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They are men, women, members of organized branches of the Vincentian Family such as the AIC, the St. Vincent dePaul Society, the Congregation of the Mission (and former members of the Congregation). It is particularly encouraging to see what we in organized branches are still struggling to name… “unaffiliated Vincentians” or those who are attracted to the ideal of Vincent, but not part of any branch.

What struck me

In the spirit of “Mindwalk”, the critically unappreciated yet powerful movie that provides the title and the inspiration for this site, we are learning from one another. I know I am! In that spirit of exploration I share what struck me this week.

“Imagination – opens up avenues of terminology to describe and encourage the “spark” of our mission.” Dee Mansi

“Vincent realizing his own poverty (as a bridge to other peoples’ poverty), is often overlooked.” Tom McKenna

Imagination and scripture 

These, among other thoughts you shared,  prompted my second thoughts on Vincent’s Secret Sauce. So I wandered a bit with thoughts of the power of imagination and the power of reading scripture that shaped Vincent’s life and mission. With the help of my personal research assistant, Google, I discovered these two thoughts.

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” ― Lewis Carroll

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” ― Mark Twain

The reality of Vincent’s time was very harsh… and that includes realities we often don’t understand about Vincent’s time… the ravages of plagues, and devastating wars brought about by political and theological polarization.

Reading scripture, certainly inspired his imagination and shaped Vincent’s life… I believe that Vincent read scripture not for intellectual insight but as something that he saw connected with his daily life. He fed his imagination with scripture!

The scriptures were not only about other people who lived a long time ago in another culture. They were stories he identified with by letting his mind imagine what the stories of long ago and the actions of Jesus taught him about the possibilities of a different way of looking at his reality. Scripture became his lens and prompted his imagining what he would think or do in any given situation. Scripture allowed him to imagine his own poverty before God.

The Vincentian question, because it was the one Vincent always asked, is “What must be done?”

  • Do we imagine ourselves into the pages of Scripture?
  • Does this reading open up our imagination to what can be done?
  • What are we doing to live the scripture in our lives today?

PS FamVin has a series “Vincent’s Life Lessons”

This post first appeared on Vincentian Mindwalk

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Fr. Michael Shea, C.M., Associate Director of the Miraculous Medal, Shrine reflects on Pentecost through the lens of some Irish mystics.

The Most Important Room in Christendom

The Irish mystics talk about a Thin Place … a Place where heaven and earth have intersected giving people a taste, a glimpse, a momentary experience of the presence of God.

The Upper Room in Jerusalem, the Cenacle where Jesus and a number of his followers gathered together on various occasions, is a Thin Place. Three majestic events happened there. First, on Holy Thursday evening Jesus gathered in the Upper Room with several of his disciples to celebrate the Passover meal. The Lord used this occasion to institute the Eucharist. The following Sunday evening, Easter Sunday, the risen Lord appeared to his apostles in the same Upper Room. He offered them shalom peace and instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Then fifty days after Easter the Holy Spirit, in the form of tongues of fire, descended upon the apostles in the Upper Room and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church was founded. On these three occasions the Upper Room, the most important room in Christendom, was a Thin Place … a Place where heaven and earth intersected giving people a taste, a glimpse, a momentary experience of the presence of God.

A Suggestion For Pentecost

May 31st is Pentecost Sunday. On that day I suggest that we visit the Upper Room virtually. As baptized Christians, as people filled with God’s Holy Spirit, we can do this by quieting ourselves down, raising our minds and hearts to God in prayer and allow the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, to reach out to the Holy Spirit who descended upon the apostles in the Upper Room fifty days after Easter… and linger there. If we do this, heaven and earth may intersect within us and make our hearts a Thin Place.

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What did “whole world ” mean? The Jewish world? Or did it include the Gentile world? In the Acts of the Apostles we see that it took them a while to figure out these and many other issues. They had to learn new languages and understand new cultures.

They were willing to go out into the world, but did not fully understand what that would mean. They had to change their mental maps. What was essential from their former culture in the new? How to discover the seeds of their former culture in what they had been taught? How nurture the seeds of the Good News in different soil?

Our world has changed radically

We have the same mission. Go out to the whole world. . But, with unprecedented speed, our world has changed radically. The world we are going out to is increasingly different from the world in which we grew up. The world today is more radically different than many of us realize.

Over a period of decades we have seen the slow demise of the Christendom in which we grew up. Pope Francis is very frank! “Christendom no longer exists. Today we are not the only ones who produce culture, nor are we the first or the most listened to. Christianity is often denied, derided, marginalized, or ridiculed.”

We can no longer assume that we in the West make the same associations. “Madonna” evokes Mary to an older generation. For many today Madonna refers to a pop star.

In the last 20 or so years the digital era has changed our lives enormously. These years have served as the formative world of those under 40. Many of us only have superficial glimpses of how differently digital natives think and what values are important to them.

Digital natives look at the world differently. Digital immigrants have learned to use email and other forms of social media. We have not yet learned to think digitally. Thinking digitally is not simply a matter of a new technology.

And now there is growing realization that the COVID19 pandemic will, in ways that are still unclear, most likely forever change us and the way we will live and work.

Each of these changes can be described in various ways. But the changes are real

Adjusting our mental and ministerial maps

No wonder Pope Francis says, “We are not just living in a time of changes, but in a change of times.” It is healthy, he said, to allow ourselves “to be questioned by the challenges of the present time with discernment and courage, rather than to let ourselves be seduced by the comfortable inertia that comes with leaving everything as it is.”

