by Christine Young, Bountiful, Utah
Vincentian Father G. Gregory Gay, C.M., Superior General of the Vincentians, visited the Ladies of Charity (LOC) of the Diocese of Salt Lake City and the Daughters of Charity at Saint Olaf Convent in September. Fr. Gay was re-elected in July 2010 for a six-year term as the worldwide superior general of the Congregation of the Mission, known as the Vincentian Priests and Brothers and the Daughters of Charity.
As Superior General, Fr. Gay wanted to visit Vincentian family members and branches of the Vincentians in “those places that are out-of-the way.” Before coming to Utah he visited the Daughters of Charity in Magadan, Russia and Anchorage. Fr. Gay has visited more than 90 countries in the last seven years. Accompanying him on his visit to Utah was Father Andrew Bellisario, Provincial Director, and Daughter of Charity Sister Marjorie Ann Baez, Provincial Superior from Los Altos Hills, CA.
They were given a tour of the Ladies of Charity Center of Hope and “Give Me a Chance,” located in Ogden and run by Daughter of Charity Sister Maria Nguyen. The Ladies of Charity “are doing excellent work” and Sr. Maria’s “Give Me a Chance program is fantastic,” Fr. Gay said. “The name Center of Hope is great because some people live in situations that are difficult,” Fr. Gay said. “It’s like an oasis in the middle of the desert where people can go to get a sense of hope and a sense of dignity as God’s children.” He noticed that as soon as somebody arrives, the ladies attend to them and show them care and concern.
“Sr. Maria is an immigrant herself from Vietnam and knows what it means to struggle to be recognized not only as a woman but as a person in society,” Fr. Gay said. “Most of the women are Hispanic, but they are also offered the opportunity to learn English. The more they can inculturate, the better opportunities will be for themselves and for their children. This work these women do gives them a sense of dignity and shows them they can be creative.” Sr. Maria is quoted as saying, “it’s degrading to just give people handouts, it’s better to give them a hand up.” According to Fr. Gay, “that’s systemic change, the basic Vincentian philosophy.”
Sister Germaine, Bountiful LOC Spiritual Moderator, was glad to share the works done in Ogden and Salt Lake with Father Gay and those accompanying him. Sister Germaine told Father Gay, “There are so many poor here, it’s nice to be able to help them as the Vincentian family does throughout the world.” Sr. Maria said, “Fr. Gay gave us encouragement to continue our work.” How special was this visit for all those involved. ?
By Molly Siedlarczyk, Committee Chair
Rose daLima, National President of AIC Madagascar, has stated below the work that has been done in various regions of Madagascar. A collection was taken during Friday’s Mass at the Kansas City National Assembly. Those receipts, in addition to what had accumulated in LCUSA’s treasury from donations made by our members this year, allowed for Treasurer Mary Ann Morovitz, to prepare a check written to AIC Madagascar in the sum of $5,000. It was presented to Natalie Monteza, Secrétaire General AIC, for delivery to Rose daLima.
Thank you to all concerned for making it possible for LCUSA to be so supportive of its twinning mission, providing resources to AIC Madagascar’s programs to help women and children. Rose’s article below shows the various ways your contributions have supported people throughout the Madagascar region. Thank you so much for being there for our family abroad.
Rose daLima Ramanankanan
National President, AIC Madagascar
Manakara, August 2011
This twinning began a few years ago and is still going on thanks to the generosity of the AIC- USA volunteers. Originally, the financial help was dedicated partly for the poorest children from the streets of Manakara and the surrounding area, and also for animation expenses for the formation of volunteers in the association in Madagascar, because the 14 regions where the AIC groups are settled are very far from the national office in Manakara. However, in these last few years, additional areas of need have been identified, along with the number of the children needing help. New groups were created in the southeast region of Madagascar, and thanks to the financial help, different projects have been working quite efficiently so far.
I. Schooling and Nutrition
Hundreds of children go to school and are learning well and have good attendance: Manakara (320 children); Vohipeno (150); Farafangana (215).
In the southern region, a large orphanage with 60 children was established last August and AIC- USA has contributed a significant amount of money for the building of the house.
The group at Marillac which looks after handicapped children benefits from the support of AIC-USA as well. The children receive good nutrition and the improved results at school are quite obvious. The children’s performance has developed and they are happier and feel just like any other children. Now they have the same rights as the others and their parents have stopped using them in child labor in order to get money (such as fetching water or working in houses).
At Pelatsara, a young girl who lives alone with her brother now has a house and can continue her studies thanks to the AIC-USA. She says in her testimony:
“I’m a young poor girl of 18 but I know that my small brother and me aren’t alone; charitable ‘mothers’ are thinking of us and help us somewhere in the world. We are very happy for that and I’d like to assure them that I do my best in order to succeed in my studies.”
II. Empowering the mothers in a small micro-credit project
This year, a project of poultry breeding will start with a new group in Vohipeno. Sixty poor mothers will be financed for poultry breeding and vegetable gardening so that they can work toward independence. These women are already being formed by the AIC volunteers in collaboration with the Vincentian priest in the area. In the past the women and their families were begging in the streets, but are now very proud to show their houses and gardens. The project didn’t succeed completely last year because of a cyclone, but they would like to continue this year. Thanks to the subsidies we’ve just received, these poor women will be very happy to breed poultry, and the national president has worked with them to begin anew.
This year we’d like to extend the AIC–USA twinning to the deep south of Madagascar. In Tolaganaro, the AIC volunteers are taking care of a few small handicapped children and sometimes problems occur when the children need expensive medical care. The poor children will get better treatments this year because of the AIC-USA assistance.
III. Urgent needs
Madagascar is always suffering from violent cyclones which destroy houses and agricultural products and cause many infectious diseases among the poorest people. Last February hundreds of people died, a great number disappeared and the number of homeless people increased. The AIC volunteers were able to help people in that difficult situation thanks to the financial help from AIC-USA.
Twinning between the AIC–USA and Madagascar is one perfect example of collaboration and partnership which has been efficient and helpful so far. We can say that it is more than “simple twinning” because we’ve exchanged so many mails and reports. Friendly relations have been established and reinforced through international meetings. We can also say that many children have been given the opportunity to live correctly and happily, and many mothers have been given the chance to stand on their own feet and become responsible for their own development. Twinning is a very good example of the application of our guideline “working together to fight against poverty.”
The beneficiaries, together with the Malagasy volunteers, are so grateful to AIC–USA Ladies of Charity. ?
By Kathleen Sieracki, Servictte Editor
In the last issue of the Servicette, you read Maureen McMillan’s report on collaboration within the Vincentian Family in the St. Louis area. Mary Ann Dantuono also contributed an article about Vincentians working together on the national level. Here is a story which illustrates we are truly members of a global family united in serving people in need wherever they may be found.
Two-year-old Josue from Panama was chosen to have surgery at the Shriners Hospital in Shreveport, LA, to repair a fractured arm which had not healed. His mother Flor would accompany him. The hospital would provide a room for the mother and child with a continental breakfast and dinner for the parent, but Flor would have to provide for her own lunch and any other personal expenses.
The family came to the attention of AIC–Panama, whose president, Amparo de Caro, thought to ask for assistance and support for Flor through AIC–USA. She emailed, in Spanish, to the AIC International Secretariat in Belgium. AIC staff member Bénédicte de Bellefroid translated the message and forwarded it to Lucy Saunders, LCUSA president. Since there is no Ladies of Charity association in that area of Louisiana, Lucy contacted Sheila Gilbert, national president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) for assistance, and was put in touch with Dottie Sue, a local member, who in turn contacted the diocesan office, who referred LCUSA to the newly created Catholic Charities Spanish Ministry in Shreveport.
Catholic Charities worker Guiel has contacted Flor and her son. Josue’s arm is healing well and the doctors are pleased with his progress. Guiel assisted Flor with a call to Panama, and has been visiting her and other Panamanian mothers in the same situation. Long-term hospitalization so far from home has been confining for both mothers and children. Guiel plans to purchase toys for the children, shop for the mothers and provide a lunch outing. Flor has also requested an opportunity to attend Mass, which Guiel will work out with hospital staff. LCUSA has committed to reimburse any expenses incurred on behalf of Flor and Josue.
There has been another request to help a Panamanian family whose young daughter will undergo leg surgery in early–2102. The operation will also be performed at the Shriners Hospital in Shreveport. AIC asked whether they can go on benefiting from LCUSA’s volunteer support. It goes without saying that LCUSA is there to support and lend a hand whenever and wherever the need might arise. With the cooperation of our family members in Louisiana, LCUSA looks forward to working with all those involved in making these families feel at home in our country, through the extended helping hands of others.
This has been a true partnership of service involving the Shriners, AIC international, AIC–Panama and AIC–USA, SVDP, and Catholic Charities. What a wonderful model of cooperation and resourcefulness for us all. ?
By Gayle Johnson, LCUSA President-Elect and AIC Board Member
Six members of AIC joined a delegation representing Cor Unum, a Pontifical Council of Volunteers worldwide, in a meeting in Rome the week of November 7. Christa Foelting, AIC Germany; Maria Loers, AIC France; Michele de Precourt, AIC Italy; Maria Cristina Cambaggio, a volunteer from Italy; and Laurence de La Brosse, AIC President, were among the twelve participants who met with Cardinal Robert Sarah, President of Cor Unum, and the Pope. Below you will find the heart of the message from Pope Benedict XVI on the role of volunteers in our world.
