PRESS RELEASE: Pope Commends International Association of Charities (AIC) on 400th Anniversary

The Press Office of the international religious family of St. Vincent de Paul is pleased to share this news of the continuing celebration of the 400th Anniversary of its founding. Puede descargar una versión en español abajo.

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(ROME: Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message of encouragement and thanks to members of the International Association of Charities (AIC) as it celebrates the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the first Confraternity of Charity by Saint Vincent de Paul in Châtillon, France.

This very first group has grown into today’s AIC, an international network for fighting against poverty, which now has over 150,000 volunteers in 53 countries.

In his message the Pope notes that true promotion of human dignity cannot take place without the proclamation of the Gospel.

“It is with joy, he writes, that I am spiritually united to you to celebrate this anniversary and I hope that your beautiful work continues its mission of bringing an authentic testimony of God’s mercy to the poorest”.

Pope Francis points out that the Charities were born of the tenderness and compassion of Monsieur Vincent for the poorest and the marginalized.

“His work with them wanted to reflect the goodness of God towards his creatures. He saw the poor as the representatives of Jesus Christ, as the members of His suffering body. He understood that the poor too were called to build up the Church and to convert us”.

The Pope says that in the wake of Vincent de Paul, who had entrusted the care of these poor people to lay people, and especially to women, AIC aims to promote the development of the most disadvantaged and to alleviate their material, physical, moral and spiritual pain.

“It is in the Providence of God that the foundation of this commitment is to be found” he says.

For “what is Providence but the love of God who acts in the world and asks for our cooperation?” the Pope continues, encouraging AIC members to continue to accompany the person in full and to pay particular attention to the precarious living conditions of many women and children.

He says it is faith that allows us to perceive the reality of the person, his or her incomparable dignity which is not limited to material goods, to social, economic and political problems, but as a person created in the image and likeness of God, a brother, a sister, a neighbor for whom we are responsible.

This is why, Pope Francis continues, human promotion, the authentic liberation of man, does not exist without the proclamation of the Gospel “for the most sublime aspect of human dignity lies in this vocation of man to communicate with God”.

Pope Francis recalls that in the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy he expressed the hope that “the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God” and he invites all to pursue this path as the credibility of the Church goes through the path of merciful love and compassion that open to hope.

“This credibility, he concludes, passes also through your personal testimony: it is not only a question of meeting Christ in the poor, but that the poor perceive Christ in you and in your action. By being rooted in Christ’s personal experience you can contribute to a “culture of mercy” that deeply renews hearts and opens up to a new reality”.

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For more information, or to schedule an interview with Alicia Duhne, International President of the AIC (in Spanish) contact Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. at info@famvin.org.

To read more about recent Anniversary events of the AIC, click here.

Find out more about the AIC in various languages at http://www.aic-international.org/en/ .

This and more videos can be found on the AIC YouTube channel at “https://youtu.be/GJ1j2oa1cjw”

Additional videos can be found on a special playlist at the Vincentian Family YouTube channel.


PERSONALITY: Bro. Lawrence Obiko, CMM

Brother Lawrence Obiko is the 14th Superior General of the Brothers CMM, a Congregation founded in Tilburg, the Netherlands, in 1844, by Bishop Joannes Zwijsen, who was sometimes called the ‘Vincentius of Tilburg’.

Brother Lawrence was born in Bomatara – Kisii, Kenya, on 31 October 1962. He is the fourth son of Mr. Patrick Omwaga Maosa, a supervisor at a coffee plantation and a concierge at a mission school and Mrs. Veronica Bisieri Kinanga, a homemaker and mother of seven children, six boys and one girl, who died shortly after birth. Brother Lawrence’s father died in 1993 and his mother is still living in their parental home. His brothers are married and live with their families in Kenya.

After attending St. Joseph’s Primary School in Nyabururu and Cardinal Otunga High School in Mosocho, a school founded and managed by the Brothers CMM, Brother Lawrence entered the Congregation in Oyugis in 1987 and made his profession for life in 1995. He studied Agriculture at Baraka Farmers Training College in Molo, Religious Formation at Tumaini Center and Spiritual Direction at Mwangaza Jesuit Training Center, both in Nairobi. This was followed by an ICT study at Strathmore University in Nairobi. He speaks Ekegusii, Swahili, English, Dutch and commands sign language. In his sporadic spare time he enjoys taking up the artist’s brush.

Brother Lawrence served the Congregation in Kenya as treasurer, community superior, postulant-master, novice-master and for 12 years as a member of the Provincial Board. As novice-master he was especially instrumental in the establishment of the new noviciate in Sigona, and in Urambo, Tanzania, he supervised the building activities of St. Vincent de Paul Secondary School, where he taught Computer Sciences. In 2008 he was elected member of the General Board and on 5 June 2014 he was elected Superior General. Since 2008 he has been living in Tilburg, the Netherlands, from where he makes canonical visits to his fellow brothers in eight different countries promoting the congregational charism of brotherhood and mercy. Since 2016 he is a member of the Vincentian Family Executive Committee and attended the official opening of the Vincentian Family Office in Philadelphia, U.S.A., on 6 January 2017.

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PERSONALITY: Mark McGreevy, OBE

Mark McGreevy, OBE, currently serves as Group Chief Executive at Depaul International, and is the founder of the Institute for Global Homelessness. He directs the Vincentian Family 400th Anniversary Homelessness Initiative.

An interview with Mark

How did you end up starting Depaul and what was your background before?

I started out as a teacher with a degree in theology at Westminster Choir School. At the same time I started to volunteer at The Passage, a homelessness service in Victoria , where I helped with serving food and clearing up afterwards. The whole experience made me realise I was perhaps more suited to working with homeless people rather than children and in 1988 I started as a project worker at a hostel run by the Cardinal Hume Centre. I stayed in this role for nearly 2 years until 1989, when Cardinal Hume created the Depaul Trust. I was asked to be part of the initial team to help set up the organisation.

What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen across the organisation over the past 25 years?

Back in 1990 homelessness charities were very different – they were largely run by volunteers. Volunteers were a mixed and eclectic group. Some came from religious orders, others were people who’d left business . There were no homelessness professionals as such, originally people came from lots of other different backgrounds. There was a real sense of mission as we began to work together, almost as a movement to improve the lot of the homeless. There has been a gradual professionalisation of the sector since its early days. Depaul has developed from being a London-based charity to being UK-wide and international. We continue to uphold the vision of St Vincent de Paul who, four hundred years ago, set out to help “the poorest of the poor”.

What has been your most memorable moment at Depaul?

The most memorable moment was in 1990 when Princess Diana came to open our first project. A lot of hard work went into turning an old convent building in Willesden into a hostel for young people in just 6 weeks. 25 young homeless people arrived and Princess Diana opened it with the paparazzi and TV crews attending from all over the world. It was a special occasion and the hostel, still open today, has accommodated hundreds of young people in need over the years.

What has been the most important professional achievement at Depaul?

Innovation – how we have looked at new ways to tackle old problems. Nightstop, a Depaul UK project, is an incredibly innovative way to help young people in need without institutionalising them. It offers them the chance to stay with a family when they have nowhere to go. We’ve changed the attitude of the sector and the government towards working with homeless people.

In Ireland, we challenged established perceptions and thinking by providing wet-shelters for dependent alcohol and drug users. Accepting the homeless with their addictions was ground-breaking when Depaul pioneered the first projects. It is now the accepted way of doing things.

What remain some of the biggest challenges for Depaul’s work?

Homelessness is growing globally. Across the world 1.3 billion people are living on the street or in unsuitable accommodation; 100 million have no accommodation at all. Urbanisation is increasing, 3.6 billion people live in cities and it’s estimated that by 2050 this will increase to 6.3 billion. Our challenge is in how we influence policy makers to deal with what will be a rise in homelessness globally. The next few decades will see the urbanisation of China, Latin America and Africa. Our challenge is in how we can share best practice globally.

To meet the problem of growing global homelessness head-on, Depaul in collaboration with DePaul University Chicago has set up the Institute of Global Homelessness. This resource brings together leading academics and is the first project of its kind to aim to develop a methodology to count global homelessness and provide a definition of homelessness.

Where do you think or hope Depaul will be in 25 years time?

I would like Depaul to be leading the debate on homelessness and for us to expand our services into other regions. We will continue to provide quality services that are responsive to needs on the ground.

After 25 years what keeps you motivated every day?

I’m lucky in that I get to travel around the world to see our projects on the ground but I see the real needs of individuals who have nothing, whose lives are in crisis and chaos and it brings it home how much we still need to achieve and change, for people who are homeless. I have just come back from Ukraine where there are an estimated 1 million internally displaced people because of the civil war. In Odessa we use a bus as a space where the homeless can come and get food and medical care. What is great is how staff give hope to people who have lost everything.

Mark on TED

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PERSONALITY: Robert P. Maloney, C.M.

Robert P. Maloney, C.M., served as Superior General for the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul for twelve years. He now serves as Coordinator of the joint projects of the Daughters of Charity and the Community of Sant’Egidio in Project DREAM in Africa.

  • May 6, 1939 Born in Brooklyn, New York, USA
  • June 10, 1958 Entered the Congregation of the Mission in Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA
  • May 28, 1966 Ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Joseph Daly at Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, PA, USA
  • 1966-1968 Studied at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, receiving a doctorate in Moral Theology
  • 1969-1979 Professor of moral theology at Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, PA USA
  • 1970-1979 Rector of Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, PA, USA
  • 1979-1983 Superior, Vincentian Residence, Niagara Falls, NY
  • January-June 1986 Missionary and Pastor in Boquerón, Panama
  • 1986-1992 Assistant General, Congregation of the Mission, Rome, Italy
  • 1992-2004 Superior General, Congregation of the Mission, Rome, Italy
  • October 1994 Participant in the Synod of Bishops on Consecrated Life
  • 1994-1997 Member of the Council of 18 at the Vatican
  • 1995-2000 Member of Cor Unum at the Vatican
  • October 2001 Participant in the Synod of Bishops on the Role of Bishops
  • 2005-2014 Chairperson of Commission for Promoting Systemic Change
  • 2005-present Coordinator of the joint projects of the Daughters of Charity and the Community of Sant’Egidio in Project DREAM in Africa
  • 2001-2009 Member of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life at the Vatican
  • 2002-2004 Apostolic Visitor for the Vatican to mediate problems in a religious community in France
  • Nov.-Dec. 2004 Apostolic Visitor for the Vatican to mediate problems in a religious community in India
  • 2010-2012 Apostolic Visitor for the Vatican, in Ireland, to investigate problems and make recommendations concerning safeguarding children
  • 2011-2012 Vincentian Chair for Social Justice, St. John’s University
  • 2005-present Member of Board of Trustees, DePaul University, Chicago
  • 2014- present Member of Board of Trustees, St. John’s University, NY

Author of seven books: The Way of Vincent de Paul, He Hears the Cry of the Poor, Seasons in Spirituality, Go: On the Missionary Spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul, Turn Everything to Love, Faces of Holiness, ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple. Co-author, with the members of the Commission for Promoting Systemic Change, of Seeds of Hope: Stories of Systemic Change

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