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Society of St. Vincent de Paul

12-1-2022 Questions and Answers

12-1-2022 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: By the Rule of the Society, the President of a Conference or a Council has a set term limit not to exceed two consecutive terms or six years. Is it reasonable to set term limits for the other officer positions (Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer) at all levels of the Society?

A: There was a discussion of this topic by the National Governance Committee which reflected differences of opinion related to the value of the term limits and the cautions against them.  Although, under certain circumstances, there would be some advantage to term limits, there are also advantages to not having term limits for the other Officer positions. At this time, the National Governance Committee sees no reason to recommend any change to the current Rule. As it stands, a current Vice President, Secretary, or Treasurer may be appointed by a new President to continue on in their role for another term.

Spanish Translation

P: Por la Regla de la Sociedad, el presidente de una Conferencia o Consejo tiene un límite de mandato establecido que no exceda dos mandatos consecutivos o seis años. ¿Es razonable establecer límites de mandato para los demás puestos Oficiales (vicepresidente, secretario/a, o tesorero/a) en todos los niveles de la Sociedad?

R: Hubo una discusión sobre este tema por parte del Comité Nacional de Gobernanza que reflejó diferencias en opinión relacionadas con el valor de los límites de mandato y las advertencias contra ellos. Si bien, en circunstancias determinadas, los límites de mandatos tendrían algunas ventajas, también existen ventajas de no tener límites de mandatos para los demás puestos oficiales. En este momento, el Comité Nacional de Gobernanza no ve ninguna razón para recomendar ningún cambio a la Regla actual. Tal como está, un vicepresidente, secretario/a o tesorero/a actual puede ser designado por un nuevo presidente para continuar en su cargo por otro período.

A Time For Thanks

A Time For Thanks 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

At this special time of the year when our thoughts turn to giving thanks, it is appropriate to reflect on the many reasons Vincentians have to be grateful.

Perhaps the two most important are the ongoing guidance of Divine Providence, which has been wondrously at work on behalf of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul during the past 189 years, and the constant inspiration of the Holy Spirit evidenced so beautifully by the way Vincentians respond every day to the challenges we face in serving Christ’s beloved poor.

We are privileged to participate in the perpetual miracle of our Society:  Ordinary people doing extraordinary things which restore hope to those who have none and change their lives for the better.  Our countless benefactors, whose generosity makes it possible for us to help so many people in so many ways, deserve our gratitude as well.

On the most personal level, going to the essence of Vincentian spirituality, we should be thankful to those we serve for the blessings they bestow on us which transform our own lives.

Very importantly, we have each other, truly something to cherish.  Loving and supporting one another while helping the poor is an integral part of our mission.

Vincentians have been graced by God to be members of one family throughout the world living Blessed Frederic’s divinely inspired vision of a global network of charity and social justice.  We should thank God for our Vincentian vocation, a blessing of eternal value.

And, ultimately, how blessed we are with the gift of faith, and in that faith Christ’s greatest gift – the Eucharist.  How fitting it is that “eucharist” means “gratitude.”

(The series of excerpts from Vincentian Life: Council will resume next week.)

11-23-2022 Questions and Answers

11-23-2022 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: Can members use personal funds for payment of neighbor’s utilities if the treasurer is not available to write a check to the utility company?

A: Vincentians should refrain from providing help using their own personal resources, especially since those we serve will view the assistance as being provided by SVdP.  We are not a personal ministry for individuals; we are a group ministry, and members should treat the Conference as such.  In extenuating circumstances, if no one is available from the Conference to issue the check, the member may do so from their funds if they are available.  But the member must be reimbursed by the Conference as soon as possible.  Remember, this is not a personal ministry.  This is the work of the Conference.

Q: Are volunteers who are not Active members considered to be Associate members?  (We think yes, according to most bylaws versions). 

A: That is true to a point.  There are people who help the Society in order to get credit for community service hours, court-ordered hours, etc.  These are strictly volunteers.  Associate Members are those who buy into who we are and what we do without the fulfillment of an obligation.

