By James Ramos | Catholic News Service
HOUSTON (CNS) — Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul gathered in Houston for their first in-person national assembly since the pandemic began in early 2020, enabling them to reconnect with one another and the society’s three essential values: spirituality, friendship and service.
“All three need to be in balance to be able to achieve what we need to do,” said Anne Schorno, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
“It’s been two years since we’ve gathered, and our ministry is about person to person,” she told the Texas Catholic Herald, the archdiocesan newspaper. “And so missing that element, you just miss the friendship and the sharing of ideas that we’re able to do.”
Some 60 local members, known as Vincentians, joined more than 600 others from across the nation for the assembly in downtown Houston Aug. 25 to 29.
In a homily, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told Massgoers that by being a “doer of the Word” of God, the society continues to increase the Word in action on behalf of Jesus.
“And doing it, you are making the world, a little step at a time, eucharistic,” he said, telling them that those “always close to everyday people” in their needs are “close to the Eucharist.”
It is “like they are bringing a certain aspect of the gift of the Eucharist to the people. It is beautiful,” he added.
He celebrated the assembly’s final liturgy and presided over the vigil Mass Aug. 29.
Cardinal DiNardo reflected on his experiences with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul both as a child and as a young priest. At his first parish in south Pittsburgh, he said, he witnessed the society personally serve many people with physical and emotional needs.
Reflecting on the day’s reading about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Cardinal DiNardo said, “Jesus feeds us so we can feed others.”
“We are all supposed to become holy, depending on whatever it is we do in our vocation,” he said. “And in doing that, you are holy. And that is why we take comfort in the altar, give thanks to God through his Son, Jesus, at every Mass, and receive that very gift we heard about last week through the Gospel, his very body and blood.
“That sets us in motion to try again next week. To make his body real to the world in which we live.”
Other celebrants included Father Martins Emeh, administrator of St. Monica Catholic Church in North Houston; Bishop W. Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi, Texas; and Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, the society’s national episcopal adviser.
Liturgical worship also was led by the Catholic African American Mass Choir, the Incarnate Word Academy Choir, as well as the Archdiocesan Choir.
Regarding the various assembly sessions, Schorno said she drew inspiration from a session led by Vincentian Father Dennis H. Holtschneider, president and CEO, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
The priest focused on how Jesus’ ministry was often interrupted, much like how the pandemic interrupted the services of many social agencies, including the society, forcing them to pivot to new ways of outreach.
“I’ve been really impressed with how everybody has come to new creative ways to do things,” Schorno said.
Ann Hong attends St. Faustina Catholic Church in Fulshear, Texas, and is a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Houston.
She said she saw the society’s three values — spirituality, friendship and service — come to life in the young people she met during the assembly.
As the youth and young adult liaison for the society’s Houston gathering, Hong helped coordinate the youth track of the conference. Activities included a daylong service trip at the Vincentian Service Center in Gulfgate, Texas, where she was inspired by the energy of 22 young people.
They hit the ground running Aug. 28 at the service center, distributing food packages and organizing clothing drives and donations.
High school and college students, who are part of the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul groups across the nation, are the “future of our church,” Hong said. “They continue to bring hope and light, especially during this difficult time.”
The young people understood that the “love of Christ brings us all together from around the world, and that really doing his work, there is no limit,” she said. “Even the pandemic can’t limit us.”
In Galveston-Houston, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been serving others since 1871 and is marking its 150 anniversary in 2021.