I recently wrote about what a deep “culture of vocations” means. “When we live the Vincentian vision, without necessarily saying a word, we invite others into that vision.” Culture is contagious! This a follow-up to that post.

Fr. Dennis Holtschneider*, one of the best-known Vincentian priests in America, once shared how he was invited into the Vincentian Vision.

Almost 15 years ago he was the keynote speaker at the 2006 Society of Vincent de Paul Annual Meeting. His topic – “The Living Rule”. A key point was that seeing the mission lived in the members inspired him to get to know Vincent better.

In the following transcription he describes the impact of his grandfather John. In him he saw Vincent’s Vision embodied.

“It’s true that I’m a Vincentian priest, a member of the Congregation of the Mission founded by St. Vincent. But that’s not how I came to understand St. Vincent. It’s also true that I went to a Vincentian University – Niagara University – as a college student. But that’s not how I came to know about St. Vincent either.

No, I first learned about St. Vincent from my grandfather, John Holtschneider. From my earliest years, I remember the stories he’d tell. …

Like many of you, he joined his parish conference and became active soon after he retired, … my Grandpa joined “Vincent DePaul”  (he never called it “The Society,” just Vincent DePaul) for 22 years, until his health turned poor in the final years of his life.

… it was the stories, not the years of service, that captured my imagination. I was four years old in 1966, so I had the advantage of hearing the stories from him well into my adulthood.

When I read over this new Rule of yours, I was amazed. I think I could have written most of it just from the stories my grandfather would tell us about how the Society worked. 

I already knew about:

  • Always visiting in pairs.
  • Conference meetings every two weeks.
  • Beginning each meeting with roll call, prayer, a reading, and reflection, all the reports, and “the secret collection.”
  • Meeting for certain Masses each year – though I couldn’t have told you which ones…
  • I knew also about the rule that visits were always to be non-judgmental and full of respect.
  • I knew that Vincent de Paul’s charity was for everyone, not just Catholics…

Sometimes my grandfather would get a call late at night. He’d tell us that the retirees got those calls, because the younger men had to stay with their families. So I knew that family responsibilities come first in your organization.

I won’t make a saint out of my grandfather, but that’s how I learned about the Society. I watched him. I listened to his stories. And then, when I read your Rule earlier this year, I chuckled out loud. I already knew it. I knew it, because I knew him. He was a “Living Rule” for me. Just as many of you are “Living Rules” for one another.

For me, his account of how Fr. Holtschneider caught the vision Vincent serves as a reminder. No matter our institutional style of living the Vincentian Vision, others catch the flame of Vincent’s Vision by how we live it. The Vincentian Vision is caught, not taught.

  • Do you remember who first embodied Vincent’s Vision for you?
  • Do others see Vincent’s Vision in your life?
  • Share your story of how you experienced the Vincentian Vision.

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk.

Embodiment of a “Culture of Vocations”

Read the full text here. https://famvin.org/wiki/SVDP_Living_rule

*Fr. Holtschneider served DePaul University as President for 13 transformative years. Since then served in top-level administration of the Catholic Health Association and is currently President of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.