Three months ago, we went to Rome to participate in the International Symposium of the Vincentian Family. It was the beginning of the realization of a dream that was born on the street, that lived on the street and which continues to live on the street. A dream, a project, the heart of which are our homeless friends. The Daughters of Charity – who love and serve our homeless friends – are inspired by the fresh and creative reality of “the Charity of Saint Louise”, known as “Charity”. The new dream is a voluntary association that was born in Turin, under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul in 2017, the year of the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism. A new dream that no one thought of: only the Lord knew it and it was He alone who inspired its foundation.
We are Vincentian volunteers, organized in a new way and with renewed methods of service.
Organized in a new way because Charity includes volunteers who are dedicated to God for the service of the poorest, the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. It also includes the experts – people who have been homeless and who convert their experience of poverty into rewarding resources for others. These people give to the community an added value thanks to their lived experience, confronted and overcome through to the progress made at the Vincentian Welcoming Center for and with the homeless people, “Casa Santa Luisa” in Turin, where Charity is.
With renewed service methods because the services of the Charity are for homeless friends, lived with them and among them. Volunteers and Sisters are committed to involving these people, to getting them back on their feet and taking charge of their own lives. And also introducing them to other homeless friends who have fewer resources and means to retain their own dignity and regain their effective citizenship. And if it is true that Charity assumes its Vincentian character among Friends – “poor people who help the poor” – it is even truer that by involving them we learn from them. “Our masters”, as Saint Vincent affirmed.
As Pope Francis told the Vincentian Family on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian Charism:
“The Spirit used him (Saint Vincent) as an instrument to raise up a generous impulse in the Church. Inspired by the first Christians who were of “one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32), Saint Vincent founded the Confraternities of Charity in order to care for those most in need. They lived in communion and joyfully offered their possessions, convinced that Jesus and persons who are poor are the most valuable treasures and that, as he liked to repeat, “When you go to the poor, you encounter Jesus.”
Three months ago, we left for Rome …
And it all began with Father Tomaz Mavric CM, Superior General of the Vincentian Family, and three sisters of the Company of the Daughters of Charity. On a sweet Rome evening at the end of spring, they talked to each other about the Symposium and the launch of the Famvin Homeless Alliance announced by the Father in the morning at the conference of the DC Province of Italy. One of them is the Councilor of the Province of Saint Vincent-Italy who supervises the Charity, another is the Sister Servant of the Provincial House of Rome and the third is one of the Daughters of Charity engaged in the service of the Charity in Turin. “We could bring a group of Homeless Friends to the Symposium! … we could make the trip with them in the Charity minibus… we could welcome them at the Provincial House, as our favorite hosts! ” Back home, they involved the Visitatrix of the Province of Saint Vincent as well. And the dream became reality.
Months of service and imagination followed: inviting the homeless Friends, preparing the crew for this fantastic trip as well as the final practicalities. And they arrived on October 11, with a minibus full of joy. Two Daughters of Charity; the Community of St. Salvario of Turin and the House of Mary in Grugliasco (Turin); 4 Homeless Friends including an expert – a refugee from The Gambia; a Friend of the Dominican Republic; and two Italians (a fifth had started working a few days before and had signed a good contract “Come on, we’ll take you with us but the work is surely more important!”)
And that’s how the dream began …
Here we are, a Vincentian family on the road – first on the highway and then sometimes on foot, and by public transport in Rome. We gathered in the street, lunched from a basket taken into the service area – with the coffee flask full to the brim! There was music, many tales and then the silence of those who feel good about being together and who know they can rest quietly, protected by mutual attention and affection.
Rome, here we come! Three days to remember, three days to tell for years to come, with lots of pictures to send to the whole Charity in real time and feel more and more part of our Vincentian Family … “It’s us!”, say our friends!
So many faces, so many nations, so many places and works of art to startle the eyes and excite the heart. So many greetings, so many parties introducing our homeless Friends from Turin, and how wonderful it is: the eternal sunny City with the blue sky. We had about 11,000 Vincentians present and a crowd of Romans.
For three days, the road and squares became hospitable and joyful passages for our homeless brothers and sisters, who know the indifference of the day and the risks and cold of the night. Pope Francis, addressing the Vincentian Family said:
“You are thus called to reach out to the peripheries of human existence to bring not your skills, but the Spirit of the Lord, the “Father of the Poor”. He scatters you throughout the world like seeds that sprout in arid land, like a balm of consolation for the wounded, like a fire of charity to warm so many hearts cooled by abandonment and hardened by rejection.”
Together with our Homeless Friends, we personally greeted Father General and Mother General and we invited them both to the Charity of Turin at Via Nizza 24!
We were particularly touched by the words that Father Tomaz delivered to the FamVin at the closing of the Symposium:
“Let’s look together at new creative ways to help the poor. Our efforts, our difficulties and our common dreams cannot stop until Charity is globalized. The Vincentian charisma is a lifestyle. A lifestyle within the Church is a path of holiness: the sanctification of one’s own life and that of others. We can consider the Vincentian Family as a movement composed of those belonging to a specific branch and also those who do not belong to specific branches but who are inspired by the lifestyle of St Vincent de Paul. This movement is inspired by the “face of Jesus” discovered and followed by Saint Vincent de Paul.
To let the Spirit of Jesus circulate freely, to collaborate with Him, means that we must allow ourselves to be surprised to the point of creating new branches – or that groups, actual branches – can be founded in the future in the different parts of the world. “
Blessed be the Lord, thank you to Saint Vincent and Saint Louise – his principal collaborator and our patroness – and all who made our adventure possible: those on the road and those in heaven, while worshiping, welcoming and walking as Pope Francis urged us. And to conclude our story we once again quote his speech addressed to the FamVin:
“I pray that you and the Church may be granted the grace of finding the Lord Jesus in your brother or sister who is hungry, thirsty, a stranger, stripped of his clothing and his dignity, sick and imprisoned but also doubting, ignorant, persistent in sin, afflicted, crude, ill-tempered and annoying. In the glorious wounds of Jesus, may you find the strength of charity, the happiness of the grain that gives life by dying, the fecundity of the rock from which water gushes forth, the joy of coming out of yourself in order to go out into the world, free from nostalgia for the past, confident in God and creative regarding the challenges of today and tomorrow because, as Saint Vincent said, “love is inventive to infinity”.
While thanking Divine Providence, which we always seek to follow and anticipate, we can say that “The Charity of St. Louise,” known as the Charity, is a small and simple proof of the creativity of God’s Love.
We confide in Him. We ask Him for the Light of the Holy Spirit to undertake passages that lead us to our homeless friends because, with them and through the universalization of Charity, we can adhere and pursue His dream:
“I am the merciful God. I am Mercy and I show mercy to the poorest and the abandoned. Your brother, your sister, do you want to love me, recognizing me in the face of my beloved Son, Jesus? “
The Charity of St. Louise, “24” Turin.