He continues in speaking to the Cardinals of the Curia, “It often happens that we experience change simply by putting on new clothes, and then we stay the way we were before.” It is not enough to do things in a way that once worked.

Whether we recognize it or not, this is not the world many on this Vincentian Mindwalk grew up in. A new generation thinks differently, communicates differently. And will increasingly use space differently.

Yet, whether we understand it or not, the time-honored missionary principle stays the same…Learn the language of the new world … understand the new culture.

It is as simple as that. It is a daunting as that! Are we who follow Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor up to it?

Our mental maps

  • What do you think is the most significant difference in the world today from what so many of us experienced in our formative years?
  • How well do we understand the mental maps of digital natives?
  • What will always be the same, and what needs to change in the way we bring good news, especially to the marginalized?

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Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

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The Oval Office, Buckingham Palace? … Would you believe a simple “upper room” in Jerusalem!

Why? Because in that room on the day we call Pentecost, the most powerful movement in history was launched.

Today we tend to call that movement the Roman Catholic Church. But the facts at one level don’t do justice to what was unleashed that day.

Today there are well over one billion people, all under one Pope. We forget that the Catholic Church includes 23 other cultural expressions or “Rites” united under the Pope. We refer to them most often as Eastern Rites Churches. That a pretty crowded room!

Why do we think of Pentecost as the day when this movement was launched?

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,*which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues* as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2)

Those who listened to them were astounded! In amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?”

The four Gospels are a kind of prequel about the initial recruitment and training period that led up to the formal launch of this movement. They tell the story of how people were invited to join the movement and how a select few serious, even if very unlikely and ordinary folks, were formed to be leaders.

What is even more startling is who the Spirit chose to settle upon! The first followers of this Jesus who gathered in that room were confused, disheartened, and fearful –  hardly a group you would expect could start a world-wide movement. And they themselves clearly never saw coming what would happen to them!

With the power of the Holy Spirit, they boldly began to speak about what they seen, and been touched by. What is more people of different languages and cultures could understand their words!

The Acts of the Apostles tell us how the first followers “grew in wisdom, age, and grace.” It was too much to comprehend all at once! At first all they were aware of and understood was that they were part of “God’s story. And the more they understood, the more they began to act as “God’s storytellers.” (Pope Francis’ beautiful image in his letter for the 54 World Day of Communications.)

They thought they understood, but slowly began to realize they had to let go of many of misconceptions and even cherished religious practices. They began to realize how radical were the implications of this transformation. They began to live God’s story. History tells us how astounded their neighbors were. “See these Christians. They love one another!” They came to understand that Jesus was serious when he asked them to wash one another’s feet!

We are called to continue telling that story with the way we live our lives in imitation of ChristThey became foot washing disciples or servants of the servants.

That room where is started still exists today

Maybe not the actual physical space! They began to understand what Jesus meant when he said “Where two or three are gathered together there am I in the midst of them!”

“They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus. (Acts 1:14)”

The pattern was set! They began to realize how important it was to break bread together. “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” Act 2:42

That pattern continues to this day… and in this very place. Are we not today 2 or 3 gathered in his name. We are gathered here in this “upper room” waiting for unexpected things happen and ready to accept when they are not what we expected.

An upper room today is a gathering of praying Christians who encounter the manifest presence of Christ and his Spirit. Anywhere! Any size! Any time! Anyone! Today’s upper room comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes.

There is another more important upper room

The upper room of our heart is the upper room of our inner world from which springs all our actions. Inside each of us is an “upper room” where we experience the living presence of God. Wherever we are, whenever we take the time to find and speak and listen to God, we can experience his life-giving, sacramental, and transformative presence.

Our challenge today

The liturgy for Memorial Day says it so well!

“(Jesus) spoke a message of peace and taught us to live as brothers. His message took form in the vision of our fathers as he fashioned a nation where all might live as one. This message lives on in our midst as a task for us today and promise for tomorrow.

We thank you, Father, for your blessings in the past and for all that, with your help, we must yet achieve.”  (Preface)

A Brotherhood United

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Manny Leyson offers us his insights into Vincent’s journey. I found them very concise and stimulating. They may lead us to recognize our own journey’s from looking for good news for himself to bringing good news to those on the margins.

He used the following personal reflections when he was village director of SOS Children’s Village Manila..He met with his staff once a week in what he called “Wednesday Conferences.” “Not only did it bring us together, but it also enabled us to work together as a team.”

Excerpts from the full document found at https://bit.ly/vincent-then-now

Part One: AWARENESS

Vincent tried for twenty years to distance himself from the reality of poverty and create a career for himself…

Now Vincent was no longer focused on himself or his family or on his social status. He is now focused on the poor people in the rural area and their spiritual needs.

Part Two: UNDERSTANDING

The turning point in Vincent’s life:

  • when he started to identify with the poor
  • when he began to realize his own poverty
  • when Vincent discovered the poor person in himself
  • when he reached the point of saying no longer “the poor” but could exclaim “we the poor”

It became a clear sign that he openly recognized his own poverty, his own weaknesses, his own sinfulness. From that perspective, from that moment on, he went out to meet others. Vincent de Paul discovered “Jesus’s face” in the poor and the poor in Jesus. This became his most precious treasure.

As we look outward to the cry of the poor, we should not forget to look inward, to the cry of the poor within us, to the poverty within us that cries for help, for freedom, for redemption.

It was Vincent’s acceptance and recognition of his own poverty that led him to purify his own heart, the heart that then beat so strongly for persons on the margins of society!

