From the CEO

From the CEO – August 2020

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

Dear Sister & Brother Vincentians:

Peace be with you. I hope that you continue to remain safe and are doing as well as possible during these days of considerable uncertainty. My prayers are with you.

Last month, I wrote about helping each other, as Vincentians, to broaden our concept of community, i.e. our journey together. We also celebrated Independence Day – our nation’s freedom from a foreign sovereignty, not from each other. As we did, it occurred to me that we should be celebrating and strengthening our interdependence as much or more so than independence.

This month, I share thoughts on seeing our journey through a new lens – a new normal. It involves being more mindful and appreciating the “little things” done for us and those we do for others. To be sure, the following are merely thoughts and feelings shared by a Vincentian to other Vincentians. If they cause you to want to respond, whether to agree or otherwise, then, in the spirit of Vincentian friendship, I encourage you to do so.

These are challenging, even painful times. Reports of separation, loneliness, despair, and tragic loss are every day’s lead stories. But, as suggested last month, perhaps those are the labor pains of a “new normal” being born. Perhaps we will better appreciate the gift of every day.

I – Gift Giving

Gifts are a beautiful tradition. Typically, they are given to another to express affection or to recognize a special occasion. They come in all sizes and price points. No matter the cost or sacrifice to the giver, they are presented free of charge to the recipient. The catalyst for gifts is one’s decision to give to another.

Gifts need not be purchased.  Whether we realize it or not, we give and receive various types of special gifts every day. We give gifts of our time and gifts of our efforts. We also give gifts of understanding, compassion, kindness, and love – even when the recipient is not necessarily “deserving” of the gift. What priceless gestures. It is natural and understandable to give gifts to family and those within one’s “community”. But what about all others? They are surely part of God’s community.

Stories are a powerful tool to emotionalize information. In that spirit, I begin by sharing one about a gift.

There once lived a King. His staff announced a huge celebration to honor him. Dignitaries from near and far attended. As the celebration began, a long reception line assembled consisting of dignitaries bearing expensive gifts to give the King. At the end of the line was an elderly man shabbily dressed. It was apparent from his appearance that he was a fisherman. That was rather odd because the sea was at least a several day walk from the King’s palace. When the man arrived at the front of the line, he presented the King with his gift: a sea shell. The King’s guard then said “you come to our King’s celebration and present him with only a sea shell? This is an outrage!” The man responded by saying, “long journey, part of gift.”

II – Keeping Life Precious – Our Gift to God

Humans have an incredible capacity to give. Stories of people’s generosity of heart and willingness to sacrifice abound. They are treasured sources of inspiration. But Life can be a long journey; and one can get worn down by its demands. That can create alienation, cynicism, and despair – not feelings that promote or nurture one’s ability to give.

a) The “Boredom of Daily Routine”  

The renowned author/philosopher, David Foster Wallace, observed that much of our journey consists of the flat out “boredom of daily routine”. Like water is for fish, one could say that our daily routines (and all they involve) are the “waters” in which we typically swim. In his essay, “This Is Water”, Wallace provides several examples of what he means by daily boredom. For example, he challenges us to look at an average work day.

You arise, go to your demanding job, and work hard for a full day. By day’s end, you are exhausted. All you really want to do is to go home, have a nice dinner, and then unwind before heading to bed to get ready for the next work day. But then you realize that you have no food at home (or you are asked to stop by the market on your way home to pick some up). It’s the end of the work day. Traffic is bad. The market is crowded (apparently others are short on food, too). And your shopping cart has a wheel that, as you try to maneuver up and down the aisles, keeps pulling to the left. You think “I don’t need this”!

We can relate; and this is merely one example of the dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless daily routines all of our journeys include. You get the picture. Those moments, those frustrating “interruptions” from what we really prefer doing, force us to decide – numerous times every day – how to respond to them. Do we take umbrage with Life’s routine? Probably, especially if we view things through the lens of “my hunger”, “my time”, “my fatigue”, or even “my desire.” Doing so leads to a mindset of everyone who is not helping me is simply in my way! Think “me v. everybody.” How truly frustrating!

Feelings of frustration and even anger are only exacerbated when a particular day also includes pain, failure, rejection, disagreement, sadness, or even personal loss. Journeys also take unexpected turns as a result of illness, separation, loss of economic stability, and a host of other setbacks.

b) The Gift of Kindness

Yet, there is another, personal choice for dealing with Life’s “daily routine”. Kindness. It begins with a recognition of the precious gift that we have been given: Life. Each day involves fundamental choices we make – intentionally or by default – regarding how to use that gift. Do we allow Life’s inconveniences to “eat us alive” slowly, or do we keep Life precious? At least part of that answer depends upon one’s focus. Are we proceeding through the ofttimes suffocating existence of each, “boring” day assessing whether those with whom you cross paths “deserve” to be treated kindly? Or should our focus instead be on what motivates us? Each of us has so much more control over the latter.

Clearly, choosing to react with kindness to interruptions, distractions, and “unreasonable people” is not easy. Nor is it likely a game changer. But like the sea shell that the fisherman brought from far away, it is a precious gift. Let us be mindful of how we respond to the mundane moments of daily Life.

No matter what our journey has involved or where it has taken us, we have survived. A forty year, five day a week career translates to roughly 10,000 work days. And a life of seventy years is 25,500 days. By any measure, those are long journeys. And think of the countless interactions we have had with others. In our daily routine, each interaction can be an opportunity to grow as a human being. To get to the “next day”, notwithstanding pain, sorrow, and setbacks, we find the strength, courage, and determination to carry on. Gifts of kindness, respect, friendship, courtesy, love, and, when necessary, forgiveness may seem small. But they matter.

Whenever our paths cross, it is with this unspoken backdrop – these long journeys – that we do so. Each interaction is a gift. Each interaction is unique and helps to keep Life precious, especially if we choose to share the gift of kindness not only with family and friends, but with everyone. When a meeting may be inconvenient and “not according to my schedule”, think of the journey each participant took to get there! Our journey is part of the gift we give to others each day. “Long journey, part of gift.”

III – The Gift of Every Day – God’s Gift to Us

We are expected to “grow up” rather than merely to grow old. Think of the number of people in your remarkable life who have helped you along the way to become who you are! Each of your paths has led you to service as a Vincentian. What a noble calling, if one chooses to respond to that calling and serve with true Vincentian spirit.

Life journeys can be long, tiring, and most challenging. Therein lies why the Vincentian core value of friendship is so essential. As we soldier on through Covid-19 and all other impediments along our way back to God, we can choose to remain inwardly focused, or we can choose to live our Vincentian mission. It is not easy. No one ever said that following Jesus Christ is.

