Conference Connection

From Sister Noreen – November 2020

From Sister Noreen – November 2020 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Growing Forward…

Who would ever have thought that we would still be in a pandemic ‘shut-out’ mode after eight long months?  Thankfully, our Detroit Conference Support Coordinator, and generous Vincentian volunteers created a way for us to learn and grow spiritually in our Vincentian vocation, to have an opportunity to become friends with other Vincentians, and to share creative ways we continue to serve our neighbors.

Coffee with Vincent is a 10-week continuing formation program offered in a Zoom meeting format. The one-hour sessions are presented on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m. and offered again at 7:00 p.m. for ten weeks. There are different presenters each week with the program offered twice on each Wednesday, so participants are welcome at either the morning or evening sessions. It is important to pre-register even if it is close to the start time, as the link to get into the meeting will be sent to you.

Most of this pilot program is based on Serving in Hope Module One. Each of the 10 sessions includes Prayer, 15 minutes of Input, two break-out sessions for reflecting and sharing, and a large group wrap-up.  Having participated in several sessions, I believe the Continuing Formation Team created a great model. Eventually, along with this format, individual conferences may be able to create something similar with the lead being taken by your Spiritual Advisor. The topics could be chosen from a particular Serving in Hope Module summarized and shared by various conference members. Who knows how much more creativity will develop into new and insightful approaches?

Growing spiritually involves not just reading or hearing the gospels or an aspect of Vincentian spirituality, but reflecting, even pondering, the meaning for me as I understand it today. To articulate or share a meaning by putting your own words to the thought gives your companions a glimpse of you and your spirituality.   Often, I find that putting my reflection in words, as inadequate at it sometimes seems, I know it better and sometimes even remember it!.

Learning and praying with you, over coffee or a cup of water,

Sister Noreen Ellison, SC
Associate Spiritual Advisor

From the CEO – November 2020

From the CEO – November 2020 1000 1100 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians:

Peace be with you. I sincerely hope that you remain safe and are doing as well as possible during this on-going, dreadful health crisis. Be assured, you are in my prayers; and I ask that you keep me in yours. These are times that challenge our resolve. Day by day, may we prove that we are more than up to the tasks at hand.

This month I share thoughts and feelings on three topics. Even though we may not understand why something has happened, it behooves us to pause and reflect upon the reality that life is precious and continually changing. I share the following in the spirit of Vincentian friendship and not because I have any unique insights. As always, if my comments create a similar willingness within you to share thoughts or feelings, please be assured that I welcome your doing so.

I. Covid-19 – Still a Serious Threat

As you all know, Covid-19 continues to threaten. Understandably, after eight months, many are feeling fatigued and frustrated. But the two highest days of new cases in Michigan on record occurred last week! In fact, Michigan’s alarming rise in new Covid-19 cases has pushed the seven day average to its highest level since early April. The safety of our staff, our Vincentians, and everyone involved with our Council is paramount. We should stay vigilant in our efforts to help mitigate the spread of this insidious virus, e.g. masks, social distancing, sanitizing, etc. Stay focused and safe!

Second, ALL not-for-profits are facing “pandemic revenue hits”. Indeed, one in six not-for-profits closed between 2009 – 2013 following the Great Recession. Experts forecast that Covid-19 will have a similar impact.

When Covid-19 “started”, people’s generosity led to an uptick in donations. Depending upon how long this pandemic lasts, however, there could well be a steep cliff ahead for not-for-profits, especially if, God forbid, this crisis lingers for another year, or longer! Be assured, we remain outwardly focused and helping people in need. At the same time, we are managing and planning for that possibility by deferring expenses as much as possible. Please understand that these are not normal times! All things considered, thanks to our talented, dedicated Leadership Team and staff, so far, so good.

Third, we should remain ever mindful of the widening gap between being inconvenienced and being devastated. Recently, noted journalist, Fareed Zakaria, had this to say. “I cannot but help wondering if the relative normalcy of life . . .  has prevented us from understanding the true severity of the problem. For those of us using Zoom, things have been a bit disruptive and strange. But for tens of millions of people in America . . . . this is the Great Depression. Can we please help them?” Well said. I am grateful to be part of our organization, which does precisely that.

II. Frank Morelli –  A Man for Others

On Saturday, October 3, 2020, Frank Morelli, an AOD Board member, was suddenly and tragically killed in a horrible car accident. His passing is a terrible loss to his family, his friends, and this Council. To those who knew him, Frank epitomized what it means to be a good person and a faithful  follower of Jesus Christ. He was kind, compassionate, generously shared his considerable talents, and cared deeply for his family and others. I feel truly blessed to have known him. On behalf of a deeply saddened Council, I extend heartfelt condolences to Frank’s family. Please keep them in your prayers.  Frank was truly a Man for Others who enriched the lives of all he met. May he rest in eternal peace and joy; and may his family feel God’s love and support during these truly difficult times.

III. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul & Our Essential Role

Our October 2nd Top Hat Ball Un-Gala was quite successful in many respects. For those who chose to “attend” and want to see it again, or who were unable to attend but would like to view it, we have posted the entire program on YouTube, 2020 Top Hat Ball Ungala. You can also find it by going to YouTube and searching for “St. Vincent de Paul Top Hat Un-Gala 2020”. In particular, I commend you to watch the truly remarkable discussion moderated by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Stephen Henderson. The panel consisted of Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., Kylee Mitchell Wells, and Bishop Donald Hying. The entire, forty minute discussion on social justice and broadening one’s sense of community was fabulous. Our Council owes a debt of gratitude to these extraordinary individuals.

The panel discussion was incredibly well done. Stephen Henderson moderated superbly. That four total strangers came together to create such a robust, respectful conversation was amazing. All surely contributed. Kylee Mitchell Wells spoke forcefully of the critical role that philanthropic groups can and do play through collaboration. A favorite quote of mine came from Fr. Boyle. He shared an anecdote about a gang member of his beloved “dearly deportees” to the effect that love is stronger than any virus. The young man urged others to choose to be each other’s “protective mask” not only from Covid-19 but from all of life’s challenges. What an inspirational vision! Another truly memorable comment was shared by Bishop Hying when he said:

“The greatest organization in our Church today is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul because it is a grassroots, lay led group of folks that are intent on giving honor and glory to God by growing in fellowship and service with each other, but then going to those who are in need, not from a position of superiority. but from a position of humble service and solidarity. When we can do that on a local level, then there is an abundance of life for us.” 

For me, this profound comment touches upon how we Vincentians should view the world and, most importantly, choose to behave. Actions – not titles define a Vincentian. Some view one’s life journey as involving separate “spheres of influence”, e.g.  they compartmentalize. For example, they act one way in one setting and another way elsewhere. I believe that a “good life” is one that consists not of separate spheres of influence, but rather rests upon coherence – i.e. the merging of behavior in all “spheres” through an interrelationship between the social world and the spiritual world.  Therein lies the essence of being a Vincentian.

In the poor and in neighbors in need, Vincentians see the “suffering Christ”,  Rule , Part 1,1.8). We strive to understand that the essence of Vincentian tradition is rooted in the spirituality of Christian love expressed in community through service; and we commit to helping one another, e.g. Vincentians, Staff, and all involved in our community.  Together, we express Christian spirituality through reverent service to the poor, the marginalized, and to each other.  “Happiness comes upon you unawares while you are helping others.”

Jesus advocated that we see one another – all others – through the lens of love. Our Vincentian Rule is built entirely on the same core message. Jesus taught that we are bound together through relationships, particularly with those who are most vulnerable. Without this spiritual basis, people, even Vincentians, can and do continually fall back into disputes between one group and others. As Bishop Hying pointed out, truly committing to spiritual relationships can create a world that is free of racism, cares for the poor, welcomes life, and builds a civilization of love. See the Possible! Clearly, we have a long way to go!

To be sure, none of us will soon forget 2020. But if it leads to our heightened appreciation of our Vincentian need for one another, then it will prove to have been a most purposeful, albeit painful, year.

One word of caution. Seeing others through a lens of love and acting accordingly is no protection from criticism. Indeed, it may well cause others to criticize one’s actions loudly.  When confronted with such critics, think of the advice that St. Teresa of Calcutta, a patron saint of helping the Poor and destitute, once shared (and lived by).

Anyway

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 your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

– Mother Teresa

 

IV. Conclusion

It is hard to believe that it has been eight months since Michigan’s mask mandate went into effect.  I want to thank everyone for staying safe and for adhering to our Covid-19 safety guidelines. Unfortunately, recently Michigan has seen a sharp increase in the number of reported cases and hospitalizations.  Please continue to be vigilant in your safety efforts.

This is a moment in time that eventually will pass.  It is a challenging time for all of us.  But remember:  we are a team!  We will get through this crisis together.  And if you need a reminder of what a wonderful world we are blessed to live in, take some time to walk among the trees, in the quiet splendid beauty that is a Michigan Autumn.

“Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” – Eliza Schuyler, Hamilton

Finally, our nation is engaging in national, state, and local elections.  Your voice matters. This year, whether in person or by mail, participate in our democracy and exercise your freedom and right to vote.

Best wishes on all ahead. Please stay safe. God bless you, your family, and all those you love.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Dan

An Update from Nancy – November 2020

An Update from Nancy – November 2020 1000 1100 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Vincentians,

We come from all walks of life, ready to give of ourselves to those in need.  Some of us have a deep spiritual core, others are struggling to find it.

