(Vatican Radio) The Vincentian Family is celebrating the 400th anniversary of its charism of service on behalf of the poor with a 4-day International Symposium that is taking place in Rome, and that will include an audience with Pope Francis.
The year 1617 was decisive with regards to Vincent de Paul’s vocation as he became aware of the spiritual abandonment of the poor and then experienced the material poverty and misery of his parishioners, events that transformed him into the Saint of Charity.
Since then the followers of Vincent de Paul, the members of the Vincentian Family have dedicated themselves to service on behalf of the poor.
Today the Vincentian Family is composed of some 225 branches (various religious communities and lay associations) and is present in more than 80 countries on all five continents. Vincentians are engaged in various ministries in which they care for homeless people, for refugees, for abandoned children and for single mothers.
The Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission and the Company of the Daughters of Charity, Father Tomaž Mavrič has encouraged members of the Vincentian Family to celebrate this year through participation in four common projects: the pilgrimage of the relic of the heart of Saint Vincent; participation in a project to end homelessness throughout the world; the International Symposium; an International Film Festival and competition focusing on the life of Saint Vincent de Paul.
Father Joe Agostino, coordinator of the Symposium, spoke to Vatican Radio about the event.
Fr Agostino explained that the gathering celebrates the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Vincentian charism and to mark this anniversary “we, as an international family, decided that we wanted to focus our efforts collaboratively in the fight against homelessness”.
“Our hope, through this Symposium, is to galvanize the entire family – and we are talking about over 2 million people - to work together to combat this problem that plagues us internationally” he said.
The challenges posed by migration
In terms of the new challenges faced by society and the flow of migrants and refugees in all parts of the world, Fr Agostino explained that for the particular form of homelessness created by the migration phenomenon, the Vincentian family is looking “to create a whole network of services to help support the migrants and refugees who are not necessarily welcomed in the countries that they find themselves in.”
“We have the questions around inculturation, the questions around permanency, questions around education and vocational development that will help them fit into a new societal structure. So the challenges are tremendous” he said.
Speaking about hopes and expectations for the Symposium, Agostino said “for one thing it’s the announcement to the entire family and to the world in general that we are beginning to walk in this new direction.”
Symposium to galvanize the Vincentian Family and increase collaboration with partners
“Our hope is that it would create a lot of energy from many different sectors, and also with the number of our collaborators internationally, to join hands with us in the fight against homeless” in the effort, he concluded, to make a difference in this area.