Part Three: ACTION

Vincent’s approach to the person was not the approach of a theology from “above,” but rather an approach to the person from Vincent’s own poverty, the approach of a theology from “below.”

To welcome the stranger within us, to recognize that he exists in every one of us, to embrace this stranger, accept him, and then give it all to Jesus to heal our wounds, to surrender completely to Him and trust totally in His Providence: this was Vincent’s way.

At the same time, he experienced his own personal conversion, dedicating himself totally to the spiritually and materially poor and bringing about the collaboration of so many, who followed in his footsteps, to make the Gospel a reality “here and now” for millions and millions throughout the 400 years that have passed since that time.

This mission will not end until Charity is globalized, until Charity has embraced all corners of the world and touched the heart of every person!

I hope the above excerpts will help each of us reflect on our own journeys’.

See full document at https://bit.ly/vincent-then-now

A Brotherhood United

Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

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“An element, quality, ability, or practice that makes something or someone successful or distinctive.”

I don’t know whether Vincent had some secret sauce that accounted for the change he brought to Church and society in 17th Century France.

I don’t know whether Vincent even thought of a secret sauce that allowed him to bring about such momentous changes. I suspect he would be like many good cooks. Their recipes seem sprinkled with words like “a little bit of this, heat until…” They seem to know instinctively what to do and when. But their recipes that would not be very specific.

Still, I wondered if, thinking a little more, I could gain some insight into his secret ingredients and how he used them to bring about such momentous change. If Vincent had a secret sauce what might be the main ingredient?

Vincent’s “Secret Sauce”

During this time of at-risk populations staying at home I have been thinking a lot about the secret to his success. Imagination was his secret sauce for changing his world. I finally realized the key ingredient of his secret sauce for change was his IMAGINATION… some would prefer the word “vision.”

He looked at the world that most accepted as, “That’s just the way it is.” But he sensed that there was something wrong with what he saw. Especially when viewed against the vision and mission of Jesus bringing Good News to the Poor. He imagined a different world, a world where people washed one another’s feet as Jesus said would be the sign of being true disciples.

Then he asked what we refer to today as the Vincentian question: “What must be done?”

Vincentian Imagination

I doubt he had any other plan than simply following the lead of Providence. This providence led him to inspire movements that shaped the “influencers” of his world and tapped into previously unrecognized resources.

Tuesday conferences – influencing the “influencers”

Few clergy in his day seemed to have any idea of the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus. Vincent was painfully aware of the lack of spiritual leadership by the clergy. He imagined a clergy on fire with the Gospel. But he went further than just imagining. He asked what must be done.

Enter the Tuesday Conferences, which became the secret sauce to influence the “influencers” (to use jargon from today’s systemic change literature).

I must admit that I thought I knew what these conferences were. I imagined clergy would show up to listen to Vincent give a talk. I am embarrassed now to realize how far from reality that was. It was so much more.

IF (notice the “if”) they were invited to the conference it actually meant they committed themselves to a more Gospel way of living out their specific vocation as front-line servants (influencers?) who would lead their parishes by word and example. That meant so much more than just a token one hour a week. It was more like a spiritual boot camp for priests who wanted to be more effective ministers of the gospel. (Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing descriptions of how this program  actually functioned.)

He re-imagined what was necessary to cultivate the “influencers”who would together change the Church.

The untapped resource of the laity, especially women

His well-known foundations (the Confraternities, the Daughters of Charity, and the Ladies of Charity) tapped the previously untapped resources of generous laity.

Keep in mind that even the Daughters of Charity are not religious but, in the Code of Canon Law, “societies of apostolic life,” the same category as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and many other branches of the Vincentian Family today.

It was another one of his pioneering insights. He broadened the concept of ministry to include laypeople, something we began to rediscover in Vatican II. It was doubly pioneering in the fact that, surprising as it may seem, there had been no way for women to engage in any kind of ministry or service prayer other than behind the walls and doors of convents.

He entrusted St. Louise with the inspiration and formation of these women. In effect, Louise developed a feminine and a lay form of the Tuesday Conference program.

What must be done today? Use our imagination!

  • Identify and form the influencers in our generation both male and female.
  • Inspire generous and gifted laity.
  • Help them recognize how they share in the mission of Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor.

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In the second chapter of the Gospel of John, there is a verse that the disciples attribute to Jesus as he drives out money lenders and sellers of sheep and cattle from the temple in Jerusalem: “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” [John 2:16]. The thought that most hit me was “our common home is also God’s own house, permeated by the Spirit of God from the dawn of creation, where the Son of God pitched his tent in the supreme event of the incarnation.

My Father’s House

On the eve of what Pope Francis calls Laudato Si Week marking the 5th Anniversary of his landmark  (pun intended) encyclical on the environment  Laudoto Si, he wrote four statements that stopped me in my tracks and made me think more deeply.
  • Today, we could, and probably we should, understand this house as our common planetary home. It is this common home which is being despoiled and desecrated today. Significantly, our common home is also God’s own house, permeated by the Spirit of God from the dawn of creation, where the Son of God pitched his tent in the supreme event of the incarnation. It is in this common home that God co-dwells with humanity and of which we have been entrusted with stewardship, as we read in the book of Genesis [2:15].
  • The contemporary ecological crisis, in fact, lays bare precisely our incapacity to perceive the physical world as impregnated with divine presenceWe have swapped the lofty vision of the physical world as God’s own abode, sanctified by the incarnation of the Son of God, with the one-dimensional mechanistic outlook of modernity.
  • Accordingly, the physical world gets reduced to a mere storehouse of resources for human consumption, just real estate for market speculation. . . . Through pollution of the planet’s land, air, and waters, we have degraded our common home that is also God’s own home. We have turned this sacred abode into a marketplace.
  • In a situation of planetary emergency like the collapse of our planetary abode, we need to be aflame once again with the zeal for our common home.
Pope Francis writes… “I do not want to write this encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. I don’t think I ever will read the story about ”My Father’s House” in John’s Gospel solely from that vantage of the “good guys”again.

About “My Father’s House”…

  • Is my concept of “my father’s house” too small?
  • Do I need to enlarge how I think of “my father’s house?”
  • And then the Vincentian Question: What must be done?

A Brotherhood United

Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

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In his bi-weekly post for FamVin, Fr. Pat Griffin writes: 

During the Easter Season, both in the daily and the Sunday Eucharist, we hear readings from the Acts of the Apostles. That is to say, we learn about the spread of the Church after the death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ. With a little attention, we can allow the Spirit to pass on many interesting lessons to us.

The reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 10th) tells the story of the appointment of the first seven deacons. The situation draws our interest. The needs of the widows in the Church require attention. The apostles had been carrying out that ministry. Then, the Apostles meet to make a decision:

“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.”

That may have been the thinking of the Apostles, but the Holy Spirit had another plan…

The first two of these men listed as deacons were Steven and Philip.  The story of Steven emerges swiftly.  He powerfully preaches the message of Jesus and is promptly arrested and killed.  He becomes the first Christian martyr.  The stories of Philip follow swiftly: he preaches the Gospel to the Samaritans; he converts the Ethiopian Eunuch as he explains the Scriptures to him; and, later in the Book, he offers hospitality to Paul on his missionary journeys. The point that emerges from the tales of these two men resides in this truth:  their commissioning may have centered on serving the physical needs of the community, but the Spirit calls them to preach the Gospel as well.

I muse on how Vincent would approve of these individuals.  When he trains his confreres, or the Daughters of Charity, or the Ladies of Charity, he instructs them with the directive that they cannot think of themselves as set apart solely for the physical care of the poor nor solely for their spiritual well-being.  Both elements of service need expression in their entire ministry.  We read:

So then, if there are any among us who think they’re in the Mission to evangelize poor people but not to alleviate their sufferings, to take care of their spiritual needs but not their temporal ones, I reply that we have to help them and have them assisted in every way, by us and by others…”   (VdP, CCD 12:195, p. 77)

One could point to numerous passages in which both Vincent and Louise make this point.  One can see how the Gospels teach this truth—the story of Jesus preaching to the crowd and then feeding them comes immediately to mind (Mk 6:34-44; Lk 9:11-17).

At this time of pandemic, with the attention of so much of our world focused on the physical needs of our brothers and sisters, we hear the call to respond to their spiritual needs as well. That inclination rests centrally within our Vincentian charism and tradition.  We can allow the Word of God to encourage us as it directs our attention to the Christian community that ministers to the entire person.

A Brotherhood United

Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

“We’re not lone rangers,” states Fr. John T. Maher, CM, the Congregation of the Mission’s Director of Vocations, when asked about vocations and the Vincentian charism. “In his…

Continue Reading
“He has sent me to evangelize the poor” (Luke 4:18)

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11

Jul 09, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11 Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Our cities are changing. More than ever, they are leading the way to building…

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A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10

Jul 02, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10 Clean Water and Sanitation! A fundamental need that should be a fundamental right! Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Reducing…

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What is COVID 19 Teaching Me About the Vincentian Thing?

COVID19 is both similar to and very different than the Vincentian Thing (Vincentian charism or movement).

Both

  • have the power to change the world as we know it
  • can infect indiscriminately – rich and poor, male and female, young and old
  • spread by social contact
  • have a history and mutating strains
  • are contagious via close contact
  • can be mitigated by social distancing, etc.
  • often hide quietly in people
  • change the host
  • mutate into different strains and families
  • have a variety of symptoms

Covid is different from the Vincentian Thing

  • Covid is bad news. The Vincentian Thing is Good News (especially for those on the margins).
  • Covid is focused on self-perpetuation and reproduction. The Vincentian Thing is gospel-driven and focuses on others.
  • Covid is self-serving. The Vincentian Thing is the imitation of Christ who came to serve, not to be served.

Vincent’s way of spreading the virus of Good news

St. Vincent was “patient zero.”

  • In his mid-thirties he was infected by the Good News of Jesus Christ he encountered in pages of Scripture.
  • He spent the rest of his life committed to spreading this Good News by word of mouth and action.
  • He instinctively knew that all people were called to be, and spread, the Good News
  • He was amazed at the end of his life what a source of Good News.

The Vincentian Thing he set in motion…

  • Had the energy to change not only his life but the face of his France
  • Has lasted over 400 years
  • Has mutated to some 200 strains or branches today
  • Has infected some 4 million people in over 150 countries

Vincent’s way of spreading this movement

  • He lived a life characterized by 5 attractive values or virtues.
  • He had close contact with those who were poor.
  • He identified key clusters of those interested in living the Good News.
  • Among these clusters were “influencers” drawn from the Clergy as well as the unrecognized resources of laypeople, and for the first time, women.
  • He inspired them to embrace the mission of Jesus Christ, Evangelizer of the Poor.
  • Using his gifts for organization, he developed key supportive structures for an initial three clusters – Confraternities of Charity, Congregation of the Mission, and the Tuesday Conferences (which were much more than gathering on Tuesday evenings but an expression of a commitment to a way of life).

