A Call To Conversion – A Point of No Return

Fr. Patrick Griffin of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission freely admits that he is attracted to both Vincent and Paul. At some point in their lives, they realized there was no turning back. At what point in our lives did we realize there was no turning bacK?

All of us have heard this statement of St. Vincent:

“In the month of January 1617, on the twenty-fifth, the feast of the Conversion of Paul,that lady [Madame de Gondi] asked me to preach a sermon in the church of Folleville to urge the people to make a general confession, which I did, pointing out to them its importance and usefulness.  Then I taught them how to make it properly; and God…blessed what I said… .  That was the first sermon of the Mission and the success that God gave it on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.”  (CCD 11 #2, pp. 3-4)

At this time of the year, I sometimes wonder at the content which accompanied these words of our Founder on this significant occasion.  I am struck by the way in which “the feast of the Conversion of Paul” creates a context at beginning and end with which Vincent’s bounds his remembrance.  What further role might that occasion have played in the preaching of this day?


Paul stands as one of the central figures in the New Testament.  The Acts of the Apostles records his conversion story three times to emphasize its importance.  It holds pride of place as the key experiences in the life of the great apostle as it brings his whole being into focus.  Paul had been a zealous Jew, persecuting the Jewish-Christians because of their compromise of the ancestral faith.  This “way” had proclaimed some prophet as the long-awaited Messiah, and Paul could not bear that kind of sacrilege.  He sought to destroy this affront to his faith by any means necessary. This purpose puts him on the road to Damascus and into the path of the resurrected Lord.

Paul’s question as he lies on the road receives the answer which turns his whole world around, words which will make him the man who will proclaim the Christian faith without compromise:

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.  (Acts 9:3-5)

These last words change everything for Paul.  He had heard the belief that the Christians placed in Jesus and all the stories told about him, but now he receives the one piece which had eluded him: “Jesus is Lord.”  Everything which he had learned about Jesus now became the highest truth.  His faith becomes more than a measure of doctrine and well-articulated belief, it becomes personal.  Paul becomes the unstoppable force which will proclaim Jesus in every city and to every ear that he encounters.  His conversion is to a person and the direction of his life will only find meaning in that person.

As Vincent preaches in Folleville, I wonder about how much of the story of Paul he recounts, and about the way in which he invites his hearers to follow the lead of the great Apostle to the Gentiles. Vincent recounts how he instructs the people to make a general confession and how to make one properly. How much did he speak about the nature of sin as a personal rejection of the Lord and about repentance as a turning back to him with a changed life?  These dynamics rest at the heart of Paul’s conversion.

I am attracted to both Vincent and Paul. The opportunity to reflect on them together in this foundational Vincentian story attracts me.

Vincentian Youth Experience World Youth Day

One of the familiar quotes of St. Vincent de Paul to his first followers was the hope they would live in the manner of dear friends. Based on what 500 young people in Panama experienced the weekend of January 18-20 as they gathered together, this hope is alive and well!

Young people who serve as Marian Youth, members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, MISEVI, as well as priests and brothers of the Congregation of the Mission and sisters in the Company of the Daughters of Charity, gathered in San Jose de Malambo for several days to discover ¨The Joy of Being Vincentian.” Fifteen nations were represented among the 500 pilgrims who traveled long distances to come together in praise of Jesus Christ, the Evangelizer of the Poor, His Blessed Mother, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, under the watchful patronage of our Founders, Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac.

The weekend began with a joyous Mass celebrated by our Superior General of the Vincentian Family, namely, Fr. Tomaz Mavric, CM, the 26th successor to St. Vincent de Paul. Fr. Mavric told the gathered group that, ¨The joy of the Gospel comes from the conviction that, as Vincent de Paul said, we continue the mission of Jesus on earth. We are called to announce through our words and work that we are at the service of the poor, and in fact, at the service of Jesus Himself.¨

The young pilgrims saw and heard from priests, sisters, and a dedicated party of the Vincentian family about the rich, deep spirituality that undergirds the charism of St. Vincent de Paul. There was catechesis on the joy of being Vincentian, and workshops on practical ways to live the Vincentian charism. There were also moments of great community as they gathered for prayer, Eucharist, meals, and to simply enjoy one another’s company.

The young people who were representatives of Honduras, Colombia, Panama, and Mexico were all trying to outdo each other in singing and dancing at the Folklore Fellowship Nights. However, pilgrims from Taiwan, Slovakia, Brazil, and the USA all gave them great competition!

