With the words: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35), the worldwide Vincentian Family inaugurates a Jubilee Year … a time during which it celebrates the four hundredth anniversary of the origin of its charism of service on behalf of the poor.
The year 1617 was decisive with regards to Vincent de Paul’s vocation. Two significant events occurred: on January 25th, the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Vincent preached “the first sermon of the mission” in Folleville (France). That event took place several days after having heard the confession of a dying man which made Vincent aware of the spiritual abandonment of the poor country people. Some months later, in August of the same year, as pastor in Châtillon, Vincent experienced the material poverty and misery of his parishioners … an event that transformed him into the Saint of Charity.
Vincent understood that it was necessary to instruct the people, to make them aware of their dignity as children of God and to teach them the truths of God’s plan for humankind.
The events that took place in Folleville and Châtillon during the year 1617 mark the origin of the Vincentian charism and for 400 years the followers of Vincent de Paul, the members of the Vincentian Family, have dedicated themselves to service on behalf of the less fortunate members of society.
At the present time, the Vincentian Family is composed of some 225 branches (various religious communities and lay associations) and is present in more than 80 countries.
Among the more well-known branches of the family, we highlight here the International Association of Charities (AIC), the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity (founded with Saint Louise de Marillac), the Vincent de Paul Society (founded by Blessed Frederic Ozanam), the Miraculous Medal Association, the Vincentian Marian Youth (VMY), Vincentian Lay Missionaries (MISEVI) and the Daughters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida Thouret.
The Vincentian Family is present on five continents and engaged in various ministries in which they “welcome the stranger” in their midst: health care ministry, works of education/formation, works of human promotion and development, works in which they care for homeless people, for refugees, for abandoned children and for single mothers.
The Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission and the Company of the Daughters of Charity, Father Tomaž Mavrič has encouraged the members of the Vincentian Family to celebrate this year through participation in four common projects:
- The pilgrimage of the relic of the heart of Saint Vincent which will begin on January 25th in Folleville, France. This relic will be received in all those countries where the Vincentian Family is present.
- Participation in a project to end homelessness throughout the world and this includes caring for refugees, migrants, street people, displaced person, etc.
- An International Symposium during which the participants will reflect upon their mission and charism. This event will take place in Rome (October 13-15) and will include a meeting of the Vincentian Family with Pope Francis.
- International Film Festival: an international competition that will focus on the life of Saint Vincent de Paul.
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Tomaž Mavrič, C.M., is the twenty-fifth Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission and the Company of the Daughters of Charity.
Father Tomaž was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 9 May 1959. His mother, Leopoldina, and his father, Joze, were born in Slovenia in 1932. They left the country, which at that time was Yugoslavia, in May 1945, when the Communist regime came to power, fleeing to a refugee camp in Austria and then, in 1948, they left with their families on a ship to Argentina. They married in 1957. They had five children, two girls and three boys. Father Tomaž’s father died in 1989 and his mother continues to live in the south of Argentina in the city of San Carlos de Bariloche. His brothers and sisters live with their families, as follows: Monika in the USA, Alenka and Marjan in Argentina, and Martin in Brazil.
Father Tomaž attended primary and secondary school in Buenos Aires. For the last three years of primary school and all of his time in secondary school, Father Tomaž attended a school founded and run by the Vincentians in Remedios de Escalada, Province of Buenos Aires. During those years, he stayed in a boarding school, which was located next to the school he attended every day, also run by the Slovenian Vincentian Fathers, which has produced a number of priests and lay missionaries. After high school, he joined the CMs in Slovenia. He made his Internal Seminary in Belgrade, Serbia and entered the seminary in 1977. Father Tomaž was ordained to the priesthood on 29 June 1983 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
During his ministerial life, Father Tomaž has served in many diverse ministries of the CM internationally: Canada, Slovenia, Slovakia, Russia, Ireland, and Ukraine. He has been assistant pastor, vocation promoter, formator, counselor, retreat director, and he has given parish missions. Father Tomaž also has the experience of working with the poor in Russia. Since 2009, he has been the Vice-Visitor of the Vice-Province of Saints Cyril and Methodius. He was part of the commission that put together the new Ratio Formationis of the CM. Father Tomaž speaks Russian, Spanish, English, and Slovenian. Father Tomaž’s exposure to diversity and multicultural ways of life is going to be a blessing for the ongoing internationalization of our very multicultural Congregation.
Years ago, our confrere Father Toscani, CM, started to develop the idea, which was later further developed by Father Hugh O’Donnell, CM, of Vincent de Paul as a “Mystic of Charity.” It was Father Karl Rahner, SJ, who, at the end of the 20th century, expressed the following thought: Christians in the 21st century are going to be mystics or they will cease to exist. What a beautiful invitation for us who try to live the charism that Vincent de Paul left, to keep discovering, developing, and deepening Vincent’s way: being a “Mystic of Charity.”
The Vincentian Family is a gift from God. It is here to keep nurturing us, to keep us growing, and to keep deepening our mission together in the service of the poor. We have just finished the “Year of Collaboration” within the Vincentian Family. It was a year filled with blessings! We got to know each other better, we discovered new gifts within our members and branches, and deepened our own closeness with Jesus, through Mary and the many blessed and saints of the Vincentian Family to better understand and serve the poor. It is with great hope that we can look to the future. May Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal intercede and guide us on the road and may Providence continue to lead us.
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.