Ever heard of the St. Vincent de Paul Society? Probably. The group has a bold vision in the U.S. to end poverty through systemic change.
Interestingly, the St. Vincent de Paul Society was not founded by St. Vincent de Paul, but instead created by a young French law student, Frédéric Ozanam. Ozanam placed his new society under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul, due to St. Vincent’s devotion to the poor of France.
But, what I didn’t know about St. Vincent de Paul or the society bearing his name (until reading Ann Garrido’s Redeeming Administration, Ave Maria Press, 2013). There was another leader, a lay woman and mother–Louise de Marillac–who played a key role in enabling Fr. Vincent de Paul’s efforts to grow to scale. After receiving a particular message in prayer at Pentecost in 1623, Louise met Fr. Vincent de Paul in the context of spiritual direction. Louise began working with Vincent’s various confraternities and identified the need for “a religious community of peasant women” who could work across class and cultural boundaries to better reach the poor.
This was a radical and innovative idea. It challenged the status quo of (usually) only wealthy women entering religious life. It also came with implications. Recognizing God’s call in the uneducated and poor meant needing to better design formation programs for the new community and establish effective and mutually understood working relationships with wealthier confraternity members. [This congregation of women eventually became known as the Daughters of Charity.]
Growing to scale in any ministry requires that we find ways to recruit and form new leaders, new collaborators, new missionary disciples for the work of Jesus Christ. Let us, like St. Louise de Marillac, be creative in vision and steadfast in implementation when it comes to addressing our world’s most pressing needs!
Image: David Shane, via Flickr (CC 2.0 license), ceiling over “St. Louise de Marillac” at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception