine, the report specifically found that our nation is failing the poor. The report expressly references last year’s tax bill and significant increases in defense spending as reasons why aid to those in need has been and continues to be significantly reduced. Clearly, tax relief and defense spending- both governmental choices – all but mandates painful rollbacks of programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP – and housing vouchers for children. We have also witnessed the constructive repeal of the Affordable Care Act. As Senator Kennedy spoke about fifty years ago, the impact of this “violence of institutions” on the voiceless poor – 40 million in number – continues to grow.

The specialist who led the United Nations report put it this way, “. . . the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not employed, and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.” Section 7 of our Rule – “where injustice, inequality, poverty, or exclusion exists caused by unjust economic, political, or social structures or to inadequate or unjust legislation, our Society should speak out and demand improvements” – clearly comes to mind.

The United Nations report concludes that, in light of our nation having the lowest social mobility rate of any rich country, the American Dream is rapidly becoming for many the American Illusion. We should strive to preserve our American Dream for all citizens. We may never “get there”. But striving to get there will define who we are and keep us faithful to our nation’s express, core beliefs. Indeed, the freedom and economic prosperity that we just paused to celebrate should not be determined by the zip code in which one lives.

B. The State of Michigan

Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its 2018 Kids Count Data Book. In regard to Michigan, the book reveals that:

i) More than 1 in 5 Michigan children live in poverty;
ii) Michigan ranks 33rd in overall child well being (i.e. health, education, economic status, family and community); and
iii) 69% of its eighth graders are not proficient in math and 68% of its fourth graders are not proficient in reading.

Legions of our children face significant barriers to development. In that regard, the Michigan Director of the Kids Count Data Book has recently expressed grave concern that roughly 62,000 of our state’s children may not even be counted in the next cycle for determining federal funding (i.e. it may get worse for our poor).

C) The City of Detroit

According to a newly released book, “The Divided City”, by Alan Mallach, a well known urban expert, the poverty rate in Detroit remains stubbornly close to 40% and almost one-half of working age people remain out of the workforce. Poverty is on the rise. Mr. Mallach’s book further points out that:

i) Tens of thousands of home foreclosures have occurred due, in part, to unrealistically high tax bills (e.g. the Detroit Land Bank owns a nation leading 33,000 vacant houses, of which an estimated 4500 are occupied by squatters);
ii) Noteworthy Downtown revitalization has not (and may not) spread to outlying city neighborhoods; and
iii) Inequality between races and between rich and poor is rising at an alarming rate.

Poverty exists throughout our Archdiocese, not just in Detroit. These facts merely serve as a disturbing reminder of how many of our neighbors remain in need. These are concerning trends that affect more than forty million fellow Americans.

The War on Poverty should not be over unless and until all are eradicated from poverty.

3. Our Vincentian Mission

Unquestionably, even though we can and will do more, our Society has heard and continues to hear the cry of the poor. As evidenced herein, however, that call is most assuredly growing ever louder.

Through our differentiating home visits and community outreach programs, Detroit Council Vincentians are making a critical difference in peoples’ lives at particularly challenging moments. Last year alone, we touched personally more than 300,000 neighbors with one of our programs. Moreover, we conducted 45,000 home visits that helped more than 180,000 men, women, and children in need. How inspirational! Our story is their stories.

A few weeks ago, our staff circulated to District and Conference Presidents the attached letter and form aimed at capturing stories about how we have helped neighbors in need (see attached). WE NEED YOUR HELP to capture other stories regarding how we have helped others. Residents of our six county community and prospective donors need to better understand what we do and how we transform lives. We will share such stories in a very respectful, dignified way (e.g. changing names).

Please review the attached and forward to Debbie Jackson any Vincentian experiences that you have had helping others. Thank you in advance. Let our service inspire us and others!

4. Conclusion

At Masses on July 21st, the Responsorial Psalm pled, “Do not forget the Poor, O Lord”. I do not worry about Jesus abandoning the poor. The more apt question is, in light of these above- referenced, sobering facts about our great nation, our great state, and our great city, will we? If we stay mission-focused and thereby continue to grow in holiness, promote friendship, and serve the poor as we do, not a chance.

Not surprisingly, minds differ on how best to eradicate poverty. But for as long as poverty exists, and it surely still does, our hearts should not. Vincentians see with their hearts. We should never become comfortably numb to the plight of our neighbors in need. Rather than judge, let us continue to respond to their needs with empathy, compassion, and Vincentian spirit.

Thanks, All. God bless.

Daniel P. Malone

Welcome

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Dear Friends:

On March 1, 2018, I segued from a rewarding 39 year legal career to a challenging, but very promising, leadership opportunity with SVdPD, an organization that has a simple, but profoundly inspiring mission: helping those in need. It converts the generous support of donors into practical, purposeful missions. SVdPD is a Catholic lay person organization that helps people in need regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health or gender. We act as a bridge between those who care and those in need.

Through its various community outreach programs, SVdPD feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, and provides needed assistance and guidance to those in need, among other things. Last year alone, the generosity of our donors allowed SVdPD to help more than 300,000 neighbors through our thrift stores, donation centers, dental clinic, and many other community-based programs. SVdPD strives to restore hope among our suffering sisters and brothers. For 95 years, SVdPD has also sent hundreds of amazing children each year to summer camp free of charge to them. I am blessed to lead this inspirational, 119 year sustained effort in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

We are so grateful to our Vincentian volunteers, generous donors, and loyal supporters who make our mission possible.

Thank you in advance for your interest and willingness to help in some meaningful way.

Peace,

Daniel P. Malone

July 2018 Update

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Dear Fellow Vincentians,

This is a time of year typically filled with celebrations – e.g. weddings, graduations, births, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, among others. Hearty congratulations to the Class of 2018 and to all who celebrated a special event or more this past month or so!

Our new Vincentian mission statement provides:

“A network of friends, inspired by gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.”

Our mission expressly pledges “service to people in need.” From a Vincentian standpoint, June witnessed several developments that highlighted at least three ways to serve.

1. Camp Ozanam – Serving As A Team!

We are about to launch our 95th year of sending girls and boys – free of charge to them – to Camp Ozanam. To date, our SVDP Detroit Council has sent more than 175,000 kids to camp! This year, raising funds needed to send more than 400 to camp has been a massive, team effort consisting of several activities. Thanks to the entire camp committee.

From a fundraising standpoint, we have successfully undertaken several initiatives. First, special thanks go out to our members at the District and Conference levels for their tremendous support of our camp program. This has included generous Conference contributions, private donations (among former campers and many others), foundation grants, and many more sources. Our Conferences and Districts have also contributed to our efforts including enrollment jamborees, promoting camp among prospects, arranging for medical exams, and much, much more. Thank you Districts and
Conferences!

Second, our annual Golf Outing held on June 18th also contributed to this overall camp initiative. Thanks to a true team effort, we raised more than we did last year! Former Channel 7 sportscaster, Vic Faust, returned from St. Louis to very capably Emcee the dinner program; and Sister Noreen Ellison provided a truly inspirational invocation. In particular, thank you to Dr. Lucia Zamorano & Susan Swider for once again hosting and sponsoring this year’s event; and hearty congratulations to them for being this year’s well deserved recipients of our Council’s Thomas Moore Award for leadership in philanthropy. Thanks, too, to our Golf Committee. Finally, heartfelt thanks go out to our talented and dedicated staff team for all of their hard work, as well. We look forward to exploring all options in a collective effort to improve next year’s event.

Our overall fundraising efforts to support this year’s camp program stand as a marvelous example of service to others, what we can accomplish by working as a team, and why we should remain razor-focused on our inspirational mission. Thank you, all! I look forward to sharing truly exciting news this Fall about our near century-long Camp Ozanam experience.

2. Serving By Providing A Voice to the Voiceless

Our nation finds itself torn by conflict and injustice. That makes an already tough journey for the Poor and those with no political voice even tougher. Our Vincentian Rule provides clear and unambiguous support to advocate for the most vulnerable among us. It expressly provides that we commit to helping ” . . . the poor and disadvantaged speak for themselves. When they cannot, the Society must speak on behalf of those ignored.” (Rule 7.5). It is a challenge that has stubbornly remained
with mankind. How often do we remain silent when our faith and Vincentian Rule compels action? The following is an example of an inspirational person who courageously chose to be heard during times of strife on an issue that continues to afflict the least in our society.

This June marked the fiftieth anniversary of the tragic, violent death of Robert F. Kennedy. Two months before his death, RFK was scheduled to speak at a businessmen’s club in Cleveland. The night before, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was tragically murdered. It left our nation in shock. Upon reflection and out of respect for Dr. King, Senator Kennedy chose to speak. He, of course, decried gun violence. But he also had this to say.

