Dear Leaders and Members of the Vincentian Family,
As was mentioned in January at our meeting of the international Vincentian Family in Rome, 2017 marks the 400th Anniversary of the birth of the Vincentian charism.
The Vincentian Family Collaboration Commission, having received the approval of the Vincentian Family Executive Committee as well as an enthusiastic reception from those present in Rome, now presents to you our Vincentian Family’s Global Initiative for the celebration of this year.
May the Lord bless all our efforts to welcome the stranger in our midst.
Fr. Greg Gay
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”
A global initiative of the Vincentian Family to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism in 2017.
In 2017 we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Vincentian charism. It was in 1617, while preaching in the parish church of Chatillon, that Vincent exhorted his congregation to take responsibility for a poor family from the parish that had taken seriously ill and were in need of food and comfort. The family was saved by the overwhelming response to this call to action and Vincent as a result had his great realization that for charity to be effective it must be properly organized – an event which has changed the world for the last 400 years.
This story also brings to life a gospel text at the heart of our shared Vincentian calling – Matthew 25:35 ” I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” By reaching out and helping the strangers in our midst we are showing solidarity with that event at Chatillon and we are as one with our Vincentian calling – we model the example of the Good Samaritan in our community.
Who are the strangers in our midst today? There are so many to choose from – the refugees fleeing from oppression and poverty, those internally displaced within their country due to civil war, the migrants seeking a new life, the homeless, those coping alone with physical or mental illness, those suffering discrimination perhaps because of their faith or race or color, the lonely and vulnerable both young and old. Many of these people and issues are already familiar areas of work to members of the Vincentian Family globally. However, can we do more? Are there new poverties emerging that we are being called to respond to?
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Vincentian charism the leaders of the international Vincentian Family would like to invite all members of the Vincentian Family around the world to consider how we might better welcome the strangers in our communities by making it the focus of the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism.
The year of welcoming the stranger will run from January 1st to December 31st 2017. It will be launched formally by Fr Gregory Gay, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, on the 15th of May 2016 – the Feast of Pentecost.
This date is especially significant for our Vincentian Family. It also marks the end of the Year of Collaboration, issuing a call to action and inviting us to discover concrete ways to reach out to the strangers in our midst. It also connects us more deeply with the Universal Church, which under the guidance of Pope Francis, is celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
From May 15, 2016 onwards, the international leaders of the Vincentian Family will take responsibility for developing a reflective process of consultation with their particular branch of the Family, working closely with their regional and national bodies. We invite them to focus on the following questions:
Who are the strangers in our midst?
How are we currently supporting them?
What new needs are emerging?
How might we respond to these needs?
Might we be the strangers in need of welcoming?
This consultation and the ideas emerging from it will allow each Vincentian Family branch to develop a work plan by October 2016 to be rolled out in 2017.These work plans will then be forwarded to the Vincentian Family Collaboration Commission who will co-ordinate and support activities globally through the production of materials for reflection and celebration as well promoting the year and the activities generated on the FamVin website. The commission will also collate a final report on the outcomes and impact of this initiative by mid-2018 so that we can judge the result of our actions at a global level.
Where the Vincentian Family has strong connections on the ground, we encourage the Family to collaborate at either a local, regional, national or international level. As Vincent de Paul himself recognized – we are at our best and most effective when we work together.
Welcoming the strangers in our midst should also be seen as an invitation to everyone who shares (or might be interested in) our Vincentian values, mission or spirituality. The people we currently serve are as capable of welcoming strangers as we are – if we invite them to do so. It is not dependent on power or wealth or hierarchy. This is an opportunity for everyone to be part of our family and to share in our celebrations over the course of the year.