It was a privilege to be a part of the first National Congress in 60 years, representing my local conference and the Victorian State Youth Team. I have been fortunate to have attended two of the Society’s National Youth Events, so I had some experience meeting with members from around the country to discuss our common goals, dreams and concerns. However, the congress was a different experience altogether. It was about Vincentians coming together to work towards tangible actions that could propel the Society into the next couple of years and beyond—an exciting but challenging aim.
When I arrived at the congress, I was thrilled to encounter the same enthusiasm, optimism and collaborative spirit that I have experienced throughout my time with the Society. I have reflected in the past that when you walk into a room of Vincentians, you know that everyone will be friendly, welcoming and eager to listen to your story and share theirs. This was certainly the case at the congress—members of all ages, from all different works of the Society, from every state, from cities and regional areas, all talking and engaging as if we had known each other for years.
With this Vincentian spirit burning, we formed working groups and set about our task of formulating broad ideas about the future of the Society and transforming them into concrete plans of action. We were guided through this process by the talented staff from Future Friendly. The facilitators provided useful exercises and techniques for generating ideas and plans, while we as delegates collectively provided many years of Vincentian experience across different works and different Australian communities. Together, this culminated in some great plans for moving forwards, which we will hopefully see come to fruition in coming years.
The congress also provided the opportunity to share in rituals together, which for me has always been a very special part of being a Vincentian. We celebrated a wonderful Mass together at St Francis Xavier Cathedral and also had a daily ceremony of lighting candles to represent the past, present and future of the Society. We also participated in a formal dinner at which we discussed the progress of our working groups but also enjoyed much fun and laughter. Even the small moments— eating our meals together or walking together from our hotel to the congress venue—were times of sharing and connection. Participating in these encounters was an important way for me to reflect on and rekindle my Vincentian identity.
Importantly, all of our ideas and experiences at the congress were documented to share with the rest of the Society whom we were privileged to represent. From the posters we created in our groups to video footage and the amazing illustrations produced by Simon Kneebone, all of our members have the opportunity to participate in the congress experience so that we can all work together to take the Society into the future. I have definitely come away from the congress inspired and excited to take things further and I am sure that the impact of the congress will be felt throughout the Society for many years to come!
Louisa Selvadurai is a member of the Greater Dandenong Young Vinnies Conference and a Victorian Southern Central Council Youth Representative.