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Ground Rules for Visitation

Ground Rules for Visitation 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Today’s Article was Written by Mike Syslo, Chair of the National Governance Committee

There are a set of basic ground rules that should be kept in mind before visiting with those who have requested our help. It is a good idea to review them on occasion, understand them and put them into practice.

1. If you are on a witch hunt, stay home.

One of our purposes as members of the Society is to bring the love of God to those who are in need. You cannot do this if your personal expectation is that the people you visit are on the take, that they are out to get us for whatever they can. If you believe that the people you are going to visit are going to give you a phony story, if you believe before you actually meet with them that they “are only going to sell the food to get money for cigarettes or alcohol or drugs,” then you have prejudged them and shouldn’t be participating in the interview. Our role as helper obliges us to keep as open a mind as possible. Give those we serve the benefit of the doubt – at least until you have heard their story and can make a reasonable judgment as to the validity of the need. Remember, it is the need we are judging – not the people.  So, the first ground rule calls for you to judge yourself – not the circumstances, not others. What is your reason for going on this visit? If you are on a witch hunt, you have no Vincentian reason for being there. Stay home.

2. If you are an expert on life, stay home.

Have you ever heard the comment: I’ve lived a long, difficult life and I’ve never had to ask for help. (Better yet, have you said such?)  Some people (Vincentians) have a tendency to feel that they know the answers, they’ve heard it all before, they know the circumstances, they know what questions will be asked, and they know what they are going to do to resolve the request before the visit occurs. The problem with being an expert is that experts have the answers before the questions are asked. The problem with experts is that they are ready with what needs to be done while the words of the request are still being formed in the mind of the one asking. The problem with experts is that they don’t listen. And, that is exactly what is expected of Vincentians: Vincentians must be good listeners. Vincentians should go on a call with no preset plans in mind. Vincentians should visit those in need with the spirit of a servant asking their masters “what is it that we can do for you?” Our Lord has called out to us. It is He whom we are serving in the person of the poor. We must go to Him humbly asking what it is He seeks. But He does expect us to say “yes” when appropriate and “no” also when appropriate. Be a good listener. If you are an expert on life, stay home.

3. If you cannot smile and be pleasant, stay home.

Let’s face it, everyone has a bad day once in a while. It happens to the worst of us. It happens to the best of us. However, as Vincentians we represent Christ to those we serve. We must be pleasant, loving and caring when we encounter those in need. Our Lord asked us to love one another as He has loved us. That’s a tall order and we need to represent Him well. What this means is that if you are having a bad day, you can’t show it. And, if you can’t not show it, stay home. You are doing no one any good – including yourself.

If your normal personality matches the movie title “Grumpy Old Men,” then you shouldn’t be going on home visits. Grumpy people never provide those they encounter with feelings of love and renewed hope. That’s part of what we are doing when we go to those in need. We are showing them that God cares. He cares so much that He sent us to try to help. So, if you are a grumpy old man or woman, stay home.

Burn out often reflects itself in rude, crude and downright ugly behavior. Unfortunately, we never recognize it in ourselves. It’s always some else who sees it. And it is worse if the one who sees it is the one you are supposed to be helping. If you see this in your partner, make sure he/she stays home.

4. We are responsible for our effort, not for success.

It would be great to point to every home visit that we make and be able to say, “This is one of our finest success stories. We did such and such and it really turned things around for this family. They’re doing great now.” Well, in doing a reality check, we know better. We know, in fact, that very few of the families we visit for the first time ever even take the good advice we give them. That’s part of human nature and we should not expect much more. So then, what is our role if it is not to change people’s lives and get them on the road to heaven? Our role in serving those in need is twofold. First, it is to show those who are in need that God cares about them; He cares so much that He sent us to do what we can to help. Second, our role is to make life a little bit better for them right now, this moment, to give them some hope. If we can do more, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too.

We are responsible for making the effort to help. We are responsible for our attitudes, for the amount of love we put into the visit, for the amount of love we put into the advice we give. We are not responsible for making it all work. We can give advice but we cannot force those we are trying to help to take the advice and run with it. We cannot place conditions on the help we give; so we should never refuse to help because they didn’t follow our last advice. Christ asked us to love one another as He loved us. His love was unconditional. Focus on what you can control and that is your effort. You may walk away from a visit feeling like you have made a real difference or you may feel like you were not able to change anything. The impact of what you do today may not show up for months or years. If you are going to make an evaluation of the visit, then evaluate yourself, your effort, the impact of the visit on you, and not whether anything is different for the family you visited.

