Our first national congress in decades is complete. Almost 200 Vincentians gathered together from across the country to work towards formulating new ideas and ensuring our charism continues in service. But this was only a step in the never-ending journey of renewal and action that our founder called us to.
A key aspect of the congress was that it demonstrated the importance of us working as one Society at all times. By doing this we can not only renew our faith but also renew our calling to serve those most in need in our community—our companions on the journey.
Sharing region to region, conference to conference and Vincentian to Vincentian is something that we must continue to find new ways to do. At the same time, we must also find new ways to engage those who, yearning to put their calling into action, have not yet found their path to service in the Society.
At the congress we began the process of devising strategies to pilot for action. These have been shared with all congress attendees and councils. Many of these strategies need more work, but all need to be put into action.
On the congress website (https://community.vinnies.org.au/) we have set up discussion procedures to ensure that we all will be able to continue working on these new ways. A call-out to those who are able to help turn these beginnings into substantial actions has been sent to all attendees and regions.
We must also find even more new ways to put our calling into practice for the benefit of all. As our members and companions call upon us to respond to new forms of poverty with new forms of action, we must create pathways for new ideas of service to be implemented at every level of the Society.
The Society has been at the heart, not only of the Church but of service in Australia, and our mission remains just as essential now as when we were founded.
Thank you to all those who attended with such faith and openness; to those who volunteered, especially conference members and volunteers from South Australia; to the South Australian State Council, St Aloysius and to those who worked quietly and diligently to bring the congress to fruition.
Now it is up to all of us to keep the flame of renewal burning in our conferences and in our hearts. We will continue to update everyone on our progress and to set deadlines for action and reporting. And in four years’ time, we will come together again to share our progress and to continue our renewal.
In the meantime, as the Vincentian prayer calls us, we pray that we may enkindle the fire of your love.
Graham West is National President of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia.