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Understanding Our Rule

Understanding Our Rule 1198 1198 Pam Hudson

Before one of the workshops I presented about the Rule, I asked a few Council Executive Directors what trouble the Conferences in their respective Councils had following the Rule and what parts of the Rule generated the most questions.  This article will include comments on what came back to me. While the Rule has three parts, this article will only focus on Parts I and III.

Part I of the Rule describes the Society’s philosophy and guiding principles. It is applicable to the Society throughout the world.  While it’s important to review and discuss sections of Part I at Conference meetings, it’s also important to give a copy of the Rule to the clergy in your parish and to point out to them our purpose, the scope of our service, and the personal encounters we have with the poor and those in need of help. It’s also important to point out to the clergy our Vincentian Spirituality and vocation. One of the priests I heard comment on the Rule offered the opinion that no priest who understood Vincentian Spirituality would not want the Society to be in his parish.  It’s up to us to take our message to the clergy.

All members of the Society should become familiar with Part I and what it says about our members, Conferences and Councils, and about our relationships with Catholic networks of charity, with the Church hierarchy, with civil society and with all groups that include charity and justice in their mission.

Part III of the Rule applies to all Councils, Conferences and members throughout this country. It is comprised of 31 Statutes.

Statutes 1 and 2 lay out our essential elements of Spirituality, Friendship and Service, and our seven Cultural Beliefs.  It is important to review these with all members of the Society and then ask if your Council and Conference members embrace them. Statute 3 says the Society has two types of members – Active and Associate. It is important to understand that Associate Members are more than volunteers. Statute 4 discusses commissioning new members and the annual commitment by all members.  Often the latter is on Ozanam Sunday, the last Sunday of April.

Statutes 5 through 10 discuss Conferences/Councils and their work. Statute 5 says Conferences meet at least twice a month.  The frequency of our meetings helps us develop Vincentian Spirituality and foster Friendship. Statute 6 calls on Conferences to aggregate and Councils to institute. This means they are formally accepted as a part of the International Society. Statutes 7 through 10 show Conferences what a meeting agenda can include, discusses our conduct when visiting those in need, lists our festival meetings, and describes our National, (Arch)Diocesan and District Councils. It is important for every member to know that home visits are always made in pairs. And, by the way, when visiting a woman in need it is always good to have a woman as a member of the home visit team.

Statutes 11 through 21 deal with governance issues and with management. Statutes 11 and 12 refer to Servant Leaders and Servant Leader positions. Servant Leadership has been described as having the 10 following characteristics: Listening, Empathy, Healing, Awareness, Persuasion, Conceptualization, Foresight, Stewardship, Commitment to the Growth of People and Building Community. For a better insight, read an article printed in Vincentian Heritage, Vol. 9, Number 1, 1998 entitled Servant Leadership in the Manner of Saint Vincent  by J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., Ph.D.  This can be found online. Google Vincentian Heritage to find the article.

Statute 13 discusses our regions and their National Vice Presidents. Statute 14 discusses the Society’s employees. Employees can be Active Members. They can only hold office in the Society, however, after their employment by the Society is terminated. Statute 15 describes the Spiritual Advisor.  This is an important position in the Society. Every Conference and every Council should have a Spiritual Advisor. The National Council has material available that will help any Conference member to be able to serve in this position.

Statute 16 discusses subsidiarity and democracy and says that decisions are often made by consensus. When a decision is not reached by consensus a matter can be put to a vote. Statute 17 discusses suspension of members, Conferences and Councils. Suspensions can only be made by our National President. An appeal of a suspension can be made to the National Conciliation Committee. Statute 21 discusses this Committee. Statutes 18 and 19 discuss the election and the removal of a President. Any President who is removed can appeal to the National Board of Directors.

Statute 20 deals with Special Works.  These can remain a part of a Conference’s or Council’s normal operation or the Special Work can be incorporated.  If the latter status is undertaken, the approval of Council or Conference members should be obtained and there should be consultation with the President of the next higher Council. It is important that the Bylaws of an incorporated Special Work provide that the majority of members of the Board of Directors must always be Active Members of the Society.

