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.
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
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
ALICIA DUHNE: PRESIDENT AIC
Place and date of birth: Monterrey, N.L., Mexico, October 26, 1951
Current professional activities: President International AIC
Formation and Studies: Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration (1969-1973) Master’s in Management (1979-1981) and Master’s Degree in Human Potential Development in Organizations (2001-2003).
Professional experiences Coordinator of Human Resources at DICONSA (1985 – 1988), Coordinator Committee School Industry in Industrial Association (1991 – 1994)
Lugar y fecha de nacimiento: Monterrey, N. L., México, el 26 de octubre 1951
Actividades profesionales actuales: Presidenta Internacional AIC
Formación y Estudios: Licenciatura en Administraci6n de Empresas (1969-1973) Maestria en Administraci6n (1979-1981) y Maestría en Desarrollo del Potencial Humano en Organizaciones (2001-2003).
Experiencias profesionales Coordinador de Recursos Humanos en DICONSA (1985 – 1988), Coordinadora Comité Escuela Industria en Asociaci6n de Industriales (1991 – 1994)
Fr. Tomaž Mavrič, C.M., Twenty-fourth successor to St. Vincent de Paul. Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul and of the Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Durector General of the Association of the Miraculous Medal, the Vincentian Marian Youth, and the Vincnetian Lay Missionaries.
Born in Argentina of Slovenian parents who emigrated when Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia) fell under communist rule after World War II, Fr. Tomaz has served in ordained ministry outside his native land as a missionary in Canada and Russia. He was named Visitor of the Vice Province of in 2009, and reappointed in 2012.
Tell about your background; family life, schooling, and how you came to the Congregation.
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1959, and am one of five children. My parents moved there from Slovenia due to the Communist repression of religious and civil rights when Tito took over after World War II. After leaving Slovenia, they lived in a refugee camp in Austria before Argentina granted asylum to Slovenians. Although I grew up in Argentina and learned Spanish in school, we had a strong community of Slovenians who kept our ethnic heritage alive. There was an area just outside Buenos Aires called ‘Slovenian Village’. There, the confreres had a parish and a boarding school that I attended, which is how I came to the Congregation.
After I graduated, I decided to enter the Congregation as a member of the Slovenian Province. I did my formation in Ljubljana, where I studied philosophy and theology, and made novitiate in Belgrade. I was ordained in 1983 in Ljubljana. My parents attended, and since I hadn’t seen them in several years, it was a truly joyous occasion. It was the first time my father returned to their native land in three decades. My mother with my youngest brother came to visit me ones before a few years before ordination. It was a very poignant time for all of us.
Where have you served in your ministry as a Vincentian?
. I requested to go to the missions, specifically Madagascar. I was first assigned to our Slovenian parish in Toronto, Ontario Canada, a place (like Argentina), that welcomed a sizable number of Slovenian immigrants. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal was a large, active parish. I threw myself into the sacramental life of the parish, and did ministry with the young people. It was a great pastoral and community experience. I served at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal for ten years, from 1984-1994.
In 1994, I was sent to Slovenia where I served for three years. The country was quite different- Tito, the communist dictator, was dead. The “Yugoslavia” of the past now gave way to independent nation states, and Slovenia was the first to declare its independence. So, it was a time of great upheaval with new-found freedoms not seen for generations. While it was exciting, there was much instability in the region, as ancient religious and ethnic rivalries were rekindled. I served in a parish, and did youth ministry and vocation promotion.
In 1997, I got my “missionary wish”. Then Superior General, Fr. Robert Maloney asked for volunteers to go to an international mission starting in Russia in Niznij Tagil, a remote area in the Ural Mountains. This area had held numerous prison camps (or ‘gulags’). Most of the people interred were sent there by Stalin. They were classified as lifelong ‘enemies of the state’ although they had done nothing illegal.
I arrived with a confrere from Poland. I didn’t speak Polish, nor did he speak Slovenian. But somehow, we managed to communicate and learned to live together as brothers and co-workers. Our parish was a tiny church. It was a new experience: For example most of the people because of their isolation from the other parts of the world did not heard about Vatican II and the changes it has brought to the Church and world. They had been in a ‘survival mode’ for so long that they relied on the religious faith and devotions of their youth, which was heroic. It was so deeply moving to hear of how they had survived for so long as a community, meeting for prayer in small groups in houses, parks, and cemeteries. One elderly woman (her name is Lydia and she is still alive today!) went often to a very long journey by train to meet secretly with a priest who would supply her with consecrated hosts she would take back for communion prayer services. She was (and still is) a wonderful inspiration to me!
Over time, we were able to grow as a parish community, overcoming a great deal of fear and reticence from the people. They were clearly affected by all they had endured. Also, the Catholic Church was viewed suspiciously by the regional government and the local people. Our parish church was a pre-fabricated building made in Germany and sent via large trucks. The drivers who delivered it said that while traveling in Russia, some criminals stopped them with the intent to steal it until they found out it was for a church. They decided it would be bad luck to do so, and let the drivers through! The Church was assembled quickly and it was dedicated on May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, which became the name of the parish.
In 2001, I left our mission in Russia and went to Ireland to do some human development coursework, which was a wonderful person experience. In 2002 I accompanied our Novices from then already the Vice-Province who joined the Novitiate of the Slovakian Province in Banska Bistrica, Slovakia. In 2003 I had a knee replacement surgery, so I returned to Slovenia.
In 2004, I was assigned to our house in Kiev, which we call “God’s gift” because of Divine Providence (which guided Fr. Paul Roche, Visitor, to find generous donors to purchase land and build a provincial house). In 2009, I became Visitor, and was reelected Visitor in 2012.