God has given us the gift of eternal life. He has also given us the gift of each other. May we feel and choose to practice both types of love each and every day. Indeed, at those inevitable moments of inconvenience – e.g. at the store, in a traffic jam, at the office, or at home – we can choose to focus on our own interests or those of others. It is up to us to decide. Let us be more mindful of those daily choices.

IV – Conclusion

Last month, I suggested that rather than “return to normal” as previously defined, we strive to emerge from this insidious pandemic having created a “new normal” that focuses more on an inclusive sense of community and the needs of others. For the moment, we find ourselves entrenched in an on-going health crisis that is far from over. Through it all, we retain a freedom to choose how to respond to the daily inconveniences, distractions, injustices, and inequities with which our journey confronts us. May we choose to use the transformative powers of kindness and giving to others for the greater glory of God.

It can be a long journey back to God. Along the way, every day provides ample opportunities to grow spiritually in His name. This Covid-19 crisis has multiplied the daily inconveniences and interruptions that confront us. So let us begin now to view them instead as gifts – opportunities to grow in holiness and closer to God. Little gifts can and do make all the difference in our world.

Covid-19 has also instilled uncertainty – even fear – in so many. Let us see the possible and choose to be part of the solution by shedding our fear and giving the gift of hope to each other.

Best wishes. Stay safe. By the way, the King loves sea shells. Pass it on. “Long journey, part of gift.” God bless.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,
Dan

From the CEO – July 2020

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

Dear Sister & Brother Vincentians,

Peace be with you. I hope that you remain safe and are doing as well as possible during this dreadful health crisis. Heartfelt thanks to those who, like our staff, remain active helping others during this quarantining.

I am also deeply grateful that, thanks to a very concerted team effort, our Council – Vincentians and staff alike – continues to serve those in need while adhering to recommended safety protocols. In addition, relative to many other Not-for-Profits, our Council continues to maintain financial stability. That is essential if we are to continue helping others, especially in light of anticipated, increased needs ahead.

Our Leadership Team worked very hard on all aspects of our operation during the three months that our offices were closed. Our entire staff has made extraordinary efforts for the past three weeks as we have safely, carefully, and successfully re-opened operations. I am deeply grateful to all of them for their extraordinary efforts.

1. A New Normal

Naturally, a frequent comment heard lately is “I cannot wait until we return to normal”. While totally understandable, comments like that cause me to wonder what is normal anymore and whether that should even be our goal.

For months, our nation has been staggered by two existential crises: an insidious health pandemic and the resultant economic crisis as well as the killing of an African American man in custody. The death of George Floyd unleashed illuminating light on many other such tragedies that has caused our nation to erupt into a fury of widespread, sustained cries for justice. Troubled times have come to our nation (& world). While it is true that difficult times can bring out the best in people, crises undeniably also surely trigger other, less desirable reactions as well.

In our May 2020 Conference Connection, I addressed the alarming rise in inequality in our nation (and in Southeast Michigan) in regard to health care, education, housing, employment, criminal justice, among many other essential aspects of life. In effect, that situation was part of our “normal” prior to anyone ever having heard of Covid-19. We now know that those unaddressed inequalities left so many, particularly among our African American sisters and brothers, terribly vulnerable to this ferocious virus. And the Covid-19 crisis is far from over.

Covid-19 has inconvenienced all of us. But it has devastated so many. They are our neighbors. They are in need. The question that I ask is “together, what more can our Vincentian community do about this worsening situation? Our humanity depends upon everyone’s humanity.

2. Defining “Community”

We just celebrated Mother’s Day and then Father’s Day. Both are truly wonderful occasions that recognize the immeasurable contributions that parents make as a result of the love, guidance, training, and efforts that they willingly bestow on their beloved children. Families are a cornerstone of our society.

Perhaps the next most critical social group after family is “community”. Unlike family, however, that term lends itself to considerably different definitions. To demonstrate, some define community as only those who live in their neighborhood, look like them, vote like them, and basically share the same religious and socio-economic beliefs. Others have a much broader sense of the term. Some believe that all should be considered part of our community.

When one views another as a fellow member of a community, that person tends to receive the benefit of the doubt, e.g. he/she is “one of us.” Unfortunately, the converse tends to be true as well, e.g. no benefit of the doubt if “he/she is not one of us.” Consequently, how one defines the term community, e.g. narrowly or broadly, is quite critical to one’s willingness to accept differing views and people of different backgrounds.

Consider the following. If we brought together a two year old from the African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Arab American, Native American, Caucasian, and other racial and ethnic “worlds” that comprise our diverse nation, they would have no problem “getting along”. To the extent they had problems, it would surely not be because of racial, religious, or ethnic differences. But if we brought that same richly diverse group back together sixteen years later, a different ambiance would likely exist among the group. That tells me that cultural and partisan differences are acquired traits. Once acquired, they tend to galvanize through constant interaction only with those who share those views, whatever they may be. This can be a terribly destructive disease in a pluralist nation like ours.

Undeniably, within our richly diverse nation, many priceless cultures – “worlds” – exist. But, at the end of the day, we are one nation. For many reasons, we should view our nation as one community. The same holds true for our Society of St. Vincent de Paul, i.e. we are One Society, one community. Both are aspirational visions.

The reality is that, currently, we live in “divided houses.” Cultural differences get emphasized and attitudes harden. Whether liberal or conservative, old or young, or one race or ethnicity or another, it is time to examine and better appreciate the reality that, while divisiveness may work well for some, it is simply contrary to our nation’s and our Vincentian core beliefs. Our charge as Vincentians is to advance our inspirational mission and to adhere to our core values of Friendship, Spiritual Growth, and Service.

We are about to celebrate perhaps our most significant national holiday. It celebrates our experiment in democracy that affords “liberty and justice for all.” All includes those without fathers or mothers. It also includes people of all races, backgrounds, and beliefs. In the inclusive spirit of our nation and our Vincentian Society, we should strive to help each other broaden our sense of community. In that important sense, perhaps community is more a state of mind than a geographic area.

3. Our Vincentian Rule Promotes Inclusion, i.e. a growing community

We belong to an extraordinary global organization founded in 1833 by a remarkable group of students at the University of Paris. Our Vincentian mission calls us to follow Christ and thereby bear witness to His compassion and liberating love. It encourages us to provide any form of personal help to anyone in need, e.g. regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender, or political opinions.

We strive to seek out and find the forgotten, the victims of exclusion or adversity, and the vulnerable. Our Rule expressly encourages us to adapt to changing world conditions and the new types of poverty that may emerge from continual change. We are encouraged to give priority to the poorest of the poor and to those rejected by society. Why?

The gospels reveal that those who tended to follow Jesus were those outside or on the periphery of communities: e.g. the lame, crippled, blind, deaf, prostitutes, and foreigners. Jesus chose to view them as neighbors. He consistently invited rejected people to be part of His community. How truly inspirational.

