On September 9th, 2021, we commemorate the 5th anniversary of the current term of office of the Council General International (CGI), under the guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Vincent de Paul.
First off, I would like to thank the Good Lord for the grace of having been appointed by Him, with a majority of votes from countries belonging to our Confederation, to hold the prestigious office of 16th President General of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP).
I was elected to preside over the CGI up to 2022. However, due to the international Covid-19 health crisis, my term of office has been extended for another year following the decision made at the extraordinary assembly held by countries making up the International Executive Committee.
I would like to thank the International Board, the headquarters’ staff and, especially, the Superior Councils, which are part of the Confederation, for their wholehearted support to the CGI and to myself. Thanks to this union, harmony and strategic vision, we are achieving all the goals established, and beyond that; but this —and I do insist— is not my achievement, but that of all those who are working together for this purpose.
Since 1839, the CGI has been the major guardian of the Rule and the SSVP unity, upholding the same foundations and principles of the Society in over 150 Vincentian territories. Our concerns revolve around transparency, democracy and innovative management, being always close to members, showing the great role of the CGI for the whole SSVP.
I am an open person and I strive to work out solutions to the most difficult decisions through dialogue and consensus, according to the Vincentian tradition. We do not always get it right, but we can guarantee one thing: we have never stood still or idly by, especially in these difficult times of pandemic.
Throughout these five years, I do believe we have achieved several objectives through projects, initiatives and programs that have increased the CGI’s visibility. We have worked hard to disseminate the biographies of the seven founders. We have stepped up efforts in Bl. Ozanam’s canonisation. We launched the Fund for International Solidarity (FIS), expanding the CGI’s solidarity and fraternal aid beyond its borders.
As for formation, we have included new modules of the Universal Program, edited new books and resumed the publication of Circular Letters. With regard to young people, we would like to mention some of the initiatives undertaken: the SSVP International Youth Day (July 4th), the youth census, and the 2nd International Meeting in Salamanca (Spain). Moreover, our communication has been enhanced with a new website, institutional videos, social networks, memorial logos and newsletters. In addition, we have introduced the figure of General Ombudsman to receive comments and address concerns and conflicts.
Furthermore, institutional relations have been strengthened via agreements and conventions, bringing the SSVP even closer to the Church and the United Nations. In these five years, and despite the pandemic, we have visited 40 countries; and thanks to the “SSVP Plus” project, we have reached out to six new countries. We also established the “International SSVP Women’s Day”, on August 14th, and a spiritual campaign for Ozanam’s canonization has been launched, consisting of members fasting on the 23rd of each month. To top it all, we have acquired new general headquarters in Paris, thereby increasing the CGI’s assets.
To all the members around the world, brothers and sisters, I ask you to pray for me and my family. May we continue to serve the SSVP, always in unity.
Brother Renato Lima de Oliveira, on behalf of the International Board.