As Catholics and members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, we see the face of Jesus in those we visit. We have a responsibility to be a “Voice of the Poor (VOP),” and to speak out for those who have no voice.
“I was hungry and you gave me to eat.
I was thirsty and you gave me to drink.
I was in prison and you visited me.”
An important part of that mission is to bring the stories of the people we visit into the public spotlight. No other charity or social service agency visits people in their homes, listens to their stories, and offers such compassionate hope and aid. This puts us in a unique position to inform our elected representatives and our community how decisions affect the people for whom we care. In particular, we want to hold our elected representatives accountable for the decisions that they make that affect the poor.
Part VII of the International Rule of the Society, “Relationship with Civil Society, Work for Social Justice,” calls Vincentians to address injustice as part of their mission of service to the poor. Excerpts from Part VII (April, 2005):
7.1 The Society gives immediate help but also seeks mid-term and long-term solutions.
…In all its charitable actions there should be a search for justice; in its struggle for justice, the Society must keep in mind the demands of charity.
7.4 The practical Vincentian approach to social justice
The distinctive approach of Vincentians to issues of social justice is to see them from the perspective of those we visit who suffer from injustice.
7.5 A voice for the voiceless
The Society helps the poor and disadvantaged speak for themselves. When they cannot, the Society must speak on behalf of those who are ignored.
7.6 Facing the structures of sin
Where injustice, inequality, poverty or exclusion are due to unjust economic, political or social structure or to inadequate or unjust legislation, the Society should speak our clearly against the situation, always with charity, with the aim of contributing to and demanding improvements.
7.8 Political independence of the Society
The Society does not identify with any political party and always adopts a nonviolent approach….