There are two categories of Members: Active and Associate.  If you look at the Conference Annual Report, under Membership, it asks for the number of “Non-Vincentian Volunteers.”  There is a distinction.  Volunteers are not Members and, therefore, not Vincentians.

Spanish Translation

P: ¿Pueden los miembros usar fondos personales para pagar los servicios públicos de un vecino si el tesorero no está disponible para escribir un cheque a nombre de la compañía de servicios públicos?

R: Los Vicentinos deben abstenerse de brindar ayuda utilizando sus propios recursos personales, especialmente porque aquellos a quienes servimos verán la asistencia como proporcionada por SVdP. No somos un ministerio personal para individuos; somos un ministerio grupal, y los miembros deben tratar a la Conferencia como tal. En circunstancias atenuantes,si no hay nadie disponible de la Conferencia para emitir el cheque, el miembro puede hacerlo de sus fondos si están disponibles. Pero el miembro debe ser reembolsado por la Conferencia lo antes posible. Recuerde, este no es un ministerio personal. Este es el trabajo de la Conferencia.

P: ¿Los voluntarios que no son miembros Activos se consideran miembros Asociados? (Creemos que sí, según la mayoría de las versiones de los estatutos). 

R: Eso es cierto hasta cierto punto. Hay personas que ayudan a la Sociedad para obtener crédito por horas de servicio comunitario, horas ordenadas por la corte, etc. Estos son estrictamente voluntarios. Los Miembros Asociados son aquellos que creen en lo que somos y lo que hacemos sin el cumplimiento de una obligación.

Hay dos categorías de Miembros: Activos y Asociados. Si observa el Informe anual de la Conferencia, en Membresía, solicita el número de “Voluntarios no Vicentinos.” Hay una distinción. Los voluntarios no son miembros y, por tanto, no Vicentinos.

11-17-2022 Questions and Answers

11-17-2022 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: Our Council gets funds donated to us from a couple of grocery chains. The funds are then passed on to the Conferences in the form of gift cards which they either give to people or use to purchase food for their pantry. How would these funds be listed by the Conferences?

A: The financial section of the annual report is for actual money that is deposited in the Conference accounts. Gift cards cannot be deposited and must be included under in-kind.

If the food pantry is designated as an official SVdP Special Work and a Special Works report is submitted to national at the end of the year, then the money donated to the food pantry should be entered on 3A of the Council report. If the food pantry is not an official special work, then the money donated for food should go into Restricted Funds. This does not include gift cards because they are in-kind donations.

Q: I am pretty sure there is a policy, recommendation, or guideline that “home” Councils are supposed to pay costs of participation for their members to national-level meetings, but I can’t put my hands on it. Where is this policy written? 

A: The Rule, Part III, Statute 28 states: Vincentians entrusted to undertake previously and duly authorized offices, missions, or tasks for the Society are entitled to the refund of the expenses incurred. This is more than just an entitlement. Within the Spirit of the Society, all the works of the Society are works of the group and not the individual. If a member does not get reimbursed for expenses, the work becomes an individual effort, and this often causes confusion when members then do what they want rather than what is agreed to by the Conference or Council. This does not directly address National and Regional meetings. That said, on page 136 of the 2002 version of the manual, it states: “In accord with the long-established practice, the individual Councils and Isolated Conferences are expected to assume financial responsibility for their delegates and committee members to attend meetings, as necessary.”

Spanish Translation

P: Nuestro Consejo recibe fondos donados por un par de cadenas de supermercados. Luego, los fondos se transfieren a las Conferencias en forma de tarjetas de regalo que les dan a las personas o las usan para comprar alimentos para su despensa. ¿Cómo se enumerarían estos fondos en las Conferencias?

R: La sección financiera del informe anual es para el dinero real que se deposita en las cuentas de la Conferencia. Las tarjetas de regalo no se pueden depositar y deben incluirse en especie.