It’s amazing to hear of someone who has devoted many years of their life to this mission. Others just retiring or searching to fill a void in their lives, find that joining a conference brings a new dimension and perspective to their daily activity.

We come from all income levels – some have experienced poverty as a child, others have never found themselves in financial need.  Most of us have credit cards, bank accounts/assets and family to rely on for support.


What about the people that we serve?

Living in poverty is a challenge, a mindset, and a way of survival.  Whether homeless, receiving disability or food assistance, or part of the working poor, the daily struggle to meet one’s personal or family needs belongs to all.

What is it like to not be able to pay one’s rent, to worry about eviction and searching for the next place to rest?   What if there is not enough food to feed one’s children – not because their favorite foods are gone, but because one’s monthly income is gone?  As the winter months arrive, followed by utility shutoffs, how does one keep their family warm and safe?  Consider facing eviction with six children and nowhere to go.  The list of needs that face a person with limited income or resources are endless.  The list of resources to fill those needs is not endless and many times not available.

We question why some Neighbors in Need are reluctant to share their whole “story” or perhaps demanding in their requests for help. Is our expectation that one should be grateful for help?

Reflect on the lives of those that you have encountered as a Vincentian.  Could you survive in their place – living day to day in survival mode, dependent on strangers and agencies to fill the gaps in income and needs?

Yes, it is hard to be a Vincentian, without judgement, and giving of love and kindness to our neighbors.  It is much harder to be that Neighbor in Need.

Please pray for our Neighbors in Need and for all Vincentians.

God bless to all,

Nancy

From the CEO – October 2020

From the CEO – October 2020 1000 1100 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians:

Peace be with you. As we enter our eighth month of dealing with the dreadful Covid-19, I hope that you continue to remain safe and are doing as well as possible under the circumstances.

Last weekend, we celebrated the feast of our patron saint, St. Vincent de Paul, with a Mass at St. Kateri Church in Dearborn, with many of you joining virtually.  Thank you to Bishop Hanchon for celebrating. St. Vincent understood that encounters with the Poor were encounters with Jesus Christ. Poverty has many faces. He taught by example that we should help each other to strive to make our service holy by seeking God in it. He urged that we serve to find God rather than just to complete a task, no matter how helpful to another. It is our response to the gospels’ calls to love our neighbor. Pursuant to our Rule 1.4, let us help each other define the term neighbor very broadly to include not only those in economic need but also fellow Vincentians, Staff members, and all with whom we come in contact.

This month has been extraordinarily hectic as a result of our fiscal year ending, budgets being created, Covid-19 related issues, and final preparations for our Top Hat Ball “Un-Gala”. But I want to share brief observations about tomorrow evening’s SVdPD event and then to contrast the end of our journeys with the beginning of every day.

I. Top Hat  Ball “Un-Gala” – Still time to “attend” Tomorrow’s SVdPD Event

As you know, tomorrow evening, Friday evening, October 2nd, we will host our 2020 Top Hat Ball “Un-Gala”, a virtual event that those who “attend” can enjoy from the safety and comfort of your home or office. I hope that you choose to do so. “Tickets” are still available and very modestly priced.  If you have any difficulty purchasing them at www.tophatball.com, then please call Keith Koppmeier, 313.393.2909, or Tim Burke, 313.393.2695. Either can help you. It promises to be a wonderful evening; and, especially in light of Covid-19 and those we serve, it is an important fundraising event. If you cannot make it, then please check out our “silent auction” on-line and bid often! Thank you in advance.

Our event will feature a lively discussion among four nationally recognized experts on two, interrelated topics: social justice and developing a more inclusive sense of community. From a Vincentian standpoint, our panel includes our SVDP USA Spiritual Advisor, Bishop Donald Hying. Come listen to what he has to say about our Society’s essential role in today’s world. You’ll be glad you did.

a) Social Justice – Social justice is expressly mandated by our governing Rule. For example, Rule 7.1 states:  “The Society is concerned not only with alleviating need but also with identifying the unjust structures that cause it. It is, therefore, committed to identifying the root causes of poverty and to contributing to their elimination. In all its charitable actions there should be a search for justice; in its struggle for justice, the Society must keep in mind the demands of charity.”

Clearly, in any organization as large as ours, diversity of thought and opinion will always exist. Prior to tomorrow night’s Top Hat, I encourage Vincentians to re-read our Rule 7.1. In light of that rule, for as long as I am involved in our Detroit Council, social justice will remain a priority.

b) Developing a more inclusive sense of community – Last month, in America Magazine, Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu noted that: “We are a nation that exalted individualism but in the end relies on the strength of community.” How true! Therein lies why our program focuses on broadening one’s sense of community as well.

Whether you purchased “tickets” long ago or do so at the last moment, all will be included and all will benefit from the friendship and spiritual growth that our exciting program offers. So get your “tickets” and help to create a virtual community for a great cause. Bring family, bring friends, or just bring someone who you think would benefit from a robust discussion on social justice and community!

II. RBG – A Life Well Lived – The End of a Journey

On Friday, September 18, 2020, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87. She had served with distinction on the highest court in our nation since 1993. During that time and throughout her prior career she courageously and effectively championed the proposition that our nation’s Constitution should be more inclusive to include far more people than it did when ratified, e.g. African Americans, Native Americans, and, above all, women. She was a gift to all, especially the vulnerable. Justice Ginsburg is the first woman in U.S. history to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

Of particular note to our Society, is that, as she championed women’s rights, she earned the respect and affection of the Supreme Court’s most conservative members as well. In today’s strident social climate, that is incredibly noteworthy. Her deep and abiding friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia was legendary. For her, ideological differences never interfered with her civility toward others and her profound respect of and love for the law. May she – and Justice Scalia – rest in eternal peace.

III. The Gift of Every Day – A New Beginning

In a real sense, each day is a new beginning to “see the possible.” Whether we deserve it or not, God gives us the gift of every day. He also has gifted us with free will – the ability to decide how to use each day. To promote more mindful, daily decisions, I share a beautiful Morning Prayer that Holy Name (Birmingham) parish’s dedicated, inspirational Pastor, Msgr. John Zenz, shared with our congregation recently. While he translated it from French many decades ago, it still has beauty and incredible applicability to today’s world.

“Lord, in the silence of this day which is dawning,
I come to ask for peace, strength, and wisdom.
I wish to look at the world this day
With eyes totally full of love –
To be patient, understanding, sensitive, and wise,
To see beyond appearances and see your children as
You yourself see them, thus seeing only the good in everyone.
Close my ears to all calumny.
Guard my tongue from any evil
That in my heart may dwell only thoughts of blessing.
Cloth me with Your beauty, Lord,
And all day long I will manifest Your presence.
Amen”

Life has so many impediments and inconveniences. We do not always see “eye to eye.” Perhaps those moments are blessings in disguise. “Seeing only the good in everyone.” Imagine that! Perhaps bridging the gap between each one of us and others presents opportunities to overcome our personal flaws and shortcomings and thereby grow closer to God on our journey back to Him. Doing so is a precious gift that we give to ourselves.

Rather than act like a pinball smashed about by the uncertainties of “boring” daily routine, let’s help each other choose to use God’s gift of each day to draw closer to Him. “To see Thee more clearly, to follow Thee more nearly, to love Thee more dearly, day by day.” Doing so through spiritual growth, friendship, and service is clearly the essence of being a Vincentian.

Conclusion

Each of us has a gift that Justice Ginsburg no longer has: the gift of Life. The works of our Society – helping those sometimes desperately in need – are closer to the wellsprings of our faith than when all its leadership gathers in a grandiose cathedral. It is a blessing to contribute to our collective efforts to sustain our Council’s 135 year presence in this Archdiocese helping those in need. With so much “cultural divisiveness” in our world and nation, it leaves one wondering what can I – one flawed person – possibly do to help? It creates feelings of helplessness. Kindness only goes so far! At those moments, thinking of Justice Ginsburg, a quiet, albeit driven, woman who stood one inch above five feet, respected everyone, and changed the world for so many, might help.

Recently, we heard a gospel from Matthew. It spoke of the inclusive community of Jesus. When we surrender ourselves to that community, we become part of the family of God – humbly giving and receiving in His name. In that essential sense, we are no longer on our own, we should no longer be “afraid”. Every day presents countless opportunities to overcome inconveniences and bring the teachings of Jesus Christ to life. In many respects, choosing that path is like taking the road less travelled.

Our Rule urges us to take the less travelled path. We do not have the power to control what happens, or to control when our journey ends. But we retain the power to control how we choose to live the gift of every day. This blessed, inspirational “choice” on how to respond clearly applies to seemingly “meaningless” moments in our daily routines. It has the power to transform them into purposeful moments of spiritual growth.

On two personal notes, I extend congratulations and appreciation to Nancy Szlezyngier for having completed her first full year as President of our Detroit Council.  Secondly, this past week, our Director of Conference Support, Debbie Jackson, submitted her resignation from SVdPD effective October 2, 2020. Debbie has been employed with St. Vincent de Paul since 2013, working initially with the MEAP grant and then as support for all our Vincentians.  As many of you know, her commitment to our mission cemented her excellent working relationship with Vincentians across the span of the Archdiocese.  On behalf of a grateful Council, I thank Debbie for her service and personally wish her success in her future endeavors.

In conclusion, I hope you choose to “attend” tomorrow’s night SVdPD Top Hat Ball “Un-Gala”. Whether you do so or not, I extend best wishes to each of you on all that lies ahead. Please stay safe. God bless you, your family, and all those you love.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Dan

From Sister Noreen – October 2020

From Sister Noreen – October 2020 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Summer’s growth and colors are slowly leaving, and our environment is shivering with the changing season. And though, what we see and feel from Mother Nature will be quite different in the coming months, we are thankful to have made the best of life and lived through the challenges of the Covid 19 Spring and Summer. Life is happening inside of each of us, and even, collectively, as Vincentians. New life will come! It will burst forth, but we wonder and await what the months ahead will deliver for us.

What will I/we know better and in a new way?

I wonder how I/we will live more intentionally trying to “love our neighbors as ourselves?”

One of the October changes I feel, is the loss of our lively and colorful Conference Support person, Debbie Jackson. I am so sorry she felt the need to leave her role of generous service from our central office. Debbie helped hundreds of us understand better our Vincentian commitment to grow spiritually and she created many opportunities for us to strengthen our Christian friendship with one another. Debbie knew that serving the members in over 100 Conferences by providing continuing formation opportunities, the Society would be strengthened and become more effective.  Debbie was the “go to” person when we needed materials, training, resources, information and assistance. The evenings spent with us in District meetings helped us feel better informed and connected to one another at the Conference and District levels.  Her gifts, including her joy and positivity, helped build relationships among us, affirming the holy energy and perseverance needed to keep serving our neighbors-in-need with mercy and love through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

So, I will finish by asking myself and you, the same questions:

  • What will I/we know better and in a new way?
  • How will I/we live more intentionally trying to love our neighbors as ourselves?
  • And who are my neighbors?

I encourage you to share this, especially the reflection questions in an upcoming meeting, even by Zoom. Then, listen carefully to each one’s response and conclude with a prayer of thanks and praise.

In prayer and reflection with you,
Sister Noreen Ellison, SC
Associate Spiritual Advisor

An Update from Nancy – October 2020

An Update from Nancy – October 2020 1000 1100 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Vincentians,

The recent passing of a long time Vincentian, Larry Fredendall, has led to significant reflection on the life of such a good man.

A funeral was held for him the day before the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul.  He was the father of 10 children, a founder of St. Mary Parish in Port Huron, and a  founder of the SVdP conference at that parish and the Blue Water Community Food Depot. The TOP HAT award was presented to him in 2008 for his 40 years of service and initiatives for the poor in his community.  Despite the pandemic, his funeral mass was attended by many family and friends – celebrating a life of giving and a legacy that will live on in so many ways.

The words described of him were kindness, generosity and responsibility. Hospitality, acceptance and love were extended by him to those who were quite marginalized as if it were the most normal thing to do.  One quote says a lot of this Vincentian – “From Dad I learned to err on the side of generosity and I was deeply moved taking food to homes throughout the city”.  For family, friends and neighbors, he was unassuming with a sparkle in his eye as he gave of himself to those in need.

His life exemplified that of a devoted family man, Catholic and Vincentian. He was introduced to me as clearly someone to emulate in my beginning work in the conference.

How many in your conference have a similar sparkle as they make a home visit, distribute food at a food pantry or listen to a neighbor’s troubles on a telephone call?

How many other Vincentians in our Archdiocese are similar in their commitment of generosity, acceptance and kindness to those they serve?  We are 145 Conferences strong.  Just think of the power of our spirituality, friendship and service demonstrated in our daily life.  Not power over people, but the power of what so much kindness and love can do for those who are in need.

Please remember the phrase, “the Face of Christ”, as you go about your Vincentian life. Seek out those in your conference that also have that light of giving in their eye and honor them for their good works.


 

Together, let’s say, “The Prayer for the Faithful Departed”

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen.

God bless to all of you.

Nancy

From Sister Noreen – September 2020

From Sister Noreen – September 2020 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Vincentians know well the teaching given by Jesus in the gospel proclaimed in our liturgy this coming Sunday, September 6. It is part of the Opening Prayer in our Vincentian meetings: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” 

This point of Jesus’ message is crucial for Vincentians, and hopefully, for Staff and Volunteers of the Society, as well. If we actually saw the face of Jesus in each person at a meeting, including a Zoom meeting, might any one of us change what we said, how we listened, or how we responded?

Words we hear or gestures we see have the power to change us. Listening is the the most fundamental principle of effective communication. In our meetings and encounters let us strive to:

  • Listen to understand.
  • Get comfortable with a moment of silence after someone has spoken.
  • Practice holy curiosity and ask questions to understand before offering an opinion or idea.
  • Invite response from those who need more time to process.

And, let us always gather in the name of Jesus. He promises to be there where we are!

Our prayer together, our spiritual reflection, sharing our lives and our experiences provide a hope-filled context for our work and assist us in our spiritual journey.  We have the power to help one another grow in our abilities to communicate effectively with the “fire of love.”

It is good to remember, the first meetings of the founders of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul were not to establish a “Charitable organization” but the works of charity became a holy response to sharing, debating and discerning the meaning of the gospels together.

In prayer with you,
Sister Noreen Ellison, SC

DTE Donates $1M to Improve Access to Sustainable Energy Assistance Services

DTE Donates $1M to Improve Access to Sustainable Energy Assistance Services 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

St. Vincent de Paul – Detroit was awarded a $1M donation by DTE Energy to improve access to sustainable energy assistance services.  This restricted donation can be leveraged against MEAP funds to provide additional money and flexibility for households above and beyond MEAP caps in order to achieve the following objectives:

  • Increase the number of neighbors eligible for utility assistance,
  • Increase the amount of utility assistance available for households,
  • Increase the number of households qualifying for the Low-income Self-sufficiency Program (LSP), which has been proven as DTE’s most effective product at helping low-income households be protected from shut-off, pay down arrears, and manage consumption, and
  • Support of special DTE initiatives aimed at providing utility assistance.

Details on how this donation will impact screening households for potential assistance will be forthcoming.  We are very grateful to have been selected for this generous donation, and are thankful to now be able to be more adaptable to some of the unique circumstances that may have prevented us from providing assistance in the past.

This donation will be effective September of 2020 and will be available through 2022, or until funds are exhausted.

Other EAP Updates

The MEAP cap has been increased to $3,000.  The moratorium on utility shut-offs has been lifted, and our neighbors are no longer protected from shut-off due to non-payment.  Any customer who has a  date-valid SER (or paid SER) for the existing grant year are now eligible for up to $3,000 through September 30, 2020.  New applicants without a current year SER must still apply through MDHHS first to access these funds.

From the CEO – September 2020

From the CEO – September 2020 1000 1100 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians,

Peace be with you. I pray daily that each of you, my family and friends, our talented, dedicated staff, and all those who support our organization and mission remain safe and do as well as possible during this on-going, dreadful health crisis.

It has been a most challenging, exhausting six months. Covid-19 has crushed many organizations – for profit and Not-for-Profit alike. Even though our Council has surely been bloodied by it, we remain “in the ring” and faithful to our mission.

Our nation has a long and glorious tradition of meeting national crises together. Crises can bring out the best in us. Think September 11, 2001. At that unprecedented moment of crisis, every nook and cranny in our nation featured American flags, homemade banners that read “God Bless America”, and a prevailing attitude of rallying together.

The current crisis, however, presents a fundamentally different threat. It has ripped through businesses, schools, sports, and even religious services. Every family has been affected, some far more so than others. Parking lots remain strangely empty, shops are closed, countless special events have been cancelled, sports are taking place without spectators, and masks and social distancing, among many other peculiarities, has necessarily become the temporary norm.

People feel vulnerable; and the uncertainty of “how much longer” makes it so frustrating and difficult to plan. But even this crisis presents so many opportunities to respond to it with compassion, friendship, and service to others. That is what we are trying to do every day at SVdPD.

We cannot wait for “better days.” Our Vincentian beliefs call on us to stay focused on our mission during abnormally challenging times. Doing so allows us to see daily that this crisis can bring out the best in us. To do that, we need to improvise, e.g. new ways to serve, new ways to “assemble”.

Inaugural Top Hat Gala – October 2019

As you may recall, last October, we celebrated a hugely successful inaugural Top Hat Ball. More than 400 attended the gala; and the inspirational Cardinal Joseph William Tobin attended as our very special guest and keynote speaker. Cardinal Tobin, himself a Vincentian, gave a superb presentation.

As this year began, we were enthusiastically planning and preparing for our encore Top Hat Ball. And then Covid-19 hit. We quickly concluded that having a celebratory gathering of many hundreds of guests in October was simply ill-advised. Initially, we contemplated cancelling the event as we had done earlier this summer with our annual golf outing.

But Covid-19 has also caused an alarming spike in need among our neighbors. In that regard, St. Vincent de Paul quite clearly taught that it is not enough simply to do charity well. To remain loyal to our Vincentian mission, we must also practice fiscal responsibility and avoid mission drift. Otherwise, our capacity to help others can get severely limited. Looking ahead, that is clearly not where we want to be as this crisis (and others) continues to take its frightening toll.

So we quickly concluded that we needed to improvise. We still needed to plan. But we also needed to remain nimble, e.g. when necessary, we must pivot on a dime. That is precisely what we have done in regard to this important, annual fundraiser.

Our Top Hat “Un-Gala” – Friday, October 2, 2020

Our primary annual fundraising event has gone virtual, which means that you can enjoy it from the safety and comfort of your home!  We are incredibly excited about our event! These days, people are gathering digitally through book clubs, study groups, family and community groups, social services, volunteer groups, and for many other reasons. Doing so is a safe, innovative way to promote a sense of community. How fitting as we all suffer from bouts of vulnerability!

We could have planned a virtual gathering that simply brought Vincentians and guests together. That would have been fun. To be sure, our Un-Gala will bring us “together” virtually. But our “Un-Gala” will do more. It will also provide an opportunity to advance our Vincentian mission and grow spiritually.

A. Advancing Our Vincentian Mission

Our Un-Gala will allow us to have fun and celebrate the gift of friendship. It has also been designed to help us to grow spiritually. How essential is that in today’s society? Blessed Frederic Ozanam reminded us that:

“The question which is agitating the world today is a social one. It is a struggle between those who have nothing and those who have too much. It is a violent clash of opulence and poverty which is shaking up the ground under our feet. Our duty as Christians is to throw ourselves between these two groups in order to accomplish by love what justice alone cannot do.”

People who wish to be leaders must have a compelling vision of what our organization can become, e.g. see the possible. This means being honest about where our organization finds itself currently and being mindful about needed constructive change within our Society. It means having a plan to renew individuals in their respective roles so that they can, in turn, help renew the organization’s inspirational mission and also seek innovative ways to fulfill it.. Our program is designed to promote that important objective through a conversation among a truly extraordinary group.

B. A Timely Panel Discussion

Consistent with our Vincentian Rule and the advice of Blessed Frederic, we decided to do something more than other virtual events. In light of what has been happening in our country, our Top Hat Un-Gala will feature a panel discussion that explores the relationship between social justice and developing a more inclusive sense of community. As importantly, it will include how SVdPD can contribute to building a more equitable, inclusive community through service and friendship.

Accordingly, we have assembled a national panel of experts that consists of our SVDP National Spiritual Advisor, Bishop Donald J. Hying, Kylee Mitchell Wells from the Ballmer Group; and Father Greg Boyle, S.J. from Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.  Pulitzer Prize journalist, Stephen Henderson, host of WDET’s Detroit Today, will serve as Moderator. Their remarkable journeys have been dedicated to social justice and broadening the concept of community. They surely met challenge and adversity along the way. But they persevered and prevailed. We are most grateful and truly thrilled that these esteemed, impactful individuals have agreed to participate.

We need to prepare ourselves to serve by growing spiritually. The panel discussion we have planned and the extraordinary moderator and panel members we have assembled to discuss the topic will help us to do so. It is going to be awesome!

Community is a powerful collective noun. St. Paul taught that our faith must take actual form in a living, loving group of people. Otherwise, love remains just a theory. Community is love in action. It should be about healing and inclusion, not exclusion or judgment. By way of one of many examples, Covid-19 has clearly resulted in hunger to rise, classrooms to close, and parental stress to skyrocket. The existential threat to children in poverty – not a traditional Vincentian service in this Archdiocese – is real and consequential. Practically speaking, especially at a time when home visits are not possible, should these beautiful children be part of our Detroit Council community? If so, how could our Detroit Vincentian Council help? Clearly, pursuant to the advice of St. Vincent de Paul himself, any such effort would first have to be carefully planned and funded.

Our faith and Vincentian tenets urge us to explore this and many other challenges that undermine our sense of community. Jesus had a fundamental vision—belief  that all people are “children of God.” Herein lies why concepts of social justice and an inclusive concept of community are so inextricably intertwined. Indeed, our humanity depends upon everyone’s humanity.

In their own, exquisite way, our panelists and moderator have dedicated their remarkable lives to exploring and advancing the concept of community. They will generously share their insights as part of our program.

This is why our Top Hat “Un-Gala” will be fun and so much more!

C. Ways To Help

In addition to fun and spiritual growth, a final, obvious reason exists on why this event will be so important; and this is where we need each of YOU! Covid-19 has severely impacted our finances. We, therefore, have a duty to restore ourselves as we prepare for what lies ahead. That includes financial stability. We are deeply grateful to Weingartz, Inc. and to Magna International for being our Co-Event Sponsors, and for all who have chosen to sponsor our event at some level. Heartfelt thanks, all!

Any sound development plan is built on finding new donors and beginning the process of building those relationships so that they turn into habitual donors and major givers. Having a way to replace the donors who choose to leave us is extremely important, too. It is important to remember that all fundraising supports our entire Council and allows us to do the work that supports our neighbors in need.

Events like the Top Hat Ball are opportunities for current supporters, staff, and volunteers to introduce their friends to St. Vincent de Paul Detroit.  It’s a way for them to share with their friends and acquaintances the joy and passion they have for SVdPD and invite them to support us, too. It also provides us the opportunity to drive brand awareness and a deep connection to who we are and what we do.

Top Hat – even virtually – “brings together” board members, donors, volunteers and new prospects and engages them in ways we cannot do in other situations. If orchestrated well, an event like Top Hat can raise significant funds. While we are raising funds, the event gives our audience a chance to experience the many services we provide to those in need.

Tickets for our event are a modest $25. Please go to www.TopHatBall.com  for ticket information, ordering, and event information. That nominal fee will allow access to our program. Our hope and expectation is that each person who chooses to attend will pay the fee. Moreover, unlike a live event, we can invite family, friends, and acquaintances from all over the country and the world! If your friends, family, or acquaintances have an e-mail address, they can “attend”, too!

Our goal is to attract far more guests than last year! To do that, however, we need your help. Please spread the word and encourage anyone and everyone you know to consider attending.  Imagine, if each of our roughly 3500 Vincentians purchased a “virtual ticket” and brought just one other family member or friend, that alone would result in 7000 attendees! Vincentians, just listening to Bishop Hying alone – a truly gifted speaker – is more than worth the ticket price! See the possible!

If you are unable to attend, you can still participate. For example, there will be an online auction available during the entire week of September 27th.  Once again, go to  www.TopHatBall.com  for event details.

Please help spread the word! Donate gifts, find willing sponsors and donors, and raise awareness to help best position our Council financially for the opportunities and challenges that surely lie ahead. This is a practical way to advance our Vincentian mission of helping neighbors in need. Heartfelt thanks in advance for choosing to do so.

Conclusion

Our nation and hometown are rapidly approaching an inflection point. Covid-19 may hover over our society like a dark, ominous cloud for months to come, perhaps much longer. Its impact already has been devastating to so many; and its duration remains a haunting mystery. The future remains shrouded in uncertainty.

But one thing is certain: needs for basic services are surely spiking alarmingly. We must remain committed to doing what we can to help. That requires financial stability.

To be prepared for what lies ahead, therefore, we need to have a successful Top Hat “Un-Gala” fundraiser. Our very talented, dedicated Top Hat “Un-Gala” team led by our exceptional Director of Development, Keith Koppmeier, and our gifted consultant, Scott Bettinger, of Echo Media has planned an entertaining, thought provoking, and very reasonably priced event. For Top Hat to reach its enormous potential, we need a full team effort. YOU are an important member of our team. Won’t you help as best you can?

We have faced crises before. Once again, albeit using innovative ways, we will get through this crisis as well. As we do, will our appreciation of social justice, our mindfulness of a more inclusive concept of community, and our understanding of and commitment to Vincentian values grow?

Together, let’s make Friday, October 2, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. an historic occasion for our Council. Hope to “see” you there. Best wishes to all of you. Please stay safe. God bless you, your families, and all those you love.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,
Dan

An Update from Nancy – September 2020

An Update from Nancy – September 2020 1000 1100 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Vincentians,

We are still waiting for the onslaught of calls to our help lines from those neighbors facing eviction and utility shutoffs. Federal dollars have come through to assist those in need and primarily given to Social services groups, shelters and Community Action agencies. The amount dispersed to

SVdP in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties will help but falls short of the anticipated need of our neighbors. Monroe, St. Clair and Lapeer counties face even less dollars coming their way.

So, what is our purpose? We are not social workers, caseworkers or emergency responders. As a social worker throughout my working career, personal information was private, friendship with clients was unethical and religion discussion was verboten. Fear, anger and both defensive and offensive measures were daily encounters.

HOWEVER, we have received a calling from God to the mission of helping the poor, in a way far different than most helpers.

Our neighbors are not clients. Our conferences are not driven by written policy, rather general guidelines and consensus decision making.

How do your neighbors see you? As Vincentians we bring friendship, spirituality and hope to our neighbors. Those elements make such a difference in our daily encounters, even if we are not able to help with financial means.

Should we be mentors? Should we share our personal lives or information at all to our neighbors in need?

Let’s not be afraid to share a part of ourselves as we move forward from this Pandemic. This is not a suggestion that we reveal ourselves in any way that could possibly harm us, but accept those who call as our neighbors, not clients.

We talk about systemic change as a means of changing lives. Whether it’s through an official program or your intervention, we can effect great change in keeping the essential elements of our Society, spirituality, service and friendship present in our work as a Vincentian.

In reflection on the founders of our Society, Frederic Ozanam, Blessed Rosalie Rendu, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise Marillac, their commitment of life work to the poor is the foundation of our daily work.

I ask that you reflect on your approach and attitude towards your neighbors. Our calls will increase, our help will be needed. Our opportunity will be there.

Remember, as Vincentians we have chosen the vocation of serving the poor.

God bless to all,

Nancy