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A Council’s Job One: Serve The Conferences

A Council’s Job One: Serve The Conferences

A Council’s Job One: Serve The Conferences 1198 1198 Kristen Blacksher

(Excerpted From Vincentian Life: Council)


Conferences should have a voice in every major decision.  No Voice, no Vote, no Vincentian will be at the meeting or activity.  It is important that every Conference is represented at the District Council and that the Conference President (or his/her designated representative) is there to speak for them.

Most Council bylaws have a clause that will remove a Conference President from Council membership/voice/vote if the President misses a certain number of meetings.  This removal is a tragedy for the Council, the Conference and the people we serve.


Conferences should be aware of all conditions and circumstances both local and global that will impact them or the Council.  Conferences should be especially aware of any major situation that threatens the well-being of the Council.  Therefore, it is an obligation of the Council to keep the Conferences well-informed and in a timely manner.

The Council should strive to develop a fabric of communication.  One that goes up and down the normal channels but also goes sideways from Conference to Conference and from Vincentian to Vincentian.  A strong fabric of communication will strengthen the Council and avoid the problems of it relying on a few people to make it run.  If those few leave the Council for any reason it can take weeks or months to learn all that needs to be known on how the Council operates.  A fabric of communications creates an informal communications network that helps keep the members informed.


Conferences should be involved on a regular and frequent basis in the operation of the Council.  This can be accomplished by involving them as Council Members, as volunteers, as committee members, on special projects, on fundraising, in special works, in general membership meetings and in every other way that may be appropriate.


The Council should provide formation and training to all members of the Council especially new Vincentians.  The National Formation and Spirituality Committee has developed formation/training programs that are available across the country.  The National website (https://members.ssvpusa.org/)  has many documents, presentations, etc. available that should be used to form and train Vincentians.

By a resolution of the National Council, all new members of the Society have to attend an Ozanam Orientation within their first year as a member.  Also, any member, who is elected to or appointed to be an officer at any level in the Society, must have attended an Ozanam Orientation or must attend one within the first year as an officer. It is highly recommended that all members of the Society attend the Ozanam Orientation at least once.  Attending the Ozanam Orientation every three to four years as a refresher is recommended for all members.

This places a burden on the Council.  The Council must provide the Ozanam Orientation formation program within the Council area as often as is necessary to fulfill the requirements for training prescribed by the National Council.  If the District Council lacks the resources to provide the Ozanam Orientation on an as needed basis, it should seek assistance from the next higher Council to provide this training.


Conference visitation by a District Council (District Council visitation by a Diocesan Council) is an extremely important responsibility of the Council.  The Officers and Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director should each attend one Conference (Council in case of Diocesan Council) meeting each month to facilitate communications and solidarity with them.  That means that five meetings a month could be attended if the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director each participate.  In many District Councils, this would mean that each Conference is visited at least twice a year.  For Diocesan Councils, coverage depends on the frequency of District meetings.  A staff person should come along on some of the visits to explain what that department or special work does and how they can assist the Conference/Council.


A planned program for youth involvement is very important.  Many aids are available for recruitment, involvement and understanding how we can utilize one of our greatest assets.  There are so many aids now available, such as brochures, outlines of how to start a youth conference, Power Point recruitment and many more.   There are Regional Youth chairs you can contact that are eager to offer ideas and assistance.  With no intent to overuse an old cliché, “youth are our future.”


The United States is a melting pot of race, creed, language, and culture.  It is important that our Conferences reflect the diversity of our local community within its membership.  Councils should emphasize awareness of community demographics and assist Conferences to build their membership based on who comprises their community.  Councils should also strive to develop diverse leadership both within the Conferences and Councils themselves.

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