R 'n' R: Vinnies Congress of reflection and renewal
|St Vincent de Paul Society members, Rob Lennon (left), Barry Finch, and Bruce Whittet enjoy the opportunity for renewing friendships|
More than 200 St Vincent de Paul Society members have gathered in Sydney for a weekend of reflection, renewal and growth at the Society’s final Congress for the year.
Four such Congresses were held in the second half of the year across NSW and were attended by a total of more than 500 members, volunteers and employees, who gathered under the theme, “One Society: Renewed in faith, serving with love and building for the future”.
The chair of the organising committee, Lisa Bright, said the Congress had been fully funded by the Society’s NSW State Council, which had embraced the concept as an important opportunity for members.
“The Society has changed a lot over the years and it’s important that this change is balanced by the continued growth and refounding of our mission, so that it remains at the heart of everything we do,” Ms Bright said. “The Society’s Congress events this year have provided an opportunity for the further formation of members – formation of faith and friendships. We are delighted with the response and look forward to many positive outcomes as a result of these gatherings.”
One Society, one spirit
Attendees at the Congresses ranged in age from 21 to 90, and Ms Bright said the notion of change was a recurring theme, including the changing needs of the poor and the demographics of the Security.
The president of the Society’s National Council, Syd Tutton, said the Congresses were a source of unity, joy and renewal for members and their Mission.
“Now, more than ever before we need to look beyond the familiar boundaries of our own little corners of the globe. We need to reignite the fire that was lit by Frederic Ozanam and his young companions. We are a movement. We are not a corporation or a static institution.”
The Sydney event, held at St Scholastica’s College in Glebe over the last weekend of September, was addressed by keynote speaker Fr Frank Brennan, SJ, professor of law of at the Australian Catholic University, who spoke of the place of human rights and the social determinants of health. The Sunday keynote address was given by Chantelle Ogilvie, Research and Project Officer with the Justice and Peace Office of Sydney Archdiocese. In reflecting on the gospel passage, Mark 1:29 – 38, Ms Ogilvie reminded participants that for Vincentians, service is grounded in their relationship to God. She suggested that if we have the spirit of Jesus we learn that “hope is not about knowing what will come, but rather learning how to be through whatever happens”.
The gatherings are ‘just the beginning’, Ms Bright emphasised. The hopes and concerns brought forth by members at Congress will be considered and communicated to the various local and regional St Vincent de Paul Society member groups across the state in the upcoming months.
“Working together as One Society, we hope the spirit of renewal and commitment to our mission experienced at these gatherings will guide us into the future.” Ms Bright said.
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