Society of St. Vincent de Paul Leader Said He Felt at ‘Home’ During New York Visit

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The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is continuing to make an impact on the poor in the archdiocese and throughout the world under the leadership of Renato Lima de Oliveira.

The society’s international president general visited New York for a week where he kept a busy agenda that included a stop at Catholic New York July 18.

“I feel at home here,” Lima de Oliveira told CNY. “There are fantastic people here, good Catholics working hard through the charity. So, I’m at home here.”

Lima de Oliveira was joined at CNY by Michael Nizankiewicz, international territorial vice president; Ralph Middlecamp, national president; and Pattie Hughes, the lead formator for the Archdiocesan Council of New York.

The society, which assists 30 million people worldwide, has 35 conference groups in the archdiocese. Across the globe, the society has 800,000 members and 1.5 million collaborators in 138 countries.

Lima de Oliveira, a native of Brazil, made stops in the archdiocese and on Long Island during his visit, which included distributing meals to about 200 street homeless people in Harlem, dinner with local Vincentians at St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan, a home visit with an elderly couple in Manhattan, visit with the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations, breakfast with Cardinal Dolan at the Cardinal’s residence and a visit to the Security Council and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at the United Nations.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society became a member of ECOSOC in 2012.

“For us, it’s a great privilege to belong to this ECOSOC group, especially representing the poor and people who don’t have a voice,” Lima de Oliveira said. “That’s why we’re at the United Nations to try to say something. Sometimes NGOs (non-governmental organizations) complain about the system, governments, capitalism and politicians.

“That is not our vision about how to deal with other people. We have to work together. Alone, we cannot solve anything. We have international rules that part of these rules say we should work together with other institutions, not only Catholics, but with other institutions. It is our mission.”

Ms. Hughes said a coalition called the Vincentian Family was formed at the United Nations with the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), Daughters of Charity, Ladies of Charity, Sisters of Charity and Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“One of the things we did that was really remarkable is in the last year our focus was on homelessness with all of the Vincentian Family,” said Ms. Hughes, who also serves as one of two representatives of the society’s International Confederation at the U.N.

“At the U.N., that word has never been used, they never talked about homelessness. We started a working group. We invited other NGOs to join us.

“We went from just being the Vincentian Family around the table to stepping back and having other NGOs on the board of that working group. We managed to get the U.N. to recognize homelessness as the theme for the CSocD (Commission of Social Development) day 2020, which is huge.”

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul continues to work on meeting its 10 strategic-planning goals by 2022. The goals include solidarity, training for all members, expansion and increased membership for young people.

“One of the goals is by 2022 to have 30 percent of our membership be 35 and younger,” Nizankiewicz said. “The U.S. is doing a very good job. Ralph and the U.S. council are working pretty hard on enhancing youth involvement. The annual meeting at the end of August and beginning of September in Denver will have a strong youth section.”

Middlecamp said great things are being done in the United States such as mentoring programs to help people rise from poverty and for prisoners getting out of prison in hopes they will not end up back in prison.

“The society is growing, particularly in areas where Catholicism is growing,” he said. “We have good leadership in New York. We’ve had new conferences in the Bronx over the last four, five years where we had very little presence. There are good things happening here which are absolutely necessary for the society to continue.”

Lima de Oliveira and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are working toward another goal.

“We have also another spiritual goal for the canonization of one of our seven founders, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam,” Lima de Oliveira said. “We are working hard together with the Vatican, trying to show the experts at Vatican that we probably have a new miracle.” Another miracle would lead to Blessed Ozanam’s canonization.

“We have five good cases from around the world but there is one very strong case from Brazil. So we are working in this direction.”

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