“I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”
2017 marks a year to celebrate not just for the Society of St Vincent de Paul worldwide, but also for the rest of the Vincentian family.
It was in 1617, while preaching in the parish church of Chatillon, that Vincent exhorted his congregation to take responsibility for a poor family from the parish that had taken seriously ill and were in need of food and comfort. The family was saved by the overwhelming response to this call to action and Vincent as a result had his great realisation that for charity to be effective it must be properly organised – an event which has changed the world for the last 400 years.
This story also brings to life a gospel text at the heart of our shared Vincentian calling – Matthew 25:35
” I was a stranger and you welcomed me”.
By reaching out and helping the strangers in our midst we are showing solidarity with that event at Chatillon and we are as one with our Vincentian calling – we model the example of the Good Samaritan in our community.
Who are the strangers in our midst today? There are so many to choose from – the refugees ﬂeeing from oppression and poverty, those internally displaced within their country due to civil war, the migrants seeking a new life, the homeless, those coping alone with physical or mental illness, those suffering discrimination perhaps because of their faith or race or colour, the lonely and vulnerable both young and old. Many of these people and issues are already familiar areas of work to members of the Vincentian Family globally. However, can we do more? Are there new poverties emerging that we are being called to respond to?
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Vincentian charism theleaders of the international Vincentian Family would like to invite all members ofthe Vincentian Family around the world to consider how we might better welcomethe strangers in our communities by making it the focus of the 400th Anniversaryof the Vincentian Charism.
Welcoming the strangers in our midst should also be seen as an invitation toeveryone who shares (or might be interested in) our Vincentian values, mission orspirituality. The people we currently serve are as capable of welcoming strangersas we are – if we invite them to do so. It is not dependent on power or wealth orhierarchy. This is an opportunity for everyone to be part of our family and to sharein our celebrations over the course of the year.