Vincentians

From Sister Noreen – September 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In prayer with you,
Sister Noreen Ellison, SC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other EAP Updates

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

From the CEO – September 2020

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

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inaugural Top Hat Gala – October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. Advancing Our Vincentian Mission

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

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

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

B. A Timely Panel Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C. Ways To Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,
Dan

An Update from Nancy – September 2020

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

Dear Vincentians,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless to all,

Nancy

An Update from Nancy – August 2020

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

At this point in time, I was hoping to write about life with less worry and anxiety, more daily activity from a Vincentian perspective and the opportunity to spend time with my family.

However, I’m still reflecting on life during a pandemic.

For those who live alone, the isolation is difficult, for those who live with family/friends, isolation from others they hold dear is painful.

Higher incidences of domestic violence, child abuse and mental health crises are prevalent during such times.

We all adapt differently. One Vincentian currently residing in Senior Living has perfected the use of Zoom technology to join Conference meetings. A friend’s mother- age 96- cries out in her belief that her children have abandoned her due to COVID-19 visit limits. Others have resisted Governor Whitmer’s orders while others firmly enforce them. Some people have ventured out to parks, outdoor dining, Mass, and visits with family in small groups.  Others remain sheltered due to continuing anxiety and fear of exposure to COVID-19. Those who have been directly impacted through the death of a family member or friend have a different perspective than others untouched by this virus.

What about our neighbors in need?  In addition to all of the above concerns and behaviors, they may have anxiety about a pending eviction and homelessness or reside in an area hard hit by this virus.

Some Vincentians/Conferences are meeting via Zoom and some have shut down all activity for the time being. Exposure to COVID-19 has forced the closure of some food pantries and others forge on praying that all volunteers will be safe.  Our thrift stores have struggled with COVID-19 exposure, reduced staffing and overflowing bins due to high volumes of donations. Food Trucks are more plentiful with Gleaners, The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and Forgotten Harvest are upping the number of food giving locations. Few calls are coming in to the Conference help lines due to the suspensions of shelter and utility payments.  Home visits are not recommended at this time, although some Vincentians has been creative in their approach to meeting with neighbors in need.

My recommendations for the time being have not changed.  Be generous and kind in listening to others. Use technology that you are comfortable with to stay connected to those you love.

The time will come when we will meet in person again and rejoice in embracing those, we hold dear. The time will come when home visits will again be a part of our daily Vincentian work.

A prayer:

“Jesus Christ, you traveled through towns and villages, curing every disease and illness. At your command, the sick were made well. Come too our aid now, in the midst of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love”.

God bless to all of you,
Nancy

From Sister Noreen – August 2020

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

Vincentian Friends,

Five months into the pandemic of the COVID-19 Virus, we are experiencing the truth that “life has changed, not ended!”  That phrase, often used in our Catholic funeral rites, has special meaning even for us who live and still breathe each day.

I remember well the rainy Lenten March day when Pope Francis stepped onto the balcony and proclaimed to the world through television, that this worldwide pandemic is not God’s judgement on humanity; he said it is God’s loving call to do what is important, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not, to get our priorities straight and to live differently.

So, how’s it going for you, dear friends? From experience with Conference life, and the special works of the SVDP stores, the Matchan Nutrition Food Program, and even our Ozanam Summer Camp for Kids, life as it was is certainly changed, but not ended!

In meetings by ZOOM, or by social distancing with masks in place, prayer, and reflection as well as opportunities to share with one another in friendship are still key elements in our lives as Vincentians.  If we have just gone on to get the “business” done because we thought we were in a short-term pandemic, we need to put that thought to rest.

Has your opening prayer become just the rote exercise that leads into “the business” part of why you are meeting? Do eyes rolls when the President invites the Spiritual Reflection?  If yes, it is time to try praying and reflecting differently! There is no doubt that Vincentians do wonderful and generous service in loving our neighbors, but our primary purpose is to grow in holiness and friendship as we love and serve our neighbors.

In future Conference Connection articles, I hope to suggest some practical ways this could happen. How about a coming Spiritual Reflection being a listening experience as each one is invited to share briefly what has been the blessing in this pandemic time. As each one finishes, all could respond, “Thanks be to God or Praise God!” Another time the reflection could be sharing what has been the burden, the challenge, or a great concern they have during this time? A prayer response could be something like, “Come Holy Spirit.”  Be creative. If you have many folks in your meeting, invite some to share and ask the others to do their piece next time. (This heart sharing should not be a speech or discussion, just some brief thoughts from the heart that others may receive reverently.)

In prayer with you!
Sister Noreen Ellison, SC

This Might Just Be an Opportunity

This Might Just Be an Opportunity 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

This Just Might be an Opportunity….

We have been through some pretty rough times lately. We have seen the worst in some people’s behavior and we have seen the best to the very best in others. We have seen folks come together to fight an invisible virus and exercise their constitutional right to peacefully protest racial injustice.

We have also seen some folks try to mislead, misappropriate the issues, and misinform. Countless millions have lost their opportunity at gainful employment that sustains them and their families. The virus’s impact in terms of racial and age disparity is astounding and the cause of great sadness and sorrow for thousands of families. In times like these we cling to the values we hold near and dear as the foundation of our democracy is challenged and our values and ideals are put to the test.

We are members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul that has as its mission to be “A network of friends, inspired by gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need”.

We strive to help our neighbors in need to escape the pain of poverty, the frustration of despair, the fear of not being able to make it. Our friends are hurting and as this pandemic wears on many are losing hope that things will get better.

We have an opportunity to engage with others to make sure our neighbors don’t feel abandoned.

The event impacting our society today present us with an opportunity to work collaboratively with each other and our neighbors in need to make systemic changes that will renew a sense of hope and empowerment in our neighbors in need.

We can engage in a variety of activities that can bring needed change for those living in poverty. We have this opportunity because we know how to listen, visit with and walk with our neighbors in need. We can write letters to our elected officials demanding the change policies that are causing the fear and the pain of being in poverty. Policies that allow banks to fund payday lenders to charge exorbitant interest rates that lead to ensuring the neighbor in need cannot escape causing even more despair, and fear and exhaustion. This payday extortion keeps people down and out. It a form of discrimination. We can support programs like micro loans, free pharmacies, getting a head training programs and other creative and inventive programs that help our neighbors in need to get ahead, and even escape the trap of poverty. We can be a friend pointing them in the right direction, a friend who walks with our neighbor in need on the journey that leads them out of the trap of poverty. The friend who drives them to their appointments when public transportation is inefficient. We can be the friend who helps our neighbors in need dream of a different day and better life for themselves and their family.  We need to make sure that St. Vincent de Paul Society is around 50, 100 years from now. That’s part of our responsibilities as a member. Things they are a changing, and our neighbors in need are hoping, expecting, needing us to be there for them and their families, not just now, but in the future as well. What we do now will impact the future, if we do nothing, that will impact the future also. Some say we can’t, cause we are all getting to old, or we are all ready to involved to take on more. Our Founder and our Patron, Bl. Frederic Ozanam and St. Vincent de Paul would not agree. Both of them will expect that we as members were inventive to infinity and that we invite others, especially the younger members of our communities, Catholic and non-Catholic to join us as we explore the opportunities and see the possibilities.

Roger Playwin, retired National CEO, Society of St. Vincent de Paul

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

SVdPD Special Works Update – July 2020

SVdPD Special Works Update – July 2020 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

We knew something was going to happen.  The news from New York state was not good.  The COVID19 pandemic had brought that state to a halt, and at our pantry, we started to plan for our continued operation.  On March 23rd, our governor called for the complete shutdown of the state and the introduction of social distancing.  We put our plans into action which included redesigning our pantry food delivery system, implementing a new “home visit” approach, and including our community partners and parish support system in our reconfigured approach to helping our neighbors in need.

Our volunteer, Joe, lent us a large tent which we erected outside our usual pantry address on New Street in Mount Clemens.  The tent gave us high visibility from both New and Market Streets.  While it was pretty cold those first few weeks, our neighbors still found us.  We made a lot of new friends during that period as the supermarkets were low on everything – not just toilet paper – and a lot of people found themselves unemployed.  The unemployment checks had not yet kicked in and the stimulus checks were still on the way.

Since the students had been sent home from college, we were fortunate to have some young, strong and willing volunteers to supplement the twenty or so core volunteers who continued to come to the pantry dressed in their masks and rubber gloves.  But the tent got to be an issue as we erected and took it down each day.  Father Michael Cooney, pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Mount Clemens, agreed to let us use a garage on the property for our new pantry.  With this new location, we changed our hours from two hours-per-day, three days a week to three hours-a-day, two days a week.  The transition went very smoothly and we got out of the May snow storms!

With home visits off the table during this period, we initiated a community outreach program.  From our database, we generated a list of more than one thousand persons who have visited our pantry over the last two years.  We then divided this list among ten volunteers who called to “check on” our neighbors, to remind them that the pantry was open, and to invite them to let us help with their current needs – be it food, rent or other financial needs.  The response from our neighbors was overwhelming.  Many live alone and were very appreciative of the offers of help, but also with the human contact as these calls provided hope and consolation to those who are lonely and depressed.

To follow through with our commitments to assist our neighbors, we rely on our parish family and St. Mary’s School families for spiritual and financial support.  Among the community partners that stepped up to assist us were local merchants, businesses, and the Meijer Corporation.  With their assistance, we were able to work with the Macomb Food Program and Forgotten Harvest to continue to obtain canned food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fresh meat and dairy products for distribution.  One stipulation of the Macomb Food Program is that we must give food to everyone who comes to the pantry.  This requirement expanded our usual assistance boundaries into Detroit, Warren, Roseville, and other nearby communities.

As of the three- and one-half months since we began under our new guidelines, we have served over seven hundred families, totaling over one thousand five hundred individuals.  That’s what St. Vincent de Paul has been doing for over 110 years in Mount Clemens – and we’ve got the certificate to prove it!  We pray every day that Jesus helps us to be generous with our time, our possessions and ourselves in this mission of charity.

God Bless, stay safe and remember, we are in this together with Jesus.

St. Vincent DePaul, St. Peter Conference

From Sister Noreen – July 2020

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

On a recent summer morning as I was preparing to go on an errand of mercy, I found myself addressing God in the words that Jesus said to Peter when Peter couldn’t stay awake and pray with Him the night before the crucifixion:  “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  How many times in these last many weeks of events in our nation and throughout the world have I paused to reflect on my own weakness in doing what the gospel of Jesus asks of me?  It is nearly impossible to follow through without God’s help. That is why prayer is so especially important!

Sometimes I borrow the words of scripture, or other times, the words prayed by those we name as our saints. This brief plea of Mother Teresa, is especially fitting for us who aspire to grow in humility as we live our Vincentian vocation in humble and demanding service:

“Make us worthy, O Lord, to serve our fellow human beings…”

Lately, I have had  occasions to see the special works of our area Vincentians  as they live out Jesus’ mandate to “feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty” through the ministry of the Matchan Nutrition Center. Appropriately so, this ministry is done from a facility of the St. Vincent de Paul church, Pontiac, Michigan. All through the year, meals are prepared and served to 150-200 neighbors every Tuesday and Thursday by a crew of committed volunteers who are some of the hardest working, and most dedicated folks I have even seen.

Along with the nutritious meals served, there are, normally, other needed services provided for the guests in this social setting. However, during this time since mid-March with all the restrictions that are in place as we protect one another from the Corona 19 Virus spread, the work of the Matchan Nutrition Center has had to adapt constantly without missing a beat in serving the hungers of our neighbors.

With social distancing restrictions, the hot meals turned into “take out” sack meals, served from a tent- like covering that did not always protect from the sleet, the wind, rain, and now the warm sunshine. While some are serving outside in the elements, a whole crew is in the hot kitchen diligently preparing the nutritious food. The area that Matchan serves is literally a food dessert, with grocery stores at a great distance for those with little or no transportation.

Because the Matchan volunteers are so diligent in finding resources and maintaining relationships, including regularly picking up and hauling  grocery donations from generous businesses,  neighbors-in-need  are also able to pick up needed fresh vegetables, fruits, breads, cheese and other food items they can use. Nothing goes to waste!