5. Judgment not judgmental!

Everyday we are faced with making decisions and everyday we make a choice on each one of those decision points presented to us. Some of those choices are good, some are bad and some are inconsequential.  We hope for the most part that our decisions are good ones. When we are faced with what our Lord presents to us on our visit to Him (in someone’s home), we are asked again to make a decision, a choice, a judgment.

We are asked to judge the validity of the need and the level of resources that are available to us. We are asked to listen to what is presented, observe the surroundings, analyze the circumstances, and evaluate what we have to work with. It is the need that is important. Is this real? Do they really need the groceries? Do they really need the rent help or is the rent not even due for another two weeks? Do we have enough money to pay the portion of the bill that they cannot cover? We are asked to make a judgment – period.

Don’t make your decision based on any one of the many varied lifestyle choices that people make: are they living together instead of being married; is it a mixed marriage; are they just going to take our help and use their own money to buy cigarettes, beer or drugs; is the house filthy and the kids as well; does the whole place smell of stale cigarette smoke or urine; is the old man just lounging on the sofa? These and a thousand other questions are based on lifestyle choices and cause us to be judgmental.

We are asked to make good judgments about whether to help or not. We are not to be judgmental about lifestyle choices. It’s not easy. We have to deal with mind and heart issues as well as all our life experiences. Our Lord told us to love one another as He loves us. Don’t deny someone your help because you disagree with how they choose to live. Make the judgment – don‘t be judgmental.

6. Who owns the groceries? Let go!

Letting go is something that has been promoted as a necessary part of maintaining both a good mental and emotional balance. Essentially the saying is “let go, let God!” Within our Vincentian way of life we are asked to do the same thing but from a slightly different aspect.

Often our members place a tremendously high value on the material things that we give to those in need. Often we are judgmental about the people we serve based on how they deal with the things we give them. Jesus told us to love one another as He loves us. And He loves us unconditionally. He doesn’t attach any strings to the gifts He gives us. He doesn’t ask us to dance to a particular tune in order to receive the gifts He gives out of love. And He certainly is not going to withhold any future gifts because we didn’t care very well for what He gave us in the past.

The same should be applied as Vincentians give their gifts to those in need. There are no strings attached. Our gifts are unconditional. When we give a person or family a box of groceries, who owns the groceries? They do. When we give a person or family some clothing or some furniture, who owns the merchandise? They do.  They have ownership. How they handle it, how they dispose of it is their business.

We are asked to make a judgment about the need that is presented to us. We are not asked to be judgmental about the actions of the people we are about to help.  Let go. Judge each case on its own merit. “The measure with which you measure will be used to measure you.” (Matthew 7:2)

7. Work within the guidelines of the Conference.

It has been stated in many ways in many St. Vincent de Paul publications: the basic unit of the Society, the most important unit of the Society is the Conference. It is the Conference that has the resources. It is the Conference that does the works of charity. It is the Conference that decides what will and what will not be done. In the United States, all Conferences are run democratically. All decisions are made by the group. No individual member has a right to override what the Conference decides. Every Conference establishes a set of guidelines upon which the members may operate as Vincentians. Assuming that the guidelines do not contradict the Rule of the Society, it should be understood by all members of the Conference that the guidelines must be followed.

For example, a Conference guideline may allow for any visiting team to spend up to $150 based on their own evaluation of the need and circumstances. If more than $150 is needed, then it must be brought back to the Conference for a decision. It would be improper for any visiting team to simply approve payment of or pay a bill for $220.

If the Conference as a group decides not to give any further assistance to a specific family (regardless of reason), it would be wrong for an individual member or visiting team to assist the family in spite of the Conference decision. All members must work within the guidelines of the Conference.

8. Your decision is the right one.

The visiting team must have confidence in themselves and their decision-making ability. They are being asked to make a decision that will affect not only the person/family they are working with but also the Conference. The visiting team members are the only ones present to hear the story, to ask the questions, to understand the circumstances and to formulate a resolution to the problem. Their decision is the right one. The only exception to this is if their decision contradicts a Rule of the Society or a prior decision/guideline made by the Conference.