Vincentians are not clones. Neither are Americans! Each of us is different. Like members of all organizations, our members likely have varying definitions of the term community, some less inclusive than others. Rather than focus on where each finds oneself currently, the real question is where are we heading both individually and as an organization? As we embrace and create the future ahead, let our inspirational mission and Rule serve as our guide.

Our Vincentian Rule clearly encourages us to broaden our definition of community (and help others do the same) through loving service to those in need. We are all on a journey back to God. But we take exquisitely unique paths getting there. Along our path, love is the best gift that can we bestow on one another. Our Vincentian Rule invites us to be part of this solution.

Rather than strive to “return to normal”, therefore, we should assure those excluded that they are welcome in our Vincentian community. We need to bring more goodwill to so many in desperate need of it, including each other. By our actions, we need to say to neighbors in need and to each other, “you are welcome in our inclusive community.”

4. Racism is a pandemic that destroys community

How can the concept of an inclusive community be credibly discussed and celebrated without addressing painful, destructive walls of exclusion that another pandemic has wrought upon our nation? Like the term community, it is apparent that minds differ on how to define the term racism. Notwithstanding how one defines the term, one thing is undeniable: unlike Covid-19, racism has cast darkness, despair, and death upon our nation for centuries. It stands as a major impediment to building and growing community. Unlike what we hope to discover soon for Covid-19, there is no vaccine to cure racism.

Racism has been roundly condemned by our Vincentian organization at every level. We have rejected it as being a “cancer that corrodes our society”, i.e . our sense of community as contemplated by our Rule. Part of the eventual solution mandates that we listen. Particularly in light of the recent, shocking tragedies, I have committed to doing so; and I urge you to do the same. Numerous, powerful African American voices are speaking out. I reference just one herein.

NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently shared that “racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible – even if you are choking on it – until you let the sun in. Then you see it everywhere.” Systemic racism is a shameful yoke that weighs heavily upon our nation’s soul. We should all listen and reflect when our African American sisters and brothers share their experiences. For a host of reasons, racism is totally irreconcilable with our faith and our Vincentian values.

Listening, while essential, is only a first step. As a Dutch proverb says, “between saying and doing one often wears out a good pair of shoes.” We need to “walk the talk” and follow up with intelligent, impactful action by reaffirming our commitment to serve the excluded, the needy, the voiceless, and all those who suffer hateful discrimination based upon the color of skin.

Recently, our national Voice of the Poor committee hosted three webinars on systemic racism. They served as an example of how our Society can convert listening into action. I urge you to take the time and listen to them (see link below). Doing so would be a necessary “next step” to creating a future consistent with our faith and our Vincentian values. As we do, let us be ever mindful that so many of our African American brothers and sisters continue to endure the heavy burden of unjust, unequal, and abusive treatment. Racial prejudice – illegal discrimination of any kind – should have no place in our nation. It should not be welcome or tolerated in our Vincentian society, either.

Click Here:  Webinar:  SVdP Voice of the Poor – Systemic Racism 

Our Council is exploring impactful ways to convert our talking on this important topic into  “walking”. This may include education, advocacy, recruitment, and encouraging voting. We need to (and will) walk the talk. Please share any additional suggestions that you may have.

This message, of course, is not new. In fact, striving for racial justice seems more like a marathon than a sprint. But it is a struggle that should be sustained and won.  In that regard, fifty-two years ago, Senator Robert Kennedy had this to say the day after Dr. King’s assassination. He was comparing a sudden, savage murder to a slower, more agonizing destruction. Given the profundity of his comments, I share the following, rather long, quote.

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

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

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

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

Senator Kennedy’s profound and powerful words still resonate today.

5. Conclusion

We may never return to the “normal” we knew before even hearing of Covid-19. But that may not be necessarily bad. These are days of unprecedented challenge. They may also be days of unprecedented change. The future has not yet been written.

St. Ignatius believed that every experience, good and bad, has the potential to motivate within us a deeper response to God and to one another. During these most challenging times, let us focus on helping transform our incredible nation into a community that is less destructive, more peaceful, and more inclusive. Choosing to do so is precisely the essence of our faith and of our Society. Fr. Matt Malone, S.J. recently observed, “This is our faith. . . . It is the faith of an Easter people; a people who recognize that Good Friday contains the seeds that bloom on Easter Sunday.”

Clearly, some see ominous darkness, uncertainty, and fear during these unsettling days.  Let us feel the spirit of optimism that, as we draw closer to Christ through loving service to others, it will no longer be us who loves, but Christ who loves through us.

Let us also see the possible and work together toward “what can be.” Perhaps at its most basic, let us commit to helping each other to broaden our definition of “community” and thereby become in our hearts “brother, sisters, and countrymen once again.”

As all who have eyes can see, something is dying. But perhaps something is being born as well.  Valarie Kaur, an attorney and filmmaker, recently put it this way, “what if the darkness we see around us is not that of a tomb, but of a womb?” Our noble struggle continues.

In the true spirit of community and the “self-evident propositions” upon which our richly diverse nation is founded, I extend you, your families, and all those you love a healthy and Happy Fourth of July! Stay safe. Please continue to practice both social distancing and emotional closeness. God bless.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Dan

From the CEO – June 2020

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

Dear Sister & Brother Vincentians,

Peace be with you. I hope that you continue to stay safe and healthy during this on-going, unprecedented health crisis. Our Council has surely faced crisis before, but nothing quite like this. Globally, Covid-19 has crushed For Profit and Not-for-Profit organizations alike. Other than Amazon, Google, Facebook, and a seeming handful of others, virtually every company and organization has suffered stunning financial losses; and this crisis is far from over.

Relatively speaking, thanks to the incredible, collective efforts of our Leadership Team, SVdPD has come through this pandemic – so far – in remarkably good shape. Returning to some semblance of “normalcy” will require an overall team effort of our staff and Vincentians alike. It is in that spirit that I share the following about our Districts, Conferences, and Retail operations. Please note that what I share herein is the result of proactive planning by several members of our Leadership Team. At the same time, I have emphasized to our team the necessity of remaining “nimble”, i.e. we may need to shift direction on a dime. So what is shared herein is clearly subject to change, perhaps significant change.

Lots of questions remain to be answered. Lots of uncertainty lies ahead for our nation and for our Council. In a sense, it is like our nation is awakening from a self-induced, economic coma. It would be difficult enough if we had a comprehensive, holistic plan for returning to normal. But we do not. Instead, we seem to be embracing the future in a very decentralized, patchwork manner. So it places additional stress on small organizations like ours to improvise. Our best bet for creating a future for our Council that we can be proud of, therefore, is by working together in friendship and with a common goal of advancing our Society’s mission.

1.  Covid-19 Emergency Aid to Districts & Conferences

In light of the various unforeseen circumstances related to the COVID-19 national emergency, it is anticipated that the needs of our neighbors will increase significantly in the coming months. In an effort to help position our Districts and Conferences, the Detroit Council and the Board provided each District substantial funding to address the increased need created by this crisis. These funds are to be used specifically towards this effort. In return, each District has been asked only to submit a cursory report on how the funds were used.

Funds from three different sources were combined to provide our Districts and Conferences much needed additional financial wherewithal to meet the growing needs of our neighbors. Funds were distributed to Districts on an equal basis. No administrative fees were deducted. These funds will not be subject to solidarity consideration, either.

These are difficult times. But difficult times can bring out the very best in people. Every day presents opportunities to “be there” for others. During these challenging days, let us choose to focus on that which sustains us. Indeed, Frederic Ozanam reminded that, “Scripture tells us that we will be judged, as a society and as individuals, by how we care for the poor, the vulnerable, the orphans, the elderly, or those in need of spiritual or physical aid.” Let us create paths based upon grace, compassion, and service.

2.  Guiding Principles

For the past ten weeks, our reduced staff has worked “remotely” pursuant to the following, clearly communicated guidelines.

First, SVdPD employee and Vincentian safety is paramount. Many of our staff and Vincentians are in the high vulnerable category. We have made all discretionary decisions in light of that reality.

Second, SVdPD and each of its employees has a civic duty to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. We fully intend to follow the directives of Governor Whitmer and all other relevant government directives.

Third, during this pandemic crisis, absent a compelling reason, our Council will focus on existing programs only.

Finally, our Leadership Team will do its collective best to make the best business decisions possible for our Council.

So far, so good.  But this crisis is far from over.

3.    Future Plans for Retail Operations

The overall plan for re-opening our stores and RRC safely and effectively requires “flexible scheduling”. Preparation will be completed pursuant to phases. The overriding goal of these considerable efforts is to give our staff, our Vincentians, and our customers as much “peace of mind” that we can give in light of these very unsettling circumstances, many of which are outside of our control. Here is just a sampling.

Phase I calls for progress being made on several parallel tracks. For example, defining, and documenting a SVdPD Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan for the entire organization. For the retail operations, it naturally includes thorough store and vehicle cleaning and disinfecting, and working to prepare appropriate PPE and signage aimed at keeping employees and customers safe.

The plan includes having adequate supplies, arranging for the return of furloughed store employees, compiling daily reports and checklists, installing safety equipment, e.g. plexiglass shields for counters, and creating plans for controlling store traffic as well as schedules for periodic cleaning and disinfecting.

In regard to our RRC operation, we have planned carefully on how best to prepare for what we anticipate will be a tremendous outpouring of clothes and furniture donations. This has included, among other things, training a Donations Coordinator, setting up telephone banks to handle and coordinate donations, researching the salvage market for reliable vendors who will help increase our revenues through baling, and establishing a proactive cleaning schedule for both our warehouse and our fleet of trucks.

Phase II includes continued store preparation and cleaning, especially as more furloughed colleagues return, as well as hanging signage in our stores that outlines our new rules for the visiting public. At the same time, the RRC operation will shift into high gear. Donation bins throughout the Archdiocese will be cleaned up, a new telephone bank will be fully operational to handle the increase in calls for donation pick up, drivers will be trained on newly developed strategies and routes, and the entire RRC team will be back and functioning. Of particular note, it will also include a concerted marketing campaign as a follow up to our “Wait to Donate” donations campaign. We expect that our Vincentians and the public will respond enthusiastically!

Phase III will begin on Monday, June 8, 2020. Subject to any further directive from Governor Whitmer, our stores will officially open, albeit on a limited basis, e.g. limited hours, no more than ten customers in the store at one time. All PPE, e.g. masks, gloves, sanitizer, social distancing, etc. will be utilized. We will accommodate “curbside” donation drop-offs, and staff will begin officially processing donations in all stores.

All of the above is consistent with the aforementioned guidelines. It is all aimed at giving staff, Vincentians, and the public as much peace of mind about our stores as reasonably possible.

4. What Can Vincentians Do To Help?

Great question! Here are some thoughts regarding how Vincentians can help support our retail operations during these unprecedented times.

Volunteer!  While we understand these are uncertain times, your support and willingness to volunteer in our store locations is needed now more than ever. The store teams will be overextended with the additional daily tasks created by the new COVID-19 safety standards.  Here are a few ways you can assist.  Rest assured, PPE supplies such as masks and gloves will be provided:

  • Assist with greeting customers and monitoring the flow to ensure not more than 10 are in the store at one time
  • Assist with directing cars to the curbside donation drop off areas
  • Assist with additional light cleaning and sanitizing efforts (i.e cart sanitation, floors, high traffic areas etc.)
  • Assist with donation collection and processing; and
  • Coordinate with Debbie Jackson to be “on call” when a store in your neighborhood needs help.

Additional ways to assist include:

  • Advocate for, and promote “Bundle Sundays” or other sponsored donation drives;
  • Donate! We need all the product that we can get. To do that, we need your help and your Conference’s help; and
  • Pray! Pray for all adversely affected by this pandemic.

Thank you for your anticipated assistance.

5. Conclusion

Clearly, we remain firmly in the midst of this crisis. Our road to re-opening and returning to “normal” will be a slow, iterative process. Frankly, we do not know what lies ahead. How long will it take to reclaim our customers? Will there be a second wave, and if so, what will that mean for our Council? So we move forward into an unknown future. But, as briefly described herein, we do so with a prepared and talented team ready to embrace whatever lies ahead. We urge you to choose to become an active member of that team in some meaningful way.

I am very proud of my entire Leadership Team. They have worked extremely hard and stayed laser-focused on our mission during this crisis under less than optimum conditions. We are also very proud of what has happened at many of our stores during this shutdown, especially our Utica store. Please make a point, once restrictions are lifted, to visit (and support) your local SVdPD store.

Best wishes on all ahead. In true Vincentian spirit, let us help one another get through this crisis one day at a time. As we do, may we see each day as an opportunity to help others in need. Please stay safe. God bless you, your family, and all those you love.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Dan

From the CEO – February 2020

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

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians:

Peace be with you.  Last year was another incredibly busy and successful year! Before setting sights on 2020, which, if we pull together, promises to be an even better year, I offer the following review of SVdPD 2019.

