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From the CEO – March 2019

From the CEO – March 2019 1000 1000 echomedia

Dear Sister & Brother Vincentians:

Peace be with you. It has been a busy month! When viewed collectively, it reflects that our Council is making progress and heading in a positive direction. Thanks so much to all who are contributing!

1) Developments & Events

The following is just a sampling of what has happened within the past few weeks.

  • Top Hat Ball – October 12, 2019 – Cardinal Joseph Tobin

I am thrilled to announce that on Saturday, October 12, 2019, we will be hosting our inaugural Top Hat Ball. His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey will be our very special Guest of Honor and Keynote speaker. Cardinal Tobin is the first and only Detroit born and raised priest who has ascended through the Catholic Church to the rank of Cardinal. This milestone event will take place at the Cobo Hall Riverview Ballroom. In honor of Blessed Frederic Ozanam and the incredible organization he founded, we will don top hats to celebrate his legendary personae.

  • Bishop Donald F. Hanchon – SVdPD Spiritual Advisor

We are so pleased and deeply appreciative that Bishop Donald Hanchon has accepted our invitation to be Spiritual Advisor for our SVdPD Council. Bishop Hanchon has served as Pastor for several parishes that serve the Hispanic community including, St. Joseph in Monroe, St. Gabriel in Detroit, and Most Holy Redeemer in Southwest Detroit. In September 2009, Archbishop Vigneron appointed him an episcopal vicar with responsibilities as moderator of the Central Region of the archdiocese (encompassing the City of Detroit as well as Hamtramck and Highland Park). In May 2011, he was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit.

  • Sister Noreen Ellison – SVdPD Associate Spiritual Advisor

In addition, Sister Noreen Ellison has segued gracefully from 60 years of service in education and healthcare to being Associate Spiritual Advisor for our Council. Among many other things, Sister assists many within our organization and among those we serve with spiritual needs through her formation work among our organization and our community.

Our Council is blessed to have these remarkable individuals as spiritual advisors. Welcome both! Their counsel, together with our talented and dedicated Spirituality Group, positions us well to have a spiritually growth-filled year.

  • Evening of Reflection – Fr. Steve Hurd, S.J.

On February 27th at Sacred Heart Seminary, our Council hosted its annual Evening of Reflection. It featured a delicious dinner and wonderful opportunities to celebrate friendship. In addition, Fr. Steve Hurd, S.J., a gifted and dedicated Jesuit and superb public speaker, spoke with passion about Lenten reflections. He ended his presentation by sharing with the 75 Vincentians in attendance “questions to ponder”. That was followed by an opportunity for each table to discuss the questions among themselves and then to report out to the general assembly. It was a most enjoyable and worthwhile event.

  • Crain’s Detroit Business

On February 11, 2019, Crain’s Detroit Business published a lead article on our Detroit Council. If you have yet to see the piece, please contact our office for a copy or click this link. We have received very positive feedback from the community regarding the article’s apt description of our Council’s overall promising direction (i.e. we are on the right path). In addition, I was delighted that the piece provided an opportunity to showcase our Development Director, Keith Koppmeier, whose talent, energy, vision, and determination has resulted in our development efforts being considerably improved over last year. Thank you, Keith!

  • Birmingham Senior Men’s Club

On February 22nd, I made a presentation to the Birmingham Senior Men’s Club. Approximately 130 members attended. It provided an excellent opportunity to raise our SVdPD profile to our community. Interest level was high; and the response among attendees was very positive when they heard about the numerous community outreach programs SVdPD offers neighbors in need. Heartfelt thanks to Foundation Board member, Cliff Snedecker, for arranging my invitation to present. Matchan Nutrician Center was also represented at the gathering by Frank Schmid and several others who actively participate at Matchan.

  • Royal Oak St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Saturday, March 16, 2019

On a much lighter note, the Selection Committee of the 2019 Royal Oak St. Patrick’s Day Parade has selected me as this year’s Grand Marshall! This year’s parade through Downtown Royal Oak will take place on Saturday, March 16th at 11:00 a.m. It will be an opportunity to celebrate the green as well as to showcase our Society of St. Vincent de Paul Detroit. All are invited!

2) Our Living Word – Recent Scriptural Passages of Particular Note

Have you noticed that there has been a particularly fertile offering of Gospels and scripture passages recently? I, of course, am not trained as a religious. But like each of you, the Living Word “speaks to me”. In light of both our National and Council Strategic Plans expressly referencing supporting Vincentians’ “spiritual Journeys”, I share some of my reflections herein. I do so not because I am right, but rather in the interest of advancing our goals of Spirituality and Friendship. I encourage any of our Vincentian members so inclined to do the same. Here is just a sampling during the past few weeks as they relate to our SVdPD Council.

  • The Book of Genesis – Creation Continues

We heard two readings from the Book of Genesis about Creation. It described how God created our world. But the readings left me more mindful of how our world is not static. It is continually evolving and, in some respects, being created. In fact, the only thing that seems to remain constant is change. We have the capability of impacting how our world evolves.

Last month I mentioned our great Nation’s steady, albeit at times stymied, march toward greater inclusion and the noble belief that all men and women are created equal, a noble notion that finds ample support in our Vincentian Rule. In a similar vein, we should look at Creation as a continual process as well. From a Vincentian standpoint, we should see those who have become invisible to so many and hear their cries for help. We should speak for those who have no voice. We should see the possible, especially when we work together toward a common good. Let us do so together.

  • Who Do You Say I Am?

Recent gospels of Mark and Matthew speak of Jesus, Peter, and James walking into a small village. The villagers were buzzing among themselves as the three of them approached. Jesus then asked his companions, “who do those people say I am?” They responded, “Some say John the Baptist. Others say Elijah.” And then Jesus asked looked directly at them and asked, “who do YOU say I am?” Simon Peter answered “Christ.”

In a real sense, each of us answers that profound question each day by how we choose to live and how we choose to treat others. I continually fall short of where I would like to be. We all do. That is why laughter, gratefulness, compassion, friendship, and when necessary, forgiveness can help us and others to grow immensely. Let us commit to promote these admirable qualities and help others do the same.

If we serve our neighbors in need with dignity, compassion, and respect, we should surely extend the same to each other. In that critical respect, our road is communal, e.g. helping and encouraging one another, and not individual. We are on this amazing journey of service together.

  • Walking on Water – Do Not Be Afraid

We also heard the gospel of Jesus summoning Peter to walk to Him across the water. As he began to do so, Peter froze with fear. Jesus comforted him by saying, “Do not be afraid. Have faith in me.” Jesus summoned Peter out of his boat – out of his comfort zone. Like Peter, we leave our comfort zones when we make a home visit or engage in many other Vincentian programs.

Jesus sends the same message – be not afraid – to each of us no matter how rocky or tortuous the road may seem. He may not keep us out of Life’s fires. He never promised that. Rather, Jesus promised never to abandon those who believe; and He will not. Clothed with this comfort, let us go forth with courage and conviction together.

  • Eight Beatitudes – How Can One Help Neighbors in Need?

We then heard about the eight beatitudes. How can we help our neighbors in need? Our Rule reminds us that “no charity is foreign” to our organization. Last year, we served so many in need. Thank you! But we can and should do more. For example, during the recent federal employee furlough, we could have supplied food baskets to those who suddenly found themselves in need. Likewise, during the recent, brutally cold weather, we could have opened our Central Office doors to the homeless. While we serve hundreds of thousands each year, may we encourage each other to remain open to the growing needs of so many others. Please help us to hear even “non-traditional” calls. We should put our faith in action by living the beliefs set forth in our Rule to the fullest extent possible. Let us commit to doing so together.

  • Luke – Love Your Enemies.

