By Mary Stadnyk |News Editor[[In-content Ad]]
At a diocesan celebration commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., reminded the women and men who serve in St. Vincent de Paul Society conferences around the diocese that they are Good Samaritans of the present day as they strive to follow in their founder’s footsteps and serve those in need in their parishes and communities. The bicentenary Mass was celebrated April 20 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, with Bishop O’Connell as principal celebrant and homilist. Concelebrants included Father Jack Bogacz, current spiritual moderator of the diocesan St. Vincent de Paul Society, and Father Kevin Keelen, former spiritual moderator. The more than 150 Vincentians in attendance represented parish-based conferences, of which there are currently 52 in the diocese.
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In his homily, Bishop O’Connell shared highlights on the life of Blessed Ozanam who was born in 1813 and was a 20-year-old college student when he founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The bishop referenced the day’s Gospel reading which told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and focused on the message: “You shall love the Lord your God…And your neighbor as yourself.”
“In the story of the Good Samaritan, the characters can be divided into three groups – the takers, the talkers and the givers,' said Bishop O’Connell. The takers are those “who beat up on others,” the talkers are those “who know all the right things to say and they say them often,” and the givers are those “who neither take nor talk, they just do the right thing. They show love,” said Bishop O’Connell.
“Frederic Ozanam was a giver,” he asserted.
“Ozanam and his friends were Good Samaritans of their day,” said Bishop O’Connell, who stated that at the time of Blessed Ozanam’s death in 1853 at age 40, there were more than 2,000 ‘Good Samaritans’ who had followed his example, as “the Church’s patron of universal love and charity.”
Bishop O’Connell spoke of his own 31-year vocation as a Vincentian priest and now as a Vincentian bishop and the “special privilege” it was for him to celebrate the anniversary with members of the diocese’s Vincentian community.
“My dear sisters and brothers in Christ, today is a beautiful day for the St. Vincent de Paul Society of our diocese,” Bishop O’Connell continued. “It is a day when we can demonstrate the depth of our Christian commitment by becoming, in the spirit of the Gospel, Good Samaritans, servants of all.”
Following the Mass, a reception was held in the cathedral dining hall during which Bishop O’Connell and Pat Brooks, diocesan St. Vincent de Paul Society president, presented a “Top Hat Award” to Father Keelen recognizing him for the five years he was diocesan spiritual moderator. Last year, Father Bogacz was appointed by Bishop O’Connell to succeed Father Keelen.
Daughter of Charity Sister Joanne Dress, diocesan executive director for Catholic Social Services, noted that it is the mission of Vincentians “to offer person-to-person service to those who are suffering or are in need.”
Happy for the opportunity the day offered the Vincentians to celebrate and share camaraderie, Sister Joanne described them as a “wonderful group of dedicated lay Catholic volunteers” who are “inspired by Gospel values.”
“They follow the tradition of Frederic Ozanam, their founder, and St.
Vincent de Paul, their patron,” said Sister Joanne.
Brooks extended appreciation to all present and said, “We have among us prayerful people who are of strong character and are determined to make the world a better place. They are people who care more about others than they do themselves. I am humbled to be in their presence.”
Father Bogacz noted the fitting occasion for the Vincentians to gather.
“Vincentians are called to serve out of love and Ozanam was a perfect example of that,” said Father Bogacz. “He didn’t draw attention to himself; he drew attention to the poor and needy and he was led to begin an organization that provided ministry to them,” said Father Bogacz.
“Today was an opportunity to honor Blessed Ozanam, remember him and show our appreciation for him. It was also a day for the bishop to thank all those who serve in St. Vincent de Paul conferences and recognize them for all they do, ” he said.
Sue Cook and Deacon Stephen Andrews of the conference in St. Dorothea Parish, Eatontown, expressed appreciation in how the Mass offered them time to come together with fellow Vincentians in a prayerful setting and to thank Bishop O’Connell for his unwavering support of the society, both morally and financially.
Cook noted that in addition to the general support they have always provided, their outreach has increased in recent months to help people in neighboring communities impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
Deacon Andrews remarked, “The way I see it, the St. Vincent de Paul Society is where the rubber meets the road as far as reaching out to those who are hurting.”
“Christ had a special love and concern for the poor and now, those who serve in the St. Vincent de Paul Society carry on Christ’s love. They are the mechanism that reaches out and provides help to those in need,” he said.