Vincentians

From the CEO – April 2020

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

Dear Sister & Brother Vincentians,

Peace be with you. To date, this year’s Lenten pilgrimage has been particularly challenging; and it appears very unlikely that we will return to normal anytime soon*. The corona virus pandemic and how it has unfolded – even to date – is both alarming and disorienting. Crisis and uncertainty have descended upon us at a dizzying speed. In a seeming heartbeat, our world has changed, at least temporarily. The changes have brought anxiety, uncertainty, and even fear to most of us. On the other hand, the changes have also brought us an increased sense of oneness. As Fr. Richard Rohr aptly observed, “There’s a sense that we’re all in this together—every continent, country, class, religion, race, age, or gender. We’re all subject to this crisis. Suffering has an ability to pull you into oneness.” In a time of extreme partisanship and an effort to find something “positive” around which to rally, that is worth at least noting.

Rather than panic, the situation reminds me of the well-known passage, “to everything, there is a season.” Ecclesaistes 3:1-8. Seasons come and they go.  Eventually, this, too, shall pass. For example, according to Dr. Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins, the fact that other nations have “flattened their curves” despite an initial onslaught of cases gives us hope that we can learn from what they have done and emulate it. Meanwhile, this temporary crisis does not mean that we should change or abandon our beliefs of faith, friendship, and service to those in need. Consistent with exercising reasonable precautions, we remain dedicated to our core values at St. Vincent de Paul Detroit. So far, so good!

1) What IS SVdPD Doing? 

Our Staff will be working remotely through, at least, March 28th. At that time, we will reassess the situation and determine if we need to extend this policy. The decision to implement this policy was made for two primary reasons:  (i) the health and safety of our personnel is our primary concern, and (ii) the belief that it is our civic duty to do whatever we can to try to limit the spread of this menacing virus. During this difficult time and consistent with these goals, we should continue to find innovative ways to improve our operation and to help those in need. Thanks to everyone for their hard work and patience to get our Council prepared for this contingency.

Speaking of contingencies, I am confident that, subject to the two reasons stated above, our staff will rise to the challenge and continue to serve our neighbors – anyone in need –  even under these difficult circumstances. My expressed expectations regarding service, availability, and productivity for our Leadership and staff working remotely do not differ from when we are working together in the office. Until further notice, our stores and RRC will remain closed; and we will have no truck deliveries or pick up of donations, including furniture. It would be most helpful if Vincentians kept an eye on our donation bins in their neighborhood. For example, if and when donation bins get full, please contact Debbie Jackson, who, subject to the reasons above, will try to address the situation.

This crisis calls for patience, understanding, and full cooperation – by everyone. I expect that, together, we will rise to this occasion.

2) What Else Can Be Done? 

It has been suggested that Life is 10% WHAT happens and 90% HOW we choose to respond. This is what the short-term future will come down to – HOW we CHOOSE to respond. It will consist of a series of decisions, big and small, that will determine how long this thing will shadow us. As Detroit’s own Mitch Albom said in a recent, superb article, “We need to be our best now. We need to be responsible and considerate of our society — and this doesn’t mean grabbing every roll of toilet paper off a Costco shelf and hoarding it into your truck. It doesn’t mean reporting on COVID-19 stories with political bias, when the viewers only need facts. It doesn’t mean threatening or ostracizing people who get sick, as if it’s them or you in a fight to survive.” You get the point. Through good times and bad, Mitch has been our gifted interpreter of Life’s “seasons”.

The good news is, this will eventually pass and we will get through it. We have endured worse. In some respects, this crisis offers opportunities that normal times – whatever they are these days – do not. In the spirit of friendship, let me offer just a few examples of literally countless ways that those so motivated can help and yet remain safe. These very practical suggestions, if utilized, will advance our core values of spiritual growth, friendship, and service in ways that adhere to the two reasons stated at the outset of this piece. They are merely intended to encourage Vincentians to “discuss among yourselves” – preferably by telephone – how we can continue to serve those in need.

a) Friendship

We, of course, have been encouraged to “stay home.” Particularly for those who live alone, that can cause loneliness, even fear, during stressful times like this. Television programs can exacerbate those feelings! So now is a great time to do the following:

  1. Send “Thinking of You” notes to fellow Vincentians and others. It need not be a long letter. Just an assurance that someone is in your thoughts and prayers can work wonders.
  2. Notes to shut-ins. We all know people who do not get out much in normal times. A note asking “how can I help?” can make someone’s entire day. These days, it might even save a life. 
  3. While “staying at home”, consider doing a “spring cleaning” of your closets, basement, and garage. Then stack it until this health crisis abates. Please recall that we have temporarily suspended all truck pick-ups of donations, including furniture. Once quarantines lift, we will gladly pick up your donations. WE NEED DONATIONS FOR OUR STORES! Make Marie Kondo proud! 
  4. Consider donating to local Go Fund Me sites – Economically, low-wage workers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, are particularly vulnerable to this virus. An army of service workers have already been laid off without pay or benefits. Moreover, medically, given the “personal contact” nature of their jobs, they are also more vulnerable to infection. Even a small donation sends a message of friendship and hope those who are temporarily back on their heels, or worse, e.g. neighbors in need.     

These are mere examples of countless ways we can continue to serve and assist via telephone, e-mail, social media. Choose to keep serving, even from home!

b) Service

Nancy Szlezyngier sent a beautiful message regarding home visits and common sense. I wholeheartedly support the views she expressed therein. Please take all reasonable precautions. That is the best way to be able to sustain our efforts to help neighbors in need. Please also remember that home visits – while a most personal, beautiful, and inspirational way to serve those in need – is only one of countless ways of doing so.

c) Spiritual growth – Prayer

Crises have an uncanny way of helping people recall what really matters. For all people of faith, this includes making time for prayer and reflection. Typically, we think of prayer an expression to God of our needs.  E.g. “Lord, please help me . . .”. Perhaps we should not pray to change our circumstances, but rather to increase our ability to help and love others, e.g. “Thy will be done.”

Pope Francis recently spoke of praying the rosary, a beautiful act of adoration and reflection. Our religion is rich with formal prayers that offer peace and hope to those in need. Especially in times of crisis, may we use these prayerful expressions to remain outwardly focused.

Last month, I spoke of the concept of a more extemporaneous type of prayer. At its core, it involves little more than pausing and sharing heartfelt expressions with God in an intimate way.

I am blessed with a loving, supportive family. Earlier this month, one of my beloved adult “children” forwarded our family a beautiful, extemporaneous prayer that he had come across.           You could say that he sent us a “thinking of you” note. It touched me deeply in its “outward focus”. In that same spirit of “thinking of each of you”, I share it herein.

Prayer for a Pandemic

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of our economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us choose Love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us find ways to be the loving embrace of (our higher power) to our neighbors.
Amen

Prayer by Cameron Wiggins Bellm

Be assured, each of you is in my daily prayers. So, too, are our courageous front-line health workers.  In turn, I ask that you keep our remarkable staff and me in yours. Heartfelt thanks.

3) Conclusion

No one knows exactly what lies ahead. Indeed, by the time this column gets published, the world may have changed in ways that we could not have known even a week or so ago! So with that caveat, I conclude by sharing the following.

Each of us – Vincentians, staff, Board, donors, friends of SVdPD, everyone involved – needs to take all necessary precautions during this very unsettling time. As I have said before, let’s continue to support each other, our families, our neighbors in need, and our communities.  Please be kind to each other and be especially kind to those most in need.

The future not yet been written. But know this: We will get through this. Together, let’s commit to be able to look back proudly and say we did it consistent with our core values of spiritual growth, friendship, and service to all. IF we choose to do so, then we will embrace the eventual “return to normal” with a more clear vision of what really matters. At a minimum, this crisis will surely instill us with what author Jeffrey Meyers describes as “a deeper understanding of the precarious nature of human existence.”

Good health to all of you. God bless you, your family, and all those you love.

In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,

Dan

*Note:  This article was submitted on March 23rd. Circumstances surrounding the coronavirus crisis may have changed by the time of scheduled publication. 

An Update from Nancy – April 2020

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

Dear Fellow Vincentians,

This article is written on March 23, 2020.  As information is time sensitive, please consider the date if there are more changes by date of publishing.

The World has stopped as we have known it. We are sheltering in our homes except for obtaining the basics of food, gas and medications.  We are following governmental directives.  Yes, we need to protect ourselves and our families.

Yet, we are Vincentians, volunteers that have made a commitment to serve others in need. As Council President, I had recommended that home visits be suspended until further notice for everyone’s safety and believed it was the right and compassionate call for all.  Our Governor has now directed effective March 24th at 12: a.m., that we stay safe and stay home.

For now, utilities and evictions are mostly on hold.  Food pantries have adapted, bringing food to people in their cars and outside of the pantry building.  This week while on SVdP on call, I found myself providing potential available resources in my community.  I saw no one and gave no one monetary goods in person.

How do we reconcile our Governor’s directive and family and self-best interests in this time of crisis, with the vocation we have been given to serve our neighbors in need?  I can only think of prayer, kindness, a gentle heart and strength from our God which are all part of our Vincentian mission of spirituality, friendship and service.

I have not previously asked for responses to my Connection articles, but this time I am asking for your reactions and feelings to this new way of service delivery.  Not to my reaction, but to yours.

Let us pray together, as we join together as friends.  We may be physically separate, but our hearts are joined together. We are a community of Vincentians; we are one.

My words are not meant to forget the tremendous need of our neighbors in order to focus on ourselves.  We all know how to help neighbors in time of need. This extraordinary time reflects on our capability to help ourselves in mind and heart to be able to serve.

Whenever this crisis potentially swells in numbers and then passes, the need will increase for the poor. Evictions will come, utilities will be cut off, and we will be needed a hundredfold more than now. Help as you can, protect as you can.

God bless in your thoughts, prayers and actions.

Nancy

Conference Connection – Spiritual Connection

Conference Connection – Spiritual Connection 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

In a conversation with his pastor, a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society asked, “Father, where are the ‘good’ poor?” The pastor was shocked that a Vincentian would even ask this question, and I don’t know how the priest replied. But I believe that in our demanding work of serving those who suffer a complicated form of poverty, that question may be one that many of us have pondered: “Where are the deserving poor?”

This is precisely why Vincentians are called to attend to our own spiritual formation and growth, and to reflect at each meeting on a special aspect of gospel spirituality. Then we share our insights and prayer with one another and feel the special, strengthening grace in the Conference meeting to live our vocation to serve our neighbors in need even better!

It is a goal at every level where Vincentians gather, that there be a designated person to be the Spiritual Advisor, or I’d rather name that person, the spiritual animator or facilitator. This is a person who is committed to their own spiritual growth and who is willing to learn and prepare simple ways to assist the members in reflecting on the gospel, the Rule, and Vincentian resources available to us. Spiritual reflection and faith sharing helps us grow in our vocations as Vincentians as we practice our faith in action, loving our neighbors in joyful service.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Mt. 5:7

An Update from Nancy – March 2020

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

Dear Vincentians,

In the past few months, I’ve attended some of the District Council Meetings to learn about the various ways Vincentians help our Neighbors and the differences and similarities among Districts. My plan is to attend all of the District meetings in the first year of my position. As a Formator, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many new Vincentians at Ozanam Orientations.

First of all, I’ve encountered great hosts, with full course dinners, delicious lunches and bountiful breakfast treats along the way.

Secondly, and most importantly, I’ve met Vincentians who show deep commitment in their giving of time and service to others.

Such interaction with so many has cemented one significant concept – Vincentians are the core of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

One needs to look at the organizational structure so clearly delineated in Ozanam Orientation. It’s a structure unlike most organizations. Vincentians are at the top, with Central Office Detroit, Regional and National descending from there.  It’s an upside/down structure in comparison to most organizations and one that leads to misunderstandings and differences in opinion. As a “membership” organization, it is quite unique among not for profit entities.

In your Conferences and Districts, you are working together in consensus to help your Neighbors in Need.  In turn, Central Office works to assist Vincentians in the mission of serving the poor.

Although Vincentians could help their Neighbors without the existence of Central Office, they also rely on it for the operation of stores, fundraising, and help with significant issues that come to light in need of direction and support.  Conferences pay solidarity which helps Central Office, and Districts receive turnaround monies for formation and training for servant leadership.

In conclusion, we need each other.  It is the Conference’s responsibility to help our Neighbors. It is Central Office’s responsibility to support that work in whatever way possible. In the words of St. Vincent de Paul, “The poor suffer less from a lack of generosity than from a lack of organization”.

As Board President and Vincentian in my home conference St. Mary in Port Huron and Blessed Rosalie Conference in Detroit, I ask all of you to reflect on the concept of this organization as “One Society”.

God Bless,
Nancy Szlezyngier

From the CEO – March 2020

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

Dear Sister & Brother Vincentians,

Peace be with you. I hope that you are successfully getting through another Michigan Winter.

Our Council serves hundreds of thousands of people a year. We run a business with an eight figure annual operating budget. A core value of our mission is service. It is a source of quiet inspiration to reflect upon what our Council does, together, for so many in need.

Our overall commitment to service as Vincentians can be very challenging. Given the incredible number of people we help in so many ways, our mission is often exhausting, thankless, and, at times, overwhelming. So many to help, so little time and resources to do so! Such a situation, as noble as it may be, can and does result in “service fatigue.” For example, even when serving others, it is quite possible to experience loneliness, depression, underappreciation, or exhaustion.

Everyone – neighbors in need, Vincentians, staff, and all those who serve SVdPD – experience bouts with Service fatigue. From a Vincentian standpoint, it can arise from: a) too much to do and not enough time or colleagues to do it; b) feelings of being underappreciated for extended hard work and efforts; c) stress that results from caring for and helping suffering people; and d) a host of other causes. It can seem as if one is being asked to keep doing more without having had the opportunity to recharge. In turn, that can cause: irritability; decreased ability to function; fatigue; and even depression. On top of that, a nagging feeling that “I am doing God’s work. I shouldn’t be feeling this way” can further compound the situation.

So what can we, as Vincentians, do to help each other – fellow Vincentians and staff alike- who find themselves fatigued?

I, of course, have no answers. But I do believe that our journey back to God is a communal one. Our Vincentian Rule expressly encourages us to journey together toward holiness. In that spirit, therefore, I share the following in hopes that some may find it helpful. As always, I encourage anyone so motivated who reads this to do the same.

I. The Power of Prayer – Spending Time With God

Each of us needs to grow spiritually. But many struggle to develop true conversations with God. I surely do. In those moments, I tend to resort to formal prayers, which are beautiful and impactful. But rote repetition can allow my mind and heart to drift. Familiarity permits me to use “auto pilot”. On occasion, therefore, I just offer to God whatever my emotions may be at that moment. The very act of expressing joy, gratitude, grief, disappointment, or even confusion begins to assist me to a new level of understanding and peace of mind.

Our Council offers several opportunities to pray or to grow spiritually together.  Our Annual Meeting features a spiritual component. This year’s Evening of Reflection is scheduled for Wednesday, March 11th. Bishop Donald Hanchon will lead the evening.  And our Council, District, and Conference meetings feature prayer and a spiritual element.  Collectively, these group prayers and reflections help to build a sense of community within our ranks.

Jesus taught us to “be not afraid.” He will not leave us, especially in times of service fatigue. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln, during his days of unimaginable fatigue and prodigious challenges, said this: “Without the assistance of God, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail.” There is peace and joy in prayer. To follow Jesus is to grow continually in a deep love relationship with Him. It offers us the chance to draw near to the mind and heart of God and then to share the fruits of that relationship with the world.

Our Rule expressly contains the same concept, “Convinced of the truth of the Apostle St. Paul’s words, Vincentians seek to draw closer to Christ. They hope that someday it will be no longer they who love, but Christ who loves through them.“

II. Choosing to Love

I attended a funeral recently for an extraordinary lady who enriched the lives of so many during her remarkable, 93 year journey. The beautiful ceremony included a reference to Galatians 22. The reference reminded me that all our lives, many, many times each day, we are faced with a basic choice: to love or to hate. Choose love!

And here is the truly remarkable reality: each of us holds the capacity to increase our faith through the power of love! As an expression of love of God, whenever we choose to love our neighbor, we grow closer to God. Each time one chooses to act with love, e.g. joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, it increases our faith by living the gospels and not just paying convenient, self-serving lip service to doing so. On the other hand, choosing to do otherwise is irreconcilable with the tenets of our faith and our Society.

When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited; and we suffer. We cannot accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings. In effect, we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things do not make us suffer anymore. We have much more understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are.  Our Rule provides that we do not judge.  In the words of St. Louise de Marillac, “I know that we all have faults, and I more than anyone.  However, the support we owe to one another should prevent us from noticing the weaknesses of our sisters, except if we are able to help them.”

To truly follow Jesus is to grow continually in a deep love relationship with Him. Even if a fellow human being may not, in your opinion, “deserve” to be loved, choose love anyway as a sign of your commitment to Jesus. By doing so, one’s capacity to love others grows, too. How truly exhilarating!   So the big question is: how do we help our hearts to grow and thereby be better able to say “yes” to choosing love?

The disciples of Jesus asked a similar question. A gospel from Luke tells us that they requested that He: “increase their faith.” Jesus responded that it is not the amount of faith one has. Like the tiny mustard seed, even a small bit of faith can accomplish extraordinary things.