Si la despensa de alimentos se designa como Trabajo Especial oficial de SVdP y se presenta un informe de Trabajos Especiales a nivel nacional al final del año, entonces el dinero donado a la despensa de alimentos debe ingresarse en 3A del informe del Consejo. Si la despensa de alimentos no es un trabajo especial oficial, entonces el dinero donado para alimentos debe ir a Fondos Restringidos. Esto no incluye tarjetas de regalo porque son donaciones en especie.

P: Estoy bastante seguro de que existe una política, recomendación o directriz de que los Consejos “de origen” deben pagar los costos de participación de sus miembros en las reuniones a nivel nacional, pero no puedo poner mis manos sobre eso. ¿Dónde está escrita esta política?

R: La Regla, Parte III, Estatuto 28 establece: Vicentinos encargados de llevar a cabo oficinas, misiones, y trabajos debidamente autorizados por la Sociedad tienen derecho a reembolso de los gastos incurridos. Esto es más que un derecho. Dentro del Espíritu de la Sociedad, todas las obras de la Sociedad son obras del grupo y no del individuo. Si a un miembro no se le reembolsan los gastos, el trabajo se convierte en un esfuerzo individual, y esto a menudo causa confusión cuando los miembros hacen lo que quieren en lugar de lo acordado por la Conferencia o el Consejo. Esto no aborda directamente las reuniones nacionales y regionales. Dicho esto, en la página 136 de la versión 2002 del manual, se establece: “De acuerdo con la práctica establecida desde hace mucho tiempo, se espera que los Consejos individuales y las Conferencias aisladas asuman la responsabilidad financiera de que sus delegados y miembros de comités asistan a las reuniones, como necesario.”

11-10-2022 Questions and Answers

11-10-2022 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q:  Should Conferences pay tuition for Catholic school education since elementary and high-school education is free? 

A:  The National Governance Committee has recently reviewed and agreed to the following:

  1. Helping a family make a tuition payment under the right circumstances can be justified.
  2. Making a contribution from Conference funds to the parish or school to support the tuition-assistance program is prohibited by the Rule as a donation to an outside organization. Tuition payments are directed to benefit specific families.
  3. There are a couple of appropriate conditions that the Committee identified: the case of a student needing to be removed from public school as a way to ensure his/her health and safety; and a case in which a student is already attending Catholic school, but the parents are having financial problems and it would be improper to force the child to attend a new school.  These are not the only possible special conditions.
  4. The Committee confirms this is actually a decision to be made by the Conference.
  5. The Committee recommends that a possible alternative is to pay other bills for the family allowing them to pay the tuition.
  6. The Committee also believes that Conferences need to have good advice related to this available to them.

Q: Since we paid rental assistance to some of our neighbors in need, their landlords may have received assistance from the government for the past due rent and therefore were paid twice. Can we get the landlords to refund the money?

A: That would be a requested arrangement made between the Conference and the landlord.  The Conference made the payment in good faith.  If the landlord gives the tenant future credit for the payment, that is all the Conference can ask.

Spanish Translation

P: ¿Deberían las Conferencias pagar la matrícula de la educación en las escuelas católicas ya que la educación primaria y secundaria es gratuita? 

R: El Comité Nacional de Gobernanza ha revisado y acordado recientemente lo siguiente:

  1.       Puede estar justificado ayudar a una familia a hacer el pago de la matrícula en las circunstancias adecuadas.
  2.       La Regla prohíbe hacer una contribución de los fondos de la Conferencia a la parroquia o escuela para apoyar el programa de asistencia para la matrícula como una donación a una organización externa. Los pagos de matrícula están dirigidos a beneficiar a familias específicas.
  3.       Hay un par de condiciones apropiadas que el Comité identificó: el caso de un estudiante que necesita ser retirado de la escuela pública como una forma de garantizar su salud y seguridad; y un caso en el que un estudiante ya asiste a una escuela católica, pero los padres tienen problemas económicos y sería impropio obligar al niño a estar en una nueva escuela. Estas no son las únicas condiciones especiales posibles.
  4.       El Comité confirma que en realidad se trata de una decisión que debe tomar la Conferencia.
  5.       El Comité recomienda que una posible alternativa es pagar otras facturas para la familia que les permitan pagar la matrícula.
  6.       El Comité también cree que las Conferencias deben tener a su disposición buenos consejos relacionados con esto.

