Tomaž Mavrič, superior general of the Congregation of the Mission: "We want to return to our roots".

The Vincentian Family is already preparing for its 400th anniversary, which will be celebrated in April 2025. Several projects are underway to celebrate this date, which is intended to be an impetus to "return to the roots".

Hernan Sergio Mora-March 23, 2024-Reading time: 4 minutes

P. Tomaž Mavrič, superior general of the Congregation of the Mission.

The spiritual impetus that St. Vincent de Paul gave rise to in 1625 continues to this day. The Vincentian FamilyThe organization, which includes nearly 4 million people involved in charitable works for the poorest, is preparing for its 400th anniversary in April 2025.

The initiatives to celebrate this event are varied. Among them, the Maison Mère (Mother House) in Paris, recently restored, will host pilgrims and various groups who wish to pray before the relics of its founder, St. Vincent, and also visit the site of the apparitions of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal on Rue du Bac, and the shrines of the French capital.

What is the health of the Congregation, what are the prospects, what is the charism like yesterday and today? Who better to understand this, than the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, Father Tomaž Mavrič, who has talked to Omnes about these aspects.

A life on the peripheries

Born in Buenos Aires, his family came from Slovenia fleeing the Tito regime. Mavrič has worked in various countries in recent years: Canada, Slovenia, Ukraine... From 1997 to 2001 he was a missionary in an almost Siberian territory, in a closed city, strongly marked by the former USSR, in Western Siberia, Niznij Tagil.

From this city Father Tomaž remembers a lay missionary, "Mrs. Lidia, now over ninety years old, who was, so to speak, 'the parish priest' during the persecution. She ended up imprisoned in a gulag for her Catholic faith and when she was released she began to gather a group of Catholics."

He also recalls that Mrs. Lidia "traveled for two days by train to bring the Eucharist to many people". This group of lay people "was the foundation that allowed our arrival," he said.

However, the presence of Vincentian missionaries in Russia ended two years ago when they were expelled by the Putin government (with the exception of the nuns of the Daughters of Charity).

Back to the roots

Now, on the eve of the Congregation's fourth centenary, the Vincentians have one desire: "to be a Church going out," says Father Tomaž Mavrič. For this reason, "every year - as we promised Pope Francis - we invite the members of the congregation to leave for the missions, and about thirty of them propose to do so." He also recalls that Pope Francis, during a visit, told them "my heart is Vincentian".

Another wish, as Mavrič points out, is that "the Maison Mère, which juridically belongs to the Province of France, be given a new status: that of Mother House of the whole Congregation. There is the body of St. Vincent and of two martyrs of the 19th century in China. And the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, on Rue du Bac, where the Virgin Mary appeared to Catherine Laboure, is just a stone's throw away.

A project that aims to become "a center of evangelization and preparation where anyone who is interested can go, because it is a source of grace. In that sense, when we finish the restoration work we will have about 80 rooms available to receive a hundred people".

The Superior General of the Congregation, which has more than 2,900 members around the world, considers that currently "Europe is a land of re-evangelization, a place of many migrations where we have a missionary group with people who accompany and help integrate immigrants arriving from different countries". For this reason "we wish to have more of these centers in other cities of Europe".

Mavrič emphasizes that "we are present in many parishes but we want to recover our roots. Today, parishes with solid structures, which are in the cities, are no longer a priority. Churches in more distant places are, however, because we want to be on the move." And he adds: "Let us not forget that it was not for nothing that the people began to call us missionaries, not even our founder had defined us as such".

The Vincentian Family

St. Vincent founded in 1617 the "Ladies of Charity", all of them laywomen, today the International Association of Charity; in 1625 he founded the Congregation of the Mission; and in 1633 with Louise de Marillac the Daughters of Charity, for the first time as non-cloistered nuns and very present in society, as authorized by the Holy See.

One of the most numerous groups is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1833 by the Italian Frederick Ozanam, as well as other congregations with the spirit and charism of the Vincentians, who took St. Vincent as their spiritual father, along with the common rules of the congregation.

The Vincentian Family is currently made up of 170 congregations and lay groups, going from "family" to "movement". There are people who do not belong to groups or congregations of consecrated life, but who live the spirit of St. Vincent, his spirituality and charism; they are volunteers, they are in parishes, schools, hospitals and so many other places. 

Tomaž Mavrič notes that "if we talk about the 170 congregations, we could calculate about two million people involved, on the other hand if we talk about movement we could calculate twice as many."

The founding date, January 25, the day of St. Paul's conversion, was chosen by St. Vincent as a new beginning, after his conversion at the age of 36, which led him from the desire to be a 'well-to-do' priest, to "being a mystic of charity", who no longer saw the dirty sides of poverty but "Jesus on the other side of the medal". The charism is "evangelization and material help to the poor, and the formation of the diocesan clergy and the laity".

In 1617 he thus began his new apostolate and in 1625 received the approval of the Holy See. In addition to the "popular missions," St. Vincent felt it was necessary to have groups of volunteers working in an organized way to help the needy with a silent but profound work, which extends to the present day in almost one hundred countries."

The authorHernan Sergio Mora

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