In another gospel, Jesus encourages us to “be the light” for those who are weary. When a neighbor in need, a fellow Vincentian, a staff member, or anyone else finds themselves in the darkness of fatigue, choose to be the light!  Acts of kindness are how we “increase our faith”. In still another gospel, Jesus says that the rich shall become wealthier. He is clearly speaking of the wealthy of heart. The hearts of those followers who love their neighbors grow with every act of kindness.  Actions in God’s name are a most holy kind of prayer.

III. Understanding Our Faith

We are encouraged to “live the gospel”.  Wonderful advice. But what does it really mean?

Jesus left no writings Himself. Rather, four men – at different times and locations – wrote gospels – depictions of the teachings of Jesus. They relied heavily on parables, stories meant to promote reflection and discussion. To my knowledge, they never “compared notes.” But they wrote about many of the same occurrences, albeit with a somewhat different perspective.

Obviously, the gospels themselves play a central role in what one needs to know. In order to “live the gospels”, therefore, one should familiarize oneself with them. To be sure, a gospel is read at every Mass. So there is exposure to the Word for those who choose to attend. But with the realities of listening as part of a large group, not every word can always be digested properly. For me, it helps if I can slow things down and think on things. It also helps immeasurably to discuss matters of faith with others. Our journey back to God is communal.

A. Book Clubs & Gospel Groups 

More than three years ago, our Pastor invited me to join a small group of men from our parish to discuss the gospels. At the time, the other lay participants were strangers to me and to each other. The idea was simple enough: we would read the gospel for the next Sunday and then meet bi-weekly for one hour to discuss it. In a sense, the undertaking would “increase our faith” one gospel at a time. My initial reaction was to decline respectfully.  I was busy enough!

By then, my dear wife had been in a Book Club for many years. She had commented many times about how much she enjoyed the friendship among the group’s members. Somewhat like finding a friend to work out with, she also appreciated the discipline that being part of a group brought, e.g. encouraging one another. Although I had some doubts, I decided to give it a try.

Since then, our gospel group has discussed scores of gospels, with and without our Pastor. Candidly, there have been many nights when I have quietly rued having to go to the meetings because of other commitments, inconvenience, or sheer exhaustion. But I have never left a meeting thinking anything other than that I am so grateful that I chose to attend and how blessed I am to be part of this extraordinary group.

Let me be clear: other than our remarkable Pastor, our group has no member with particularly keen spiritual insights. But we have gathered in God’s name, prayed together, and freely shared different perspectives in good faith. By doing so, we have created mutual respect and treasured friendships.

During many of our meetings, I quietly think about the different perspectives in the four gospels. I also think about the inspirational teachings of St. Vincent de Paul and his emphasis on spiritual growth and friendship.

Be assured, my only reason for sharing these remarkable experiences I have had is to advance our Vincentian goal of journeying together toward holiness, i.e. helping one another. Participating in these gatherings has helped me immensely. Perhaps many Vincentians have already had a similar experience.  I encourage all fellow Vincentians who have not to consider doing the same.

B. The Paradox of Our Faith  

Many of us were introduced at an early age to the Baltimore Catechism.  American Bishops in the mid-1800s wanted a Catechism for Americans.  There were several “versions” to it. The version used for the education of students, utilized a straightforward, question and answer format. That hardly promoted (or even allowed for) discussions among its readers about, for example, how to reconcile the form answers with personal experiences! We were to memorize it, not discuss it. It surely served a useful purpose. But adults need more.  Many find themselves not only believing, but also questioning. This inner conflict can cause angst.

At its core, faith clearly involves the need for doctrine, e.g. what our Church believes. “Increasing one’s faith” also involves reconciling doctrine with one’s experience, i.e. adapting beliefs to the world one inhabits. That’s a paradox. Rather than cause angst, however, faith and questioning should go hand in hand. Ultimately, together, they lead to communion.

So rather than feel “conflicted” by questions about our faith, I urge you to embrace your questions and discuss them with those who may be struggling with “faith questions”, too. Doing so may relieve fatigue and “increase” or strengthen your faith.

As my friend and very distinguished author, Rick Tarnas, opined, “We must be careful not to be like those chief priests and scribes in their structured world in Jerusalem who did not bother accompanying the Magi seeking the birth of the divine child, perhaps because, being “experts” in their field, they were blinded by their presuppositions to the great reality that was happening at that very moment. We must always remain open to the unexpected birth of that miraculous divine human synthesis.”

