President General urges us to pray the Lord’s prayer at 8 p.m. on April 23rd
188 years ago, on April 23rd, 1833, a group of devout French Catholic lay people, with a far-sighted approach, came together to found the first “Conference of Charity”, later known as “the Society of St. Vincent de Paul”.
What inspired those men of faith was the practice of charity, personal holiness, unselfish service, their friendship and their vision of creating a more just world based on the Gospel values of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The “chartered foundation” and the drafting of the Rule were and are the pillars underpinning the unity and the strength of the SSVP up to the present day.
Before long, the newborn organisation grew rapidly across France, reaching out to other countries in Europe and around the world. Today, the SSVP is present in 152 territories, with 800,000 members and over 1.5 million volunteers, helping 30 million people annually. The first Conference (Saint-Étienne-du-Mont) has grown to 50,000 new “communities of faith and service”: a true miracle of God.
All 21st-century Vincentians, especially in times of pandemic, should be mindful of the work undertaken, albeit low-key, which is very effective and has yielded untold rewards for the people assisted: the myriad material and spiritual benefits received by millions of people in need, who rely on the Vincentian guiding hand to keep on overcoming challenges in life. During the pandemic, this guiding hand has become all the more relevant, since the global health crisis has exacerbated poverty, unemployment and hopelessness.
Before concluding, and in memory of those members who have left us over these 188 years of the SSVP’s history, I would like to say a pious prayer for them. Our forerunners are already in the House of Lord. They are part of the “Heavenly Conference”, and are still interceding for us here on Earth. In fact, our SSVP can be regarded as a real “school of holiness”, as we have already 50 members at different stages throughout the process of canonization, including Bl. Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam.
I kindly ask you to pray the Lord’s prayer for our beloved SSVP at 8 p.m. (foundation time of the “Conference of Charity”) on April 23rd, 2021 (next Friday), wherever you are (at home, in the parish, in a traffic jam, at work…). Congratulations to all Vincentians around the world! Long live the SSVP!
Fellow member Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th President General