Despite the international health crisis, this year devoted to co-founder Jules Devaux, has been very fruitful in terms of achievements and on-site and virtual activities undertaken by the Council General International (CGI).
As for formation and training, the highlights were as follows: the Circular Letter was published in February 2021; the fifth volume of Vincentian Chronicles was launched in May; two webinars on the pandemic, poverty and the future were held; and a book, written by co-founder Felix Clavé, on various poems was unveiled. Cities in southern France related to Felix Clavé were visited, and a historic Board meeting was held in Lyon, with a pilgrimage made to places where Ozanam lived.
As far as spiritual growth is concerned, the CGI launched a campaign for Ozanam’s canonization on the 23rd of each month, where members were urged to fast, as well as a novena prayer in memory of Ozanam, which is annually celebrated from September 1 to 9. The canonization process is in full swing with another miracle being analyzed by medical experts at the Vatican. Father Giuseppe Guerra has been monitoring the whole process. At the end of the year, the Christmas Message was recorded and was addressed to all the brothers and sisters worldwide.
Regarding governance and management, the CGI set up a Governance Department, and analyzed the adoption of good practices related to risk management. In 2021, two other useful documents were produced to undertake international activities: Updated Terms of Reference for all international services and missions and a reviewed strategic planning for Renato Lima’s remaining term, until September 2023.
Concerning communication, news are published on a weekly basis on the CGI’s website (www.ssvpglobal.org), three issues of Ozanam Network webzine were published, two Talk Shows with the President General were broadcasted, and the work carried out by the Logo Commission was completed.
In September, the CGI’s Annual Meeting was held in Madrid in hybrid format. During the 4-day meeting, the Charity in Hope Medal was awarded to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a cooperation agreement was signed with Misevi (Vincentian Lay Missionaries), and three brochures were launched: Guide for Creating Youth Conferences at Universities, Vincentian Reflection on the World Day of the Poor, as well as the SSVP Plus Project’s Operations Manual. At the beginning of the year, the final version of the SSVP Safeguarding Protocol for the Most Vulnerable was published to be used by Superior Councils.
As regards youth, progress was made on several issues: excellent results obtained from the census (30% of young adults, youth and children at our SSVP, up to 35 years old). The International Vice Presidency thereof has worked relentlessly and taught different online courses, namely, Digital Salamanca, which brought together participants of a 2018 meeting and current national youth coordinators. On July 4th, two motivation letters addressed to young people were published and the International Network of Friends project was launched. The Seven Founders contest in French, English and Italian was also successfully led by the youth.
It is worth mentioning significant Vincentian dates commemorated by the CGI worldwide: July 4th, the SSVP’s Youth Day; July 21st, the foundation of the CGI; and August 14th, the International SSVP Women’s Day. In addition, five ordinary Board meetings were held, numerous training and formation sessions were organized and ITVP meetings were arranged. Moreover, the President General received the title of honorary citizen in Taubaté (Brazil) and participated in the solemn session of the Vincentian Day in Brasilia, his city.
With respect to international events, the pandemic negatively affected the Society for the second year in a row, restricting social gatherings at various forums and activities. Even so, seven countries were visited (Gibraltar, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Portugal, France and Paraguay), and Cape Verde became a new Vincentian Territory, thanks to the SSVP Plus project. Furthermore, the CGI participated, virtually or in person, in several UN sessions to discuss issues such as the environment, poverty, homelessness and migration. At the Vatican, the President General was appointed member at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and the CGI actively took part in several meetings related to children, migrants and refugees.
Relations with the Vincentian Family were exceptional. In addition to the annual fee sent by the CGI to the International Office located in Philadelphia, a significant amount was donated to renovate the conference auditorium at the Motherhouse of the Congregation of the Mission (CM), which will now be called “Ozanam Hall.” The Vincentian Family officially declared its support for Ozanam’s canonization and published a resolution about the lack of vaccines to eradicate Covid-19, the latter at the proposal of the SSVP. The CGI attended all the meetings promoted by the Vincentian Family in 2021, especially those of the International Executive Committee, in addition to several virtual events regarding formation, spirituality and homelessness (13 Houses Campaign).
As for international solidarity, figures are impressive. The Commission for International Aid and Development (CIAD) sent 300,000€ to 30 countries, benefiting 100 social and humanitarian projects. On the CGI’s website, the CIAD launched the Appeal of the Month initiative, which has obtained numerous financial donations for projects. The Twinning Department has supported 50 countries (around 1 million euros).
In a nutshell, despite the restrictions of the health crisis, all these activities and initiatives have been carried out. Hence, we thank God for the strength, courage and energy that have kept the Council General in full charitable action. We wish to thank the 153 Superior Councils making up our Confederation, the staff in Paris and the members of the International Structure for their full support during this term of office. For this year 2022, we kindly ask members to pray for a ministry delivered with efficiency, love and devotion at the Confederation.
Brother Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th President General
On behalf of the Board