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.
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
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.