First and foremost, our Council is stronger and much more stable than it has been in quite some time.  Among many other things, in 2019 together we have:

  • In less than two years, eliminated a significant operating debt entirely, and after several years in the red, finished in the black;
  • Reorganized and strengthened our leadership team;
  • Held several successful annual events;
  • Successfully completed an independent audit;
  • Successfully completed the state EAP application process and received 100% of the requested amount;
  • Increased annual fund donations by 9.2%; and
  • As a Council, continue to stabilize and advance our inspirational Vincentian mission by offering rewarding, spiritual-based programs and promoting our core value of friendship along the way.
  • It’s been a tremendous TEAM effort!

OVERVIEW OF 2019 ACTIVITIES

Conference Support 

Conference Formation

    • A total of 16 training programs offered and 332 Vincentians participated.
    • 6 Invitation to Serve presentations.
    • 100% of the Conferences turn in their Annual Report.

Conference Support Events

    • 2019 Annual Meeting
    • Evening of Reflection (Fr. Steve Hurd, S.J.)
    • Feast Day – welcomed new Council servant leaders
    • Top Hat Vincentian Awards Banquet

Friends Walk

  • Over 600 people participated in the walk
  • Raised over $93,000.

Development & Marketing

  • In addition to an increase of 9.2% to our Annual Fund, we also received a very generous bequest during FY 2019.  Pursuant to an approved board resolution, these funds were promptly placed in a board restricted bank account.  As outlined in the resolution, they are currently unallocated pending determination by the BOD’s direction on the disposition of these funds.
  • We welcomed new members to the Foundation Board and thereby strengthened it.
  • Under the guidance of our marketing consultant, Scott Bettinger and his team at Echo Media, we continued our See the Possible marketing and branding campaign to increase awareness of our Detroit Council:
    • New building signage identifying the Central Office on Gratiot;
    • New Council highlight videos (General, Home Visit & Camp);
    • Ave Maria Radio Spots;
    • Billboard Campaign;
    • Speaking Opportunities to community and civic groups;
    • Weekly Wrap Up – internal e-letter aimed at raising communication among SVdPD staff and others;
    • Conference Connection – monthly column (all issues are posted on our website)
    • Thanks so much for the great feedback from Vincentians who chose to provide it!  

Events

  • Inaugural Top Hat Ball (October 12th)
    • spectacular success (for a first time event)
    • 450 attended at TCF Center (f/k/a Cobo Hall)
    • Perfect venue for our first such effort
    • Save the Date – Top Hat II
    • Friday, October 2, 2020 at the Fillmore Theater
  • SVdP International President’s Visit (June)
    • President  Renato Lima de Oliviera
    • First ever  visit to our Detroit Council by a sitting SVDP International President
  • Inaugural Young Professionals Event
    • Successful effort to attract more young people to support our mission and Council .
    • More planned for 2020.
  • SVdPD Staff Christmas Brunch – according to Patrick Adamcik, a most dedicated member at SVdPD for 47 years, “first such celebratory gathering where all staff were able to attend together.”  It was a wonderful morning of friendship.  

Human Resources

  • Continued to improve the Human Resources efforts of our Central Office in partnership with Kate Fogg and the team at America’s Back Office (ABO); worked through several transitions;
  • Reorganized and added new members to our Leadership Team:
    • Kristen Bolds, MEAP Program Director
    • Tom Butler, Director of Finance
    • Debbie Jackson, Director of Conference Support
    • Keith Koppmeier, Director of Development
    • Mary Torok, Director of Operations & Administration
    • Megan Williams, Director of Retail Operations
  • Welcomed new AOD board leadership & advisory committees:
    • AOD Board President, Nancy Szlezyngier
    • AOD Spiritual Advisor, Bishop Donald Hanchon
    • Finance Committee
    • Real Estate Advisory Team;
    • Strategic Plan Committee 

Camps

  • Sent 490 children to camp in Summer 2019.
  • Successfully negotiated a one-year extension of our 12 year Management Agreement with CYO.
  • Formed a Camp Endowment Leadership Team in preparation for our 100th Anniversary.

Stores/Resource Recovery Center (RRC)

  • 100% committed to our stores.  We understand they are a critical resource for our Vincentians & conferences in their efforts to assist our neighbors in need.
  • But, as a business, we need to take an holistic approach to our stores operation.
  • Have begun initiatives to rebrand and enhance our overall stores operation, including:
    • Kaizen events at Dixie, Utica and Madison Heights;
    • Resurfaced Dixie Hwy Store parking lot ;
    • Loss Prevention Review;
    • RRC – Expanded Space for Processing Center ;
    • Store Closings – Grand River, West Bloomfield & Lincoln Park;
    • New Lincoln Park Store Opening (4089 Dix Hwy) – Spring 2020;
    • We continue to proactively explore options for new stores close in proximity to those that were closed.  
    • We encourage all Vincentians to visit our stores and volunteer! 

Conclusion

FY2020 has started strong!  We are optimistic about our future, especially if we embrace what lies ahead with friendship and support of one another. 

In conclusion, I reference our inaugural Top Hat Ball’s  very special guest and keynote speaker,

Cardinal Joseph Tobin – an incredible human being and a fellow Vincentian!

Cardinal Tobin ended his truly inspirational Top Hat speech by referring to AOD Vincentians as the “Saints of Motown.”

Heartfelt thanks to each of you, Saints of Motown!!! Let’s embrace the opportunities and challenges that 2020 offers together and let us remain razor-focused on our mission.

God bless.
Dan

From the CEO – January 2020

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

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians:

Peace be with you. I sincerely hope that you had a safe, healthy, enjoyable, and blessed Christmas holiday.

Welcome to a new year! Our Council made great strides in 2019 thanks to a team effort. I am most grateful to all Vincentians, staff, consultants, and others who contributed in their own way to the betterment of our Council and to the tens of thousands of neighbors in need that we served in some meaningful way. We are well positioned to make 2020 even better! Doing so will take a sustained team effort and a laser-like focus on our inspirational mission and Rule.

Our staff met or exceeded expectations this past year. Heartfelt thanks to each of them for their effort, the professional respect they exhibited to one other, and, above all, their commitment to our mission. Our team comes from different backgrounds. Each has strengths. Each has weaknesses. Each dedicates every work day to helping those we serve and each other. Thank you, staff, for staying focused. Doing so allows each of us to work in conjunction with our Vincentians and with many others to advance the inspirational teachings of St. Vincent de Paul, Frederic Ozanam, Rosalie Rendu, and others.

I. Our Challenge – Where We Find Ourselves

We, of course, live “locally”. But thanks to relentless social media, among other things, we are exposed virtually instantly to developments “globally”. Such exposure informs, entertains, and perhaps most significantly, persuades. This daily deluge can (and does) powerfully shape image making and public opinion. It allows us to stay current on business and social events. But it also exposes us to philosophical partisanship. Whereas once we had only “broadcasting”, e.g. NBC, ABC, CBS, we now have “narrowcasting”, e.g. channels aimed at a more targeted audience. An important question, therefore, is from what source does one obtains his or her “news”.

