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SVP PR members retreat at Green Meadows
story appeared in Catholic News, December 10, 2006
By Natalie Millington-Walters,
Chairperson SVP Public Relations Committee
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On Sunday, November 19, the members of the Public Relations Committee of the Society of St Vincent de Paul gathered at the Green Meadows facility in Santa Cruz for a day of prayer and reflection.

This retreat was organised by the group as we felt the need for greater commitment and focus in our functions as PR members, as well as in our role as Vincentians.

It was our privilege to share this day with Fr Jason Gordon. We began the retreat with a very intimate celebration of Mass at around 10:30 a.m. Our theme was Commitment and the day was also dedicated to our mentor and friend, Maurice Ragoonath (deceased) whose philosophy centred around the five virtues of Vincentian spirituality - humility, simplicity, charity, zeal and gentleness.

Fr Jason, in his homily stated that the only thing in life we can be certain of was death and triggered our thinking as to how we lived and what was the purpose of our lives. The gospel of the day (Mk  13:24-32) reflected on “the last days”.

 With this in mind, Fr Jason challenged us to begin with the end in mind, a strategy, which was expressed by author, Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Fr Gordon told us that if we shielded ourselves from suffering in this world, then we are preparing for suffering in the next, that is, when we die. He stated further that in carrying out our role and living out our vocation, we must reflect on what we want the last moments of our lives to look like.

He shared that in his experience at L’Hospice, he would listen to people who were dying express regret in terms of relationships they had, and questions they had about whether or not they had brought any transformation to society. He challenged us to think about these things and advised that we should strive for absolute freedom and a good conscience when our last day came. 

He suggested to us that we should navigate our direction up front and asked us to picture ourselves in heaven or hell with everyone we ever knew standing all in the same room. The room, he explained, had big screen televisions playing a video of every single thing we ever did in our lifetimes, including things done in secret to our spouses, family and friends.

The only parts that were edited were those sins we sought reconciliation for. After seeing the reactions on some of our faces, he revealed that this is exactly the type of feeling we would have if we don’t live out our call as Vincentians.

The group was then given four major areas to focus on.

  1. What was the purpose of our lives on an individual level?
  2. What was the purpose of the Society of St Vincent de Paul?
  3. What was the purpose of the Public Relations Committee?
  4. Were these purposes aligned to each other?

He reminded us that St Vincent de Paul and Frederic Ozanam, were both involved in the formation of priests and service to the poor and we are therefore challenged to live as they lived; for the purpose we were created for.

He indicated that we needed to tap into ourselves on an individual level so that we could tap into what God wants from us as well as change the way that people saw the Church. Fr Gordon then told us that it is only when there is synergy in our purpose as Vincentians as well as in God’s purpose for us as individuals, then will we acquire the “natural commitment”, “single heartedness” and “clarity” about what God wants from us, as it will be our “way of life”.

Towards the end of a very interesting and informative homily, Fr Gordon reminded us that once our individual purpose, the Society’s purpose, as well as the purpose of the Public Relations Committee were not aligned to each other, then we were setting up our relationships and the organisation for destruction.

He said with proper alignment however, we would be able to bring Christianity into the world, just like St Vincent de Paul and Frederic Ozanam, two men who transformed their world with a Society that is still alive even today. 

He commended the group for our choice of reflection and the time we chose to do it as we were in tune with the “end time” Gospel theme, the end of the year and planning for a new year.

He asked us to imagine our group in November 2007 and reiterated that this vision of the group would require real actions, established relationships, and synergies coming together for that transformation required in the SVP and hence the transformation required in our world.

He concluded that starting with the end in mind would set us on the right path to defining and living out our role as Vincentians, as well as carrying out our PR functions within the organisation. He stated that “The way forward to God’s kingdom is never comfortable or lacking sacrifice, but our attitudes will determine where we go”.

After Holy Mass, the group broke for lunch and continued to reflect on the issues raised by Fr Gordon in his homily. A plan of action was then drawn up and the day ended with closing prayers. 

Heartfelt thanks to Fr Jason Gordon who took the time out of his busy schedule to be with us. We are also grateful to the owners of the Green Meadows facility who opened their doors at our request.

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