Date of publication: 29/11/2023

Meetings of the International Board and Executive Committee in Madrid

Council General International

November 10, 11 and 12, 2023

On November 10th, 11th and 12th, the first meeting of the International Board of Directors and of the Executive Committee were held in Madrid at the new headquarters of the National Council of Spain. All members by right were in attendance.

Chaired by the new President General and after a word of welcome, the new members of the Board of Directors were introduced. After the Vincentian prayers and meditation by Father Orozco CM, all items on the agenda were discussed, the most relevant being the announcements and proposals made by the Executive Committee. In particular, were the reports by the Secretary General and Treasurer General who presented the status of the accounts and requested proposals for the drafting of the 2024 Budget, which must include expenses related to the holding of a General Assembly every three years instead of six, and the need to nominate new auditors in Paris.

The following day, at the meeting of the Executive Committee, the President welcomed those present, recalling that today, November 11th, is the 174th anniversary of the founding of the SSVP in Spain by Santiago de Masarnau. The President General presented a brief portrait this Vincentian and of his years spent in London and Paris since he was a contemporary of Ozanam. In his speech he emphasized fraternity as the main value and origin of the Conferences. He recalled that Frederic Ozanam also visited Spain in 1852 and wanted to make a pilgrimage to Santiago. However, due to poor health, he only visited Burgos; he was  being so impressed by this visit that he wrote a beautiful book: “A pilgrimage to the country of the Cid”.  President General then presented the greetings of Ms. María Nadia Álvarez, a Madrid City Councilor.

Father Orozco’s meditation focused on the multiplication of the loaves and fishes as a call to charity, compassion and solidarity with those hungry for bread, but also for spiritual bread. We must also include the Eucharist in our lives and in our practice of charity. He also informed the Committee that he is busily preparing the international program called “Growing Together in Faith”.

Among other agenda highlights were proposals and announcements from the Board of Directors and subsequent discussions.

Highlights: 

-The creation of a Bylaws Commission and, recognizing its importance, the establishment of a 3rd Deputy Vice President for Governance and Transparency. Elaine Heyworth from England and Wales was appointed to this mission. The Commission will be co-chaired by Elaine and the Vice President General,  Ralph Middlecamp.

-The new Twinning Manual was presented and approved. Once translated the Manual will be published on the corporate website in two versions, full length and short versions.

-Italy was proposed that the next Youth Meeting be held in July/August 2025 in Rome, taking advantage of the Youth Jubilee organized by the Pope.

– The celebration of an International Vincentian Day in a city in each continent. It would be an event of worldwide impact with art and culture, an occasion to publicise our universal message about the Society and its activities and to obtain financial and human resources to make ourselves better known by public and private institutions. Australia has offered to be the first country to host this celebration during the second half of 2024.

– The proposal was made to the President of Panama to see if that country they could host the next Ibero-American Assembly, which could be held in 2025, taking into account that the last one took place in Ecuador in 2017.

– The formation of a task force by the Commission for International Aid  and Development (CIAD) members to find new  and creative ways of financing and rationalizing the current program, adapting and improving its management and of the International Solidarity Fund (FIS). We need to continue to have unallocated funds. As well, we need the support of Executive Committees in all countries to follow up and to continue to help the countries that have less, with small emergency funds, larger rehabilitation funds as well as systemic change projects or “Laudato Si” projects.

– Revision of the CGI annual report to add a summary of the countries’ annual reports for information purposes. This inclusion will show our global impact and account for our capacity and credibility globally. The proposal was approved unanimously.

– Regarding the calendar of meetings for 2024. It was suggested that, since France will host the Olympic Games, it could be a problem to hold all the meetings in Paris. The proposal is to hold the first Board meeting at the end of February and beginning of March, taking advantage of the Vincentian pilgrimage to Aparecida (Brazil). The next one to be held in May in Dublin.  On June  6th, 7th and 8th, members of the Board, Executive Committee, the Permanent Section and the IVPTs will be meeting in India.  The possibility of a meeting or a visit to the places where the SSVP needs reinforcement is also considered. Finally, a meeting will be convened in Rome for Board members, coinciding with the FamVin meeting to be held from November 15th to 18th.

– The President General, in accordance with his authority, nominated the 10 countries to be invited to join the Executive Committee for the period January 1st, 2024 to December 31st, 2026: Malta, Germany, Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Singapore, Bangladesh, Canada, Kenya, Angola and Paraguay.

– Regarding Youth, it was agreed to develop several activities such as international exchange programs to support local Vincentian missions and to strengthen our work with young people. Likewise, to maintain and promote the Youth Day with Giorgio Frassati as patron of Youth, on July 4th, and also to have a specific budget line and raise funds to finance youth activities.

Juliana Rosa Silva is the new International Youth Delegate. She proposed to continue the work already done. The first task is to appoint the new Territorial Coordinators.  America, 1, 2 and 3 have been designated. They are in process for Asia, 2, Africa 1 and 2 and for the others, we are still waiting for names, which will be done in collaboration with Julio Lima and the ITVPs to form a more unified team. Juliana welcomed ideas, suggestions or proposals from the members of this group.

The General President has appointed a number of associates to various service positions within the international structure, who, together with the ITVPs already appointed, will appear on the organization chart to be published on the corporate website.

Interventions from the participants:

Antonio Gianfico, Vice President for Institutional Relations with the Vatican, reported that the canonization process is waiting for the doctors to recognize the nature of the Brazilian boy’s illness and, therefore, of a miracle. He is confidents that the Commission will soon issue a positive opinion.

Luz Maria Ramirez, Vice President of Training commented that together with the delegates and the ITVPs, they will follow up on the programs established so far. They intend to share these training programs through the webinars that have already been set up, at least once a year, with a topic that is of interest to all. They will also analyze the training needs expressed in annual country reports and explore the possibility of continuing the cascade training. She wants to enrich the formation modules that we have on the web, specifically with issues of human development, the social doctrine of the Church, Vincent’s spirituality module (Father Orozco’s program on “Growing together in faith” will be of great help), as well as the 7 founders. She also intend to enrich and disseminate the “brief guide”, work on the lack of knowledge of the Rule (only after the updating of the Statutes is completed), and also work on a specific formation program for the National Presidents. Julio Cesar insists on the absolute necessity of this last part, as an ongoing formation.

Adela Redondo, International Communications Delegate, presented her team’s plans: Ozanam Network will continue to be published with minor changes, in particular, it will include a section on training. National Councils will be surveyed on their communication needs and expectations. Efforts will be made to engage countries in providing more material and news. The Commisison want to attract more collaborators, more volunteers and more donors by offering a coherent and clear image of our work.  Finally,  a communication plan will be drawn up that will contain the development of all these objectives and proposals. Adela concludes by thanking Carlos Lafarga for his excellent work during these years, and announced the incorporation to the Department of  journalists Natalia Cabrera and Renata Moreira.

Elaine Heyworth, Assistant Vice President for Governance, pointed out that the Society’s 200th anniversary is only 10 years away and that we should start thinking about it. The Board agrees and takes note.

Paola Da Ros, President of SSVP Italy, explained that the Italian SSVP signed a declaration of intent earlier this year to collaborate with the Italian Lions Club. Paola suggested to the Board the possibility of extending it to the international level, taking advantage of the presence of Lions in 210 countries. Paola will facilitate contacts with a Lions Club member in Spain. The President General agrees and suggests to the Historical Commission to propose the awarding of the next “Charity in Hope” medal to the Lions Club, if appropriate.

Finally, among other issues, two topics were discussed, one about FAMVIN’s support to the 13 Houses Campaign, its budget and our participation, and the other about the recent visit to Spain of the President of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO), who had a meeting with the President General to finalize a letter of intent and to ask if the SSVP can help the Union in its Women’s Observatory in the countries where they are not present.

With the interventions of the attendees and the recitation of the Vincentian prayers, the session was concluded.

The international meeting also gave participants a time for walks and fellowship. Courtesy of the National Council of Spain, we were able to enjoy a pleasant stroll through the city of Madrid. The nocturnal visit of the capital showed to all its beauty during a walked through the most traditional, oldest and most monumental Madrid: Plaza de la Villa, Plaza Mayor, Almudena Cathedral, Royal Palace…. The city welcomed attendees as they say it usually does, smiling at you like a Madrilenian, feeling like one of its own as soon as you step on the ground of this city.

 As a finishing touch to all these moments of celebratory friendship was the Mass officiated on Sunday the 12th in the Royal Basilica of St. Francis the Great by Father Jose Francisco Orozco CM, concelebrated with Father Benjamin Boluka, a religious of St. Vincent de Paul, who came from the Democratic Republic of Congo. This beautiful neoclassical temple offered participants the embrace of its great dome, the fourth largest in Europe after St. Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon of Agrippa, both in Rome, and Santa Maria del Fiore, in Florence. It encouraged all  and prepared hearts to walk towards the encounter with Jesus, until we found him in Jesus the Eucharist. And it is from there, where all the words that had been pronounced during the meeting of the international team are ordered and take their last sense, at the feet of that Christ, who once again sent us with the sweetness of the children’s voices of the Santiago de Masarnau choir of St. Alphonsus College. 

“There are still so many feet to wash

there is still so much darkness

to illuminate

so many chains to break,

bread and wine for the poor I want to be…”

The brothers are waiting for us, charity is urgent and each one from his responsibility, from the place in which he has had to carry out his task in the Society, St. Vincent de Paul wants us to renew our faith and be the hands that wash those feet, that illuminate the darkness and that in His name we break the chains, so many chains that threaten mankind today.

Thus, rocked by the soft melodies of the St. James of Masarnau children’s choir and following our founder Frederic Ozanam, all returned home renewed and impelled to put  faith into action.