The National Council has, for the first time in more than 60 years, agreed to hold a National Congress in 2017. The Society is very excited to be holding this historic gathering at St Aloysius College in Adelaide on the weekend of 6–8 October 2017. We are expecting somewhere between 150 and 200 participants, consisting of Regional Council Presidents, National Council members, other targeted members, especially young people, and some staff.
As we approach this historic moment in the Society’s journey in Australia, it might be good for all of us to reflect on how we can let the Holy Spirit mould us, just as a potter moulds their clay.
This metaphor was used in ancient times in the book of Jeremiah (18:1-6): The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: rise up, be off to the potter’s house; there I will give you my message. I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hands, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? Indeed, like clay in the hands of the potter, so are you in my hands, house of Israel.
As we journey as members of a spiritual movement for social justice and love, let us begin to be open to the hands of the potter, our God, and feel the tenderness of this inexhaustible love.
Far from being something to be ashamed of, it is actually good to know that we are not complete. As human beings we are far from complete and as a movement of faith, hope and love, the St Vincent de Paul Society is far from complete.
We need our God to complete us, a God who comes to us through each other and through the people we assist, our companions with whom we break bread and hope, who teach us the meaning of love, who are the sacrament of the presence of God in our lives.
Do you remember the first major interview that Pope Francis gave? The first question he was asked was: ‘Who is Pope Francis?’
After reflecting for a moment, the new Pope replied, ‘I am a sinner. But I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ’.
This infinite mercy and patience is for all of us and for all who accompany us on our collective journey of building the Kingdom of God. Like Pope Francis, we take heart and are filled with courage because, in the words of St Paul in his Letter to the Romans (5:20): ‘Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more’. Or as Pope Francis has said, ‘God is greater than our sin’ (General Audience, 30 March 2016).
In other words, our journey towards the October congress is one in which we can feel free to reflect on our imperfections and failures as an organisation—our failures to see Christ in the people who are marginalised and excluded; our failures at times to really minister to their needs, to hear their hearts, to understand the new forms of inequality; our failures to love each other and to be a place of welcome, especially to people who we might feel are different to ourselves or who challenge our beliefs and assumptions.
- How does the St Vincent de Paul Society need to change?
- How can we make the Society a place in which we are moulded anew by God?
- Reflect on a time when you were changed by an encounter with God through someone who was marginalised.
Father Troy Bobbin is Spiritual Advisor to the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia.