Vincentians

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

An Update from Nancy – December 2019

An Update from Nancy – December 2019 1000 1100 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Fellow Vincentians,

The Holidays are upon us.  As you and your family begin your preparation for the celebration of Christmas and the New Year, please reflect on the goodness that God has brought to you.

Many of us are blessed with family members that will join us in our holiday events.  Many have family living afar and communication will be by telephone or writing.  Many of us have sufficient assets to make it a jolly material Christmas. As Catholics, we are blessed with our faith and church community as we celebrate Mass and the coming of Christ’s birth.

Many of our neighbors in need do not have the material blessings that we enjoy. Many do not have a spiritual component to their life.  Children may have a difficult time understanding why their wishes don’t come true. Vulnerable adults may be alone and unable to reach out to others.

What can we do as Vincentians to make this Christmas Season a more joyous one for all those we serve?  

My words are not new, but hopefully will serve as a reminder to all of us.  As you go about your home visits, pray with your neighbors. Invite them to attend services at your Parish. Provide a Church Bulletin to them for information on times and special events.

Many conferences plan a Christmas giving event for neighbors to help them in celebrating.  Giving trees and food boxes are one way to make for a more joyous Christmas for our neighbors in need.  If your conference is lacking funds to do a large event, plan a small one that involves your active participation.  Giving does not have to be material. Showing you care and are there to listen to one’s troubles may make a far greater difference in their life than physical goods. Don’t fret whether they have contacted other sources for gifts or food for their families.  This is not the time to worry about duplication, just giving.

Christmas is a time of love and giving. Give and love with all your heart to your family, friends and neighbors in need.

God bless all.  Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Nancy Szlezyngier

Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) – November 2019

Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) – November 2019 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

As we enter our 2019/2020 grant year of utility assistance, I would like to close out the previous grant year by sharing some successes of the 2018/2019 Energy Assistance Program (EAP).  According to the MEAP final report provided to the Michigan Public Service Commission by Sharon Lynch, together we were able to serve 5,582 households with utility assistance!

  • Almost 99% of all new households we served received one or more self-sufficiency services.  Such services support our neighbors in need by providing assistance aimed at stabilizing the household, and moving them away from a state of crisis and onto a path of long-term change.
  • Energy education is an essential component of creating this pathway.  80% of all new households we served received some form of energy education, and according to our customer satisfaction survey, 95% of these households found St. Vincent de Paul’s energy education services helpful to their circumstances.  Furthermore, 78% of those we served indicate that our EAP program provided their first ever encounter with any type of energy education.
  • The EAP program also supports families by providing assistance with preparation of a household budget and financial budgeting tips.  91% of those receiving this assistance found this information helpful to them.
  • As a result of our work, 75% of those that we enrolled into the utilities’ Affordable Payment Plans were able to make consecutive on-time payments towards their energy bills.

Thanks to the collaborative effort of Sharon, SVdPD staff and Vincentians, the 2018/2019 EAP program made a tremendous impact in the lives of those we served.  Thank you for making a difference!  We look forward to kicking off another great year of service!

An Update from Nancy – November 2019

An Update from Nancy – November 2019 1200 800 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear fellow Vincentians,

As the weather grows colder and wetter, there is less opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and outdoor activities. We all know that as the darkness of the day grows longer, dreary days are upon us.

Our moods can change with the change in weather, but other things in life can have a significant impact on our energy level and love of life.

As a Vincentian, are you weary?  An odd and unexpected question perhaps, but one that pertains to those who spend time helping others, our neighbors in need.

Listening to accounts of homelessness, unpaid bills, illness, and stories of sadness and trauma can lead to dreading your participation as a Vincentian.  Making decisions on how to help and how much can your conference afford can bring to the surface many different emotions.

Some may find themselves wanting to help everyone, others become more cynical.  Our selfishness can kick in as we try to protect ourselves from being emotionally involved with a neighbor’s situation. Do we look for additional resources, do we adhere strictly to conference guidelines without exception, or are we abrupt, judgmental or condescending to those seeking assistance from SVdP?

As we look forward to the glorious days of winter, we need to find that same level of glory in our lives.

Reach out to the Vincentians in your conference.  Address the issue of emotions and involvement in our neighbor’s lives. Acknowledge your weariness and in turn draw strength from your fellow Vincentians. Rely on the friendship and spirituality that flows within your conference.  Think of ways that as a group you can celebrate what you do together. Contemplate how you can bring new people in as members. Work together to find the positive in helping others, rather than focusing on your reaction to their requests.

Our commitment to helping those in need is one to be treasured. What a wonderful way to serve the Lord!   As always, we are all God’s children.

God bless all of you as you carry out the mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul,

Nancy Szlezyngier

Vincentians in Action

Vincentians in Action 800 800 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

I have attended three  National Assemblies. This past one in Colorado proved to be the most fulfilling. This assembly made such an impression because I experienced the power of youth. Recently, I received the position of the Mideast Region Representative for the African American Task Force (AATF).  At our meeting during the assembly, Mr. Middlecamp encouraged us to move beyond the AATF table into other committees needing diversity in age, race, etc. His assessment perfectly aligned with my intentions so I knew God had me on to something.

Initially, I struggled with what it meant to be an AATF member. In Colorado, I realized what the Lord had called me to do. He wanted me to take my new position, make it my own and lead the youth this year. I jumped right in with four little black girls from the City of Detroit in tow. Our first encounter happened after we checked into the conference. The youth experienced a plethora of greetings. I couldn’t attribute the warm acceptance to race or age but everywhere the  four young black girls went they encountered warm greetings of acceptance.