No one within the Conference has a right to criticize the team for the decision they made. Other members may make recommendations as to other questions that may be asked in similar circumstances next time, other resources that may be referred, other paths that may be suggested. But criticism is out. Our role as Vincentians during the meeting is to bolster, encourage and assist each other.

Always remember: unless you are doing something contrary to your Conference’s prior decisions or contrary to the Society, your decision is the right one.


Take a moment and review all eight of the ground rules. Essentially, they all deal with attitude. Attitude is what you bring to the visit. It affects the way you think and the way you act. It truly is your contribution to the encounter. Our Lord presents us with opportunities to serve Him by serving those in need. It is not so much the material things that we give that are important as what we bring from our hearts. Let us close with an excerpt from Praying With Frederic Ozanam (pages 92-93, Ron Ramson, C.M.).

Frederic’s Words

On 21 October 1848, Frederic wrote a remarkable article in his newspaper, the New Era. The article was entitled “Help Which Humiliates and Help Which Honors.” 

Help is humiliating when it appeals to men from below, taking heed of their material wants only, paying no attention to those of the flesh, to the cry of hunger and cold, to what excites pity, to what one succors even in the beasts.  It humiliates when there is no reciprocity, when you give the poor man nothing but bread, or clothes, or a bundle of straw – what, in fact, there is no likelihood of his ever giving you in return. . .  But it honors when it appeals to him from above, when it occupies itself with his soul, his religious, moral, and political education, with all that emancipates him from his passions and from a portion of his wants, with those things that make him free, and may make him great.  Help honors when to the bread that nourishes it adds the visit that consoles, the advice that enlightens, the friendly shake of the hand that lifts up the sinking courage; when it treats the poor man with respect, not only as an equal but as a superior, since he is suffering what perhaps we are incapable of suffering; since he is the messenger of God to us, sent to prove our justice and our charity, and to save us by our works.

Help then becomes honorable because it may become mutual, because every man who gives a kind word, a good advice, a consolation today, may tomorrow stand himself in need of a kind word, an advice, or a consolation; because the hand that you clasp clasps yours in return; because the indigent family whom you love loves you in return, and will have largely acquitted themselves towards you when the old man, the mother, the little children shall have prayed for you.

How to Run a Good Meeting

How to Run a Good Meeting 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Many newly-elected presidents will soon take office and put their leadership skills to work. Among the group leadership skills that come into play is knowing how to run a good meeting. Here are a few tips for use whether you are a new or veteran president:

  1. Never hold a meeting without an agenda; send a tentative agenda in advance to everyone who is expected to attend.
  2. Make sure that copies of all reports to be discussed are sent out in advance of the meeting.
  3. It does not hurt to have a consent agenda for matters like prior meeting minutes and financial reports with discussion or reporting needed only if there is a question or correction.
  4. Begin every meeting with prayer, a spiritual reflection and brief discussion on the reflection.  Business can wait for prayer and spiritual reflection.
  5. At the beginning of your meeting have those in attendance approve the tentative agenda so that it then becomes theirs.
  6. Stick to the agenda and politely keep those who are present on topic. Remember to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and remind them that we discuss matters, not argue about them.
  7. Provide an opportunity at the end of a meeting for new business to be brought up for discussion at that time or at a subsequent meeting.

We hope these basic suggestions help your meeting run smoothly.

A Duty To Delegate: Guidance For Vincentian Leaders

A Duty To Delegate: Guidance For Vincentian Leaders 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Webster defines the verb “delegate” as “to entrust to another.”  It seems simple enough but isn’t always so when human nature intrudes.

Delegating is a core principle of sound management and our Rule expects Vincentian leaders to practice it.  Yet we frequently hear stories of Conferences and Councils unable to function effectively because presidents want to do everything their way and don’t delegate even basic responsibilities.  We also hear about leaders stepping down because they were “burned out” from placing undue and unwise burdens on themselves. Sadly, fulfilling our mission is often short-circuited by such misguided ideas of how to lead and manage those who share a vocation of service to God and His beloved poor.

Strong collaborative leadership is essential to making our Society a more effective source of help to the needy.  It brings fresh ideas into the operation of Conferences and Councils and moves us forward by promoting our Rule, forming members, and advancing goals and objectives.

