Written by Eugene Smith, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, USA
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The poor themselves must be included in the celebration of the Anniversary of Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac.
Most of the people served by the Vincentian family do not know St. Vincent and St. Louise. Why, because most of us in the Vincentian Family seldom take the time to tell those we visit in their homes or hospital beds or wherever we serve them about our founders. We live out the charism as we serve but we don’t tell people why we do what we do.
Are not Vincent and Louise also perfect guides for the Poor? We must tell their stories and share their wisdom with all those we serve.
What better way is there to lead hearts to God then to use the example of St. Vincent and St. Louise? They lived out to perfection the call to lead hearts to God. So, again this is the perfect time to tell their stories. It is the perfect time to make this a priority in the Vincentian Family.
People who are poor must wonder what makes us “tick”. One Daughter of Charity at a clinic in India who changed a filthy bandage and cleaned the infected wound of a woman with leprosy was asked this question by the grateful woman. “Sister, how can you do this work?” Sister responded, “Our founders taught us.” She went on to explain that St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac instructed the Daughters of Charity that Jesus Christ is in the person of those who are poor. “They are our lords and our masters.” The woman was amazed and honored.
Most members of the Vincentian Family “come and go”. We listen. We act. We serve. We talk about God. We pray with those we visit. We do much. But, most of us don’t tell people why we do what we do. We don’t tell them about the charism of our founders. And, we don’t tell them that’s what it is that inspires us to serve others.
Consider these thoughts:
- Share The Charism With The Poor. While visiting with each person or family, take an extra few minutes to tell the story of St. Vincent and St. Louise and the Vincentian Family. Talk about the lives, beliefs and actions of the Saints.
- Prepare Handouts. Within your local Vincentian Family branch (conference, association or group) develop simple written materials for distribution to the people you serve. This could be like a holy card, a flier or a pamphlet that tells the story of the Founders.
- Have A Celebration Locally and Invite The Poor. Plan a gathering to celebrate the feast of St. Louise and/or another one to celebrate the feast of St. Vincent. Invite the other branches of the Family and all those served. Have a simple meal and tell the stories with short presentations, skits or audio visual materials.
- Invite People Who Are Poor To Become Members Of The Family. Ask those you serve, where appropriate as with any other friend, if they may be interested in becoming a member of your conference, association or group. Invite them to a meeting for the purpose of discernment.
- Initiate A Vincentian Project. Is there a need in your community that needs attention? Bring people together from the community to discuss the concern. Involve the poor, women and men and the young at all stages: identification, planning, implementation and evaluation. Consider a Systemic Change Project. Read “Seeds of Hope- Stories of Systemic Change”
Question for reflection: How can we share the story of Saint Vincent and Saint Louise with the poor people whom we serve?