Last Sunday, we heard the gospel from Luke wherein Jesus tells us to love our enemies. In a world as polarized and challenged as ours, that is a tall order! In other columns, I have referenced perhaps the most well known lesson from Jesus: love thy neighbor. That commandment is considered one of the two greatest. However broadly or narrowly one chooses to define the term neighbor, it can be read to mean “love those who you like.” It is my sincere hope that each of you has an army of people in your life who fall into that category. Each of us likely have others in our life with whom communication has broken down. This gospel encourages us to reclaim those relationships through dialogue, tolerance, and forgiveness.

But how in God’s name, we may ask ourselves, as truly flawed souls, can we possibly love our enemies? It seems to me that our best chance is to help one another by freely recognizing that we all have flaws. The natural reaction to those with whom we struggle – and we all have people in that category – is to think, “He/she has problems. It is his/her fault that we do not get along.” Perhaps. But those flaws and vulnerabilities should not separate us. Rather, they should connect us! Indeed, the teachings of Jesus Christ urge us to see one another in a new light. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Do we?

In the gospels where Jesus restores sight to the “blind” or “hearing” to the deaf, perhaps that is what really occurred – people spiritually seeing and hearing one another in a new light. Easier said than done. Moreover, consider this. The same person can be a neighbor one moment and an “enemy” the next (e.g. frenemy). Therein lies why Luke’s gospel should resonate so deeply with us. In effect, Jesus taught us to Love one another, all others, warts and all.

We are not here to see through one another, but to see one another through.

In that important sense, are we spiritually “blind” and “deaf”? If so, do not be afraid. According to Liesl Schwabe, “compassion can be taught, and forgiveness fostered. If we can learn to confront the existence of suffering not as a sign of hopelessness, but as an opportunity for love, we are all better positioned to take responsibility for that suffering. If we understand the necessity of truth, we can seek justice.”

Jesus did not build a church during His time among us. Rather, he taught a new way based upon love. He taught that our love should not discriminate between neighbor/friend and enemy. What a radically new light! To merge one’s love for friend and foe alike requires mercy. Is mercy a “way of life” for us or an attitude that surfaces only occasionally and conveniently?
So long as we have the gift of Life, we can continue to contribute a Vincentian verse to this glorious story of Mankind. What kind of verse do we wish to contribute – love for one another, or more judgmental competition? Let us commit to helping each other love neighbor and enemy alike.

  • Isaiah – Here I am, Lord   

A final, recent passage is a personal favorite: Isaiah 6. Written from the perspective of God, the verse first recognizes that His people, all people, are suffering. So God solicits help to care for them. Frequently, at Sunday Mass, we sing a moving song based upon this passage.

“I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry, All who dwell in dark and sin, My hand will save.

I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright. Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.” Lovely.

Help those in need? Including enemies? That sounds so challenging, perhaps too challenging. Understandably, many may not feel up to that prodigious task. At those moments of personal doubt, please remember “the vision of Isaiah, who saw himself in the temple, where the Lord was sitting upon a throne, attended by the seraphims with six wings which cried out the Sanctus: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ And in the presence of that holiness, Isaiah was keenly aware of his own shortcomings and of the shortcomings of his people; and he said; woe is me, because I am a man of unclean lips.” But when he heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah said, simply, “Here I am. Send me.”

Like Isaiah, each of us is flawed and vulnerable – people of unclean lips. But every day, the call comes: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” The late, great law professor, John Reed, once keenly observed that “Isaiah did not say ‘I’ll find someone to work on it.’ He didn’t offer to ‘form a committee’. He didn’t say, ‘How can I as one person, one flawed person, possibly help when the problems are so complex and interrelated?’ He said, simply, “Here I am. Send me.”

Are we people of unclean lips? Of course. If so, then who will go for us? I hope that you and I – one by one, by one, by one – will say with a strong voice and a clear eye and firm hand, ‘Here I am, send me.’ “

Our inspirational Rule invites us to do precisely that. Let us commit to doing so together.