P: Dado que pagamos asistencia de alquiler a algunos de nuestros vecinos necesitados, es posible que sus propietarios hayan recibido asistencia del gobierno para pagar el alquiler atrasado y, por lo tanto, se les pagó dos veces. ¿Podemos hacer que los propietarios devuelvan el dinero?

R: Ese sería un arreglo solicitado hecho entre la Conferencia y el propietario. La Conferencia hizo el pago de buena fe. Si el propietario le da al arrendatario crédito futuro para el pago, eso es todo lo que la Conferencia puede pedir.

11-3-2022 Questions and Answers

11-3-2022 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q:  This is not officially in any of the Society’s documents.  When no one comes forward to run for Conference or Council President, should a Council President have the ability to appoint temporarily a Conference President or, in the case of a Diocesan Council, a District President to serve temporarily until an election can take place?

A:  The National Governance Committee decided on the following:

  1. It is the responsibility of SVdP leadership to make every effort to keep Conferences and Councils running.
  2. The President of the next Council (or the National Vice President for the Region in the case of an (Arch)Diocesan Council) has the authority to appoint a temporary President of a Conference or Council until an election can take place.
  3. The temporary period should be four to six months, but flexibility should be a consideration when circumstances warrant.
  4. In the case of a Conference, if no one comes forward after that period, the Conference should be dissolved on the basis that the Conference Members are not accepting their responsibilities as an SVdP Conference.  In the case of a District Council, the Council should be dissolved, and the Conferences should be allocated to another District, or the Conferences may be dissolved on the basis that they are not accepting their responsibilities as SVdP Conferences.  In the case of an (Arch)Diocesan Council, the National Vice President may recommend the dissolution of the Council.  To be clear, voluntary dissolution of a Council or Conference may occur at any time.  Forced dissolution of a Conference or Council must have the approval of the National President.

Spanish Translation

P: Esto no está oficialmente en ninguno de los documentos de la Sociedad. Cuando nadie se presenta para la elección de presidente de la Conferencia o del Consejo, ¿debería un presidente del Consejo tener la capacidad de nombrar temporalmente a un presidente de la Conferencia o, en el caso de un Consejo Diocesano, un presidente de distrito para servir temporalmente hasta que se realice una elección? 

R: El Comité Nacional de Gobernanza decidió lo siguiente:

  1.       Es responsabilidad del liderazgo de SVdP hacer todo lo posible para mantener las Conferencias y los Consejos en funcionamiento.
  2.       El Presidente del próximo Consejo (o el Vicepresidente Nacional para la Región en el caso de un Consejo (Arqui)diocesano) tiene la autoridad para nombrar un Presidente temporal de una Conferencia o Consejo hasta que se lleve a cabo una elección.
  3.       El período temporal debe ser de cuatro a seis meses, pero la flexibilidad debe ser una consideración cuando las circunstancias lo justifiquen.
  4.       En el caso de una Conferencia, si nadie se presenta después de ese período, la Conferencia debe disolverse sobre la base de que los Miembros de la Conferencia no están aceptando sus responsabilidades como Conferencia SVdP. En el caso de un Consejo de Distrito, el Consejo debe disolverse y las Conferencias deben asignarse a otro Distrito, o las Conferencias pueden disolverse sobre la base de que no están aceptando sus responsabilidades como Conferencias SVdP. En el caso de un Consejo (Arqui)diocesano, el Vicepresidente Nacional puede recomendar la disolución del Consejo. Para ser claros, la disolución voluntaria de un Consejo o Conferencia puede ocurrir en cualquier momento. La disolución forzosa de una Conferencia o Consejo debe contar con la aprobación del Presidente Nacional.

Governance — A Council’s Job One: Serve the Conferences

Governance — A Council’s Job One: Serve the Conferences 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Monitor Special Conditions
The following special conditions should be monitored regularly and addressed as necessary.

1. Conference President’s term of office is limited to two consecutive three year terms. After the two terms, the President must be out of office for at least three years before being elected once again. Technically, as soon as the six years expires, the President is no longer in office and the Conference operates under the leadership of the first Vice President until the election of a new President takes place. In the case of violation of this rule, the Council must ensure that an election is held to replace the outgoing President as soon as possible.

2. Each Conference is to have at least four officers: President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Each office must be held by a separate person. No one person may hold multiple officer positions. In addition, Statute 12 of Part III of the Rule indicates that a President may not appoint his/her spouse or other closely related individual to an officer position.

3. Service area comes into conflict often within the Society. The District Council should ensure that Conferences provide service only to those people living within the boundaries established for the Conference. These boundaries should be established as a formal agreement between the Conferences in the Council. In some cases, the boundaries will simply be the parish boundaries. In other cases the boundaries may be more extensive, as long as they are agreed upon by the Council. This way, people seeking service cannot simply go from Conference to Conference seeking help. The Conference covering the area where that person or family lives is the one that makes the decision as to help or not help.

Voice / Vote in the 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.

Help in Council Efforts
Conferences should be involved in 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 fund raising, in special works, in general membership meetings, and in every other way that may be appropriate.

10-27-2022 Questions and Answers

10-27-2022 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: I have a comment in my notes that all officers of the board [and I assume officers of Councils and Conferences as well] must be Vincentians [I read this to mean Catholic]. I can’t find any reference to this in the Rule or the bylaws. Can you lead me to where this distinction is made?

A: The Rule, Part III, Statute 3: An active (full) member accepts the Rule and Statutes of the Society, belongs to the Catholic Church, and is received as a Vincentian brother or sister into the Society’s Conference or Council with which he or she is affiliated. Normally, membership implies Conference affiliation. Less commonly is membership obtained through direct Council affiliation. Only Active Members hold office in the organization.

Q: Conference names must be religious in name and cannot be St. Vincent de Paul or Frederic Ozanam. (I know I’ve seen this somewhere but cannot find it now.)

 A: It’s related to the application for Aggregation: You must choose the name of a saint (other than Vincent de Paul or Frederic Ozanam); but the Virgin Mary titles, titles of Christ, or holy angels can also be chosen. Typically, the name of the parish where the Conference is located is used. St. Vincent de Paul and Blessed Frederic Ozanam may be used only if that is the name of the parish.

Spanish Translation

P: Tengo un comentario en mis notas de que todos los oficiales de la junta [y asumo que los oficiales de los Consejos y Conferencias también] deben ser vicentinos [leí que esto significa católico]. No puedo encontrar ninguna referencia a esto en la Regla o los estatutos. ¿Me puede decir a dónde se hace esta distinción?

 R: La Regla, Parte III, Estatuto 3: Un miembro activo acepta la Regla y los Estatutos de la Sociedad, pertenece a la Iglesia Católica y es recibido como un hermano o hermana Vicentino(a) en la Conferencia o Consejo de la Sociedad con la que está afiliado. Normalmente, ser miembro implica afiliación con una Conferencia. Menos común es la membresía obtenida por medio de afiliación directa con un Consejo. Solamente los Miembros Activos pueden tener posiciones en la organización.

P: Los nombres de las conferencias deben ser de nombre religioso y no pueden ser St. Vincent de Paul o Frederic Ozanam. (Sé que he visto esto en alguna parte, pero no puedo encontrarlo ahora).

 R: Está relacionado con la solicitud de Agregación: debe elegir el nombre de un santo (que no sea Vicente de Paúl o Federico Ozanam); pero también se pueden elegir los títulos de la Virgen María, títulos de Cristo o santos ángeles. Por lo general, se usa el nombre de la parroquia donde se encuentra la Conferencia. San Vicente de Paúl y el Beato Federico Ozanam pueden usarse solo si ese es el nombre de la parroquia.