Overall, this weekend was a time of great joy and coming together. Friendships among the young pilgrims blossomed and the priests, sisters, and laity who are leaders were able to renew the bond of charity that the Vincentian charism has awakened in them over the years.  The young pilgrims left this weekend with a better understanding of faith, the Vincentian charism, and the virtues that make it possible: humility, charity, simplicity, zeal, and sacrifice. Nothing can stop them now from living the joy of being Vincentian!

John Maher, CM

Province of Eastern of USA

Meeting of Vincentian Youth in Panama, January 2019

Prior to the World Youth Day in Panama, which will gather hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the world with Pope Francis, the young pilgrims of the Vincentian Family come together to celebrate together the joy of being Vincentian.


466 participants have gathered for this meeting from the following countries: Argentina, Mexico, United States, Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Brazil, Canada, Australia, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Slovakia, Guiné Bissau, Haiti, Peru, Polônia, Portugal, Porto Rico, Saint Lucia, Taiwan, and Cuba.

In a festive and fraternal atmosphere, young Vincentians celebrate and live intense moments, as well as participate in formation and festive gatherings.

Once the Vincentian meeting is over, everyone will go to the World Youth Day meeting to renew their faith and commitment with hundreds of thousands of other young people, coming from all over the globe, who will meet Pope Francis.

The post first appeared on the site of the Vincentian Family Office.

Dreams – Martin Luther King, Frederic Ozanam, St. Vincent, Our Own

We all know the words “I have a dream”! Less familiar are the words from the Acts of the Apostles “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. (Acts 2:17)” Have we ever connected these dreams with the dreams of Frederic Ozanam, St. Vincent… and our own?

It has been some 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King. He had a dream and expressed it in various ways. Almost 200 years earlier Frederic Ozanam also had a dream! He and his friend Léonce Curnier exchanged letters about Frederic’s dream “to encircle the world in a network of charity.” Today, that dream is quite literally a reality! The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is established in 150 countries around the world.

His dream had its roots in St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. It has expanded well beyond the Society to include the well over 1 million followers of Vincent and Louise in more than 200 branches of the wider Vincentian Family. These numbers do not count the growing numbers of people who walk in the way of Vincent and Louise even though not affiliated with any group.

Each of the organized groups sums up their dreams with their mottos, “he has sent me to evangelize the poor,” “the charity of Christ urges me,” “no act of charity is foreign to the Society,” etc. Regardless of whether you belong to an organized branch of the Vincentian Family or not, how would you express your motto? (I personally like the words of Vincent “Let love light up my mortal frame until others catch the living flame.”)

A call to dream

As we celebrate the dreams of Martin Luther King, Frederic Ozanam, Vincent and innumerable other dreamers let us recall that without dreams the people perish (Proverbs 29:18} and pray for the spirit of Acts 2:17 where “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”

  • Is your dream still alive?
  • How would you put it in words?

Prayer service – Dream Dreams With Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, may our dreams soar!

This post first appeared on FamVin.

Pope Francis – Be Grateful for your History, Search for Answers

The Hopes of Pope Francis

As I read what Pope Francis said to literally thousands of indigenous youth as they gather for a historic event prior to World Youth Day, two sentences struck me.

I urge that this be an opportunity for you to respond to the invitation, addressed to young people at other times, to be grateful for the history of your peoples and courageous in the face of the challenges that surround you, to move forward full of hope in building another possible world.

  • Gratitude for one’s culture
  • Courage in the face of challenges
  • Hope in building another possible world.

…search for answers, from an evangelical perspective, to so many and so scandalous situations of marginalization, exclusion, waste and impoverishment to which millions of young people are condemned, especially the youth of native peoples, in the world.

  • Marginalization and exclusion of youth
  • Waste an impoverishment of millions of young people around the world

Food for thought

  • How grateful am I for the culture that shaped me?
  • What gives me courage in the face of the challenges around me?
  • What am I do to build a better possible world?

Please find below a working translation of the Pope’s video message:

Dear young people,

At the end of World Youth Day in Krakow in July 2016, I told the young volunteers: “We assume the memory of our past to build the future with courage”. And this is the motto that you have chosen for this World Meeting of Indigenous Youth that brought you together from January 17 to 21 of this year (pre-GMG) in Soloy, Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé, diocese of David, Panama.

I congratulate you because this is the first time that a pre-WYD meeting has been organized specifically for youth of indigenous and native peoples at the world level. It is an initiative for which I would like to thank the Section for the Pastoral Care of the Indigenous People of the Bishops’ Conference of Panama, supported by CELAM.

Dear young people, I urge you that this meeting, which brings together hundreds of young people from different native peoples, may serve to reflect and celebrate your faith in Jesus Christ starting from the millennial richness of your original cultures. I urge that this be an opportunity for you to respond to the invitation, addressed to young people at other times, to be grateful for the history of your peoples and courageous in the face of the challenges that surround you, to move forward full of hope in building another possible world.

Return to native cultures. Take care of the roots, because from the roots comes the strength that will make you grow, prosper and bear fruit. It must also be a way of showing the indigenous face of our Church in the context of WYD and of affirming our commitment to protect the Common House and to collaborate in building another possible world, that is more just and more human.

Undoubtedly, the themes that, according to the programme, will be the object of your reflection, will stimulate the search for answers, from an evangelical perspective, to so many and so scandalous situations of marginalization, exclusion, waste and impoverishment to which millions of young people are condemned, especially the youth of native peoples, in the world. May your actions, the awareness of belonging to your peoples, be a reaction against this culture of waste, against this culture of forgetting your roots, projected towards a future that is ever more liquid, gaseous and without foundation.

Boys and girls, take care of your cultures! Take care of your roots! But don’t stop there: from those roots grow, flower, bear fruit. A poet has said that “everything that the tree has in bloom, comes from what is underground.” The roots . But roots taken into the future. Projected into the future. This is your challenge today.

It will be a pleasure for me to meet you in Panama. And in the meantime, my best wishes for the meeting and I give you my blessing.

Jatuaida , Jamorogodre.

May God bless you!

Fr. Joe Fitzgerald Interviewed by Vatican News Agency

We are very grateful to the Vatican News Agency for Sofia Lobos’ insightful interview with our Eastern Province confrere Father Joseph Fitzgerald, CM (Executive Secretary of the National Coordination of Indigenous Ministry [CONAPI].

For those who can read Spanish the original can be found at https://www.vaticannews.va/es/iglesia/news/2019-01/jmj-panama-entrevista-jovenes-indigenas-emji.html

Gathering of Young Indigenous Men and Women:

Celebrate Faith and the Richness of Culture

[The Vatican News Agency interviewed Father Joseph Fitzgerald, CM, one of the organizers of the event who stated: We want young indigenous men and women to be aware of the fact that they are heirs of a great spiritual richness, heirs of a joy and a culture that the world so desperately needs].

The World Gathering of Indigenous Youth is an initiative that has been inspired by the words that Pope Francis spoke to the volunteers during the World Youth Day celebration in Kraków (2016). There the Pope spoke about young people as hope of the future. That hope for the future, however, is conditioned by two realities: memory and courage. The first [reality] is to remember. Trying to understand where I come from: the memory of my people, my family, my whole history … the second [reality] … have courage, be strong, don’t be afraid (Pope Francis, Meeting with Volunteers, July 31, 2016).

[Full text of Pope Francis’ Message”]

Memory and courage in order to be hope of the future

Those words of Pope Francis gave birth to the idea of gathering together indigenous young people in order to celebrate their faith from the perspective of the millennial richness of their culture. At the same time this gathering would provide these young people with an opportunity to share their challenges and their hopes. Months of work and organization will be made visible in the World Encounter of Indigenous Young People. This gathering will take place in the community of Soloy, the reservation of the Ngäbe-Buglé (Diocese of David in the Republic of Panama) and is part of the Vincentian Youth Gathering.

In this interview with the Vatican News Agency, Father Joseph Fitzgerald, CM (Executive Secretary of the National Coordination of Indigenous Ministry [CONAPI], the primary organization that is promoting this event from January 17-21 2019) stated: This is a wonderful opportunity to respond to the Pope’s invitation that young men and women express their gratitude for the history of their people. At the same time, they are able to respond to the call to act with courage and to embrace the challenges that surround them. In this way they can move forward with hope and participate in the construction of a new world. Delegations from Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, etc. are expected to participate in this gathering.

Challenges that indigenous young people confront

We take ownership of the memory of our past in order to build up the world with courage … such is the theme of this gathering, a theme that was chosen by the indigenous people in Panama who are members of the organizing team. The theme is in accord with the primary challenges that this new generation of indigenous people must confront. Each day these young men and women are called up to overcome obstacles such as marginalization, financial uncertainty, living their identity in the midst of a world that so often does not understand or value cultural differences.

The Logo of the 2019 Indigenous Gathering

It is important to highlight the importance of the logo of this gathering. First, we see the cross, the central symbol of our Christian faith … a symbol that invites young people to commit themselves and follow in the footsteps of Jesus who is the fullness of hope for our people.

The roof of the house made from traditional indigenous materials symbolizes the unity of the members of a community that walk together. The cocoa is the sacred fruit of many Mesoamerican people. Father Joseph stated: we drink cocoa in a spirit of solidarity during significant moments in the life of the community. This enables us to experience ourselves as true brothers and sisters, as a family.

 The roots of the plant represent our respect for Mother Earth who gives life. Furthermore, corn is a basic food for the indigenous people and is seen as the sacred food of our people.

 Finally, the chameleon invites everyone to respect the rich diversity of God’s creation. Young people are invited to commit themselves to maintain an intimate relationship with all of God’s creation and to view this gift as an inheritance that they have received from their grandparents.

What are the fruits that you hope to obtain from this meeting?

Father Fitzgerald explained: We hope that young people can get to know each other; that they will focus on the commitment and the good example that they have witness in their villages … places where so many have fought and given their lives to protect their people. We hope that these young indigenous men and women come to recognize that they are heirs of a great wealth, of a joy and a culture that the world so badly needs, and that they return to their homes renewed and strengthened in their faith.

 Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM Eastern Province, USA

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Landing and Soaking In

Landing and Soaking In (Mt. 4: 12-25)

A Christmas card I received has God speaking these words: “My light hovers over you searching for a place to land. I want you to let my light soak into your mind and heart.”

These phrases came to mind when reading in St. Matthew (4:12-25) about the day Jesus left his home town and “came into the land of Zebulon and Naphtali.” These were the dark regions which Isaiah prophesied would see a great light, the somber places overshadowed by death out of which that great brilliance would arise. And it’s in the glow of that promised light that Jesus’ preaching and curing begins.

[This post first appeared on FamVin]

What Jesus does is look for places for that light to land — and then have it penetrate. In some situations the light is blocked and so bounces off. In other places it not only sets itself down but begins to soak into peoples’ minds and hearts.

That double action of the light, landing and then sinking in, provides an underlying clue to the whole direction of Jesus’ ministry. He searches for receptive places in which to drop the light-filled seeds of his Kingdom — and then he nurtures them so that their light can begin to penetrate.

Isn’t this what followers like St. Vincent were always trying to do: find some landing place for God’s Word and then do what’s possible to let it take root. For him, the drop zone was the world of the poor, both the poor ones themselves and those who had eyes to notice and value them. And doesn’t all the creativity, energy and labors of his many projects describe this Divine Light as it’s soaking in to his time and place?

Isn’t that what any proclaimer of the Gospel sets out to do, find the receptive place and then nourish what gets planted there.
Think of believers today who search their world for areas of openness to Jesus’ message — the evangelizers on college campuses, the spiritual writers whose words strike chords in hearts, the preachers who weave believable connections between the gospel and the rest of life. Think of Pope Francis who is always looking for gospel openings in today’s world — the environment, economic systems, the thirst for joy. Think even of the current scandals in the Church which in a reverse and even painful way are opening up new paths of reform and hopefully also ways to grow that reform.

So God says, “My light hovers over you searching for a place to land. I want my light to soak into your mind and heart.” Isn’t this Jesus setting out from Nazareth on his mission? Isn’t this each of us trying to follow behind, going forth and doing likewise?

Please pray for Mrs. Catherine McCann

Please pray for Mrs. Catherine McCann, the sister-law of Fr. Don McCann, C.M.+ His older brother, Peter, has asked that the following information be shared with the confreres:

Catherine McCann, wife of Peter McCann, sister-in-law of Fr. Don McCann, C.M.,died Sunday, January 13.

The wake will be held Wednesday at Wagner’s Funeral Home,
125 Old Country Road, Hicksville, NY; 2-5 & 7-9.

A Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated on
Thursday at Our Lady of Mercy Church,
500 South Oyster Bay Road, Hicksville, NY.

Peter would be grateful if any confrere could attend.

Please remember Catherine in your prayers.

Congregation of the Mission: Finding God in the Poor

This month (January 25) we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Mission. “The mission” is to save God’s beloved children; to serve the poor both spiritually and materially. As Fr. Anthony Dosen, C.M. humbly explains in this video, “I don’t have all the answers, and how I find God is in the poor.” As Vincentians we know that God works through persons who are poor. This is an invitation to come and follow Christ in them.

This post originaly appeaared on FamVin.