How Mindwalk fits in

Mindwalk is a website intended to be a place where Vincentians can explore together their insights and questions .. a kind of kitchen table.

At one level it is like any other website that focuses on the Vincentian Thing. These sites tend to focus on:

  • Information
  • Formation
  • Collaboration in projects

Each of these three goals obviously overlap, as will Mindwalk.

At another level, Mindwalk hopes to be quite different. Rather than function as a newspaper, resource library, or workroom, Mindwalk seeks to function more as a kitchen table around which those committed to following Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor can have conversations that foster personal and collective explorations of the news of the family, the resources available to those who wish to delve deeper, or collaboration on a task or project.

Mindwalk is a vehicle for contact, inspiration, mutual support. In short, a place of mutual encounter where people share their experience, learn from one another, and are inspired in their following of Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor.

Next steps

If this makes sense and meets what might be an unrecognized opportunity for encounter then consider not just “liking,” as is a frequent request on Facebook: Lets encounter one another. At various points in our cor personal and collective journyes, we can be observers or auditors, while at other points we can be contributors who share our experience, insights, and even our questions.

We also have a Facebook page (not surprisingly) called Vincentian Mindwalk for those who prefer its style of give and take. On Mindwalk the website, only subscribers can comment. Of course, comments will be screened for appropriateness and respectfulness of different approaches.

P.S. If you are wondering about why I refer to the Vincentian thing rather the charism, it is simply to speak plainly. Perhaps I am revealing the fact much earlier in my life I had never heard the word charism, even in seminary formation. Yet I knew I was.committed to something… this Vincentian Thing.

A Brotherhood United

Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

“We’re not lone rangers,” states Fr. John T. Maher, CM, the Congregation of the Mission’s Director of Vocations, when asked about vocations and the Vincentian charism. “In his…

Continue Reading
“He has sent me to evangelize the poor” (Luke 4:18)

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11

Jul 09, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11 Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Our cities are changing. More than ever, they are leading the way to building…

Continue Reading

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10

Jul 02, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10 Clean Water and Sanitation! A fundamental need that should be a fundamental right! Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Reducing…

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Vincentian Mothers – Mentors of Dreams

Over the span of centuries, there have been many mothers in the Vincentian family. Three prominent ones come to mind.

Louise de Marillac (1591-1660), wife, mother, widow, and grandmother, and leader in charity, overcame the social stigma of her birth out-of-wedlock in seventeenth-century France to become a co-founder of the Daughters of Charity (1633), mentor with the Ladies of Charity, and the patron of Christian Social Workers (1960).

Elizabeth Ann Seton was mother to five children of her own and seven of her husband’s orphaned siblings. There were students who leaned on her for maternal guidance, as did a religious community that grew to worldwide proportions. Many people of her own time and since have felt her nurturing comfort and formation.

Catherine O’Regan Harkins-Drake (1834-1911), first American Lady of Charity was a wife, mother, widow, and grandmother, who became a leader in charitable works.  She overcame the social stigma against women in nineteenth-century America.

Each mentored their children’s dreams.

Each could tell us what it is like to “think like a mother.”

Mothers as mentors of dreams

It has been said…

All children have dreams. As parents, it is important for us to help them not only visualize their dreams, but to help them realize their full potential so that their lives will be much better than ours. Fellow mothers, let us wake up to the reality that the world is changing, and we the mothers are the agents of change.[ Milly Businge at HuffPost]

Indeed, mothers are some of the most effective systemic change agents on the planet.

Mothers everywhere transform helpless newborns into independent adults, with varying outcomes on health, social fit, career, leadership and spirituality. Mothers generally take pride when their children hit milestones and deliver significant achievements in life.

Think like a mother!

There’s a simple and powerful way to confront the world’s most pressing crises, says women’s rights activist Yifat Susskind in a Ted Talk – think like a mother!

When you think like a mother, you prioritize the needs of the many, not the whims of the few. When you think like a mother, you don’t build a seawall around beachfront property, because that would divert floodwaters to communities that are still exposed. When you think like a mother, you don’t try to prosecute someone for leaving water for people crossing the desert. Because, you know…

Now, not every mother thinks like a mother. When presented with a choice, some of us have made the wrong one, hiding behind weapons or barbed wire or privilege to deny the rest of the world, thinking they can see their way to safety in some kind of armed lifeboat fueled by racism and xenophobia.

Not every mother is a role model, but all of us have a choice. Are we going to jump on that armed lifeboat or work together to build a mother ship that can carry everyone?

You know how to build that mother ship, how to repair the world and ease the suffering. Think like a mother. Thinking like a mother is a tool we can all use to build the world we want.

Reflections and Questions

  • Mothers hang in for the long haul. Do we?
  • Mothers collaborate with many systems. Do we?
  • Mothers realize their children must develop their own approaches. Do we?

A Brotherhood United

Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

“We’re not lone rangers,” states Fr. John T. Maher, CM, the Congregation of the Mission’s Director of Vocations, when asked about vocations and the Vincentian charism. “In his…

Continue Reading
“He has sent me to evangelize the poor” (Luke 4:18)

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11

Jul 09, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11 Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Our cities are changing. More than ever, they are leading the way to building…

Continue Reading

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10

Jul 02, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10 Clean Water and Sanitation! A fundamental need that should be a fundamental right! Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Reducing…

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The Jews could not understand how Gentiles were accepted by God without first becoming Jews. This racial divide underlies every church conflict in the book of Acts (Acts 6, 15, 21). This sounds so modern, doesn’t it? The church today continues to struggle with the superficial differences of race and national origin.