All of these gospels and passages were read at Mass within the past few weeks alone. Remarkable!

3) Conclusion

Today, marks my first anniversary as CEO of the SVdPD Council. Heartfelt thanks to those who have very ably and willingly assisted me along this new, rather formidable path. In the spirit of the message contained herein, thanks too, to those who, for whatever reason, have chosen to be less supportive. All are in my prayers. In that regard, like you, I believe in the power of prayer. Please add to your prayer list my dear, dear friend, Christine, a truly remarkable young Mother who recently discovered that she faces a daunting medical challenge. As she embraces what lies ahead, may she feel God’s love and the full support of her incredible family, her army of friends, and our entire Vincentian community. Heartfelt thanks.

It has been a challenging year that has required a new skillset. As a team, I believe that we have made measurable progress. While doing so, our Council served more than 300,000 neighbors in need last year alone. I make reference to that number not as an impressive statistic, but rather as a reflection of the staggering need that still exists in our Archdiocese. Together, we need to do more; and we will. Thanks so much to all whose ears remain open to the cries of those in need.

In Isaiah 43, the prophet says, “Behold, I am making things new: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Together, we are making great strides at SVdPD. Can you perceive it? See the possible. God bless.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Dan

What’s in a Name? Who is my Neighbor?

What’s in a Name? Who is my Neighbor? 1000 1000 echomedia

Is it all too familiar language we hear from Jesus? “Love your neighbor as thyself.” It seems to take a long time to go from my mind so it can fully “convert” my heart! Sometimes my heart becomes hard, suspicious, or just plain tired. How about yours?

As Vincentians we care a lot about our neighbors. Folks come to us, or sometimes we even look for them, and they have great need. Sometimes the expressed need is just the “tip of the iceberg” of what we see to be the real needs. We may feel overwhelmed.

Sometimes a person in need sees SVDP as just another agency that may give help to “fix” the immediate problem. Are we just another agency? Do we sometimes see our help to a neighbor-in-need this way, albeit, a charitable agency? We have even grown, over the years, to call these neighbors, “clients,” truly an agency term. And, truthfully, sometimes we may even feel like over-worked social workers.

Who are we, really? What is this vocation that names each of us, Vincentian? If our SVDP Conference had no money, no food, no clothing nor furniture, no vouchers nor bus tickets, what is it that a neighbor-in-need would receive from you and me? What would it be? What could possibly happen?

I encourage us to take this challenge to prayer, reflect on it, and share your response with those in your Conference. I will pray with you during the coming weeks. May the Holy Spirit give us listening hearts open to change and renewal.

Peace be with you!
Sister Noreen Ellison, SC
Associate Spiritual Advisor

Eternal God, out of whose great mind
came this great cosmic universe, we bless thee.
Help us to seek that which is high, noble and good.
Help us in the moment of difficult decision.
Help us to work with renewed vigor for a warless world,
a better distribution of wealth, and a brotherhood
that transcends race or color.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

January 2019 Update from Therese Frye, Board President

January 2019 Update from Therese Frye, Board President 206 321 echomedia

Dear Fellow Vincentians,

At this special time of year, I hope each of you has felt the peace and joy that the Christ Child brings. It is a time of reflection of holidays past, people who shared these special times and traditions you have created. A tradition we at St. Vincent de Paul have established is our Annual Meeting held in January. This year we will soon meet on Sunday, January 20th at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. At this year’s Meeting, we will be focusing on our Vincentian Spirituality. Our Spirituality Committee has drafted several questions we will be discussing. These questions are found on the Annual Meeting postcard you received recently. In looking at these questions, they have really made me stop and think and reflect on my past twenty-six years as a Vincentian.

