St. Vincent de Paul teaches us that, “We cannot better assure our eternal happiness than by living and dying in the service of the poor.”

Hundreds of worshippers joined the Vincentian priests and brothers at The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal on Sept. 27 for a Solemnity Mass celebrating St. Vincent and his virtuous example. Musical accompaniment from the world-renowned touring choir Gen Verde highlighted the evening service and further inspired the faithful to embrace the Vincentian charism.

“A charism isn’t just a slogan or a catchphrase. It’s Vincent’s inner experience,” Fr. Thomas McKenna, CM, said in his uplifting homily. “It’s the draw he felt to all those whose aim it was to bring good news to people who were suffering from poverty. And so we honor him today by coming in touch with this very experience—that is, the awareness of the poverty within us and an awareness of the poverty that exists all around us, together with a desire to be of service to all those people.”


A catalyst for grassroots action


First and foremost, St. Vincent was a catalyst for grassroots action. Eight years prior to founding the Congregation of the Mission religious community in Paris in 1625, he organized the women of a small parish in France’s Lyon region to serve those in need in their community.

“One of the characteristics of Vincent is that he truly believed in bringing people together to work with each other,” Fr. John Kettelberger, CM, explained. “The very first organization Vincent founded was for lay people, the Confraternity of Charity. It was hands-on in a parish setting, bringing meals to people’s homes and keeping their houses clean. And it wasn’t just dropping off the food, but engaging with them, recognizing their dignity as a person.”

St. Vincent would later partner with St. Louise de Marillac to found the Daughters of Charity religious community.

In true Vincentian spirit, attendees of the Solemnity Mass were encouraged to bring new socks and gloves to The Basilica Shrine. The Vincentians will distribute this clothing to people experiencing homelessness throughout the Philadelphia community. Performances throughout the Mass by Gen Verde illuminated the service in song. The group featured 19 singers and instrumentalists representing 14 different nations on five continents.


Synergy with the Vincentians


“(The Vincentians) feel that the songs we sing really express their charism and what we feel is a real synergy with Vincentians,” said Nancy Uelmen, a Gen Verde member from California.

The group was previously scheduled to perform at the Basilica Shrine in 2020, but the event was canceled due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. They are now touring the United States in preparation for a performance at the North American Vincentian Family Gathering in Chicago in October.

“What I feel (at The Basilica Shrine) is a deep respect and love for Mary and people really wanting to follow in the footsteps of Saint Vincent in service to the poor, wanting to help others,” Uelman said. “It’s an expression of the heart of Christianity.”


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