10-20-2022 Questions and Answers

10-20-2022 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q:  Does the Society have a policy related to investments that is based on moral objectives?

 A:  On April 23, 2016, the National Council approved Resolution 140 which identifies the criteria/process to be used in accepting donations and developing relationships. This also applies to making investments. This resolution may be found on the national website, click here.

Q: If something is not explicitly stated in the Rule, are we to assume we can use our good judgment to resolve the question?

 A: Part II of The Rule, Article 7.4, states: Any matter that is not specifically governed by any parts of the Rule and Statutes shall be governed by tradition and, in the final instance, by the decision issued by the board of the Council General. We have the “Rule.” We also have the Manual, Bylaws, National Resolutions, and local standards approved by Conferences and Councils, which are binding on decisions if they are relevant. Sometimes following simple logic and common sense does not correspond with Vincentian spirit. If the topic is not covered by the standards shown above, seek advice from Council, regional and national sources.

Spanish Translation

P: ¿La Sociedad tiene una política relacionada con las inversiones que se basa en objetivos morales?

 R:  El 23 de abril de 2016, el Consejo Nacional aprobó la Resolución 140 que identifica los criterios/procesos que se utilizarán para aceptar donaciones y desarrollar relaciones. Esto también se aplica a la realización de inversiones. Esta resolución se puede encontrar en el sitio web nacional, haga clic aquí: https://members.ssvpusa.org/governance/resolutions/

P: Si algo no se establece explícitamente en la Regla, ¿debemos suponer que podemos usar nuestro buen juicio para resolver la pregunta?

 R: La Parte II de la Regla, Artículo 7.4, establece: Cualquier asunto que no está específicamente gobernado por cualquier Parte de La Regla o Estatutos debe ser gobernada por Tradición y, en último caso, por la decisión llegada por la Junta del Consejo General. Tenemos la “Regla.” También contamos con el Manual, Reglamentos, Resoluciones Nacionales y normas locales aprobadas por Conferencias y Consejos, que son vinculantes para las decisiones si son pertinentes. A veces seguir la lógica sencilla y el sentido común no se corresponde con el espíritu vicentino. Si el tema no está cubierto por los estándares que se muestran arriba, busque el asesoramiento del Consejo, fuentes regionales y nacionales.

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

The arrival of a new fiscal year is a good time to remind ourselves that loving and supporting one another while serving the poor is an integral part of our Vincentian mission.

Our Conference meetings are where we help each other fulfill that mission of growing spiritually, developing friendships and having face-to-face encounters with those in need.  Meeting at least twice monthly as we should provides the opportunity to continually strengthen those supportive relationships.

Our Councils have a Board of Directors to guide our efforts and oversee our performance.  We challenge you to realize that even the best Councils and Conferences can be better and more effective.  Our Council Boards and our Conferences should always seek to foster and facilitate improvement.  Given the importance of good governance, perhaps this should be your primary resolution for this new year.

Why not start using your Council Board as a support group to review and update your policies and procedures and clean up your record-keeping?  Encourage your Conferences to do likewise.

Review your Bylaws. This is a document that spells out your mission, how you operate procedurally and the need for compliance with IRS requirements for nonprofit organizations. They are not meant to be inflexible when circumstances signal a need for revision.  Assess your programs to see if they remain relevant and are operating efficiently with the right priority. Take a good look at how your Special Works impact all Vincentians in all of your Conferences. Look at your succession planning.  It is of vital significance at all levels of our Society.  If your operating procedures, which are a key part of good governance, need changing, take advantage of the Governance Training DVD and program provided for you by our National Council.

Throughout the year we will address some of these important matters further in Frederic’s e-Gazette.  We urge you to read that information and resolve to enhance your effectiveness.  In so doing you will be heeding the exhortation of Blessed Frederic Ozanam to always seek to be better in our service to Christ’s beloved poor.

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