Conflict first rattled the rafters of the church just when “the number of disciples was multiplying” (Acts 6:1). Few things spoil the spread of the Gospel like bitterness between believers complicated by suspicions of inequality.

One of the first manifestations of bitterness arose out of the use of money. The church collected funds for needy Christians (Acts 4:32-37), but it was not distributed equally. Widows who spoke and lived as Greeks didn’t get their daily dinner like the widows who looked and talked like the local people. This unequal care created conflict, and the conflict was intensified by “murmuring.” Division thrives when people judge others by external appearance.

A Gospel Approach to Identity Politics

Yet, the gospel offers a unique answer to this conflict.

It provides a fresh awareness that by creation each person is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and is part of the same family (Acts 17:26). This unity is deepened by salvation where we experience equal fellowship in Christ regardless of our physical differences (Gal. 3:28). Jesus supersedes all our superficiality!

The pattern in the 6th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles

How will the church deal with the conflict? Will the strong bully the weak into submission? Will they settle it in court? Will they sever their fellowship? No!

Amazingly, the answer to conflict is loving service, and moving to a higher level of thinking. Einstein is frequently quoted as saying something like, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Look at just one example of how the early church community illustrated this insight.

Seven men are chosen to energize the church to serve the needs of all. They simply traced the pattern Jesus laid before them, who resolved our conflict with God by serving our need (Phil. 2:1-8).

We often read Acts 6 with a focus on the institution of the diaconate without realizing that the underlying problem was one of race, class, etc. Let’s read Acts 6 as a solution to the identity politics in the early church.

So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.

They looked at the problem from a high perspective of the universal call to ministry.

Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.

They were able to move on!

The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

By going to a higher level than they were used to judging by, they found a Gospel truth.

Both sides enlarged their way of thinking with an understanding of the Gospel they had missed. They changed their way of thinking by focusing on the underlying Gospel perspective. It changed and broadened their way of thinking.

What we can learn

  • Look for the underlying gospel principles in the specific issues we face.
  • Be open to expanding our view of how to approach the conflict.

[This reflection is rooted in a post in the series Patterns in the Acts of the Apostles.]

A Brotherhood United

Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

“We’re not lone rangers,” states Fr. John T. Maher, CM, the Congregation of the Mission’s Director of Vocations, when asked about vocations and the Vincentian charism. “In his…

Continue Reading
“He has sent me to evangelize the poor” (Luke 4:18)

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11

Jul 09, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11 Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Our cities are changing. More than ever, they are leading the way to building…

Continue Reading

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10

Jul 02, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10 Clean Water and Sanitation! A fundamental need that should be a fundamental right! Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Reducing…

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This homily was given at a recent Eucharistic liturgy during which one of our Vincentian seminarians, Eric Sanchez, pronounced his final vows in the Congregation. It uses the account of St. Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-22) as context for the occasion.  

With today’s event on the Damascus road with St. Paul, and today’s event here in Philadelphia with Eric Sanchez, we meet two people setting out on a journey, both with God in mind. Of the two, Paul can claim seniority, so we look to him first for some windows onto “what can happen on a journey.”

One window looks onto the reality of direction. Someone is standing at a crossroads, at a place of multiple converging avenues which then span out.  Which to take?

Paul had already gone in one direction, persecuting those Christians and sure it was the road Yahweh had laid out for him. But his God had another path in mind, the one following behind that person who comes to Paul in so startling a way today, the Lord Jesus. It cost Paul to change that direction, certainly his previous pathway. By the blinding way it came, it cost him his balance and equanimity, not to mention the predictability that comes with a life that is mostly self-directed.  But also, it filled him with a new energy and purpose.

And then there’s Eric Sanchez, coming to a crossroad in his life and having to decide which road to take, this Vincentian path or some other? Today we celebrate the direction he is taking, the road St. Vincent de Paul and so many of his followers have walked through the centuries.  And as with Paul, Eric’s setting out comes with a cost, leaving behind not only other promising and possible directions, but now publicly taking on the challenges of evangelizing God’s poor ones and following the rich and exacting  tradition we know as the Vincentian way. However, as with Paul, this beginning also is filled with energy, energy to proclaim the Good News to the poor. We see Eric moving past those intersecting crossroads and stepping off onto a well-trod, grace-giving path.

Back to Paul. As we follow him through the drama of his conversion, we notice in him a certain trusting quality, a fundamental openness. He was locked onto his crusade against the Christians, but when that divine light breaks through and that voice speaks, he surrenders himself to what — better, Who — is in front of him. He allows himself to be led.

And is not that the stance of anyone making a vow? Today Eric is saying, “I come before You, Lord, not only choosing to step out in Your direction, but to be open to Your future, ready to move and act in the ways You will put before me.” Here we have confident openness to the unpredictability of God’s future, a welcome given to the Mystery and pull of God’s Kingdom that is always just arriving.

Lastly, we notice in St. Paul that feel of being accompanied, the comforting awareness that he’s not out there on the new road by himself but rather that the Lord Jesus is walking with him – and soon enough, Jesus’ followers also. And that is what we wish for Eric too and what we pray for. The opposite of setting out on a solitary journey, his will be an accompanied one, certainly by his family and loved ones, certainly by his Vincentian companions through the years, but most of all by The Lord Jesus as He draws ever nearer in the life of His Spirit.

So, two journeyers, both given a direction and energy, both pliable and open to further directions, and both trusting in the sustaining and loving presence of our all gracious Lord, Jesus Christ – and all of us along the way too.

We give our attention and hearts to Eric, as he pledges to set out for a lifetime on this holy, Gospel-fed, and Vincentian journey.

A Brotherhood United

Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

“We’re not lone rangers,” states Fr. John T. Maher, CM, the Congregation of the Mission’s Director of Vocations, when asked about vocations and the Vincentian charism. “In his…

Continue Reading
“He has sent me to evangelize the poor” (Luke 4:18)

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11

Jul 09, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11 Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Our cities are changing. More than ever, they are leading the way to building…

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A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10

Jul 02, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10 Clean Water and Sanitation! A fundamental need that should be a fundamental right! Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Reducing…

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Both Pope Francis and our Superior General have written letters in advance of Good Shepherd or Vocation Sunday. What they have to say is very valuable and on target in a number of ways. I will highlight what struck a very personal note for me. You will see just how personal in a personal reflection that I wrote a few years ago during the height of publicity about clerical abuse.

In this year’s letter for the 2020 World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis reflects on four words: gratitude, encouragement, fatigue, and praise.

Pope Francis writes

The risk involved is real: the night falls, the headwinds howl, the boat is tossed by the waves, and fear of failure, of not being up to the call, can threaten to overwhelm them.”

Our Superior General speaks of the importance of developing a culture of Vocations.

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing gratitude for our personal call flows into praise and gives birth to new initiatives, decisions, and paths that will cultivate the culture of vocations.”

I resonated with both insights! I immediately recalled a highly personal reflection I wrote that touched on both themes – “a boat tossed by the waves” and the importance in my life of a “culture of vocations” as I experienced it over half a century ago.

Why Am I a Vincentian Priest?

The Question – Why Am I a Vincentian Priest?

I see… and read… many posts asking “Why I Am (Not) a Catholic.” I also hear of former Vocation Directors saying that this time must be a tough time for Vocation Directors. From those discerning, “How can I think about becoming Catholic after the latest sex abuse reports?” And of course, there is Cardinal Dolan quoting a phone call from his mother in her nursing home. “I’m ashamed to go to the dining room,” he said she told him. “I’m so embarrassed to be a Catholic. I don’t know what to say to anybody.” It is not surprising that some priests are also asking “Why am I a priest?” It is a serious question that I also ask: “Why Am I a Vincentian Priest?” For me, the answer lies in a culture I love. No, definitely not the popularized clerical culture rightly being called into question. I speak of a very different, simple, lived culture I have experienced as a Vincentian priest trying to follow Christ, the Evangelizer of the Poor.

Vincentian Culture Over the Years

I first experienced that Vincentian culture in my high school days over six decades ago. And it is a culture that I still experience today now that I am in my 80’s…Back then I was impressed by the joy I saw in the faces and lives of my teachers at St. John’s Prep. We students were mostly the first in our families to have the benefit of quality education. I experienced our teachers’ patient commitment to help us not only to learn what we needed to know about our world, but they also shared with us their own deep faith and awakened us to the living faith of their brothers who had suffered at the hands of the Communists in China or other missions. They lived an ideal that attracted me. In the years since then, I have seen this culture up close and personal, warts, ulcers, and all.

I remember well the confusion of the turbulent 60’s and 70’s. It seemed almost weekly there would be announcements of men leaving the community… often the brightest and most dedicated among my closest friends. I started asking “Why am I staying?” So for me, the question is not a new question.

We are by no means perfect. Yes, I cringe at some of the things I have seen and experienced in community. I cringe at some of the things I myself have said and done over those sixty years. In retrospect, I would like to have many “do-overs.” I also know that despite our very rigorous formation there have been some grievous failures.

Among us, there may be polar opposite political and theological views, but there are values we all agree on. These  5 values infuse Vincentian concern and care for the marginalized and one another. Then, as now, I come back to the vision I experience embodied in the earthen vessels with my brothers. Vincent’s words and actions challenging us. “Let us love God, but let it be with the strength of our arms and sweat of our brows.” “Sometimes one must leave God for God.” “Let love light up my mortal frame til others catch the living flame (Cardinal Newman).”

A former Provincial captured our overall Vincentian culture well. “At funerals,” he said he “learned so much we did not know about confreres when people shared the impact on their lives of a particular Vincentian (with all the quirks and flaws we knew all too well about each other).”

Hallmarks of this culture

Whatever the language, there is the vision and culture that calls me and supports me in my life as a Vincentian priest. These five values bind us together as followers of Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor and a band of brothers. These five values infuse our efforts of Vincentian concern and care for the marginalized and one another. And that is why I am a Vincentian priest! In a prior reflection on the website of the Eastern Province you will see how the culture was lived out in the lives of ordinary people.

This post first appeared on  Vincentian Mindwalk 

A Brotherhood United

Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

“We’re not lone rangers,” states Fr. John T. Maher, CM, the Congregation of the Mission’s Director of Vocations, when asked about vocations and the Vincentian charism. “In his…

Continue Reading
“He has sent me to evangelize the poor” (Luke 4:18)

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11

Jul 09, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11 Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Our cities are changing. More than ever, they are leading the way to building…

Continue Reading

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10

Jul 02, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10 Clean Water and Sanitation! A fundamental need that should be a fundamental right! Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Reducing…

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A lineage of fostering a vision of ordinary people collaborating to bring Good News to the Poor
We all know and appreciate his passion for the poor. His foundations came out of his passion for the poor.

