On 4 and 5 May, Renato Lima de Oliveira, 16th President General of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP), together with his fellow members Júlio César Marques de Lima (International Territorial Vice-President for South America) and Sebastián Gramajo (2nd Deputy Vice-President General), was in Buenos Aires to attend the events marking 160 years of the SSVP in Argentina (1859/2019).
All the events were organised with great care by the National President, Celeste Godoy, together with other members of the steering group of the SSVP’s National Council. There was a packed calendar of celebrations. On Saturday 4 May, after a delicious shared lunch, a “Training Meeting” took place in the mother house of the Daughters of Charity (FC), attended by all the leaders of the Vincentian Family in Argentina.
On this occasion, the President General spoke about projects, programmes and actions carried out by the International Council General during the three years of his term of office (2016/2019). A speech by the historian Ana María Silvestrini was listened to with great attention by everyone, as she described the characters of those who founded the first Argentinian conference. Father Fernando Sánchez, the national coordinator for the Vincentian Family, offered everyone an overview of the challenges faced by each Vincentian branch.
After this training meeting, the Mass was held to commemorate the 160th anniversary, presided by Father Juan Carlos Gatti Octavien, visitator for the province of Argentina / Uruguay / Paraguay for the Congregation of the Mission (CM), in the church of the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Parish, near the sisters’ house. In his homily, Father Juan Carlos described the story of the Argentinian founders in great detail, as people of faith, dedicated to the service of those in need.
The next day (Sunday 5 May), the President General visited the Santa Clara de Asís Foundation care home for the elderly, where at an afternoon tea, he shared some happy times with the residents. A commemorative plaque was unveiled, marking the 160 years since the SSVP was founded in Argentina. The Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Monsignor Joaquín Sucunza, attended this ceremony, sharing with everyone his friendship, evangelical knowledge, love for the poor and our Society. Renato presented the bishop with the book “Apasionados por la Caridad y la Justicia” [Passionate for Charity and Justice], and the Vincentian cross (based on Matt 25, 31-46).
“Argentina is a country of great solidarity. For 160 years, the SSVP has been serving the community, especially the most needy, in very practical ways. I am very happy with the path the SSVP in Argentina has taken, offering great potential for creation of new Conferences, and for more services delivered by the Councils. We thank God for all the blessings received over these 160 years. May the SSVP and the Vincentian Family continue to help our brothers and sisters most in need in Argentina, serving in hope and love, as Our Lord Jesus Christ asks us to”, said Renato Lima.
During these two busy days, the President General and the Vincentian delegation also had the pleasure of meeting four former presidents of the National Council of Argentina: Carlos Bado, Luis Larrosa, Roberto Hernández and Adrián Thier.
The first SSVP conference in Argentina was founded in Buenos Aires, in the parish of Nuestra Señora de la Merced, on 24th April 1859, led by Julio Amadeo André-Fouët, a captain in the French Navy, together with other founders. Fouët, who was a member in the city of Lorient (France), also organised the foundation of the first conference in Uruguay in 1858.
Some months later, in September 1859, a group of Lazarist priests and Vincentian members disembarked in the port of Buenos Aires, coming from France, after a journey of 52 days across the Atlantic. This is why 2019 is the year in which we commemorate 160 years since the arrival of the SSVP in Argentina, and also of the Vincentian Family. Congratulations, Argentina!