Our Rule (3:11) tells us that “Following Christ’s example, the presidents at all levels of the Society endeavor to be servant leaders.  They provide an encouraging atmosphere in which the talents, capacities and spiritual charism of the members are identified, developed and put to the service of the poor and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.”  Such a focus on personal development also can provide a significant boost to a Conference’s or Council’s succession planning efforts.

There is abundant evidence that without effective leadership our service to the poor suffers and the viability of individual Conferences and Councils becomes a concern.  It is a time-tested truth that leadership is as important to the service of the poor as any other role in our Society.

Among the concerns expressed for not stepping into leadership by running for Conference or Council president is that it is too time-consuming.  That can be the case if leaders do not depend on others to assist them.  As a first among equals and as a servant leader, presidents should help others grow into leadership roles by appointing officers, board members and committee chairs – and using them – so it becomes a team effort.  Delegating duties to officers and making use of committees shares a Conference’s workload and enables others to become vital parts of the leadership team.  Presidents do not need to attend all committee meetings.  Committee chairs report back to them and to the membership.  Committees also provide an opportunity to identify and develop capable candidates to move into leadership positions.

Some key points to ponder:

  • Leaders are not expected to act alone – leadership is inherently a collaborative effort.
  • Our Rule recognizes that family and job responsibilities come first.
  • Leadership is not a personal mission but a team mission and God’s mission.
  • There is a need to build a leadership team – officers and committee heads.
  • The basic idea is to spread the work around – let others report to the president.
  • Leaders need to put their trust in God and not lose sight of the spirituality of our mission.
  • Leaders must use the God-given talents of others.

Our mission calls us to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to the poor and needy in the tradition of our founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul.  Serving as the president of a Council or Conference provides an ideal platform from which to enhance one’s own spiritual life.  A great privilege of leadership is the priceless opportunity to nurture the spirituality of fellow Vincentians while inspiring them to be ambassadors of the mission of St. Vincent de Paul in our communities by bringing the love and mercy of Christ to His suffering children.

Since our founding, Vincentians have been bolstered by an unwavering trust in the providence of God who has demonstrated during the past 189 years that He attaches a high priority to the success of our Society.  We have, after all, said “yes” to His call.  He wants us to succeed, whatever role we play in His plan for our personal ministry of love and compassion.

t and officers take office and soon afterwards, they should take advantage of the training programs and resources available to help them understand their roles.  There are many resources in this area that can be found on the National Council website such as Conference President Training, Servant Leadership Workshop and others.

Succession planning is not difficult but it does require effort.  Putting it off is easy but not wise.  You do not want to come to election time and only have one candidate – the one who steps in because no one else will and who may not be the right person for the job.

So, You’ve Been Elected President…

So, You’ve Been Elected President… 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Thank you for sharing your time and talents with fellow Conference and Council members as well as those in need.  As with all involvement in the Society, we hope your work as a Vincentian servant leader will lead you to greater faith, an increased desire to serve and stronger friendships.

Do you feel some anxiety about taking on a Vincentian leadership role?  Let’s take a look at a few common myths behind that anxiety.

Myth #1:  You need to know everything now.

No Vincentian has taken a leadership role already knowing everything; to be honest, no current Vincentian leader knows everything now.  What most Vincentian leaders do learn is where to look to find information, where the resources are and who in the Society has experiences and wisdom to share.

Truth #1:  You will learn and grow during your time as a Vincentian leader.

Myth #2:  You are now in charge of everything.

A Vincentian leader is a servant leader who understands the role of God’s providence.  Your ultimate role is to harness the gifts and spirit of your members and direct them to growth in holiness and increased love for one another, and in ways of service to others.  To do this you will need to allow God to direct you.

Truth #2:  God is in charge of everything.  You are called to discern where God is leading and to follow through – and help your members do the same.

Myth #3:  You are all alone in figuring things out.

This myth could not be further from the truth.  The Society is truly a global network of charity.  Fellow Vincentians in 155 countries are serving those in need, as you are, and desire to do so with love and in an effective manner.  As you attend regional and national gatherings, or reach out to other Vincentian leaders, you will find that many people are more than willing to share their knowledge.  You will only feel all alone if you do not participate in such interactions and relationships.