But Vincent was also a genius in organizing and networking. His passion for the poor expressed itself through an empowering humility that invited others to share their gifts.

Sometimes I wonder whether his genius at networking is a kind of “forgotten truth” about Vincent.

  • The truth is that he was convinced that others shared his vision and would be generous in their response to needs. “The poor suffer less from a lack of generosity than from a lack of organization.”
  • The truth is that he was humble enough to ask others to help. He was not wedded to any messianic delusions, tendencies of thinking that he had to do it on his own.
  • The truth is that he was adept at involving others in what he saw needed to be done. He found his strength in accepting his limitations.
  • The truth is that so often he had the courage and the skill to walk where none had walked before.

Over 400 years ago he fostered reimagining the role of ordinary people in bringing the good news to the poorer. He gave women a role in the church by organizing female charitable organizations. He modeled collaboration as a way of systemic change.

“I have wished to give women a ministry in the Church, the ministry of charity.”And again, “For more or less eight hundred years women have had no public occupation in the Church. Now this same providence is appealing to some of you.” (“Like a Great Fire”)

This legacy has been championed by Blessed Fredric Ozanam and Pope Francis.

How conscious have we been of this legacy?” is a question that needs to be asked … and answered.

  • How have you been answering this question?
  • What can we do to awaken ordinary people of both sexes to share their gifts as Vincent and Louise did?

A Brotherhood United

Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

“We’re not lone rangers,” states Fr. John T. Maher, CM, the Congregation of the Mission’s Director of Vocations, when asked about vocations and the Vincentian charism. “In his…

Continue Reading
“He has sent me to evangelize the poor” (Luke 4:18)

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11

Jul 09, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11 Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Our cities are changing. More than ever, they are leading the way to building…

Continue Reading

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10

Jul 02, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10 Clean Water and Sanitation! A fundamental need that should be a fundamental right! Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Reducing…

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In his bi-weekly post, Father Pat Griffin asks us to reflect on the spread of the virus and what its impact has taught or reminded many of us of other truths that touch our Vincentian souls.

The situation caused by the coronavirus has provided a certain level of instruction for many of us.  It has summoned us to learn more about the nature of disease and a virus; it has caused us to become better at reading bar graphs, line graphs, and pie charts; it has required us to brush up on our knowledge of geography and population densities.  One could put a number of other items on that list—such as the importance of soap and clean hands, and our undeniable need to become more familiar with technology with its wondrous means of communication.  Our current story has contributed to a deepening of our education.

The discipline that particularly reminds me of our present human context is the realm of sociology.  At the very least, we have been prodded to recognize what we know is true: we are social creatures.  We continue to discover our close connection to other people and the rest of the world both physically and psychologically.  Social distancing does not come easy.

As people begin to speak about the “new normal” and the “defining moment” of this pandemic, we imagine how our lives will be different, and we wonder how.  Some write about what may be a change in our method of greeting one another—handshakes, hugs and kisses may become less common.  A simple bow may become the way of greeting.  (It reminds me of the method that I associate with Japanese culture.)  Mass transit may need rethinking.  Growing up in NY, the subway provided the vehicle of choice for getting around the City, and it remains so for me.  In the “old” world, the NYC subway system moved 5.7 million people each workday, with 400,000 more on the bus system.  During rush hour, these modes of public transit were “packed.”  Considering another setting, when do you ever sit closer to a person for an extended period than on an airplane?  Educational institutions at every level (such as my St. John’s University) continue to examine the future challenges in providing an education to our young.  And so on.

Our Vincentian hearts are uplifted as we recognize the service that so many provide in our world each day for those who suffer affliction.  The incredible effort extended by health care workers, by first responders, by our scientists, and by all of the lesser-known but essential workers offers a lesson in the goodness and self-sacrifice of people.  Compassion and generosity remain alive and well in so many quarters. We are very grateful for their care and their modeling of “no greater love.”

The spread of the virus and its impact has taught or reminded many of us of other truths that touch our Vincentian souls.  We know that there are fewer and less equipped hospitals in poor areas.  In conjunction with that reality, we find that those in need have less access to health care, that they live in much denser populations, and that some of the services that they provide (though low-paying) are deemed essential.  The poor continue to rely on mass transit, and so repeatedly expose themselves to situations that place them at risk.  With fewer trains and buses in operation, the close conditions in each car worsens the risk.  None of these realities surprises us, but the virus brings it forth in a powerful and undeniable way.  Linked to all this, we are reminded about how close to the edge many families live.  Without regular income, the necessities of food, shelter, and travel become difficult to sustain.  These realities of the current affliction disproportionately influence the Latin and African-American population, but they are not the only marginalized who suffer.

Thankfully, the Vincentian Family carries out ministries attending to the needs of the disadvantaged among us.  Each of us must continue to offer our prayer and resources to these efforts.  As we are reminded repeatedly, we are in this together.

A Brotherhood United

Jun 26, 2019   /   Around the Province, Explore a Vocation

“We’re not lone rangers,” states Fr. John T. Maher, CM, the Congregation of the Mission’s Director of Vocations, when asked about vocations and the Vincentian charism. “In his…

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“He has sent me to evangelize the poor” (Luke 4:18)

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11

Jul 09, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 11 Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Our cities are changing. More than ever, they are leading the way to building…

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A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10

Jul 02, 2020   /   Vincentian Minute

A Vincentian Minute – Sustainable Development GOAL 10 Clean Water and Sanitation! A fundamental need that should be a fundamental right! Fr. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. . Reducing…

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