Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians:
Peace be with you. As we enter our eighth month of dealing with the dreadful Covid-19, I hope that you continue to remain safe and are doing as well as possible under the circumstances.
Last weekend, we celebrated the feast of our patron saint, St. Vincent de Paul, with a Mass at St. Kateri Church in Dearborn, with many of you joining virtually. Thank you to Bishop Hanchon for celebrating. St. Vincent understood that encounters with the Poor were encounters with Jesus Christ. Poverty has many faces. He taught by example that we should help each other to strive to make our service holy by seeking God in it. He urged that we serve to find God rather than just to complete a task, no matter how helpful to another. It is our response to the gospels’ calls to love our neighbor. Pursuant to our Rule 1.4, let us help each other define the term neighbor very broadly to include not only those in economic need but also fellow Vincentians, Staff members, and all with whom we come in contact.
This month has been extraordinarily hectic as a result of our fiscal year ending, budgets being created, Covid-19 related issues, and final preparations for our Top Hat Ball “Un-Gala”. But I want to share brief observations about tomorrow evening’s SVdPD event and then to contrast the end of our journeys with the beginning of every day.
I. Top Hat Ball “Un-Gala” – Still time to “attend” Tomorrow’s SVdPD Event
As you know, tomorrow evening, Friday evening, October 2nd, we will host our 2020 Top Hat Ball “Un-Gala”, a virtual event that those who “attend” can enjoy from the safety and comfort of your home or office. I hope that you choose to do so. “Tickets” are still available and very modestly priced. If you have any difficulty purchasing them at www.tophatball.com, then please call Keith Koppmeier, 313.393.2909, or Tim Burke, 313.393.2695. Either can help you. It promises to be a wonderful evening; and, especially in light of Covid-19 and those we serve, it is an important fundraising event. If you cannot make it, then please check out our “silent auction” on-line and bid often! Thank you in advance.
Our event will feature a lively discussion among four nationally recognized experts on two, interrelated topics: social justice and developing a more inclusive sense of community. From a Vincentian standpoint, our panel includes our SVDP USA Spiritual Advisor, Bishop Donald Hying. Come listen to what he has to say about our Society’s essential role in today’s world. You’ll be glad you did.
a) Social Justice – Social justice is expressly mandated by our governing Rule. For example, Rule 7.1 states: “The Society is concerned not only with alleviating need but also with identifying the unjust structures that cause it. It is, therefore, committed to identifying the root causes of poverty and to contributing to their elimination. In all its charitable actions there should be a search for justice; in its struggle for justice, the Society must keep in mind the demands of charity.”
Clearly, in any organization as large as ours, diversity of thought and opinion will always exist. Prior to tomorrow night’s Top Hat, I encourage Vincentians to re-read our Rule 7.1. In light of that rule, for as long as I am involved in our Detroit Council, social justice will remain a priority.
b) Developing a more inclusive sense of community – Last month, in America Magazine, Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu noted that: “We are a nation that exalted individualism but in the end relies on the strength of community.” How true! Therein lies why our program focuses on broadening one’s sense of community as well.
Whether you purchased “tickets” long ago or do so at the last moment, all will be included and all will benefit from the friendship and spiritual growth that our exciting program offers. So get your “tickets” and help to create a virtual community for a great cause. Bring family, bring friends, or just bring someone who you think would benefit from a robust discussion on social justice and community!
II. RBG – A Life Well Lived – The End of a Journey
On Friday, September 18, 2020, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87. She had served with distinction on the highest court in our nation since 1993. During that time and throughout her prior career she courageously and effectively championed the proposition that our nation’s Constitution should be more inclusive to include far more people than it did when ratified, e.g. African Americans, Native Americans, and, above all, women. She was a gift to all, especially the vulnerable. Justice Ginsburg is the first woman in U.S. history to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.
Of particular note to our Society, is that, as she championed women’s rights, she earned the respect and affection of the Supreme Court’s most conservative members as well. In today’s strident social climate, that is incredibly noteworthy. Her deep and abiding friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia was legendary. For her, ideological differences never interfered with her civility toward others and her profound respect of and love for the law. May she – and Justice Scalia – rest in eternal peace.