” . . . there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions – indifference, inaction, and decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books, and homes without heat in the winter. This is the breaking of a man’s spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man amongst other men.

And this too afflicts us all. For when you teach a man to hate and to fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies that he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your home or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies – to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and to be mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as alien, alien men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in a common effort. We learn to share only a common fear – only a common desire to retreat from each other– only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.

But we can perhaps remember – if only for a time – that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life, that they seek – as do we – nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment that they can.

Surely this bond of common fate, surely this bond of common goals can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at the least, to look around at those of us, of our fellow man, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.”

Robert F. Kennedy courageously offered a voice to the voiceless. His core message still resonates today.

Vincentians should follow the lead of Robert F. Kennedy and offer a voice to the helpless and voiceless. Examples abound. The Detroit Free Press recently published an editorial regarding the unfolding southern border immigration tragedy involving our nation cruelly separating children of all ages from their parents. The Editorial opined that such behavior has appalled compassionate people of every faith, nationality, and political persuasion.

The harsh reality is this: the troubling development on our southern border is but one of many, many challenging our nation. For example, if adopted, proposals to cut tens of billions of dollars from the federal budget will make the plight of the Poor significantly more difficult from a health care, educational, and social program standpoint. Indeed, when left untreated, controllable diseases like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and mild mental health issues become silent killers at alarmingly earlier ages than those who receive basic preventive care. And our criminal justice system is fraught with institutional flaws, especially for the Poor.

These are examples of the kind of “violence” about which Senator Kennedy spoke. While slower moving, this type of violence can be as deadly as the bullets that killed Dr. King and, less than two months after his inspirational speech, Senator Kennedy himself. Our Society has spoken clearly and unambiguously on several social justice issues that involve such violence, Voice of the Poor – Position Papers. I encourage each of us to do the same on issues that concern us most.

When Vincentians serve the Poor and those in need regardless of “creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender, or political opinions” (Rule 1.4), their actions say, “I see you, Neighbor, and, inspired by gospel values, I am willing to help.” Whatever service you provide, please consider this additional type of service of speaking on behalf of the Poor and vulnerable.

3. Serving by Bridging Differences

If we could truly see someone in their fullness, we would very likely treat them with kindness and compassion. God exists in all people. Notwithstanding that we are taught that every human being is inherently and equally good, we cannot get beyond real differences. In a June 11, 2018 daily meditation, Fr. Richard Rohr taught that “our egos like to assign greater and lesser value based upon differences”. For that reason, he encouraged us to “[p]ause for a moment and think about the areas in which you benefit, not because of anything you’ve done or deserve but simply because of what body you were born with, what class privilege you enjoy, what country or ethnicity you find yourself in.” How often do we pause and reflect upon such considerations?

Our Vincentian Guide to Diversity/Multicultural Issues contains a section titled “The Multicultural Face of God.” In it, a Vincentian observes, “We are all parts of a universal puzzle. We need to put all the pieces together. Isn’t it marvelous that we are all different? Each one of us has skills and gifts to share. When we put that expertise together, we can do extraordinary things.” Well put.

We should serve those in need with an emphasis on the Poor and vulnerable regardless of differences.

Closing

Our inspirational mission statement challenges us to grow in holiness through service to people in need. Service surely includes personal home visits, twinning, and community outreach programs. Especially in times of challenge, service should include speaking out against the “violence” that Senator Kennedy decried. It should also include seeing the goodness in everyone regardless of differences. Our Rule compels us to provide a voice to the Poor and vulnerable who have none, especially when justice demands. It also requires us to see God in all others. Those beliefs are inspired by gospel values and our Vincentian Rule. I am merely the messenger.

According to noted author, Elizabeth Gilbert, “Those of us who are warm and dry and safe and well-fed must show up for those who are cold and wet and endangered and hungry. That is a rule of life. Every ethical and religious and spiritual tradition in the world agrees on that rule.” Something to ponder. God bless.

Best wishes for a safe, enjoyable, and blessed Fourth of July holiday! God bless.

In Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Dan

May 2018 Update

May 2018 Update 1000 1000 echomedia

It appears that Spring has finally sprung. With it comes hope and new beginnings. It is in that spirit that I share a few thoughts on the following three, interrelated topics.

1. Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and be Glad”)

Earlier this month, Pope Francis released a most inspirational apostolic letter entitled Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and be Glad”). While fully supported by gospel and liturgical reference, it appears that our Holy Father wrote it to be understandable by each of us. I urge you to make the time to read it. In an effort to get that “lay person dialogue” started within our Council, I share the following, but not because I have any particular insights. I do not. Rather, because in several critical respects, the Pope’s apostolic letter relates directly to our Vincentian mission. When I read it, I felt as if the Pope’s words moved from his heart to mine. If you choose to read it, I am certain that his straightforward, but incredibly powerful, message will do the same for each of you.

Briefly, the Pope’s letter teaches that we cannot strive for holiness by prayer alone. We must also commit to serving others, particularly those most in need (i.e. we need prayer and service). Each of us has the capacity to be saint-like; and our Holy Father urges us to strive to do precisely that in the tireless, selfless service of others. God wants to speak to the whole world through each of our lives. Let yourself be transformed; and you can, in turn, help transform others. The Pope cites St. Thomas Aquinas’s response in Summa Theologiae, when asked about what human works best show love of God, “. . . they are the works of mercy toward our neighbor, even more than our acts of worship.”

Pope Francis also identifies two “subtle enemies” of holiness: Gnosticism and Pelagianism. Generally, the former involves a situation where someone “has all the answers” and is on a mission to “save others” (e.g. the unwashed masses). The latter is a belief that our faith is merely a “closed system” of rules and regulations to be applied inflexibly and mercilessly to all who are struggling to cope with the countless complexities of Life. In regard to both, Pope Francis reminds us that “God is mysteriously present in the life of every person even when someone’s life appears completely wrecked.” We must remain open to the messiness of Life. Church doctrine teaches no less. Indeed, “true Christian wisdom can never be separated from mercy toward our neighbor.” The Pope cautions that the life of our church should not become a “museum piece” or the “possession of a select few.”

Pope Francis’s apostolic letter then reviews the Beatitudes as a “Christian identity card” and concludes with a series of thought provoking inquiries to each of us. It is a stunningly inspirational reminder of what it means to be a Christian. Unless you have done so already, please read this amazing letter; and then consider discussing it at your conference meeting.
To read the Gaudete et Exsultate Click Here: Gaudete et Exsultate

2. SVdP Mid-Year Conference

Last week, I attended the Society’s mid-year conference in St. Louis. It proved to be a wonderful reminder of what our Society is and, more so, what it can be. I found the core messages to be so sympatico with the teachings in Gaudete et Exsultate. We engaged in robust discussions regarding, among other things, revising our mission statement, how to make our all-important home visits more spiritual and effective, how to expand our mission into more impactful community outreach programs, and how best to move our Society forward. Among other things, that plan includes a comprehensive communications campaign that more broadly shares the collective work of our Society to all willing to listen. An example of that campaign is the series about our Society that is running on EWTN. It has been so well received that EWTN has agreed to do another season of stories about our Society!

Importantly, our Voice of the Poor advocacy movement has taken official positions on eight social justice issues, including immigration. In that regard, during a conference at Georgetown University, Detroit’s own Cardinal Joseph Tobin explained why helping immigrants and refugees is at the heart of the Christian ethic. He bluntly reminded that, “They’re not leaving their home countries on a whimsical desire to see the world. They’re (running) for their lives, either from actual physical violence or terribly numbing misery.” Later, he advised that it is the role of churches to “put a face” on immigrants and refugees. “I think it’s important that religious leaders stand with immigrants, to put a face on them so that people who want to do inhumane things know what they’re doing,” he stated. “If we recognize the humanity of a person, we find it much more difficult to treat them inhumanely.” That core message resonates throughout the latest letter from Pope Francis and our Vincentian mission. The vast majority of refugees are in desperate need. They are our neighbors. As with all in need – e.g. refugees, homeless, home visits – we should see the face of Christ in each of their faces. Copies of those white papers can be found on the national website.
Voice of the Poor Position Papers, Click Here: Voice of the Poor – Position Papers

3. SVdP Detroit Council – SVdP Transforms Lives – Factsheet

Undeniably, inequality in our great nation has spiked alarmingly, especially during the past eighteen months. It appears likely that this trend will only heighten. In the spirit of both Gaudete et Exsultate and our Society’s national leadership, our Council is positioned to help others by choosing to be “saint-like” and thereby share God’s message “to the whole world through each of our lives”. Doing so best mandates continuing to take a “team effort”, thereby creating a sense of community. It will also require that we remain open and flexible to the changing needs of those we serve and, in particular, HOW we view those we serve. One of the many practical examples of service Pope Francis references in his apostolic letter concerns our reaction when we encounter someone homeless and sleeping outdoors on a cold night (i.e. someone whose life appears “completely wrecked”). “I can view him or her as an annoyance, . . . or I can respond with faith and charity, and see in this person a human being with a dignity identical to my own”. When we serve others, do we see people whose lives may appear “completely wrecked”, or do we see God in each neighbor we serve? We should encourage each other, through our commitments to spirituality, friendship, and service, to see God in all others regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender, or political opinions, (Rule 1.4).

