Experiences With Persons Living in Poverty
Vincentians often gather to reflect on the lessons, sorrows, and miracles that occur in the course of their experiences with people living in poverty. As Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM describes it so well, “Vincentian formation doesn’t begin with a classroom, or a book, or a lecture. The philosophy of Vincentian formation is a “GO-THEN” philosophy. Go serve them, then come back and talk about it. Go serve them, then begin to ask what works and what doesn’t work. Go serve them, then begin to figure out why they (and others like them) are poor in such a wealthy society. Go serve them, then begin to ask others who serve them how they keep serving over the years. The best learning happens when it’s grounded in real life and real questions.” By sharing those humorous stories, characters we’ve met, things we’ve done along the way– that’s when we realize that we may have experienced a “Vincentian moment”. These moments are abundant, and are the primary way that we teach one another and support one another.
“It’s the poor who make you a Vincentian. It happens when they let you into their lives.”
-Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM
“The loneliness of homelessness can get really intense. I had no street skills, and no one to talk to.” -from “The Edge” by Robert Waldrop
“When we go to visit the poor we should so identify with them that we share their sufferings…Ask this grace of God, my brothers, that he may give us this spirit of compassion and mercy, and that he may so fill us with it that as soon as anyone sees a missionary, he immediately will think, there goes a person full of compassion. Think for a moment of how much we ourselves stand in need of mercy, we who must exercise it towards others. We must bring this mercy everywhere, and endure everything for the sake of compassion.” -St. Vincent, Abelly, 3:118.
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