In January 2017, Renato Lima de Oliveira, 16th President General, began a series of official visits. His first destination was the United States of America. Between January 2nd and 9th, his agenda took him through the following cities: New York, Trenton, Baltimore, Miami and Philadelphia. Ed Keane (International Vice-president for Institutional Relations) and David Barringer (Executive Director of the United States National Council) accompanied the President General during all activities. The following is a summary of the main activities:
New York: lecture for 70 Vincentians of the Conferences from the region, at Saint Ignatius Parrish; home visit to a lady in economic difficulties, in the company of two Vincentians; visit to Monsignor Robert Richie (St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Archdiocese of New York); foundation of the first Conference at St. Patrick’s Cathedral; dinner with the members of the Vincentian Office at the United Nations.
Trenton: meeting with members of the Holy Mary Conference, in the parish of the same name, in Bordentown; visit to the St. Peter Claver Conference, in the locality of Asbury Park; visit to the special work “Selective Seconds”, held by the Santa Rosa Conference, in Belmar; meeting at the Santa Rosa de Lima Conference in Freehold, where the issue of immigrants was discussed; visit to “Furniture Warehouse” that will be used by Vincentians as a bazaar for people in need.
Baltimore: meeting with the President of the Central Council, Sister Pauline Manalo; meeting and visit to the special work “Saint Vincent de Paul Head Start” (nursery); visit to the special work “Beans & Bread” (popular restaurant in the community); visit to the special work “Kidz Table” (healthy eating for children); visit to the special work “Sarah’s Hope” (temporary housing for the homeless); dinner with the Board of the Central Council.
Philadelphia: participation in the Annual Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Vincentian Family (VFEC).
Miami: contact with local Vincentians.
“I was really impressed to see the actions being carried out by the Vincentians in the USA. I felt as if I were at home, such was the warm welcome I received from my dear Brothers. I was very well received in all the cities, not only by the leaders but also by the Vincentians of the Conferences. I have been closely acquainted with the special works and the Conferences. I was very pleased with what I saw and witnessed”, commented President Renato Lima.
During the month of March, Renato Lima de Oliveira makes an official visit to 7 National or Superior Councils: Italy, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia and Chile.
In Italy, after being welcomed by National President Antonio Gianfico, Renato attended the weekly public audience of Pope Francis at the Vatican. As in June 2016, he had the opportunity to greet the Holy Father and share a few words with him. He also gifted him with a trophy, representing the official SSVP logo, as well as reports on the Society’s activities around the world. Other highlights of the visit included a meeting with Father Giuseppe Guerra, who kept him informed of the latest developments concerning the canonization process of Blessed Frederic Ozanam and an interview with Carriquiri Guzman, Secretary of the Council of the European Union.
Leaving Italy, Brother Renato flew to India, where Joseph Pandian (Vice-President General) and Johnson Varghese (National President) awaited him, along with a 5-day program in 3 parts: Goa, Chennai And Cochin. At each stage, the President General met with the Archbishops, as well as local SSVP officials, visiting SSVP works and projects: a Saint-Vincent-de-Paul school, Housing for the elderly, and an Ozanam center. Despite the busy schedule of this marathon trip, he did not miss an opportunity to talk with the Vincentians, as in Kothamangalam (Kerala), where 800 members of the Central Council had gathered for his visit.
The President General was deeply touched and moved by the warm welcome and kindness he received. Johnson Varghese (President of the National Council) about the President’s visit: “What an experience! The visit of the President General has really boosted the Vincentian spirit in our members. Wherever he went, a huge crowd welcomed him and he found time to talk to as many Vincentians as possible. He moved very freely with all our members. We could show him various activities taken up by the SSVP in India. So we consider the visit a great success and a real boost to all our members.” he said.
The National President of Colombo (Sri Lanka), Visaka Nilmini Weliwita, welcomed Brother Renato: The National Council took advantage of the presence of the President General to launch its website, inaugurated on 11 March. Accompanied by Joseph Pandian (Vice-President General), our Brother Renato attended a program of visits including interviews with members of the Hierarchy. He was received by Sem Emmanuel Fernando, Archbishop of Colombo, and local Catholic Church.
Between the meetings with the Vincentians and the scheduled activities, the President General also had the opportunity to visit special works of the SSVP, such as: a project of building new houses for poor families, goat breeding, and a crafts project. The President General ended his trip in Sri Lanka with a meeting of 200 members from the Society in Colombo before flying to Malaysia, the fourth step of his official journey through seven countries where the Society is present.
As soon as he arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Renato Lima de Oliveira was expected for a dinner with many guests, including: Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Bishop of Penang, National President of SSVP-Malaysia and his wife, former National Presidents, National Council officials and members of SSVP Councils across the country. His arrival coincided with a meeting of the International Twinning Commission he attended to. The purpose of this first meeting was to inform the new members of the Committee on their roles and responsibilities and to discuss the various aspects of Twinning.
The program also leaded him to visit the Society ‘s works: The “Second Chance” Community Center, which provides help, friendly support, spiritual guidance and vocational training, to former prisoners, in order to facilitate their reintegration. The President General was particularly moved by the testimonies of the residents explaining how the shelter helped them break away from the cycle of rejection, hatred and addiction, and discover God’s mercy that healed and empowered them into becoming wounded healers especially to those who are in a similar situation. Renato Lima de Oliveira also visited a dialysis center runned by the Sacred Heart Conference, which currently serves 92 patients, among the poor inhabitants of the neighborhood. During the visit of the Rumah Ozanam (Ozanam House), a SSVP shelter for women and children infected with HIV / AIDS, a highlight moment in emotion was awaiting Brother Renato : in his honor, the children sang “Jesus loves me” in front of the visitors, all moved to tears. In return, the President General found his most beautiful voice to sing: “Pelas Estradas da Vida”.
Renato Lima de Oliveira is currently continuing his visits to New Zealand, then to Australia, to end in Chile which is the last stop of his official trip before his return to Brazil.
The Council General thanks the Superior Councils that are collaborating generously in the organization of these visits. Let us pray for the success of these visits, according to God’s will and in favor of the people in need assisted by SSVP worldwide.