III. The Gift of Every Day – A New Beginning
In a real sense, each day is a new beginning to “see the possible.” Whether we deserve it or not, God gives us the gift of every day. He also has gifted us with free will – the ability to decide how to use each day. To promote more mindful, daily decisions, I share a beautiful Morning Prayer that Holy Name (Birmingham) parish’s dedicated, inspirational Pastor, Msgr. John Zenz, shared with our congregation recently. While he translated it from French many decades ago, it still has beauty and incredible applicability to today’s world.
“Lord, in the silence of this day which is dawning,
I come to ask for peace, strength, and wisdom.
I wish to look at the world this day
With eyes totally full of love –
To be patient, understanding, sensitive, and wise,
To see beyond appearances and see your children as
You yourself see them, thus seeing only the good in everyone.
Close my ears to all calumny.
Guard my tongue from any evil
That in my heart may dwell only thoughts of blessing.
Cloth me with Your beauty, Lord,
And all day long I will manifest Your presence.
Life has so many impediments and inconveniences. We do not always see “eye to eye.” Perhaps those moments are blessings in disguise. “Seeing only the good in everyone.” Imagine that! Perhaps bridging the gap between each one of us and others presents opportunities to overcome our personal flaws and shortcomings and thereby grow closer to God on our journey back to Him. Doing so is a precious gift that we give to ourselves.
Rather than act like a pinball smashed about by the uncertainties of “boring” daily routine, let’s help each other choose to use God’s gift of each day to draw closer to Him. “To see Thee more clearly, to follow Thee more nearly, to love Thee more dearly, day by day.” Doing so through spiritual growth, friendship, and service is clearly the essence of being a Vincentian.
Each of us has a gift that Justice Ginsburg no longer has: the gift of Life. The works of our Society – helping those sometimes desperately in need – are closer to the wellsprings of our faith than when all its leadership gathers in a grandiose cathedral. It is a blessing to contribute to our collective efforts to sustain our Council’s 135 year presence in this Archdiocese helping those in need. With so much “cultural divisiveness” in our world and nation, it leaves one wondering what can I – one flawed person – possibly do to help? It creates feelings of helplessness. Kindness only goes so far! At those moments, thinking of Justice Ginsburg, a quiet, albeit driven, woman who stood one inch above five feet, respected everyone, and changed the world for so many, might help.
Recently, we heard a gospel from Matthew. It spoke of the inclusive community of Jesus. When we surrender ourselves to that community, we become part of the family of God – humbly giving and receiving in His name. In that essential sense, we are no longer on our own, we should no longer be “afraid”. Every day presents countless opportunities to overcome inconveniences and bring the teachings of Jesus Christ to life. In many respects, choosing that path is like taking the road less travelled.
Our Rule urges us to take the less travelled path. We do not have the power to control what happens, or to control when our journey ends. But we retain the power to control how we choose to live the gift of every day. This blessed, inspirational “choice” on how to respond clearly applies to seemingly “meaningless” moments in our daily routines. It has the power to transform them into purposeful moments of spiritual growth.
On two personal notes, I extend congratulations and appreciation to Nancy Szlezyngier for having completed her first full year as President of our Detroit Council. Secondly, this past week, our Director of Conference Support, Debbie Jackson, submitted her resignation from SVdPD effective October 2, 2020. Debbie has been employed with St. Vincent de Paul since 2013, working initially with the MEAP grant and then as support for all our Vincentians. As many of you know, her commitment to our mission cemented her excellent working relationship with Vincentians across the span of the Archdiocese. On behalf of a grateful Council, I thank Debbie for her service and personally wish her success in her future endeavors.
In conclusion, I hope you choose to “attend” tomorrow’s night SVdPD Top Hat Ball “Un-Gala”. Whether you do so or not, I extend best wishes to each of you on all that lies ahead. Please stay safe. God bless you, your family, and all those you love.
In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,