At the Assembly, we experienced a poverty simulation where participants understood how adverse circumstances could influence a solid plan. After that, we heard from both immigrants and refugees. They shared their life experiences and how advocacy programs helped influence their situations. Then Monsignor East held a private session with the youth since we would miss his keynote. We sang, praised the Lord and even jumped up and down at some points. The following day, we enjoyed a visit to the mountains. Frightened at times, we embraced the experience climbing the mountains, beautiful scenery and the stories of how the Mother Cabrini Shrine came to exist.

After that, we made hygiene and welcome kits for refugees entering the U.S. That evening the girls experienced a three course meal and helped distribute information about the upcoming 175th anniversary initiatives for the Society .
Overall, the girls had an awesome experience to help position them for leading a youth  program in the City of Detroit. In addition, they saw the other side of SVdP. For years, they have been by my side setting up for and organizing conference meetings. They have helped organize our Conference Thanksgiving and Christmas initiatives.

Colorado offered a fresh perspective to introduce my little workers to new friends doing the same work across the nation, a chance to grow in their own spirituality with a diverse  African and Hispanic twist during the masses at the Assembly and a way to see the impact of service for refugee families.

Overall, we loved Colorado and can not wait until St. Louis 2020.

An Update from Nancy – October 2019

An Update from Nancy – October 2019 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

As the newly elected Archdiocesan Council President, I extend a huge HELLO to all of you.

Our Council is 145 conferences strong.  What an amazing number of Vincentians serving our neighbors in need.  I am so lucky to have this opportunity!

Having been asked what my vision is going forward for the Council, I have spent time reflecting on what is the core issue for all of us.

The community of spirit that joins us in our individual conferences and deepens our spiritual growth simultaneously is central to being a Vincentian.

At each conference meeting, we come together in prayer, reflection and sharing of news regarding our neighbors in need. The friendship and bond that grows among Vincentians is a critical part of understanding the reference of those we serve.  As we grow in spirit and holiness, it is much clearer that our neighbors in need are as we are – children of God.

As a career social worker, I have made thousands of home visits to those in need. It wasn’t until I joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, that I came to realize that I was seeing the “Face of Christ “in those we serve.  It has taken time to assimilate this realization into practice.

Throughout the Archdiocese, our neighbors in need exemplify a broad spectrum of ethnicity and race, levels of poverty, from the working poor to the homeless on the street and needs that are as diverse as the population of six counties.  Each conference provides assistance in a myriad of ways, dependent on community resources, donated funds and the ability of the members of the conference.

SO…As you go about the work of helping the poor, please remember:

We are not here to judge, we are here to love and give to others.  As different or difficult someone may be, we need to put ourselves in their “shoes” and come to understand and accept them as they are.  Whether we offer material goods, time or a part of ourselves, let us reach out to others without bias or fear. We are all God’s children.

God Bless,

Nancy Szlezyngier

Camp Update

Camp Update 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Vincentian Camp Contact/Enroller/Conference President,

Hello!  As we close out our 96th summer we truly appreciate your continued support of our camping program.  We are very grateful for all that you do and know we couldn’t do it without you!

In making sure we provided an unforgettable camp experience we have mailed the camper and parent evaluations forms, along with the Bug Bites Newsletter, directly to the families this week.

For those Conferences that enrolled campers, included is a list of campers that attended through your Conference.  As part of the Enrollment Process it is now time to do follow up with them if you haven’t already.  Follow up can be done with a phone call, home visit, or when they stop in at the food depot/pantry and should take minimal time as you listen to the stories from the campers about their experience.   As part of the follow up with the camper and their families please mention that they should return their evaluation forms.  Their feedback is really important to us as we continue to improve the quality of our camp program.  If they could respond as soon as possible that would be fantastic.  And as a friendly reminder, when you are through with your camper list we ask that you shred it so others are not able to use the information inappropriately.

Thank you again for your time, gifts and talents in helping us enroll campers for the 2019 summer.  If we can be of any service to you feel free to call the Camps Office at 810-622-8744.

Peace in Christ,

Caroline Krucker
Director of Camp Services

An Update from Therese – September 2019

An Update from Therese – September 2019 400 400 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Dear Fellow Vincentians,

This will be my final Conference Connection article as we transition into our new leadership. As you may be aware, during the August 12, Board of Trustees Meeting, Nancy Szlezygier was elected the new president of the Detroit Council.  I congratulate Nancy and offer her my full support. I know each of you will show Nancy the same kindness you have shown me.  I would like to thank all the candidates for stepping forward as nominees who place St. Vincent de Paul at the center of all they do. Thank you to Roger Playwin, Mike Casey, and Bernard Onwuemelie for your dedication to the Society. Each of you  offered your unique talents in  support our mission.

In the six years I have served as President,   it has been my honor to experience the support of a talented, committed staff at our Central Office as well as those who have served on our Archdiocesan Board and committees. I am grateful and thankful that each of you gave so much of your time and talent.

To you, my fellow Vincentians, my deepest gratitude for all your hard work and the inspiration you have given to sustain me in my role. Through your spirituality, service and friendship, we have journeyed together in our “mission of charity.”   Know that you will continue to be in my prayers and thoughts.

God Bless,

Therese