A series of regional seminars are being run throughout New Zealand focusing on spiritual renewal and the recruitment of new members to join the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
The seminars, run by the society’s national spiritual adviser, Fr Jeff Drane,SM, are being held in the coming months in response to requests from Vincentians at the grassroots level. The theme of the seminar series is: “There’s work to be
done — renewing the society’s vision in New Zealand.”
Fr Drane said: “The seminars will provide an opportunity for people to be inspired once again by the vision of the society and to be re-motivated in putting their faith into action.”
“Together, we will re-look at the mission of the society and re-evaluate what we are doing locally to meet the needs of the disadvantaged, particularly those on the fringes of society.”
In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminded Catholics that the liberation and promotion of the poor is fundamental to being a Christian, Fr Drane said.
In the words of Pope Francis: “None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice.
Spiritual conversion, the intensity of the love of God and neighbour, zeal for justice and peace, the Gospel meaning of the poor and of poverty, are required of everyone (EG 201).”
It is hoped that new initiatives and new ventures will come out of the renewal seminars, Fr Drane added.
At the seminars, there will be a strong focus on recruiting new members and pooling members’ experience of what works well in attracting new and younger members.
“The membership of the society is ageing and we need fresh blood,” Fr Drane said. “We need to invite people from a range of faith communities — Māori, Pasifika, Filipino, Indian, Korean for example — to set up Vinnies groups in which they feel comfortable. There is a great opportunity to harness the vitality of these communities in the service of those most in need in society.”
The society’s youth adviser to the national board, Paolo Minehan, said there is huge potential to attract young people
to the work of the society.
“Young people are always searching for something meaningful, something worthwhile to contribute to,” Mr Minehan said.
“There’s plenty of untapped potential in the Catholic community, but there’s the wider community of young New Zealanders who are also looking for a spirituality. They are just sitting there wanting to help and they want to do things.”
The challenge for the society is to be flexible enough to engage with them, Mr Minehan added.
“We need to come up with projects which young people can do and which fit in with their schedules. Young people have lots of skills and talents, and they can offer those to the society if you give them the opportunity. The way the society is organised, meetings can be hard for young people to get to and it can be a bit of a closed shop.
“These days you have to think flexibly if you want to reach the volunteer workforce. Offer them a project, maybe using
social media, so they can join in and get involved as part of their busy lives.”
The Society of St Vincent de Paul was established in New Zealand more than 150 years ago and there are currently more than 5000 active members in New Zealand.