“Charity is a witness, a God given opportunity to minister to all those that are far from the faith; not because we want to direct our charitable work towards this end, but rather because we want to help people to grow deeper in the knowledge of themselves and meet their profound needs. Otherwise our contribution would not be an authentic help if we do not appeal to the heart of the people where there is a deep longing for God…
“… I would also like to express my deep gratitude to you and, by extension, to the millions of Catholic volunteers who contribute, regularly and generously, to the Church’s charitable mission throughout the world…
“The faith of all Catholics is surely strengthened when they see the good that is being done in the name of Christ…
“For Christians, volunteer work is not merely an expression of good will. It is based on a personal experience of Christ…
“While it is the duty of public authority to acknowledge and to appreciate this contribution without distorting it, your role as Christians is to take an active part in the life of society, seeking to make it ever more humane, ever more marked by authentic freedom, justice and solidarity…. If these spiritual roots are denied or obscured and the criteria of our collaboration become purely utilitarian, what is most distinctive about the service you provide risks being lost, to the detriment of society as a whole….”
This message from the Pope leaves the members of Ladies of Charity much to think about as as we begin a new year. Our work with those living in poverty is meant to bring these individuals and ourselves closer to Christ. Christ is always at the center of all we do. ?
Last year, the Vincentian Family did its part in promoting the spirit and collaboration of family and friends. I was privileged to attend two Vincentian Family meetings. One was held in Philadelphia for the Vincentian Family Leadership East, where ideas and projects were shared by seven family members. In discussing those projects, you understand the important role the Vincentian Family plays throughout our country caring for those less fortunate. Some projects discussed were: Germantown, Pa., where members of the Vincentian Family are pooling their resources to revive a community that needs rebuilding, not only with buildings but with a spirit of establishing a safe and productive community; scholarships are being given out in New York at the College of Mount Saint Vincent which combine Vincentian formation, service, and reflection; a day care center for the homeless is being created by DePaul USA in Macon, Ga. An advocacy group had been established in a rural area to speak for those living in poverty that could not afford local housing. As members of the Vincentian family, we are reaching out and touching others so they too can feel and see the impact of the Vincentians working together for Systemic Change.
At the second meeting of the Vincentian Family, there were 150–plus members of the family who shared their time and talents with each other while learning about Systemic Change. In attendance were persons who had experienced the roadblocks of society and government. They told their stories about fighting the odds with a little help from those who believed in them, but mostly they fought the odds themselves showing that they knew how to pull themselves up and take responsibility. Please refer to the article on the Indianapolis Vincentian Family Gathering that can be found in this issue of the Servicette.
A well-known German proverb says, “Begin to weave and God will give you the thread.” As Ladies of Charity and members of the Vincentian Family, God has definitely given us the thread. As we weave our relationships with the thread that began with our founders, we as the Vincentian Family have the tools that bind us together in our faith and service and link our spirit to our Vincentian heritage. We can further weave with the thread that our leaders began with to intertwine the concept and reality of Systemic Change. Having no fear of bringing those less fortunate to our table or listening to their plight and realizing their need to be their own persons, we offer them that thread of belonging. Just listen and you will hear the plight of those living in poverty. Offer them the thread that will help weave Systemic Change in their lives. Read stories in this newsletter, adapt the ideas that are being shared, take time to put yourself in their place and reach out in the spirit of our founders. Future articles in LCUSA’s quarterly newsletters will introduce our readers to fundamentals of Systemic Change and how it can become a part of our helping hands to those we serve.
The year of 2012 will give all of us the opportunity to collaborate on Systemic Change and engage our communities in the work of justice and charity. My wish for all of you is to believe, to have hope and to be joyful in the life you have been given. Be conscious of the privilege of serving our brothers and sisters in today’s world where tomorrow seems hopeless to those without a voice. Let us be that voice as we begin the New Year and prepare for the Season of Lent. ?
May you live in interesting times.
Like France in the late 1600’s, our society is becoming more divided into the haves and have nots. To confront the destitution of the poor, our patron saints Vincent and Louise braved criticism of religious and civil leaders by breaking through cloister walls to institute a new form of religious life for women. Those dedicated women, the Daughters of Charity, personally ministered to the poor and needy in their homes.
In the 21st century, we, the Ladies of Charity, have opportunities to emulate our founders. Breaking through traditions based on “we have always done it this way,” why not generate inventive means to support and collaborate with our Vincentian family. Cooperation, creative thinking, resource pooling and shared advocacy based on our common charism require us to be open to exploring new and more effective ways to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. Underpinning our efforts are the three virtues we share – faith, hope and love.
We call on our faith and our hope to be optimistic that we can effect positive change in this muddled world. All things are possible with God’s help and love for one another and those we serve.
Vincent and Louise set out with simple basic solutions in their small part of France and their good work grew to encompass the world. It is our call to keep the spirit of these two visionaries alive in this most interesting and challenging of times. It is our mission to engage all of you as Ladies of Charity in today’s changing world. ?