The fourth and last 2019 meeting of the SSVP International Board was held on 30th November. This time, it was held near Milan, at the house of the Oblate Fathers in Rho, with the intention of honouring the memory of Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, on the 180th anniversary of the Council General International.
The meeting began first thing in the morning. After opening prayers and words of welcome by the President General, Fr Andrés Motto, C.M. gave the spiritual reflection, on the various ways of naming poverty, changing according to contemporary sociological situations, in which a person can be called exploited, marginalised, excluded, a proletarian, a servant, shamefully poor, delinquent, a layabout… leading to the conclusion that Vincentians and the Society as a whole must eliminate and distance themselves from the use of this vocabulary, which marks out, injures and criminalises the poor. Instead, we must offer ways of overcoming this situation through fraternity, and the lived experience of faith in community which leaves no-one behind, includes everyone and fills the world with love.
After this rich spiritual reflection, the minutes of the previous meeting were approved, and the collection took place, just as all Conferences do throughout the world.
At this point, Bertrand Ousset, the Secretary General, spoke to share with the members of the Board the progress in the move to the new international offices, at 65, rue de la Glacière, a much bigger, more suitable office for the needs of our times. The official opening of the new offices is scheduled for September 2020. After this, the Secretary General handed over to the 1st Deputy Vice-President General, Joseph Makwinja, who presented the programme for the 2nd “All Africa Assembly”, which will bring together the 40 SSVP National Presidents in Africa, some days before the events that the Council General is going to hold, God willing, in Nairobi (Kenya): the annual international SSVP meeting (meetings of the “Permanent Section” and the “International Executive Committee”), the triennial meeting of the countries forming the Concordat (20 nations which make fixed annual donations to CGI to ensure the budget for this Council), and the VPTIs’ meeting. There will also be a meeting of French-speaking SSVP countries, a great initiative by the Council General.
Together with these key themes, he also spoke about the progress of the Commission for Development of International Statutes, which will have its next meeting in February 2020, and on the need to strengthen and train the International staff team.
Further important matters included the presentation by the General Treasurer, Larry Tuomey, of the budgets for 2020, which were approved unanimously, and the contribution by the Vice-president general, Joseph Pandian, who spoke among other matters about the good work of the International Commission for Aid and Development (CIAD) and its next meetings in February and September 2020.
The morning ended with a summary of the work carried out by the President General International, who, among other subjects, gave a report on his trip to Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines, spoke about the Talk Show at the end of October 2019 (the next Talk Show will be on 28 March 2020), and about the need to strengthen the presence of the SSVP in the United Nations, where great work is being done already with the Vincentian Family.
In the afternoon session, the first set of presentations were for the strategic department, starting with the Ombudswoman, who is responsible for all internal complaints and possible disputes. After that, the main topics related to communications were addressed, the model for the new international SSVP webpage and the new official video were presented, the latter released in November 2019. There was also a report on the progress of the competition to design a new international logo, which will celebrate its final stage in Nairobi in 2020.
The Vice-president for Training and Formation, Maria Luisa Téllez, also talked about the progress in this area, with new training modules added to the global Vincentian training and formation, strengthening communications with territorial representatives, who are also offered topics for study and training/formation. The aim is to produce videos and presentations which deliver a simple, attractive and powerful training programme for all members, in which spirituality and the charism are given prime importance as the basis for this training/formation.
The Commission for Historical Research is linked to training, and is making great efforts to recover the legacy of the founders. One of the aims is to be able to translate all of Frédéric Ozanam’s work into the official languages of the SSVP, in order to share this wealth of material with all Vincentians around the world. The literary competition is also enhancing the study of the SSVP and its origins for many members, and recovering some very valuable information about the history of the Society. Some previously unpublished talks by Frédéric Ozanam have been discovered, along with other relevant, historical information.
As regards Ozanam’s canonisation, Sebastián Gramajo, 2nd assistant vice-president general, gave some new information about the work taking place in Rome, producing some very positive results for the Cause. He also spoke about the rewarding experience of the “safeguarding meeting, for people cared for by the SSVP”, which was held at the SSVP offices in Paris, and which set out the basis for an upcoming implementation protocol, to protect the integrity of people cared for by our institution, with special attention given to minors.
The programme of contributions closed with the report from Maurice Yeung, Vice-president for the Structure and Special Projects, who, among other things, spoke about PANASCO 9, the meeting of the SSVP countries in Asia and Oceania. This was going to be held in Hong Kong, but because of the instability in the territory, has been postponed by the end of 2020.
On the following day, after this intense round of meetings, the Board members were able to visit the most iconic places around Milan relating to Frédéric Ozanam, including his place of birth (where there is a plaque in his honour), and the place where he was baptised. A new church now stands on this site, the Basilica of S. Carlo al Corso (dedicated to St Charles Borromeo), which retains the baptismal font from the previous church (Santa Maria dei Servi), in which Blessed Frédéric was certainly baptised.
Notable also were the visits the Board members made to local Vincentians, particularly to the Monza Central Council, where Holy Mass was celebrated, and a special work, a shelter for homeless people. They also met the Central Council of Milan, and visited the Casa di Elena, a home for women in difficulties who are caring for children.
“The Milan meeting was extremely intense and productive, with great conversations among Council members, who are always seeking the best solutions for the future of the international SSVP. We are experiencing very positive energies in Council General, with the new offices and the challenges appearing for leading the Council General in the best possible way. I wish to thank all the board members for their charity, spirit of conciliation, faithfulness and Christian commitment”, stated our president, Renato Lima.