More and more, people seem to be defining themselves by identity — gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and social class – and less by even traditional political identity. People on the “other side” of one’s personal divide seem more than just “wrong”. Moreover, many critical issues in this regard do not lend themselves to compromise as readily as more traditional political issues do, e.g. raise or lower taxes.  And select use of the internet allows one to find social media sources that reinforce, even galvanize, preconceived notions. That makes for a landscape that focuses more on differences than commonalities.

In light of this potentially volatile backdrop, the service we provide our neighbors and the friendship we provide each other is more important than ever.

As for 2020, I have no particular insights or answers. Instead, as a lay Vincentian and in the spirit of friendship, I humbly offer fellow Vincentians, staff, and all others the following two New Year resolutions as we prepare to embrace the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Both are essential to remaining faithful to our Society’s mission.

II. Resolution # 1 – Following Our Inspirational Rule More Closely

SVdPD has served those in need for 135 years. During that time, our Council has had good years and bad. Through it all, our Rule has guided us. Like any organization, some know the Rule better than others. It is a brilliant document. We should incorporate it more into our daily activities. Here are just three examples. I list the title to each sub-rule; and then, as a Vincentian, I briefly share what the sub-section means to me.

You may well have a different interpretation of a particular rule. If so, great! I would welcome hearing from you. Our ensuing discussion(s) would likely be an opportunity for me to grow spiritually.

Rule 1.2 The Vincentian Vocation

Vincentians are on a journey together. Each commits to following Christ through service in hope to those in need and friendship toward each other. This includes everyone in need, e.g. neighbors, fellow staff, fellow Vincentians, fellow human beings. By doing so, they bear witness to the compassionate and liberating love of Jesus.

By express rule, we do not judge those we serve. Literally, our rule challenges us to be on a mission from God, e.g. His servant. Nowhere in gospels did Jesus say, “I’d cure you, but you have not earned it.” Likewise, we should not say, “I’d help you, but somehow you are not what I think you should be, i.e. you are not worth it.” All Jesus said in that regard was “believe in me.” We should view those in need similarly. By doing so, may we thereby become a channel for grace.

Rule 1.6  Adaptation to a Changing World

This rule provides that our Society should constantly strive for renewal and embrace changing world conditions. It further provides that we give priority to the poor and to those most rejected by society. Who are those most rejected by society?

People generally rue change. But our Rule urges us to strive constantly to adapt to changing world conditions. New types of poverty are appearing; and we should do what we can to help. As previously shared, U.S. Census data indicates that the “economic gap” between the Haves and the Have Nots has never been wider than it was in 2019 in the 75 years that such data has been gathered. We should not sit by idly as our nation’s War on Poverty slowly becomes a “War on the Poor”.

Adaptation is hardly limited to issues of poverty. Indeed, our Nation and our Church, among others, are deeply and proactively engaged in robust discussions that will surely have profound ramifications. For example, in regard to our Church, Fr. Richard Rohr shines inspirational light on the reality that, for almost two thousand years, preaching and interpretation of Scripture was from “the perspective of power, primarily European, educated, quite comfortable, . . . ” From that perspective, he then wonders how the essential voices of women, those with “disabilities”, people of color, and others will enhance these on-going discussions. These are essential voices that deserve to be heard and respected in a crucial on-going dialogue both our Church and Society are having. Pursuant to our Rule 1.6, we should strive to facilitate constructive discussions on this type of adaptation as well.

I am also very excited about a new program proposal that our Council may launch soon. It will be aimed at empowering our Districts and Conferences to better adapt and respond to the needs of those they serve. Details to follow!

Rule 1.8  Reverence for the Poor 

I have referenced this Rule previously and stated that Vincentians should strive to see the face of Jesus in those we serve. That could be construed as the loving face of the teaching Jesus, or the healing Jesus – e.g. kind, compassionate, assuring. But Rule 1.8 provides that Vincentians should see the “suffering Christ” in the poor. Suffering has many dimensions, e.g. economic, spiritual, social, and personal. May we strive to see the perceived “flaws” in others as opportunities to adhere more closely to this most inspirational rule.

Each of us would like to think that we would have “helped” the suffering Christ as He painfully made His way along the road to Calvary. In our everyday world, do we see people “suffering”? Choose to help by choosing to change within yourself and see the suffering Christ in those in need.

III. Resolution # 2 – Strengthening Our Commitment to Friendship  

Our Rule sets a high bar to meet, let alone sustain. Service can be exhausting, thankless, and frustrating. Each of us needs at least an occasional “spirit lift.” Herein lies why friendship should serve as our collective and personal bridge between two of our Society’s core values: spiritual growth and service.

Friendship is our Society’s third core value. It applies to every Vincentian, every staff member, and everyone with whom we interact. How often do we say (or think) “if only that person would… “ Friendship involves compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. Choosing to act otherwise, e.g. judgmental, resentment, divisive cliques, is simply contrary to the letter and the spirit expressly set forth in our Vincentian Rule. Especially these days, we tend to see or hear things and focus on what is “wrong” with it. According to Dewitt Jones, “the lens we choose transforms the way we look at things. By celebrating what’s right with the world, we find the energy to fix what is wrong.” Choose to celebrate what’s right with fellow Vincentians, SVdPD staff, colleagues, families, neighbors we serve, and the world.

Gaudete Sunday’s gospel spoke of John the Baptist who was imprisoned shortly before his death. While there, he sends a disciple to ask Jesus whether He, in fact, is the chosen one. Imagine that: the fellow who actually conversed with and baptized Jesus and who Jesus then described as “none greater among those born to women than John the Baptist” wrestled with doubts, too!!! Blessed struggle! He saw and yet he doubted. But so, too, was his sustained journey to God and eternal joy blessed. He believed so that he could see. In this critical respect, it is not the destination (or absence of doubt) that matters. Instead, it is the journey, our Vincentian journey. Are there doubts along the way? You bet! That is why friendship can be invaluable in those inevitable moments of doubt, no matter the cause. What a priceless gift to bestow on another in need. Choose to do so!

There is a movie currently at theaters about Mr. Rogers entitled “It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. Rather than see flaws in others, e.g. “if only . . . “, Fred Rogers constantly told those with whom he interacted, “I like you just the way you are.” He was also so proactively inquisitive about others with whom he came in contact. Stated simply, he genuinely cared about other people. His freely shared message for others simply, profoundly, and beautifully embodies the essence and spirit of our Vincentian core value.

I admire how many within our ranks have worked hard to preserve and nurture friendships. Mutual respect allows one to transcend the pain that keeps so many sealed off because of “partisanship”. Let us choose to embrace what lies ahead together and in friendship.