IV. Conclusion

This time of year, Michigan weather can make even the most routine activities become chores. We all can relate to that reality. It contributes to a sense of fatigue. But we can also relate to the truly uplifting feeling we get when the brilliant sun makes an occasional appearance.   So not if, but when, fatigue, frustration, or even anger come knocking, harden not your heart. Rather, regardless of whether one “deserves it”, choose to treat others with kindness or compassion, pray, or commit to learning more about our faith. If you do, you will convert a moment of fatigue into one of spiritual growth.  Doing so can have the same uplifting effect – on YOU and others – as seeing the bright sun this time of year.

Particularly in your moments of fatigue, may you feel God’s love and support.  The song, “Deep Within” so beautifully describes God’s love for us,

“I will give you a new heart, a new spirit within, for I will be your strength.”

It is my hope that you find what I have shared herein to be practical and helpful. Like everyone, I struggle. When I do, the actions shared herein, while certainly not a panacea, help.   As Fr. Richard Yost says at the conclusion of each Mass he celebrates, “Let us love and serve the Lord by serving all who we meet.”  Amen.

Thank you for all you do on behalf of our Society, Council, and all those we serve, including each other. God bless.

Dan

An Update from Nancy – February 2020

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

Dear Fellow Vincentians,

It’s February, it’s cold, and it seems like a long way to go for the arrival of Spring and warm weather. For those of us who remain in Michigan rather than going South for warmth, we may feel warmth in our hearts as we help our Neighbors in Need.

Neighbors in Need:

As Vincentians encounter poverty in the lives of our Neighbors in Need, many thoughts and questions arise, some laced with bias and some based on lack of knowledge.

“Why should we go beyond our conference guidelines when assessing need as we have limited funds?  Why do we have to make home visits as it’s too dangerous to go into some homes in our area?  Why can’t we question their motivation at times and label them if we feel such motivation takes advantage of our resources? Why is there so much anger when we are just trying to help them? Why do some families get evicted over and over?  Why should we help a family when their home has some “luxury” items in it? Why can’t they move in with relatives or ask friends and family for help before calling us for help?”

Many of these thoughts and words may have crossed your mind and lips, or other members of your conference may have uttered them at some point in time.  

A Vincentian’s interaction with a Neighbor in Need, whether at a Food pantry, home visit, rectory, or listening to a telephone request for help, may result in encountering tears, anger, defiance, desperation and isolation. Other everyday contributing factors to the trauma of our impoverished neighbors are lack of education, family support and positive role models.

So, how do we truly relate and understand those living in poverty?  You or a conference member may have experienced poverty at some point in time and can now relate that period to Vincentian work. Vincentians that have not experienced poverty in their personal life hopefully can recognize their blessings in life.  No matter what your or my experiences have been, as a Vincentian we MUST be able to relate with compassion, tolerance, and lack of bias.

As Vincentians, we have both the responsibility and the challenge to effect Systematic Change in the lives of our Neighbors in Need.   However, we must understand the dynamics of poverty before we can attempt to help a person to make changes in their life.    Let’s start with putting away the questions at the top of the page and undertake our own education.  We need to go beyond our judgmental thinking, fears and biases, to take time to understand the reasons why our Neighbor may operate in survival mode or may display aggression against institutional systems. Discussion in your conference on the elements and framework of poverty is a good beginning toward acceptance and thoughtful interaction with our Neighbors in Need.

We are all Children of God.  Please remember that in your outreach to others.

God Bless to all of you as continue in your vocation as a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Nancy Szlezyngier President,

SVdPD Archdiocesan Council

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

An Update from Nancy – January 2020

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

Dear Fellow Vincentians,

Here’s to a Blessed and Happy New Year for everyone.

The SVdPD Archdiocesan Council has great plans for the New Year, some just a dream and some in the planning stage.  I want to speak to you about what is perhaps the most important idea to date.  Historically, the Camps and the Thrift stores have been integral parts of the services provided to our Neighbors in Need. They both will continue to be a thriving part of what we offer from a Central Office stance. What each of you offer, however, is the core of who we are as a Society.  Day in and day out, you connect with those in poverty, struggling on both an emotional and physical level. We all have dealt with generational poverty, the working poor, or the unfortunate change in life status that occurs to someone.

