One Family across the Country and around the World Strengthened by Diversity
In April of 2007 the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Multicultural/Diversity Issues and Initiatives was held in St. Louis. The formation of this committee resulted from three sources. First, the Mission Statement of the Society clearly states that "As a reflection of the whole family of God, members, who are known as Vincentians, are drawn from every ethnic and cultural background." Second, our current National President, Joe Flannigan's Vision Statement affirmed that "Because of the special Charism of the Society, we should be the Catholic leaders to welcome people of all cultures into the Society.” Third, our National Strategic Plan (Objective 3.4) continued to challenge the Society to "increase multicultural membership and responsibilities." Consequently, the National Board of Directors decided that the Society must make these words a reality. In order to move forward, the Board of Directors outlined the following steps:
· Establish an Ad Hoc Committee.
· Develop a charge for this Ad Hoc Committee on Multicultural/Diversity Issues and Initiatives
· Choose a membership for this Ad Hoc Committee composed of females, males, Hispanic/Latino members, African-American Members, Asian members, Native American members and other people with expertise in multicultural/diversity issues with a representation from all Regions.
· Form a liaison for the Board with the Committee through the current Vice President for Vincentian Services, Ray Sickinger.
This plan was followed and the following charge for the committee was drafted and approved by the Board of Directors:
· To advise the Board of Directors and National Council members on matters relating to multicultural/diversity issues and to encourage sensitivity to and understanding of multicultural/diversity issues.
· To advise the Board of Directors and the National Council members on ways to increase the diversity of the Society’s membership.
· To suggest ways the Society might better provide for those we serve who are part of diverse communities.
· To suggest ways to serve better the needs of members of the Society who do not speak English as their primary language.
· To suggest ways to reach out to and to embrace all peoples of African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, and Native American descent (based on US Government AHANA or ALANA categories).
· To suggest ways in particular to reach out to and embrace as members the Catholic, Hispanic community.
· To suggest other multicultural/diversity issues and initiatives that will help the Society, as Our Founder wished, “to become better and to do good.”
In the past two years, the committee has been working diligently towards a strategic plan it hopes to unveil in New Orleans in September. But there has been a great deal accomplished to date in the area of Diversity/Multicultural Issues and initiatives:
1. A solidly constructed survey of members was developed, conducted, and offered to members in both English and Spanish. It was analyzed for information to guide future activities and helped to focus our efforts.
2. The Workshop on Racial Sobriety presented to members at the 2009 Mid-Year meeting by Rev. Clarence Williams was the first to be presented to all National Council members and highlighted the importance of sensitivity to and understanding of cultural diversity. Information on how to order copies of Father Clarence Williams’s book was provided to all members.
3. The Society has participated in and sent key representatives of the committee to two major national conferences at the University of Notre Dame around the issue of multiculturalism/diversity—The Conference on the Word of God and Latino Catholics and the Conference on Cultural Diversity in the Catholic Church sponsored by the USCCB. In each case, the committee has identified key ideas, materials and expertise that we can tap into as we proceed.
4. The Rule and the Manual have been translated into Spanish and are available to members for a reasonable price. Other materials and ways to identify future ones have been discussed and identified.
5. The Ozanam Orientation is being revised for Spanish speaking people.
6. The Ad Hoc Committee has provided and will provide more suggestions to the Leadership development Committee.
7. The national website will soon have a spot that features our Multicultural/Diversity initiatives and which will provide suggested resources.
8. Multicultural prayers have become an important feature of the committee’s meetings.
9. There have been workshops in Spanish and on multicultural issues such as immigration at national meetings.
10. A clear vision and plan for how to proceed over the course of the next five years has been developed.
As it presents its plans and recommendations the Ad Hoc Committee on Multicultural/Diversity Issues and Initiatives wants the Society members to know that our Rule clearly supports our work. In particular our RULE (1.4) emphasizes that “ The Society serves those in need regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender, or political opinions.”
The RULE (1.6) also states: “Faithful to the spirit of its founders, the Society constantly strives for renewal, adapting to changing world conditions.” Finally, as all Vincentians know and appreciate, our Society strives to change attitudes and to “oppose discrimination of all kinds and work to change the attitudes of those who view the weak or those who are different with prejudice, fear or scorn, attitudes which gravely wound the dignity of others. The Society strives, with charity, to foster new attitudes of respect and empathy for the weak, so that all are able to understand, recognize and defend the right of each person to be responsible for his or her own life. The Society promotes understanding, cooperation and mutual love among people of different cultures, religions, ethnic origins and social groups, and so contributes to the peace and
unity of all peoples (RULE 7.7).”