Even if 2019 witnessed an event or words that one wished hadn’t happened or been spoken, seize the opportunity to forgive. Your choosing to do so will be consistent with our Rule; and you’ll be glad you did. Build bridges, not walls. By helping others in need, including fellow Vincentians, staff, and me, each of us will be making the transition from pushing ourselves to be the best in the world to allowing ourselves to be “the best for the world.”

IV. Conclusion

Ready or not, here comes 2020! It will be in the best interests of those we serve – and each other – if we choose to adopt a more loving, supportive, and deliberate attitude as we negotiate what lies ahead. Thank you for your anticipated agreement and cooperation with that basic, self-evident proposition. One way or another, I do believe that, if we commit to these two, profoundly simple resolutions, we will help one another along the right path to God and to the land of grace. May we help each other choose to serve God by better serving those in need and each other.

The future has not yet been written. In the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul and others, Pope Francis has consistently promoted the call for our Church to “go to the margins” and proactively minister to those neglected or even rejected by Society. That’s our Vincentian challenge. That’s our Vincentian mission. Together, we can take the ordinary that each workday can be, and see how we can make it extraordinary.

Happy New Year! I hope to see you at our Annual Meeting on January 19, 2020. God bless you, your family, and all those you love.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Dan

From the CEO – April 2019

From the CEO – April 2019 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians:

Peace be with you. I hope that you and your family have made it successfully through yet another Michigan Winter. This year’s was particularly harsh. May the cold weather soon be behind us. Welcome to Spring!

We find ourselves well into the Lenten season, a period of preparation that is meant to remind us of Jesus’ forty days in the desert. But, especially in light of the truly disturbing backdrop of recent events, our challenge is to quiet ourselves and prepare to visit with God through prayer, repentance of sins, and reflection.

Last month, I spoke of gospels that addressed the challenges we face when dealing with both “neighbors” and “enemies”. It reflected upon our “external” struggle (i.e. how we choose to deal with others). That challenge involves the interplay between God’s two greatest commandments – love of God and love of neighbor.

This month’s column offers thoughts on prayer and then offers three reflections that may help to cope with powerful “internal” struggles (i.e. how we choose to deal with ourselves) that all of us wrestle with. Those struggles are depicted in a recent, well-known gospel that deals with temptation.

Like last month’s, the topic of temptation is particularly fitting for Lenten reflection. I share the following comments in the spirit of promoting continued growth in our core Vincentian values of spirituality and friendship. I do not have answers or even any particularly keen insights. As a fellow lay person, however, it is my hope that these comments cause you to think on things. If a thought or two helps you prepare for Easter just as you help me, even better.

1. Lent – Prayer – In the Name of the Father

Lent can be just another forty days in our march through yet another year. Lent can also be a time that invites us through prayer and reflection to come to terms with the human condition. If we choose to accept the invitation, Lenten prayer and reflection can bring our need for a Savior into better focus. It is a time to open the doors of our hearts a little wider and understand our Lord a little deeper. If we do, then when Good Friday and eventually Easter come, it is not just another day at church but an opportunity to receive the overflowing graces God has to offer.

Lent allows us to pause and examine our imperfections, whatever they may be, and return to the God who, through our shortcomings, we may have disappointed (or disregarded) time and again. Lent should not stop at sadness and despair, however. Rather, it should guide us to the hope of the Resurrection that Easter Sunday reminds us of annually. Prayer helps us to re-orient ourselves in a world filled with distractions and temptations.

Prayer can consist of beautiful recitations that we learn at an early age at our parents’ knee. “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.” It can also be more extemporaneous. “Good and gracious God, we feel your love and presence as we gather in your name.” It can and should also be much more inclusive. For example, any act of love, charity, mercy, or forgiveness is a meaningful kind of prayer. So, too, are daily activities undertaken in God’s name. It is not easy. But dedicating oneself to act with love in God’s honor can develop a mindset that helps one to stay the course when Life’s storm of temptations come as they surely will. As importantly, helping others do the same through daily personal choices of how one chooses to treat others is the best way, perhaps the only way, to stay focused on what really matters. Prayer can be anything thought, said, or done to evangelize the name of Jesus Christ.

In a real sense, our lives are a long, winding, complex, interrupted, joyous, sorrowful, evolving, and ofttimes messy prayer. “Prayer” should be a LOT more than prescribed words. Prayer should not be compartmentalized.

Lord, notwithstanding our world’s chaotic state, let us, in your name, commit to helping one another take a more prayerful approach to our daily lives and decisions. Let us also aspire to see one another in a more compassionate, forgiving light – just as Jesus surely sees us – each and every time another “falls short.” No matter how many times we or another falls, let our focus be on getting up or helping her/him up rather than criticizing the fall. Let us not be the “morals police.” Let us instead love thy neighbor as you love us. Amen.

2. Lent – Reflection I – Matthew’s Gospel (29:25) – “The rich get richer” – Who Is your Annie?

On February 27th, Fr. Steve Hurd, S.J. from Manresa Retreat House, graciously served as the keynote speaker at our Evening of Reflection. As those who attended know, he gave a masterful presentation. Because so many were not able to attend, I briefly reference two of his main points.

Fr. Hurd first referenced the gospel of Matthew, “the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer”. How can that be? Fr. Hurd then brilliantly questioned “what currency is one using” when making that inquiry. Money? Or love? When it is love, the passage makes incredible sense. It reminds one of another passage, typically used at wedding ceremonies, where St. Paul teaches the Corinthians that “Love is patient, love is kind. . . . So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love begets more love.

This kind of love is difficult to experience, much less sustain. It needs to be nourished – reinforced – by the grace of God. In another sense, St. Paul describes this kind of love so that we may recognize and embrace it when it enters our lives.

Fr. Hurd then shared an example of this kind of selfless love. He spoke eloquently and candidly about a personal experience he had while serving on a Native American reservation in the Dakotas. He had agreed to tutor a struggling young lady, “Annie”, who was determined to obtain her high school equivalency degree. By all measures, Annie was a person of very limited economic means. In effect, she was a neighbor in need.

A few weeks into the tutoring, Annie asked Fr. Hurd if he would counsel her not only on her education, but on how to adopt a child as well. After all, Annie reasoned, since she had so much, it was only fitting that she help another in need. For Fr. Hurd, the poignant moment was yet another inspirational reminder of what he knew and what he had witnessed time and time again: one’s capacity to give – to love as St. Paul described – is a personal choice.

How often do we view our “neighbors in need” as less likely, perhaps even incapable, of helping others? To be sure, Vincentians serve. But, as we do, let us remain open to the possibility that we are the person in need. In that regard, who is your Annie?

