Society of St Vincent de Paul international president Renato Lima de Oliveira came New Zealand to learn from Vincentians in this country and to show them support for their tireless efforts to help the poor.

Mr Lima de Oliveira, on his first trip as general president, visited Italy, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia and Chile in March. He was elected to the position in June, 2016.

He said New Zealand was chosen as one of the six countries he is visiting this year, “not because of your size, but because of your excellent experience”, particularly with young people.

“New Zealand is in this list [of countries to visit] because of the quality of the works to the poor in need that we have here,” he said. “Here in New Zealand, we have an excellent model of how to be a good Vincentian starting at a young age.”

There are about 3000 young Vincentians in the country putting their faith in action.

A liturgy was celebrated at St Patrick Cathedral to welcome the 45-year-old Brazilian journalist who started his Vincentian vocation at the age of 16.

Mr Lima de Oliveira told the young Vinnies at the liturgy that a Vincentian vocation is an excellent way of life and that the society is their second family, ready to help them with their problems.

He reminded them of the Vincentian priorities: God, family, job and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

“If you don’t have God and family to support you, a job to give you dignity, [it is] impossible to be a good Vincentian,” he said.

Vinnies Youth programme leader Delphina Soti presented Mr Lima de Oliveira with a tokotoko , a traditionally carved Maori talking stick.

“The holder of this tokotoko, when he speaks, sings the song of life,” explained Ms Soti. “You, Renato, are the singer of the song of life. Inspired by the Gospel, you put your faith in action and inspired the people. You are the leader of the international Vincentian family.”

New Zealand Vincentian president Terry Comber reminded the Vincentians at the liturgy of their one rule: “We are spiritual first and foremost.”

As the New Zealand Vinnies celebrate their 150th anniversary, Mr Comber said people can expect “more of the same, seeking out the poor and serving their needs in hope”.

North Auckland Vincentian president Kevin Mulcahy said their biggest challenges at the moment are recruitment of new members, aging members and access to the needy.

Tongan National Vincentian president Tupou Tautoke also presented Mr Lima de Oliveira with a lei.

The Vinnies will be celebrating their 150th anniversary in New Zealand from October 13 to 15.

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