“Surely, we can and must promote solidarity and hope via social media and Internet. Charity knows no borders, not even in a virtual environment” (fellow member Renato Lima de Oliveira, 16th President General)
In the last two months (March and April 2020), mankind is facing the intense battle against Coronavirus. Despite the unfortunate deaths and the chaos in economy, there have been countless victories, such as people recovering from the disease and the overflowing creativity in business and industry sectors.
For us, at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP), there was also the need to adapt to the current circumstances. With a lot of innovation and patience, activities are being carried out, obviously with certain limitations.
Many Conferences and Councils have started to hold, more frequently, online meetings and virtual prayers via Internet, connecting Vincentians while keeping the routine at the SSVP. Indeed, the virtual meetings will never be the same as face-to-face meetings (as foreseen in the Rule); but we can’t let this gridlock take over our lives. The use of social media (such as “Facebook”), messaging applications (such as “WhatsApp” or “Telegram”) and videoconferencing (such as “Zoom” or “Skype”) has grown a lot, helping us to maintain the Vincentian actions.
Another issue that has gained popularity in the past few weeks is the Vincentian training online sessions. In this context, the famous “LIVEs” have intensified to such an extent that, in many places, they have become, sometimes, the only alternative for updating, training and educating members during this social confinement. Several leaders of the Council General have joyfully participated, whenever invited, in these videoconferences in different parts of the world.
The 16th President General, fellow member Renato Lima de Oliveira, attended the following virtual activities: April 4 (“Talk Show” produced by the General Council); April 13 (“LIVE” of the Metropolitan Council of Maringá, Brazil); April 17 (bi-weekly meeting of the Conference of St. Francis of Assisi, Lisbon, Portugal); April 18 (videoconference with the Vincentian youth of India); April 18 (Q&A session with Vincentians of Paraguay); April 24 (fraternal conversation with presidents of Conferences of Peru); and April 25 (online meeting of the North American youth). On many occasions, fellow brother Renato was accompanied by national presidents and other representatives of the Council General.
The participation of the Vice-president for Youth, fellow member Willian Alves, in virtual events has increased: March 29 (Maringá, Brazil); April 18 (meditation of the rosary and meeting in Honduras); April 18 (meeting with the youth of Paraguay); April 25 (meeting with youth leaders from South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique); and April 25 (online forum with young adults from the United States of America). In fact, young people have always been ahead of their time, as these youth videoconferences were happening long before the outbreak of Covid-19.
On April 28th, fellow member Júlio César Marques de Lima (Territorial Vice-President “America 3”) participated in a “LIVE” in Brazil. He is also organizing a videoconference in the coming days (to be announced soon) in which all 12 presidents of the Superior Councils of South American countries will participate.
In all these events, the questions and curiosities of Vincentian internet-users were diverse. Amongst the most recurring themes, we can highlight the canonization of Ozanam, the actions of the Council General in relation to the Coronavirus, the themed years that spread the biography of the seven founders, universal formation and training, forms of financing social projects, recruitment of young people, institutional relations within the SSVP with the Church and the Vincentian Family, the importance of home visits, internal conflicts, among many other aspects.
“I and the entire International Board are at the disposition of the Superior Councils to participate in virtual meetings. This way, we can be closer and closer to our Vincentian grassroots. It does not matter if this approach takes place via Internet or in person. It is worth the same thing when we are brothers and sisters, and we seek the same ideal: the promotion of the poor and our personal conversion. Let us take advantage of our isolation at home to improve our formation”, pointed out our President Renato Lima.