Society of St. Vincent de Paul International President General visits India

August 2013

The 200 birth anniversary celebrations of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, the Founder of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP) came to a close in India, with the International President General, Dr Michael Thio, gracing the occasion in Mumbai, Kochi and other parts of India.

Arriving in Mumbai on 27th August`2013, Dr Michael Thio’s visit began with a meeting with Cardinal Oswald Gracias. During the hour-long meeting, they exchanged views on the working of the SSVP internationally, in general and in India and Mumbai, in particular. DrThio was accompanied by the International Territorial Vice President, Mr Joseph Pandian, the National President Mr V M J Balaswamy, and the National Treasurer Mr. Dominic Pinto.

Dr. Michael Thio, from Singapore, is the first Asian to be elected International President General of the SSVP and has been a Vincentian since 47 years. In December 2010, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI appointed him a Member of the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’. ‘Cor Unum’ or ‘One Heart’ is a Council instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and is a part of the Roman Curia or central governing body of the Catholic Church. The Mission of its 38 members, in the words of Pope Paul VI, is “The care of the Catholic Church for the needy, thereby encouraging human fellowship and making manifest the charity of Christ.”

The Western Region of the SSVP, hosted a reception in honour of Dr Michael Thio and his wife Mrs. Rosalind Thio, at AshaKiran ,Goregaon Seminary in the evening. The meeting was organized with theaim of interacting and mutually sharing views on the working of the SSVP locally and globally.

Speaking on the occasion, MrBalaswamy, said that the SSVP was well established in the South, in Western India and in some parts of the North and North East India, with 61,850 Vincentians , including 10,921 youth members, working at the grass root levels in their dioceses.Much work needs to be done in expanding the Society in North India. He also appealed for more youth to join the SSVP

Mr. Dominic Pinto, shared his thoughts saying “We feel blessed and experience the power of God working, when a Vincentian is able to reach out a hand, lift up the poor and empower them to live a more dignified life.”

Bishop John Rodrigues, the Guest of Honour, congratulated the Vincentians saying, for the work being done in a city of haves and have nots, Vincentians are a mediator between the privileged and the poor, thus building a community of love and furthering God’s Kingdom here on earth. He said the Vincentians offer not just good news, but offer themselves. His Lordship also touched upon the aspect of Vincentian’s faith saying , Pope Francis’ encyclical mentions “Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good. Its light does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope.” Vincentians, he said, are in touch with the anguished and can be true witnesses of the faith

Mr. Joseph Pandian, spoke of his experiences in assisting the neighbouring countries in Vincentian work and said that Indian Vincentians should try and extend support and work towards creating one network worldwide.

Dr Michael Thio, in his address to the Vincentians, congratulated them for their efforts in bringing about a just society. Spirituality, he said, is our calling and the work done by Vincentians, a mission. The energy we receive is from the Holy Spirit because we belong to a Catholic organization. He said Blessed Frederick Ozanam, was a gift from God, as at the age of 20, with the help of 5 friends and an elderly person he founded the SSVP 180 years back, with the mission that we should embrace the whole world in a network of charity.

DrThio encouraged the members saying that we should see the suffering Christ in the suffering poor, and the poor in turn, should see in the Vincentian the hopeful Christ. Conversion and Evangelisation are important aspects of our faith. Conversion is the change of heart and Evangelisation the change of heart to accept Christ.

Sharing some statistics,  he said that SSVP is present in 149 countries in the world, with Mongolia being inducted recently. The Society today, has 7,50,000 members and 1.3 million volunteer workers around the world, benefitting over 30 million poor and needy and is the largest NGO in the world. The SSVP received United Nations’ (UN) accreditation as an international UN NGO, with “special consultative member status” of ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council of the UN). The SSVP is now the collective voice of the poor and oppressed in international UN forums and Conferences.

Speaking on the Youth, DrThio urged Vincentians to rejuvenate the Society with young members so as to channelize the energies and wisdom of the youth in reaching out to the less fortunate in Society. Reminding the members of the five Vincentian principal values of Humility, Simplicity, Gentleness, Holiness and the Zest and Passion to serve God through the poor, he said it was important to keep this in focus in one’s daily life too.

His guideline for a successful and happy life, was – know more about God, study and reflect on the Bible, spend time in silence communicating and listening to God and thus grow deep in faith, so that nothing can go wrong. Dare to dream big he said, with Jesus in your hearts. Dreams will help show the way to embrace the whole world in a network of charity.

DrThio’s visit truly helped in motivating and encouraging Vincentians as it allowed us to understand the work being done at the international level and feel one, with the Vincentian community.





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