Just looking and answering question one, “In what way have you changed or grown since becoming a Vincentian I know that my experience has helped me to see more of “real life” as my neighbors live it. What a great opportunity and gift to walk with my friends as they allow me to be part of their journey.  My neighbors in need have afforded me the opportunity to do God’s work. I am grateful to them for allowing me to serve.  By sharing their experiences, my life is richer and more fulfilled. And if that isn’t growth I don’t know what is. The second question posed is “What will help you stay committed to SVDP and grow spiritually?  My spiritual journey has always been very personal because it is my relationship with God. But SVDP  has helped me grow through my Vincentian vocation. For the longest time, I did not realize that being a Vincentian was a vocation. I was not sure I had that strong feeling of suitability for being a true Vincentian but, as the years go by, I find that God put the St. Vincent de Paul Society into my life as a tool for my spiritual growth and renewal. Sometimes, I get tired and find myself slightly jaded but, my commitment to the Society remains intact because it is part of God’s plan for me making it more relational with Him.  I can only hope and pray that my spirituality through the Society grows as the Lord intended. Question number three asks “What will help SVDP remain effective in living our Mission and Value? What can we do to sustain St. Vincent de Paul in the future?”  I feel that through prayer, adhering to our core values and the relationships we establish and maintain, the Detroit Council with continue to grow and flourish for years to come.

Now that I have shared my thoughts, I ask you to review the same questions and be able to share your thoughts when we all meet at the Annual Meeting because your input is one of our most valuable assets. You are St. Vincent de Paul!!!!!

God Bless,

Therese

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

An Update from Therese – November 2018

An Update from Therese – November 2018 1000 1000 echomedia

With Thanksgiving here, I am once again reminded on how grateful I am for the life God has given me. As I see how some of our neighbors struggle to even acquire the most basic needs it makes me more aware of how God has blessed me.

As we enter into the holiday season, we Vincentians continue our service to our friends. Holiday baskets, giving trees, coat drives making the holidays special for those with the greatest need. Our gospel mission continues to strengthen our spiritual growth. Your Vincentian leadership not only continues the outreach but, continues the responsibilities as leaders in the Council. We recently held an Archdiocesan Board Meeting and I would like to update you on the topics discussed. Minutes from the Executive Committee, Vincentian Life Committee and Governance Committee were approved. Resolutions were presented by the Governance Committee to establish a Finance Committee to work with our Executive Committee, CFO and CEO in financial matters. With all the changes in government reporting, we are extremely grateful to have the expertise of these three volunteers: Laurie Horvath, Robert Rock and Mark Lezotte join Mark Gilroy our Archdiocesan Treasurer, Rose Paczkowski our CFO, and Dan Malone along with our Executive Committee in being the best stewards of the resources we so graciously receive. Other areas the Governance Committee presented are resolutions covering CEO Limitation Policy, Position Description  for Council Board of Directors, Council Board Member Roles and Responsibilities, Voice of the Poor Committee Charter, Sex Offender Policy-Conference and Council, Harassment Policy, Contingency Committee Charter, Donor Privacy Policy, Gift Acceptance Policy and Board Chair and CEO Partnership Policy. We welcomed two new District Presidents to the Board, Sheila Cassett represents the Monroe District and Elina Munoz is representing the Mid City.  Your Board of Trustees is working to keep the Detroit Council one of the strongest in the Nation. Another topic was the approval of the Archdiocesan Council budget.  Many thanks to all staff and volunteers who keep our Council operating at such a high level. 

As I mentioned in a previous article, at the National Meeting SVDP approved a Strategic Plan. Since we here in Detroit had not developed our own since 2012, we have embarked on creating a vision for our future as well. Working in conjunction with the National Plan of Expanding and Strengthening Our Network Of Friends, Encouraging and Supporting Vincentians On Their Spiritual Journey, Advocate For And Work Towards A More Just World, Promote Deeper and Meaningful Relationships With Those We Serve and Develop, Improve, and Expand Services we have formed a group to bring to us a plan that will enhance our Vincentian Vocation. We owe thanks to fellow Vincentians Nancy Szlezyngier, Bob Saltsman, Althea Graham, Nalani Miller, Tom Reiss, and Dan Malone as this project gets underway. We will keep you posted on the progress. 

