The following is taken from the Fall 2011 Servicette
Mary Ann Dantuono, Advocacy Committee
“We should assist the poor in every way, and do it both by ourselves and by enlisting the help of others.”
—St. Vincent de Paul
In establishing the Systemic Change Commission of the Vincentian Family in 2005, the Very Rev. Gregory Gay, C.M., stated, “We are called upon to start actions, especially political actions, to eradicate the causes of poverty and unite in solidarity for justice in favor of the poor, because unjust systems created by selfish hearts have caused social, political and economic poverty.” This call to action has been taken seriously by the National Board of the Ladies of Charity USA. We began by studying the systemic change methodology in Seeds of Hope, in the publications of formation #11 and #12 and the materials that are available on FamVin.org. We began to develop ideas that could help LCUSA become more effective in responding to Fr. Gay’s call. One result of the Board’s study was the establishment of the Advocacy Committee of the Board in the spring of 2009.
We also participated in the Systemic Change Commission of the Vincentian Family’s convening of North America (US, Canada, Virgin Islands) that took place in November of 2010 in Belleville, IL. This meeting sought to introduce and/or deepen the understanding of the process of systemic change as a way of promoting on-going development of persons living in poverty and to equip leadership and trainers with the necessary tools (knowledge, convictions, and skills). It also began a process to develop regional strategies for continued training in systemic change and to provide opportunities for inter-Family exchange of experience and plans for future collaboration.
In many ways the meeting was a great success. As we shared our stories, we advanced in knowledge and deepened relationships with the various branches of the Vincentian family. From that convening many local meetings and trainings have taken place across North America.
On October 20-23, 2011, in Indianapolis, IN, the family will gather to continue this work. At “Vincentian Family Together Building Bridges Out of Poverty” both the leadership and members of the various branches can come together to pursue the opportunity to learn about the Ruby Payne and Philip De Vol methodology to end poverty in America. The theme promises great opportunities for our service to persons living in poverty. In addition to the goal of helping us to understand generational poverty, this meeting will also explore strategies for transforming local communities and continue to promote collaboration in the Vincentian Family.
We are challenged as members of the family to engage in a systemic change approach. What does that mean to us as the Ladies of Charity? We have been focusing on traveling the “Path of Caritas” with two feet: the foot of Charitable Works and the foot of Social Justice, an advocacy approach. As Vincent stated “Charity embraces Justice.” The Systemic Change approach also requires collaboration.
Collaboration is a 21st century model of organizational leadership. It stresses teamwork rather than competition. It begins with an assumption that each individual and organization has talents and skills to offer to the mission but no one individual or organization has it all. In this complex world we need to partner with others to effectively serve persons and communities living in poverty. In the current environment when needs are increasing and resources are diminishing, it offers us a direction of hope.
Collaboration encourages us to:
- develop relationships to engage in the work of charity and justice;
- learn the strengths and weaknesses of our partners including persons living in poverty;
- plan and develop projects together;
- pool our resources or work together to secure resources as partners for joint ventures and projects;
- consider that who we work with is as important as what we do;
- be open to new organizational structures where clearly defined and interrelated roles are possible and probable; and reflect together on our efforts so we can continually refocus ourselves on the 21st century mission of the followers of Vincent.
Collaboration was the style of both St. Vincent and St. Louise. They saw need and created opportunities for others to assist. Our own founding as the Confraternities of Charity is an example of how to engage and organize collaborators in the work of service for persons who suffer poverty, illness or oppression. As followers of Vincent and Louise, we must seek collaboration with the branches of the family and other groups who share our values to achieve the goals of alleviating the conditions of people living in poverty, of eradicating poverty, and changing the systems that perpetuate poverty in the 21st century. We will succeed if we believe sincerely as did Vincent and Louise, that more is accomplished jointly than can be accomplished individually. †