Statutes 22 through 31 deal with accountability.  Statute 22 requires Conferences and Councils to review their services at least once every three years. This helps Conferences decide whether to keep, suspend or add a service. Statute 23 requires every Council and Conference to maintain accurate records and submit an annual report to the next higher Council annually. The National Council submits its annual report to the Council General International.  Statute 24 calls on Conferences and Councils to “zealously” manage and maintain the assets of the Society and provides that the next higher Council may annually assess dues from Conferences and lower Councils. This also requires the higher Councils to work with Conferences and Councils to determine an appropriate reserve for unanticipated events.

Statute 25 discusses collections to help the poor and maintain the Society’s structure.  Stature 26 makes clear that the funds of the Society are to be used only within the Society and not be diverted to any other organization, no matter how worthy they might be.  Remember that people chose to give funds to the Society and not to another organization. We need to honor that intent. The Society’s Councils and Conferences have many needs although those are often in other areas.  We are, however, One Society.

Statute 27 gives Council Presidents the right to require audits or audit reviews of Conferences and to have access to Conference or Council correspondence sent on behalf of the Society.  Statute 28 discusses allowing members to be reimbursed for expenses they have incurred and Statute 29 provides that we not identify with any political party. No member of a political party can hold any mission of representation in the Society during his or her term in a political office.  Statute 30 discusses amending any of the 31 Statutes and Statute 31 provides that our Statutes are to be interpreted according to the Rule.

Read the Rule. It’s not all that long and when followed assures that all will be well.

─Tom Fahl

A Duty To Delegate: Guidance For Vincentian Leaders

A Duty To Delegate: Guidance For Vincentian Leaders 1198 1198 Pam Hudson

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 191 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.

What Makes a Good Board Member?

What Makes a Good Board Member? 1198 1198 Pam Hudson

It’s important to know what is involved in being a good Board member. BoardSource, considered the premier voice of nonprofit governance, notes that “While all effective Board members understand and meet their basic responsibilities, truly exceptional Board members do more. They go beyond the basics and pay attention to how they approach Board service. These six characteristics build on straightforward Board duties and focus on key traits of exceptional Board members.”

Click here to read the BoardSource article which explains each characteristic.

Ground Rules for Visitation

Ground Rules for Visitation 1198 1198 Kristen Blacksher

By Mike Syslo, former 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Burnout often reflects itself in rude, crude and downright ugly behavior.  Unfortunately, we never recognize it in ourselves.  It’s always someone 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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)

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

06-13-2024 Weekly Questions and Answers

06-13-2024 Weekly Questions and Answers 1200 628 Kristen Blacksher

Q:  We are establishing an advisory board for a special project we are embarking on.  There are a lot of good people in the community who can help us, but not all are Catholic.  We heard that the advisory board must be all Catholics.  Is this true?

A:  An advisory board is essentially a committee.  Within the Society, the committees, where possible, should be made up of Vincentians.  But, in some cases, it is necessary to draw committee members from the community because of their background and influence.  As long as the leadership and a majority of the committee is Vincentian, the other members do not have to be Vincentian or Catholic.  The group is “advisory” — meaning that the ultimate decisions will be made by the Vincentians of the controlling Conference or Council.

Q:  Is it possible for a Conference to be named after a person who is beatified but not yet a saint? 

A:  Yes, it is.  However, keep in mind, there is a restriction against naming Conferences for St. Vincent de Paul or Blessed Frederic Ozanam unless the parish in which the Conference is located has that name.

En Español

P: Estamos estableciendo un Consejo asesor para un proyecto especial en el que nos estamos embarcando.  Hay mucha gente buena en la comunidad que puede ayudarnos, pero no todos son Católicos.  Escuchamos que la Mesa Directiva asesora todos los miembros deben ser Católicos.  ¿Es esto cierto?

R: Un Consejo asesor es esencialmente un comité.  Dentro de la Sociedad, los comités, en la medida de lo posible, deben estar formados por Vicentinos.  Pero, en algunos casos, es necesario invitar personas de la comunidad para que formen parte de ese comité debido a sus antecedentes e influencia.  Mientras el liderazgo y la mayoría de los miembros del comité sean Vicentinos, los demás miembros no tienen que ser Vicentinos o Católicos.  Este grupo es “consultivo”, lo que significa que las decisiones finales serán tomadas por los Vicentinos de la Conferencia o Consejo que lo controla.

P: ¿Es posible que una Conferencia lleve el nombre de una persona que ha sido beatificada pero que aún no es santa?

R: Sí, es posible.  Sin embargo, tenga en cuenta que existe una restricción sobre el uso de estos nombres para las Conferencias como, San Vicente de Paúl o Beato Federico Ozanam a menos que la parroquia en la que se encuentra la Conferencia tenga ese nombre.

So, You’ve Been Elected President…

So, You’ve Been Elected President… 1198 1198 Pam Hudson

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 more than 150 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.

 Reach out to other Vincentians – even if they are not from your area – for advice and support.  We will share useful information relevant to your new responsibilities in these Frederic’s e-Gazette articles throughout the year.  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 Conference and Council will be better off if you do so.



God’s Call To Servant Leadership

God’s Call To Servant Leadership 1198 1198 Pam Hudson

Message From Bishop John Quinn

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 190 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.

Good Stewardship

Good Stewardship 1198 1198 Pam Hudson

By: The National Governance Committee

What does stewardship look like in your life?  The National Governance Committee suggests you think of this through the prism of a Vincentian lens which should have a spiritual and biblical foundation.

Then ask yourself what stewardship means to you, to members of the Society, and to your respective Councils and Conferences.

Certainly, as good stewards we need to give thanks for all the gifts we’ve received.  This means thanks to God, thanks to our bishops and pastors for allowing us to serve within their dioceses and parishes, thanks to our volunteers and employees, and thanks to every person who has helped us by donating goods and money.

Good stewardship involves, among other things, accepting and acting on the following principles:

  1. The principle that everything we have is a gift from God who has given us the ability to serve others
  2. The principle of responsibility
  3. The principle of accountability.

Let’s examine these further:

First, stewardship includes recognition that it is God who created everything and through whose grace and blessing we have been given the ability to serve others and to receive the funds needed to do so effectively.  It is God who has given us the graces we need to discern how best to help people.

With this comes the principle of responsibility to use the gifts bestowed on us wisely.  This may mean helping other Conferences and upper Councils as well as those who come directly to us.  We help those who come to us or who we have sought out and found because they are God’s children.  We help other Conferences because we know the people coming to them also need help. We help upper Councils mainly, but not exclusively, through solidarity dues so they can animate and promote our Essential Elements of Spirituality, Friendship and Service.  Responsibility also means not hoarding funds but rather honoring donor intent that those in need be helped in whatever way is prudent and will alleviate material, spiritual and emotional need and anxiety, and that the help be delivered by men and women who are well formed in what it means to be a Vincentian.

The principle of accountability also needs to be considered when discussing stewardship.  When we as Vincentians become stewards of resources and money given to us, we have an absolute responsibility to give an accounting to all of our stakeholders – they were discussed in recent articles.  This includes filing annual reports which have information that is shared with bishops across the country and helps the National Council fulfill its obligation to account to the greater church.

In short, we all have an obligation to be faithful stewards of all God has bestowed upon us and to see that in the end we are serving the common good and furthering God’s Kingdom.

Do People Trust You? Advice for Building Trust and Inspiring Confidence

Do People Trust You? Advice for Building Trust and Inspiring Confidence 1198 1198 Kristen Blacksher

By John R. Stoker
President of DialogueWORKS, Inc.

One afternoon as I was passing through the airport on my way home, I ran into a colleague of mine, Stephen M. R. Covey, the author of the book “The Speed of Trust.”  We stopped and exchanged a few pleasantries.  I could tell that he needed to get through security, so I bid him safe travels.

As he was hurrying away, I yelled after him, “I know something faster than the speed of trust.”  He yelled back, “What’s that?”  I responded, “Distrust.”  He laughed as he hurried away and responded, “You’re probably right.”

Think about it for a minute.  Some people will trust you from the beginning of your relationship without having any experience with you.  Others won’t trust you no matter what you do; you really have to work to earn their trust.  Still others begin their relationship with you in a neutral position.  They will wait to see what you say and do before they trust you.

No matter where the trust in any relationship begins, what we know for sure is that it doesn’t take much negative behavior to diminish the trust that people have in you.

Here are a few tips to help you assess your trustworthiness and to increase the confidence people have in you.

  1. Do you walk the talk?

There is probably nothing that erodes trust quicker than saying one thing and then doing another.  The first time this happens, people will take a closer look at your behavior.  But if it happens repeatedly, people will come to distrust you and not believe anything that you say.  You will appear as if you just say what you think people want to hear.  This seeming lack of credibility will cause people to question your intentions and can cause lasting damage to your relationships.

What to do?  Stop and think about what you are about to say, or what purpose your message needs to convey, and then say what you truly mean.  Being deliberate and intentional about your message will increase alignment between your message and your behavior.

  1. Do you keep your commitments?

This is closely associated with the previous question.  Sometimes we make commitments and things change.  When this happens, it is important to acknowledge your commitment and make necessary adjustments.  If you let another commitment take priority over a previous commitment and don’t manage that dynamic, then people will learn to not take you seriously and may not keep their commitments to you.

What to do?  Keep a calendar of your commitments and manage them.  If something changes, then be sure to communicate those changes and make new arrangements as soon as you can.  Don’t blow people off or forget to keep your commitments.  Using some kind of planning or calendaring software will help you to keep your commitments while strengthening the trust that others give you.

  1. Is your behavior consistent?

If you have wild mood swings and are unpredictable, your erratic behavior will lead people to distrust you.  In one of my first corporate positions, I had a manager who had broad swings in behavior and mood.  You never knew if your performance would be celebrated or trashed in front of others.  The first person to arrive in the morning would test the waters and then alert everyone at the coffee machine if we could engage with our manager or should make ourselves scarce that day.  Consequently, few people felt that they could fully trust him.

What to do?  Notice if people approach you and ask for your input or support on their work.  If you are not approached by others, perhaps you could find a respected colleague and ask for feedback about how you come across.  If someone will be honest with you, listen to what they have to say.  Ask for examples and thank them when they finish.  If you find that people are unsure about how to approach you, strategize some ways to manage your behavior and mood so it is more predictable and consistent.

  1. Do you misrepresent the truth?

This happens more frequently than people would like to admit.  People are often afraid to speak up and tell it like it is, fearing the perceived negative consequences that could occur.  This perception will have a negative impact on behavior.  When people don’t keep their commitments or meet expectations of performance, then they feel forced to cover their mistakes to justify their behavior.  This leads others to avoid interacting with those individuals and to distrust the stories they offer as excuses for their behavior.

What to do?  If you find yourself misrepresenting or exaggerating situations, then you are at risk to not be taken seriously and are setting yourself up to be distrusted.  Stretching the truth and making excuses can become a habitual response.  If this is often your first reaction, recognizing your tendency to do it, determining your motivation behind this response and correcting it will go a long way toward building trust.

  1. Do you withhold information from others?

This is usually a power play of sorts where people make themselves the gatekeeper of what others need to know to do their work.  Such behavior leads to frustration on the part of others and also can lead to people not sharing information that you may need.  Withholding information also leads people to figure out how to work around you so they have as little interaction as possible.

Sometimes, for legal reasons, you may not be able to tell others what you know.  When this is the case and others press you for information, you simply need to tell people that you can’t tell them about a certain situation because of legal ramifications to you and your company.

What to do?   Ask people what information they need and, specifically, identify deadlines.  Look to offer support and address others’ needs and concerns to increase the success of those that rely on you in some way.  When people ask you for information that you can’t share, simply manage the situation and tell them that.  They will understand.

  1. Do you gossip about others?

Nothing will erode trust quicker than talking about others behind their back.  Unfortunately, people often talk about others rather than to others.  When you gossip, your behavior tells your listener that if you would talk about someone else, then you would also talk about them.  Although they may listen to you and engage in the gossip, they won’t trust you.  This kind of behavior ruins relationships, destroys company culture and creates emotional drama that everyone would rather avoid.

What to do?  Stop it.  If you have an issue with someone, talk to the person you need to talk to and avoid the rumor mill that puts people on negative alert but never solves the problem.  Otherwise you will just get more of the same – poor results and no trust.

  1. Do you throw others under the bus?

This behavior usually takes place when someone is trying to avoid responsibility or accountability for the results that were created.  Sometimes, when others have not kept their commitments to you, their behavior has a direct negative effect on your results.  When this is the case, ask yourself, “Did I manage the situation in such a way that kept them from being successful?  Did I do my part to help them to be successful and to achieve the desired results?”  Sometimes we become so busy and have so many things to do that we fail to manage a person or a situation in an optimal fashion.

What to do?  Be responsible and take accountability for managing others, facilitating activities that will produce the desired results.  When things don’t go as planned, examine your part in the process and accept ownership.  Doing so will go a long way to creating and strengthening trust.

  1. Do you keep confidences?

Someone once told me that there is no such thing as a secret until the person you told it to is dead.  If someone shares something sensitive and important with you in confidence, unless there is a specific and legal reason not to, you should keep those things confidential.  If you are going to share something important with another person, you should assume that sometime or somewhere what you share will be shared with someone else.

  1. Are you supportive of others?

Nothing increases trust like being sincerely interested in and supportive of others and their efforts.  If you are a leader and you frequently ask people what they need from you and how you can help and support them, they will feel the satisfaction that comes in knowing someone cares about them and their success.  That care and concern will translate into increased trust.

What to do?  Check in frequently and offer support.  This will afford you the opportunity to get to know them, how they are doing and what you can help them with.  Making interpersonal connections such as these will improve their work and their performance.

Our interactions with others serve either to build trust within our relationships or call it into question.  Recognize that what you do and say is the first step in building and strengthening trust.  As you consciously work to increase others’ confidence in you, your interactions will improve and you will achieve greater results.  And, you’ll never have to worry about the speed of distrust.

Connect with John R. Stoker on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. 

05-09-2024 Questions & Answers

05-09-2024 Questions & Answers 1200 628 Kristen Blacksher

Q: One of our Conferences organizes a group of volunteers, some Vincentians and some not, to cook an evening meal once a month. Another Conference undertakes a “Christmas Giving Program” at its church, whereby parishioners take a tag to donate a gift. The gifts are returned and the Conference delivers the gifts to a community agency, who will distribute them to the needy. There is no Vincentian visit with the ultimate recipients. How are these reported on the Conference annual reports?

A: These can be considered Vincentian activities, but only the hours of the members should be recorded. If funds of the Conference are used to buy food or gifts, then the expenditures can be recorded also.

Q: Under the “Total Hours of Service: Members,” would you please clarify the instructions for including the time members spend attending meetings?

A: All meetings attended by members in their capacity as Vincentians should be counted as service hours, with no distinction of the type of meeting attended.


En Español

P: Una de nuestras Conferencias organiza un grupo de voluntarios, algunos Vicentinos y otros no, para preparar una cena una vez al mes. Otra Conferencia lleva a cabo un “Programa de Donaciones de Navidad” en su iglesia, en el que los feligreses se llevan una tarjeta para donar un regalo. Los regalos se recogen y la Conferencia entrega los regalos a una agencia comunitaria que los distribuirá a las personas en necesidad. No hay una visita Vicentina con los destinatarios finales. ¿Cómo se incluyen estos informes en los informes anuales de la Conferencia?

R: Estas pueden considerarse actividades Vicentinas, pero solo se deben registrar las horas trabajadas por los miembros. Si fondos de la Conferencia se utilizan para comprar alimentos o regalos, también se pueden registrar en los gastos.

P: En la sección “Total de horas de servicio: miembros”, ¿podría aclarar las instrucciones en las que se indica que se debe incluir el tiempo que los miembros dedican al asistir a las reuniones?

R: Todas las reuniones a las que asistan los miembros en su calidad de Vicentinos deben contarse como horas de servicio sin distinción del tipo de reunión a la que asistan.

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