Truth #3:  Most Vincentian leaders love to talk about their experiences and help each other.

We will share useful information relevant to your new responsibilities in these E-Gazette articles in the coming weeks.  Reach out to other Vincentians – even if they are not from your area – for advice and support.  Thank you for being willing to serve through leadership, and may you be blessed through your witness of following God’s lead in your Conference’s/Council’s service while encouraging others to do the same.

We remind you of the valuable resources on the National website and urge you to review the Governance Page (https://members.ssvpusa.org/governance/) where the Governance Training DVD and the other material the National Governance Committee has prepared can be found.  Then make plans to use these tools.  Your Conferences and Councils will be better off if you do so.

The Need for Risk Management – Part 3

The Need for Risk Management – Part 3 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

We conclude our series of excerpts from an article in the Smart Risk Management Manager’s Training Workbook on the five core principles of Risk Management.  This week’s focus is on the fourth and fifth of those principles – Empathy and Fairness.

Core Principle #4 – Empathy

Managerial empathy is the ability to identify with your employees so you can understand their feelings and needs.  Smart Risk Managers always try to place themselves in their employees’ shoes.  Remember – employees are not just numbers, write-offs or sources of risk, but valuable team members who, like you, have fears, needs and hopes.

Managers who fail to practice managerial empathy tend to experience higher turnover, increased risk and more wrongdoing.  Smart Risk Managers understand that:

  • Most employees view their job as important. Employees are sensitive to decisions that affect their job.
  • Even a minor incident can have a significant effect not only on an employee’s job or career, but also on his or her personal life.
  • Employees have concerns – real or imagined – regarding their jobs, and these should be routinely addressed.
  • Employees fear reporting wrongdoing, especially when they believe that reporting may place them at risk or, in some manner, significantly impact them. A Smart Risk Manager takes great care to keep a report of wrongdoing confidential by telling only those who have a “need to know.”

Core Principle #5 – Fairness

Fairness begins with respect and dignity for all employees.  A Smart Risk Manager understands and values the importance of all employees, regardless of their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability or position on the organization chart.  Fairness in the workplace demands that you:

  • Uniformly and consistently apply laws, regulations, rules, policies, procedures and practices to all employees. No employee is above or below the law or your organization’s rules and policies.
  • Put aside your personal prejudice, bias and fear when managing employees.
  • Make objective
  • Never consider an employee’s physical, mental, ethnic, racial, social or religious background, characteristics, capabilities, beliefs, gender or age when making management decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotions, raises, benefits and training.
  • Eliminate unfair management practices, even if such practices have occurred in the past.

We hope you have found this information on Risk Management to be helpful.

The Need for Risk Management – Part Two

The Need for Risk Management – Part Two 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

We continue with the excerpts from the Smart Risk Management Manager’s Training Workbook dealing with the five core principles of Risk Management. The second and third of those principles – Observation and Communication – are covered this week.

Core Principle #2 – Observation

Smart Risk Managers are always on the lookout for risk and wrongdoing. Managers recognize that even the smallest hint of risk or wrongdoing can place everyone in danger. As a Smart Risk Manager, you should:

  • Constantly look for signs of risk or wrongdoing.
  • Understand the importance of careful observation in hiring.
  • Regularly inquire about your employees’ well-being and job satisfaction.
  • Recognize that even the smallest hint of risk or wrongdoing deserves immediate attention.
  • Be aware of the risk of workplace wrongdoing, without being intimidated.
  • Understand that wrongdoing can occur at any time, even in the best work environments.

Core Principle #3 – Communication

“Silence is golden,” but not in the workplace. Quick and decisive communication can prevent risk and wrongdoing from spreading throughout your work environment. To set a standard of effective communication in your workplace you should:

  • Send a message of “no tolerance” concerning risk and wrongdoing. Let your employees know that you do not tolerate wrongdoing. Although actions do speak louder than words, a positive message of “no tolerance” can be an effective and quick means of prevention.
  • Make sure your employees feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns, including concerns about wrongdoing and other related risks. Let your employees know – through actions and words – that your door is always open.
  • Provide constant, honest feedback to employees about their job performance, regardless of whether it meets your expectations. Expressing your expectations to your employees in the beginning, and reinforcing those expectations as your employees progress, allows you to promote a more productive and risk-free work environment.
  • Communicate by training your employees on techniques to avoid workplace risk and wrongdoing.
  • Tell only those who have a “need to know” when you are aware of or suspect workplace risk or wrongdoing. Your employer has designated specific individuals within your organization who are trained to manage risk and wrongdoing. Managers who withhold information or try to manage the wrongdoing themselves – without the proper training or organizational support – may create unnecessary exposure for themselves and their organization.

Next week we will address Core Principles #4 and #5 – Empathy and Fairness.

The Need for Risk Management

The Need for Risk Management 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Consider this:  Whether you run a Conference that focuses on visiting and helping the poor or a Council with special works such as stores, meal sites, housing units, or free pharmacies, you should be aware of the need for Risk Management. Obviously, the scope of your activity might dictate how you go about this but the principles are the same. For that reason we bring you an excerpt from an article in the Smart Risk Management Manager’s Training Workbook published by The Argos Group LLC.  The article keys on five core principles: (1) No Tolerance, (2) Observation, (3) Communication, (4) Empathy, and (5) Fairness.

The material we cite specifically refers to “managers” and “employees;” however, the principles stated relate to all leadership roles and all staff whether paid or volunteer. Leaders at all levels in our Society can benefit from these principles.

Core Principle #1 – No Tolerance

Smart Risk Management always begins with “no tolerance” for workplace wrongdoing. The following are important steps to create a “no tolerance” environment:

  • Never commit a wrongdoing. Smart Risk Managers are role models for other employees within their organization. Employees look to managers for guidance and support. A manager who creates risk or commits workplace wrongdoing sends a negative message to all employees – that risk and wrongdoing are permitted and tolerated.
  • Never allow Smart Risk Managers not only set a positive example of “no tolerance,” but also act as an obstacle to others who may want to commit wrongdoing under their watch.
  • Never condone Smart Risk Managers discourage wrongdoing by counseling, reprimanding or terminating employees who create risk or commit wrongdoing. If others place you or your co-workers at risk, they should understand that their actions could cost them their jobs.
  • Never rush to judgment. When someone is accused of wrongdoing, he or she is innocent until proven otherwise.

Next week we will address core principles #2 and #3 – Observation and Communication.

A Message From Bishop John Quinn

A Message From Bishop John Quinn 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

I believe God has a special place in His heart and in His kingdom for those Vincentians who heed His call to servant leadership in our Society.  Such service is a consummate example of following in the footsteps of St. Vincent, Blessed Frederic and Jesus Christ Himself. The spiritual rewards of doing so are many and meaningful.

Our mission says we lead men and women to join together to grow spiritually. Serving in a leadership role is a wonderful way to become closer to Jesus, the ultimate servant leader.  And we can be sure He will bless our efforts.

God wants us to utilize the unique talents He has given us to assist those in need. If we have been gifted with the ability to lead as well, He expects that we will do so as part of our commitment to our Vincentian vocation.

Serving as the president of a Council or Conference provides an ideal platform from which to enhance one’s own spiritual life. And a great privilege of leadership is the priceless opportunity to nurture the spirituality of fellow Vincentians while inspiring them to be ambassadors of the mission of St. Vincent de Paul in our communities…to bring the love and mercy of Christ to His suffering children.

Council and Conference presidents have told me that their years as a servant leader have been the richest part of their lives in terms of personal spirituality and appreciation of the eternally valuable gifts God had bestowed on them. Their uplifting experiences changed them in many ways that strengthened their relationship to God and acquainted them intimately with the innate goodness and generosity of the human spirit.

Each of us has been chosen for a purpose. That is evident in the day-to-day reality of our beautiful vocation. Our Lord will happily help us discern that purpose…the special way He wants us to support the magnificent mission of St. Vincent de Paul.

Since our founding, Vincentians have been bolstered by an unwavering trust in the providence of God who has demonstrated during the past 189 years that He attaches a high priority to the success of our Society. As we continue our grace-filled journeys to our heavenly homecoming, I am sure He is smiling down on us, cheering us on and clearing our path. We have, after all, said “yes” to His call – and He wants us to succeed, whatever role we play in His plan for our personal ministry of love and compassion.

May God continue to bless you abundantly in your exceptional service to His beloved poor.

Looking For A New Conference Or Council President? Make It Easy For Them To Become One

Looking For A New Conference Or Council President? Make It Easy For Them To Become One 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Many people hesitate to pursue leadership positions in a Conference or Council because they feel there is too much they don’t know or understand. Shatter the notion that being a Conference/Council president is overwhelming by consolidating pertinent materials into a well-organized packet or binder. We suggest you include the following:


  • A current roster of members
  • Minutes from previous meetings
  • Financial records, along with a current balance sheet and a list of anticipated expenses
  • A brief history of your Conference
  • Information on the founders and patrons of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul


  • An annual calendar of your Conference’s typical activities (include contact information for key people for each event)
  • A schedule of tasks you usually do each month to support the Conference

Contact Information

  • Members
  • Other Conference/Council presidents in your area
  • Diocesan Council president, regional vice president and National Office (perhaps include examples of situations when you might expect to contact or hear from these contacts)
  • A list of partners you work with in your area/city with their contact information
  • If relevant, local Council and staff contacts


  • How your Conference/Council operates within your parish/diocese (e.g., how often you meet with the pastor, what kinds of communications are preferred, which parish staff members interact with your Conference)
  • How your Conference functions (regarding home visits, food drives, etc.)
  • A list of roles in your Conference and their responsibilities (officers, home visit coordinator, committee chairs, etc.)
  • Your own personal notes and suggestions about where your Conference/Council is poised to head next
  • Instruction sheet for how to use the National Database (Members Portal)
  • Instruction sheet for how to fill out the Annual Report
  • Information about the next regional and national meetings

Resource List

  • The Rule, Manual, copy of Conference/Council bylaws, information on Ozanam Orientation, Serving in Hope, Servant Leadership and Vincentian Spirituality (including spiritual reflections and prayer cards), material you have on how to run an effective meeting and any other reference resources that would be helpful

Take the fear of the unknown out of the equation for a potential leader.  Make sure your Conference knows about this Conference President binder.  Sit down with potential successors and talk through it with them.  Then watch to see how many more people might be able to envision themselves doing what you never thought you could do either.

Succession Planning Requires Preparation And Training

Succession Planning Requires Preparation And Training 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

What does succession planning really mean within the Society of St. Vincent de Paul?  Essentially it refers to Conferences and Councils being prepared when a president’s term of office nears its end to present to membership Vincentians who are qualified and willing to take on the role of Conference or Council president.  Realistically, succession planning relates to all officer positions, as well as committee chairs, etc.  Achieving this goal requires preparation and training.  To be more specific, it requires three parts preparation and three parts training.

  1. Preparation Part 1:  Conference members should be exposed to regular reinforcement of the idea of growing into some role in Conference and/or Council leadership.  This is something each member should be encouraged to consider from the day he/she joins the Society.
  2. Training Part 1:  The Ozanam Orientation is the basic formation/training that all Vincentians need to experience.  The National Council recommends that all members attend an Ozanam Orientation at least once and suggests attending again every few years as a refresher.  It is also recommended that all members read the document “Who Me?  Why in the World Should I Become a Vincentian Leader?”  (Click here)
  3. Preparation Part 2:  This should begin when the newly elected president takes office.  He/she should identify a few members of the Conference or Council with leadership potential and begin encouraging/coaching them so they will be ready and willing to serve when the time comes.  One year before the next election the need for a new president and officers, as well as the election process, should be promoted.
  4. Training Part 2:  Throughout the term of the president, he/she should be coaching those selected for leadership roles.  The greatest encouragement (or discouragement) comes from the personal example shown by the current president and officers.  How they view and perform their roles will help determine what others will think about serving in those positions.
  5. Preparation Part 3:  The election of a president should be held at least six months before his/her term begins.  This gives time for the newly elected president and appointed officers to shadow the current officers and be prepared to take on their new roles on October 1.
  6. Training Part 3:  Before the new president and officers take office and soon afterwards, they should take advantage of the training programs and resources available to help them understand their roles.  There are many resources in this area that can be found on the National Council website such as Conference President Training, Servant Leadership Workshop and others.

Succession planning is not difficult but it does require effort.  Putting it off is easy but not wise.  You do not want to come to election time and only have one candidate – the one who steps in because no one else will and who may not be the right person for the job.

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