Vincentian Family Superiors General and International Presidents Gathering In Rome
January 8-12, 2020
Theme “FamVin 2020: The Vincentian Family Moving Forward”
Wednesday, January 8
201 members from 97 Congregations gathered at the Augustinianum Conference Center
The Vincentian Family International Conference opened on January 8, 2020, in Rome in the morning with an audience with the Pope. The audience was held in a large auditorium within the Vatican where a crowd of thousands awaited. The Pope gave a message based on the Gospel of the day, Mark 6:45 – 52, (Jesus walking on the water), followed by a warm welcome to each of the visiting groups. The Vincentian family was then blessed with an opportunity to have a picture taken with the Pope where he greeted all of us.
Following the morning audience, the initial conference talks took place in the Augustinianum. We were greeted by Father Tomas Mavric, CM, president of Vincentian Family Executive Committee. Sister Mary McCormick, SC, who facilitated the rest of the conference, gave an overview of the week.
Father Robert Maloney, CM gave a history and overview of the Vincentian Family. He reminded us that Vincent “dared to do what others tried but failed to do.” Vincent changed the whole systemic experience of religious life by instituting different apostolic approaches, such as the Sisters coming out from their cloisters and into the streets in order to serve the poor. Vincent said we must have a “deep wisdom and daring prudence.” He practiced this wisdom and prudence through collaboration with others. We are invited to follow.
Father Maloney shared two hopes for the Vincentian Family for the next ten years:
- Stronger bonds and broader ties with one another
- Thrust on the development of the call to a vocation to Vincentian charism.
He ended his session with the following quote by Pope Francis: “Be receptive to the newness of the Spirit.”
Father Tomas Mavric, CM, in his presidential address stressed the role of collaboration in moving forward the Vincentian Family. For today, how do we go forward and how do we respond to the changing needs of the poor, in light of the global changes reflecting the growth of the secular society. His dream for the next ten years is to spread the Vincentian Charism world-wide, using technology and various types of social media.
Father Tomas then discussed the following topics as aspects of the next areas which need to be addressed for the sake of the present and future growth of the Vincentian Family:
- Formation and Spirituality
- Education which includes the charism in the curriculum
- Health issues across the world
- Disaster relief
- Homeless Alliance, including the 13 House Initiative
He noted that the above areas must be approached through action-based initiatives and systemic change.
Thursday, January 9
The staff of the VF Office began Thursday morning with talks on the global mission and communication technology.
Father Joseph Agostino, CM, International Coordinator of the Vincentian Family then also welcomed us and gave a bit of an overview of his visits to various Vincentian missions throughout in preparation for this gathering., seeing how others are living the Vincentian charism.
Marge Clifford, DC and Father Flavio Pereira, CM focused on the Vincentian Global Mission and the ministries in various countries – Argentina, Rwanda, Sudan Burundi, and many others.
The necessity for using communication technology was given by Javier Chento (SSVP) and Monica Villar, (MISEVI). “A Lack of access to information can be a new source of poverty.” They encouraged each Congregation to be vigilant in their use of new technology. They also requested the Congregational communication team to be in touch with the VF Office of Communication for better coordination.
We then viewed two films from the 2018 Vincentian Family Film Festival. The films retell Vincentian stories for the sake of evangelization and furtherance of the charism.
Mark McGreevy who is a member of DePaul International began the Homeless Alliance as its Coordinator, in 2014, and Sister Carol Keehan DC, HA Commission Member spoke on the topic “Homeless Alliance.” Homelessness is the burning issue suffered by the poor today.
The Gospel of Mark 25 speaks of welcoming the stranger. We as Vincentians are called to welcome the stranger in our midst today, both in terms of immigration and those who suffer homelessness. One effort in this regard is the DePaul International efforts in the UK, USA, Ukraine, Ireland; Croatia, Peru, and other countries.
The FamVin efforts at continuing the “13 Houses Campaign” started by Vincent, continues today, where at least 10,000 houses will be constructed through global partnership and local collaboration in order to provide safety, security and sanctuary for many across the world. In 2019 3,260 houses were constructed in Africa, Asia, and American continents as part of this campaign. So the question is raised, regarding this urgent need: “What is the Vincentian Family doing today and to what are we called in the future?”
Friday, January 10
During Friday, the conference discussed the creation of a culture of vocations to the Charism.
The vocation of the Vincentian Family is not an institution but a family of sisters and brothers whose foundation, following Vincent and Louise, is that of welcoming, inviting and listening. How do we continue that today? We are called to “ Create a Vincentian Vocation Commission” in all branches of the Vincentian Family. Establish more houses of services for associates, interns and core communities. Create a handbook for collaboration and spread the offering of vocational mission based on the charism.
A panel discussion was held with Sr. Veornika Hausler, SC from Germany, Denise el’Khoury from Rome, Mark James Walters from London and Fr. Astor Rodriguez, CM from NY. This panel developed for us an expansion of our sense of vocation, which included diverse expressions of the _Vincentian charism based on various lifestyles. We are encouraged to live out the following:
- Do not be afraid to tell your story
- Do not be afraid to risk
- Do more, show people and lead by your example
- Be joyful,
- Be reflective and dream
- The only answer is love. Like the people we live with, in order to be a witness to God’s presence
“A network of friends seeking holiness through service to the poor and the advocacy for social justice.”
This session was followed by the topic: “Transmission of the Charism” by Br. Rene Stockman, BC
A task of the laity and the charism was started in 2011 in the Netherlands. Br.Rene reminded us that we are all invited to be on a journey of seeking and sharing the charism. He told us Refounding requires being willing to go through the darkness of loss but to maintain the charism. This journey involves the laity. The journey will ensure the charism remains of service and continues to trust in Providence.
Coming out of these discussions we find the Work of the Vincentian Family today to be:
- to consider the Taize Invitation, as presented by Fr. Tomas
- the preparation of the Vincentian Family Missal, listing all the saints and blessed, as well as all the foundresses and founders of the many various branches.
- The Task Force on the Charism and the Laity, an NL Project which started in 2011
We are called to shift our mission and our thinking from message to relationship. For the VF, dreaming means, connecting, developing and believing.
So we will rephrase the Vincentian charism as:
- A relational perspective
- A cultural perspective
- A conversational perspective.
Saturday, January 11
Saturday we explored ways of moving forward together.
A panel discussion by Regine Theodat (VF from Haiti), Fr. Michael Barth, ST, Ribel Elias, (MISEVI) from Lebanon and Sr. Carlette De Coene, SC from Belgium shared their experiences of ways the Vincentian Charism is moving forward, including a wide diversity of charim expressions.
In the afternoon, Sister Constance Phelps, SCL, gave a keynote address entitled “Weaving Our Web: An Imaginative Challenge for the Future.” She stressed the current strength of the Congregations, noting how this exemplifies our charism. She reminded us that weaving uncovers patterns already there.
She constructed her talk on the following points:
- The World Views
- Conversation and Dialogue
- The Shifts
- New ways of seeing
- New paradigms
- Nesting or Questing?
- Unquestioned Assimilation
- Period of Enlivining Hope
- Making Gospel Values
- Become Tnsformative Energy
- Constance ended her talk with reminding us that
“If we want a different future, we have to take the responsibility and be accountable for what we are doing in the present.
Bless our weaving as we work together to design a web that will provide vision, witness and energy for transformation. A web that will be strong and flexible enough to encourage others to build webs of their own design…..”
This day ended with Renato Lima de Oliveira (SSVP), President General of the SSVP.
He spoke of the growth of the Vincentian Family and asked that all Congregations support as far as possible in action and financial contribution to the activities of the International Office and the works of the Vincentian Family.
The Rome conference of the Vincentian Family was truly a historic moment and blessing for all. The 201 members, over these five days, grew in relationship and deeper understanding of the breadth and depth of the Vincentian Charism and Family across the globe.
The conference closed with a Mass of celebration. The liturgy was enhanced by the music of a Focalare group, who composed a special song for the Vincentian Family. Greetings of peace and farewell were shared by all in ever so many diverse languages. We left with a sense of a bright and growing We are grateful for this opportunity to represent the SCN Congregation in this historic moment for the Vincentian Family
Amrita Manjaly, SCN
Sharon Gray, SCN