Is there another way?  The wording “SYSTEMIC CHANGE” may seem like a dream, but I believe it can be a possibility.  Having worked for so many years with the poor and vulnerable, my initial reaction to this concept was negative, an impossibility, and without merit.  The mission of the State of Michigan was “self-sufficiency” for a very long time.  I failed to see any significant progress in achieving it for so long, for so many people.

I’ve changed my mind. I hope you can change your mind and see the possible.

Currently, there are Councils and entities that have programs that are designed to help the poor move out of poverty. A few names are “Bridges to Hope”, “Getting Ahead”, and “Changing Lives Forever”.  These programs are designed with learning tools to work on changing ideas, fostering self-sufficiency, learning how to hope, financial literacy and the ability to move beyond operating in survival mode only. Classes, stipends, books and mentoring are the major components of all the above programs.

Dose systematic change work? It’s not an easy or automatic process. No one predicts 100% success.  Change in daily thinking, managing one’s finances with limited income, and dreaming of a future require persistence, support and modeling to achieve such success.

As Central office staff and volunteers begin to develop this concept, I need each of you to initiate discussion within your Conferences and your District meetings to envision how applicable it could be to your work with Neighbors in Need.

Some of us have been at this a long time.  Some of us have become cynical and believe that we clearly understand the cycle of poverty and all the trials and tribulations that accompany it.  Don’t let yourself be blinded by your historical experience.

Remember, I believe in this concept. It may be a dream but I am hoping to see it become an integral part of our work with the poor.

Nancy Szlezyngier

From the CEO – December 2019

From the CEO – December 2019 1000 1100 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians,

Peace be with you, your families, and your loved ones. A classic song suggests that we are about to enter the “most wonderful time of the year”. We just paused to celebrate Thanksgiving. And Christmas is less than a month away! For so many, both holidays feature great food, family, friends, and traditions worth celebrating. Indeed, Currier & Ives captured the essence of those traditions in its gorgeous cards.

For too many, perception and reality of these holidays collide for a variety of reasons. For so many of our neighbors in need – and for some in our ranks as well – Thanksgiving and Christmas are just another day of searching for ways to make ends meet or for dealing with the pain of loss, frustration, or despair. And even among those blessed with family, friends, and financial wherewithal, the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas can be so tarnished by partisanship that holidays and gatherings become dreaded events. What is one to do?

As one Vincentian to others, I humbly offer the following reflections – not because I am right, but because I care about each of you. We enrich each other. If these thoughts trigger the urge within you to share, then I welcome hearing from you.

I. Vincentian Values – And Vincentians – Are Essential to Each Other

Our organization and its mission promotes three values: spirituality; friendship; and service. Vincentians commit to sharing all three with those in need, i.e. everyone. Among these inspirational values, the one that lends itself most to objective measure is service; and our Council’s commitment to service is truly remarkable. But service alone without the spiritual dimension expressly prescribed in our Rule, e.g. seeing the suffering Christ in every person we serve, reminds me of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about “If I speak in human and angelic tongues –  but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. . . . [and] If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” So spirituality – why – is as important as service – what we do – for others.

Moreover, the work of a Vincentian can be difficult, frustrating, and oftentimes thankless. Therein lies why friendship among Vincentians, staff, and all involved in our mission is essential. To remain faithful to our Vincentian mission, we must support one another. Let respect and encouragement be the prevailing mindset within our ranks.

Just as we need one another, therefore, our Society’s core values also “need” one another to function as contemplated by those who brilliantly crafted our Rule. Our three values remind me of the Holy Trinity – each inextricably intertwined with the other two. As we all know, our Vincentian invitation to serve is open to all willing to commit to our mission, values, and Rule. That means that considerable diversity of thought and opinions reside within our ranks. As we serve, let us embrace that reality with friendship and thereby promote spiritual growth.

II. The Good Word – Engage!

Speaking of realities, both our Nation and Church seem bitterly divided along many lines. That happens even among those who share commonalities. The situation leaves some willing to help, but only after their faith and confidence grows, i.e. later. It leaves others wondering what a truly flawed individual could possibly do to help. Still others say I’ll help or extend friendship, but only after others deserve it. Jesus has spoken directly to those who feel unready or unworthy.

Recently, we heard two gospels from Luke and one from Matthew. Because they are so well known, I will only briefly reference them.

In the first, Jesus’s disciples request that He “increase our faith.” It infers that faith is quantifiable, e.g. the “more” one has, the “holier” one is. Jesus responded by teaching that even a small amount of faith allows one to accomplish extraordinary things. He explained that faith is a gift that resides in us and works through us when we are open to the Lord. Any good that we accomplish as His servants is possible because of the love, even if only the size of a seed, that resides in us.

In the second gospel, we met Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector. In the eyes of many, he was a flawed individual. Notwithstanding those “flaws” and even at the risk of embarrassment, Zacchaeus climbed a tree amidst the crowd. In a real sense, he went “out on a limb” and willingly became vulnerable just to see Jesus. His faith allowed him to experience the joy of meeting Jesus. How often have we chosen to risk vulnerability to better see Jesus?

Finally, Matthew’s gospel of the Unknown Day and Hour teaches that one must “stay awake” in order to experience Advent anticipation.

These gospels help us to deal with our Nation and religion as we find them – bitterly divided, wounded, and with a citizenry focusing increasingly on oneself. We all experience moments when we feel the urge to “detach”. But these gospels – and our Vincentian mission – teach us that we should engage with our world – and its woundedness – and still try to love God. We should love God through, in, with, and even because of this world and despite our perceived flaws and shortcomings.

This is the message Christianity was supposed to initiate, proclaim, and encourage, and what Jesus modeled. We were made to love and trust this world, “to cultivate it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15) as it is, not as we hope it (or others) should be. Let us better appreciate the interrelation between spiritual growth and our material world as well. As Pope Francis has pointed out repeatedly, we should treat both the spiritual and materials worlds as indivisible and sacred.

The work of caring for our world and for getting to know others different than ourselves, made so difficult by our society’s divisions, is the work of following Jesus. Friendship and mutual respect allows one to transcend the pain that keeps so many sealed off because of partisanship. Let us commit to bestowing those priceless gifts upon one another. If we do, then, according to William Kent Krueger, “The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day.” What a gift to bestow upon yourself.

III. Advent – A Personal Choice to Stay Awake

Another Advent season has begun. According to my remarkable Pastor, Msgr. John Zenz, “Advent” refers to the eagerly anticipated arrival of someone important, e.g. Jesus. Our joy in this celebration includes both our reliving His first arrival, but also His return as well. In this sense, our Advent spirituality should be an integral part of our faith throughout the Christmas season and the entire year.

Matthew’s Advent gospel of the Unknown Day and Hour teaches that one must “stay awake” in order to experience this Advent anticipation. Rather than “compartmentalize” our faith within the four walls of a Church, therefore, we should “incorporate” our faith into all aspects of our Life journey. Ironically, children must “go to sleep” for Santa Claus to come. But adult Catholics should “stay awake” in order to experience Advent faith.

According to Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill, everywhere we look, “our world is beset by crises and riven with tensions. . . . Conflict and suffering, both in our own lives and in the broader world, presage that something wicked this way comes. We can be forgiven, perhaps, for being discouraged to the point of despair. But to those who are sad, disheartened and afraid, God says through his prophet Zephaniah, ‘Fear not! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.’ To be saved means to have enough room—enough room in our souls to cultivate a relationship with God through prayer, enough space in our hearts to allow for acts of charity, enough capacity in our spirits to slow down and breathe.” Amen!

When we serve those in need as we would Jesus, and as we support each other in friendship regardless of whether one “deserves” it, we are awake and living our adult Advent faith.

“The lens we choose transforms the way we look at things [and others].” Dewitt Jones.

IV. Conclusion

Once again, we will soon celebrate a most profound and sacred event – the birth that occurred long ago, far away, in a manger. Let that birth and Advent rebirth renew our spirits and fill us with hope. Our Savior hears our prayers. If we remain open to Him, Jesus leads us to inner peace and boundless hope. God is in our midst. His love enables believers to embrace the future with optimism.

No matter where you may find yourself this happy and holy season – e.g. with the faith of a mustard seed or an oak tree, with considerable doubts or confidence,  may you feel the love and support of Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Advent faith, see the possible, not the negative. Choose to celebrate what is so good with our world, our Nation, our Church, and our Council. By doing so, we will discover the energy and will to fix what is wrong as well.

May you, your family, and all those you love have a safe, happy, and most blessed holidays. Let God’s love be a bright torch in the darkness. By its light, we shall find our way.

Thank you, Vincentians, thank you SVdPD staff, and thank you to all those who contribute in any way to supporting our mission for all you do in God’s name to love thy neighbor.

Merry Christmas! God bless.

Peace,
Dan