I have been asked to remind conferences that if you find yourselves in a strong financial position please consider a twinning opportunity. Maybe you would be able to share your good fortune with a conference with limited resources. If you think you could make that commitment, please give Debbie Jackson a call at (313) 393-3014 and she will be able to inform you of the conferences with the greatest need.

With under a year left in my second term as Archdiocesan President, we  are  in the process of succession planning. We have a nominating  committee comprised of past Council Presidents who will soon be accepting nominations. After the holidays, you will be invited to submit the names of possible candidates, after obtaining the potential candidate’s approval. Please pray for this as we consider new servant leadership. 

God Bless,

Therese

Seeing the Possible Through Storytelling

Seeing the Possible Through Storytelling 1000 1000 echomedia

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
– Maya Angelou

We all know the feeling. We’re sitting at the Thanksgiving table in the middle of a lively conversation, and we have a story to tell. We can’t wait to get it out. The anticipation is excruciating, and when it’s finally our turn, there’s a feeling of relief and joy that we shared something about what we did, and who we are.

Telling stories is one of my favorite things to do as a fundraiser. There’s a lot that goes into raising funds – data segmentation, mailings, prospecting, stewardship, but when it comes down to getting someone to see what’s possible, and how they can be part of making that happen, personal stories are what connects them to the work we do at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Detroit.

Stories can be very powerful. They kindle emotions and spark empathy for our neighbors in need, yet they all don’t have to be dramatic or heart-wrenching to do that. Sometimes just the everyday telling of serving someone a hot meal, or helping them pick out a warm coat can serve as a catalyst to a deeper conversation that connects us to our listener and the listener to our mission. As long as they are genuine, stories fill a book of what’s possible.

As Vincentians, you change lives, and you have stories to tell. Some of your stories are personal, and are filled with despair, loneliness, hopelessness and more. It takes courage to tell those stories, but remember, you offer hope and friendship, spiritual guidance and comfort to those you visit. And in some cases, you lift them out of poverty. You transform lives, and SVdPD has supporters who want to know how they helped you make a difference, and how they can do more.

Your stories demonstrate the impact of their generosity. They’re proof that they are truly making a difference in the lives of the thousands of people who come to us seeking assistance.

Telling stories is one of my favorite things to do as a fundraiser, and I need your help to do that. This summer we launched our “Making it Personal” campaign, and asked for your stories about how SVdPD has helped our neighbors in need. As we move into the next phase of our development and marketing plan, your ongoing input will be critical to our ability to show our future and current donors the impact that their gift makes in our communities.

We will be sending out email newsletters and sharing impact stories in our thank you letters as well as sharing more about the work you do to assist our neighbors in need.

I would like to hear from you before December 1. Tell your story. It doesn’t have to be long, just a few sentences or bullet points. We’ll write it up and make sure it is what you want to convey before we use it.

Together, we can help every person see the possible, and show everyone how they can help to make the possible happen.

So as you gather with your family and friends around your Thanksgiving table, take a deep breath and unleash the storyteller in you. Then tell us. You’ll be glad you did.

November 2018 Update

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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

Growing Together in Holiness

Growing Together in Holiness 1000 1000 echomedia

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be in Grand Rapids and view many inspirational and contemporary art pieces during the annual ARTPRIZE. There were so many outstanding and creative sculptures, paintings, and murals. Standing near their creations were the artists, and I had the chance to visit with some of them. What impressed me most was the deep spirituality from which they created their pieces, and their commitment in wanting to make a significant difference in how we live together on planet earth!

