At the end of October, the town of Assisi, famous for having seen the birth of Saint Francis and Saint Clare, was the town chosen by the Superior Council of Italy for its national meeting, under the theme “the Unity of Humankind”.
About 800 fellow members from the whole country gathered in this mystical place in the region of Umbria to share and be trained in the Vincentian spirit, with the constant reflection of the need to be aware of the importance of representing a charisma that has as a hallmark the service and care to the most deprived persons.
This service “does not understand of quantity but of quality, and does not set economic objectives but human ones”, stated the National President of the SSVP Italy, Antonio Gianfico.
The work of the Conferences prioritizes proximity and empathy, love and the capacity to devote oneself personally to your neighbour. For this reason, this Assembly strengthened the great potential that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has in its original NDA and that today keeps giving an answer to the “traditional” poverty but also to “the new emerging poverty”. Since, thanks to the personal involvement in the relation to the one that suffers most, we can realize their problems and thus take the necessary measures towards their holistic, spiritual and material recovery.
At this National Assembly, the fellow member Alessandro Ginota read an interesting statement of our dear President General, Renato Lima de Oliveira, which we attach in full. In his message, we highlight a beautiful phrase inspired by the motto of the meeting: The way that the Vincentian chooses for the unity of humankind is the charity. Moreover, this should guide us in the service that we have chosen to get to the next stage: charity is closeness, assistance and justice as well; and there lies inexorably the recognition of the person’s DIGNITY.
Gathering in Assisi – “The Unity of Humankind”.
To President ANTONIO GIANFICO
National Council of Italy
Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP)
Rome – Italy
Dear members of the Vincentian Conferences,
Brothers and sisters,
- This humble President General thank you for the opportunity of sending you a message in this gathering of reflection that takes place in the beautiful city of Assisi. Last year in Rome, I had the opportunity to engage with several of you in the vincentian symposium of the 400 years of our Charisma.
- First of all, I would like to introduce myself. I am Renato Lima, Brazilian, 47 years old, journalist, married and father of 2 children, and my term of office as 16th President General of the SSVP goes from 2016 to 2022 under the slogan “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all”.
- My dear friend Antonio Gianfico informed me that the purpose of the meeting in Assisi is to reflect together on the social changes and, in that context, on the care for the dignity of the human person. It is important to rediscover the meaning of “unity of humankind” in a historical period in which humanity is very much divided: into categories, class, census, interests and wars. The road to unity seems to be far away.
- The world of volunteering (and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in particular) has always been at the forefront in addressing the sensitive issues linked to the phenomenon of changes. Let us remember that from the beginning, Frederic Ozanam was one of the most brilliant forerunner of the Church’s Social Doctrine.
- The way that the Vincentian chooses for the unity of humankind is the charity. Moreover, this should guide us in the service that we have chosen to get to the next stage: charity is closeness, support and justice as well; and there lies inexorably the recognition of the person’s DIGNITY: of each of the seven and a half billion people who inhabit the planet, united by the same DIGNITY.
- I invite you to read my Circular Letter of 2018 where we defined our vision of “being a global organization that promotes the INTEGRAL DIGNITY OF THE NEEDIEST”.
- Through the home visit, the members of the SSVP are called to have an encounter with Christ, present and hidden in the Poor. As Ozanam says: “We should fall at their feet and tell them like the Apostle: ‘You are our masters and we will be your servants, you are for us the sacred images of the God that we do not see, and not knowing to love him in another way, we will love Him through your person ‘.”
- As proof of this, we can learn from the exemplary life of people who belonged to the Vincentian conferences (more than 50) that today are in various stages of canonization processes (just to mention some of your fellow countrymen: Frassati, Geana Beretta Molla, Contardo Ferrini, and Giorgio La Pira).
- People from all parts of Italy, Vincentian missionaries in their own land, will certainly participate in this encounter of Assisi, and they will bring in their rucksack the experience of helping others; they will exchange experiences and knowledge, because as we also say in the Circular Letter of 2018 “the Vincentians need to be permanently trained”.
- However, all of you have something in common: your faith and commitment to serving the excluded of society, which is summed up in one sentence of Frederic Ozanam: “what can we do to be truly Catholic, but dedicate ourselves to what most pleases God? Let us then help the poor, as Jesus Christ would, and let us put our faith under the protective wings of charity”. This is our vocation and our way of living the faith and, as reads the motto of the Italian SSVP (“Apply a layer of colour to life”) to the needy ’s and to yours. Thank you.
Remain steadfast in your prayers and in your vincentian work. Vincentian greetings.
Brother Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th President General