3.  Lent – Reflection II – Luke’s Gospel (4: 1-13) – Forty Days in the Desert

Luke’s gospel of Jesus being tempted in the desert is an incredibly personal one. It begins with the Spirit leading Jesus into the desert where Jesus stayed without nourishment for forty days. While it mentions the temple, it does not involve or even make reference to any other person. Rather, it depicts a conversation, a personal encounter between Jesus the man, struggling, worn down, and unnourished (i.e. vulnerable), and Satan. In that sense, this gospel could depict Jesus having a dream or reflection in a quiet moment. As we know, Satan tempts Jesus three times; and, each time, Jesus thwarts the temptations. Herein lies the “internal” aspect of this gospel. How often, especially when we feel vulnerable, do we experience the same internal struggle with temptations?

Practically speaking, when, in the solitude of our mind or heart, temptation comes calling, its allure can be irresistible. Its daily influence involves issues like personal advancement, e.g. greed, jealousy, hurtful rumors, revenge, bullying, hate, etc. v. selfless love of others. Our responses at these crossroads become “ambiguous.” If we use a “I am the center of the universe internal analysis”, there may seemingly always be “justification” for one’s actions as cruel or insensitive as they may be. To further complicate things, one’s past, particularly events that caused trauma and left scars, can arrive without invite and can add fiery spice to the decision-making process. It is in this collective sense that I use the term temptation as being anything that can distract us from living God’s will. Therein lies what should be the real topic of Lenten reflection.

A second, far more prevalent and nefarious internal barrier exists that stifles inclusion and acceptance of others, even accepting ourselves. It is a characteristic common to every human being: vulnerabilities. That can involve literally anything – real or perceived – that causes us to feel inadequate, insecure, or filled with doubt. They are temptations, too. Vulnerabilities contribute immeasurably to the complexities of the human condition. In our incredibly diverse world, the greatest commonality we share is vulnerability. How we choose to deal with them can be life changing.

Accepting “vulnerabilities” – in ourselves and others – miraculously converts crises into opportunities to grow. When we accept our own flaws, we tend to see others through more compassionate and forgiving eyes.

As we move along our “forty days of Lent”, let us reflect upon our discomforts with neighbors who are “different” and, perhaps more so, our unease with our own temptations and vulnerabilities, whatever they may be. As we do, let us realize that embracing them allows us to grow spiritually. Rather than rue our shortcomings, therefore, let us thank God for the miracle of imperfections!

As the classic poem, Desiderata, reminds, “. . . with all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

4.  Lent – Reflection III – “Thy” will v. My will (i.e. temptations)

Let us pause and reflect upon the true nature of our “internal” struggle. How often have we recited the Lord’s Prayer? In it, we say, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done”. God’s will, not ours. Is it between God and “Satan”? Or is it more akin to Thy will v. My will? Each of us is surely capable of acting “God-like” (e.g. loving others) and “Un-God-like” (i.e. you get the picture). Temptations, vulnerabilities, and ghosts from one’s past can create turbulent internal storms that make it truly difficult to be God-like to others.

Whose will do you aspire to? Clearly, what God teaches us to do and what we want to do is ofttimes sympatico. When a “conflict” arises, however, how often do we choose “my will”? “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” That is what we ask for each and every time we recite the Lord’s Prayer.

By design, humans are flawed. Especially in a society like ours that constantly bombards us with concepts of perfection (e.g. beauty, wealth, femininity, masculinity, success, even happiness), the harsh impact of imperfections and self-critical analysis can be depressing, even devastating. None of us measures up. So our willingness to see ourselves and others “as is”, flaws and all, is how God enters our lives, our world.

When we let shortcomings control our behavior, we tend to focus on our shortcomings and frailties. Let us choose instead to focus on the boundless power of God. When we live and act in His name, anything becomes possible. Choosing to do so will help make compassion contagious. “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”

5. Conclusion

Lenten tradition calls for “giving up” something. But think about what “giving” could create. To be sure, every nod, every smile, every interaction can change the course of someone else’s day. We wield that influence in either a positive or negative way. Choose to empower others. It may be the most important act of kindness you can extend to another; and it is free. How can one do so? Stated simply, just as Jesus did, use love as your currency. If necessary, use it first during Lent and then all year round. And remain open to “finding your Annie”.

Asnat Greenberg believes that empowering another means stifling the temptations of gratuitously criticizing, judging, being mean or cynical, and curbing one’s ego. Instead, one should smile at others, praise them, acknowledge them, thank them, and wish them a good day. Simply stated, the choice to empower others makes our world a better place. It may also make each of us happier, better people.

Secondly, God does not give up on us because we have flaws. If so, He’d give up on everyone! He loves us because of our flaws! Thy will, not my will. The gospel tells us that the Spirit led Jesus into his desert – just as the Spirit leads us into our personal deserts of temptations, vulnerabilities, and nightmares from the past. Our challenge is not to avoid them as much as to deal with them through conscience formation, e.g. acknowledge, repent, forgive, love. Then and only then can the barren fig tree bear fruit. Just as Jesus forgives us, so too should we strive to forgive others. Indeed, formation comes with the mindfulness of our flaws together with a humility and determination to do something about them.

The future has not yet been written!

Finally, we live in a world uncomfortable in its own skin. We have suffered through so many horrific massacres, the latest in New Zealand. God have mercy on all of the poor victims and survivors of such senseless tragedies. Our Church and government have been rocked with scandals. And, for several reasons, during the last two decades, our U.S. Catholic Church has suffered its most dramatic exodus, particularly among millennials. We surely must make time for prayer. Prayer needs to include not only quiet, personal reflection, but also proactive evangelization (i.e. we must live the Good Word of the Gospels).

Finding your “Annie”, committing to Thy will be done, empowering others, making time to pray, and “fostering a hope (for others) that will shine more clearly” – sounds like a perfect combination to prepare for our most holy day of the year.

Let us go and serve the Lord by serving all who we meet. God bless.

From the CEO – March 2019

From the CEO – March 2019 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

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

From the CEO – February 2019

From the CEO – February 2019 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Why Have One?

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

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

2. Who Is Involved?

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

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

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

3. How Will It Proceed?

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

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

B. Potential Impediments

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

1. Being Judgmental – Rule 1.9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Lack of Gratitude 

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

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

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

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

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

C. Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

The Final Analysis
by Mother Theresa of Calcutta

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

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

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

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

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

…Build anyway!

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

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

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

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

From the CEO – January 2019

From the CEO – January 2019 260 286 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Conference Connection – January 2019

 

Dear Sister & Brother Vincentians:

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

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

1. Collective Beliefs

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

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

a) Core Vincentian Beliefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

b) Core American Beliefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. The Voice of the Poor Committee – Rule 7.5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3. Conclusion

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

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

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

 

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Daniel P. Malone

November 2018 Update

November 2018 Update 260 286 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

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