One artist used a huge piece of white silk, to paint multiple layers of acrylics in various shades of black, white and gray to give it depth and texture, including bumps and cracks. The finished piece was a beautiful image of what looked like a cinder block wall. Artist, Nolan Haan, named it “SOCIETY,” defining society as a group of similar, but unique, individuals that come together for a common purpose. Doesn’t that just help us know why our organization is called a Society? Artist Haan said, “I transform silk into cement!”

Speaking of transformation, this is also what is asked of us as Vincentians. Our ministry has the same possibilities for expressing the artistry of what God wants for all creatures, especially us humans made in the image and likeness of God. Vincentians are called to act from a deep spirituality that is grounded in Jesus, the human expression of God. We are called to friendship with like-minded individuals for a common purpose, responding in many “artistic” forms of service, making a significant difference in this world.

As a new Associate Spiritual Advisor, I have been encouraged to offer my assistance in helping our AOD SVDP Conferences develop and renew the role of Spiritual Advisor. From the Society’s beginnings every Conference was to have someone with the special charge of helping fellow Vincentians achieve the primary purpose of our Society: growing together in holiness. To help us renew this special role, I believe it will be best to do this with volunteers from conferences in various area groups where we can learn from one another and share best practices. For information or to schedule a Spiritual Advisor Workshop, please contact me, Sister Noreen at Noreenellison@ymail.com or Debbie Jackson at 313-393-3014.

From S. Noreen Ellison, SC

An Update from Therese

An Update from Therese 206 321 echomedia

Dear Fellow Vincentians,

Happy Feast Day! I am writing this article on the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul. Today, I reflect how St. Vincent de Paul has influenced and thus changed my life. Thinking about it over the past month, and after attending our National Assembly, I have been filled with the “Spirit” of the Society and have grown in my personal understanding of what God calls each of us to do. This year‘s theme was “One Society Serving In Hope” The National Meeting was held August 28th through September 2nd in San Diego. We were inspired by two wonderful Keynote speakers. Fr. Aiden Rooney from The Congregation of the Mission spoke on the topic of Embracing the World: What would Frederic Do? Aiden gave insight into how even in today’s world we are challenged as Frederic and his companions were years ago.

We also had a spiritual retreat by our National Spiritual Advisor, Most Reverend Donald Hying, Fourth Bishop, Diocese of Gary. In both addresses, we as Vincentians were told how valuable our mission is to our Church. During one of the reflections, we were asked to reflect on this question: “If you had no money to give, no furniture to provide, no food to share with our neighbors in need, would you still be a Vincentian?“ Yes, there is much more to our vocation as Vincentians in our Mission of Charity.
It is more than material things we bring to those we serve. We bring ourselves, we bring hope, we bring our presence and that is probably the greatest gift we can give to anyone.

The National Office provided various workshops and reports from many committees. In our Business Meeting we were asked to approve a National Strategic Plan. As we in our Council develop our own Strategic Plan, we will look to see if we can build on the vision that all Vincentians share. All materials from the National Meeting may be found on the National SVDPUSA.ORG website. I encourage each of you to view these valuable resources.

On September 18th, we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica . One hundred Vincentians came together for Mass, a commissioning of new presidents and our own recommitment to the Society. Fr. John Riccardo, our Archdiocesan Spiritual Advisor was scheduled to celebrate the Mass, but his mother’s funeral was on that same day. I ask each of you to keep Fr. Riccardo and his family in your prayers. A special thank you to The Shrine Conference for hosting, Fr. John Kopson for filling in for Fr. Riccardo and the Shrine Ladies Guild for providing a lovely reception following Mass.

I am finishing this article on September 30th, the day after a successful Friends of the Poor Walk. Yesterday, a thousand friends, neighbors and Vincentians met on Belle Isle to share fellowship and friendship while expressing solidarity with those it is our privilege to serve. Many thanks to all the staff and volunteers, sponsors and of course the walkers who made this a truly special event.

God Bless,
Therese