Since I began serving at SVdP, I have had many conversations with family, friends, and former business acquaintances about the Society. A number of such conversations included comments about SVdP being a “wonderful organization”. But that compliment has generally been followed by a genuine inquiry about what exactly it is that the Society actually does. Perhaps you have had a similar experience. We need to share news about our good works and thereby inspire others to serve! Toward that end, our Detroit Council team has compiled a straightforward, single page Factsheet (see link below). In effect, it responds to questions we all get asked. For example, what does the Society do? We transform lives. That response will likely trigger a request to explain how we make that happen. Our Factsheet, which we intend to revise on a regular basis, provides a helpful overview on the numerous community outreach efforts we offer. Please feel free to forward suggested additions to it.
SVdP Factsheet, Click Here: SVdP Factsheet (coming soon)

Herein lies why I believe that our Society’s best days lie ahead. Thank you for your continued efforts on behalf of our Society and those we serve. I look forward to seeing you all again soon, perhaps at this year’s May 12th Annual Awards dinner.

God bless each of you and your families.

In St. Vincent de Paul’s and Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Dan Malone

A Message from Dan

A Message from Dan 1000 1000 echomedia

As we conclude this year’s Lenten season and prepare to celebrate Easter, I’d like to introduce myself and share how glad I am to be here! My new role and service to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul began on March 1, 2018. So, in that important sense, we now share a common commitment. My priorities as CEO include taking a personal approach to all we do, making our mission as inclusive as possible, and striving to make our organization more financially secure. There’s work to be done to accomplish all three, but I am confident that together we can achieve these and many other important initiatives.

Each one of us has a story that emerges through our unique life journeys. It is my sincere hope that in the coming year I will have an opportunity to meet each of you and learn about yours. I grew up in Redford Township, attended St. Robert Bellarmine church and school, and continued my education at U of D Jesuit, Cornell University, and the University Of Detroit School Of Law. I practiced law in metro Detroit and beyond for 39 years; and am pleased to share that my former firm has generously committed to helping our cause in some meaningful way. My dear wife Claudia and I are preparing to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary in June, and we will also welcome two more grandchildren by then, as well.

During my legal career, I always budgeted time for our community, especially for those in need. When I made the recent decision to channel my community efforts in a full time capacity, I was fortunate to discover this opportunity at SVdPD. I am grateful and honored to be a part of this inspirational organization; and I am committed to continuing this vital work in the tradition of Frederic Ozanam, St. Vincent de Paul, Rosalie Rendu, and the army of volunteers, including each of you, who have sustained our mission worldwide for so long.

I am excited about the new opportunities to personally serve at an organization with which my family has had a long history. I’m also very mindful, however, of considerable challenges, too. Indeed, our nation has witnessed an alarming rise in inequality, especially during this past year. Making this leap of faith, I humbly ask for your support and prayers.

In addition, I am delighted to welcome two new members to our team: Mary Torok, my new Executive Assistant, and Sharon Gatewood, our new development administrator. Welcome aboard, Ladies! I also recognize and thank Roger Playwin for his selfless and skillful efforts to mentor me during this transition. Thank you, Roger.

SVdPD has a simple, but profound, mission: helping those in need. It converts the generous support of donors into practical, purposeful action. In a real sense, together we act as a bridge between those who care and those in need. At a time when our nation has experienced so much division, SVdPD remains laser-focused on feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and providing critical assistance and guidance to those in our community who need us the most. Last year alone, the generosity of our donors allowed SVdPD to help more than 300,000 neighbors in the Detroit. Through prayer and a steadfast commitment to “love of neighbor”, SVdPD helps to restore hope among our suffering sisters and brothers. 

Together, we can and do make a difference. On behalf of those we serve, I deeply appreciate your commitment to this 152 year sustained, inspirational effort in the Archdiocese of Detroit. I look forward to crossing paths with you soon. Best wishes to you and your family for a safe, happy, and most blessed Easter!

God bless.

Dan Malone