Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Letter from the Society's National President

Dear Vincentians:

The concept of family has special significance for our Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

The beautiful fact that as members of God's family we are all brothers and sisters in Christ clearly defines our relationship to those we serve. It also unites all Vincentians in a familial vocation of loving service to the less fortunate of His children.

We have the special privilege of being in solidarity with Vincentians in 142 countries. Together we bring to life Blessed Frederic Ozanam's magnificent vision of a network of charity embracing the world.

Just as human hopes, dreams and values know no geographical boundaries; neither do the needs of the poor. Whether it be Argentina or Australia...India or Italy...Mexico or Myanmar...Singapore or Spain...Uganda or Ukraine, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is there to help.

As you read this letter, Vincentians in Haiti are aiding those affected by the earthquake which devastated one of the poorest countries on earth. Our assistance will continue until the work is finished. Yet long before the need is over another disaster no doubt will occur somewhere and you can be sure our Society of St. Vincent de Paul will be there. However, our ability to respond requires an equitable sharing of resources by the Society from those countries which have the financial capability to do so.

The tragedy in Haiti is just the latest example of the need to adequately support our Society's Council General International in Paris which faces a severe financial crisis caused by a persistent shortage of funding. Continuing deficits are a consequence of that situation and must be addressed if our Society is to sustain its essential global efforts.

A core group of 64 Vincentians, all volunteers, from around the world directs our global network of charity. They are supported by the CGI staff of only 10 employees who work with the core group to administer and coordinate our Society's worldwide activities. No money from donations intended to help the poor is used by the CGI to pay for administrative costs.

Given the difficulty of raising funds to cover these costs, it was determined that the only viable sources of support are the affluent national councils. The 16 wealthiest countries where our Society operates contribute 97% of the total income for the CGI in the form of annual solidarity dues.

The National Council of the United States, with 42% of our Society's cash income, currently contributes only 7% of the solidarity dues. That equates to .00046 of our cash income, the lowest percentage by far of the 16 countries.

I strongly believe that we have the obligation to support our Society on a fair-share basis. It is simply the right thing to do. Accordingly, I am asking our councils and conferences to increase their support. The ultimate reason for such support is to serve the poorest of the poor in places we cannot be and doing work we cannot do ourselves.

The Great Seal of the United States contains the familiar phrase E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One. Those Latin words have special meaning for our Society as well, particularly at this challenging time: From the labors and contributions of Vincentians throughout the world emerges a unified commitment to serving those in need.

America is the most giving nation on earth and our Society of St. Vincent de Paul bears grateful witness to its generosity. We have been presented with a perfect opportunity to use our resources to help preserve Frederic's legacy of love to which all Vincentians are the heirs. Our solidarity with the poor and with each other is the essence of our Society. Supporting one another is an integral part of the beautiful mission we share.

We are greatly privileged by the grace of God to personify and perpetuate the noble network Frederic envisioned. The many locations worldwide where Vincentians alleviate the suffering of the poor are among the special places where those who seek assistance and those who offer it meet on the common ground of God's love. That is exactly where Vincentians are meant to be, exactly where our founder dreamed they would be.

We are truly blessed to be members of one family, across the country and around the world, living Frederic's vision.

Yours in St. Vincent and Blessed Frédéric,

Joseph Flannigan

National Council of the United States

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