Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

St. Vincent de Paul Society presents ‘Ozanam Orientation’ at St. Mary Parish, Spokane Valley

the Inland Register

(From the April 21, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

Bishop Thomas Daly paid a visit to the Ozanam Orientation session last month at St. Mary Parish, Spokane Valley. (IR photo courtesy of Grace Vera)

With a storied, 183-year past and a dynamic, multi-faceted present, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul can be a challenge to wrap your mind around. So to introduce the Society to new and would-be members and keep long-time Vincentians up to speed on it, the Society has created the Ozanam Orientation. Thirteen Vincentians and persons interested in the Society gathered for an Ozanam Orientation at St. Mary Parish in Spokane Valley on Saturday, March 19.

“The Ozanam Orientation is intended to educate members and prospective members about the Society,” said Paul Machtolf, president of the Spokane District Council of the Society. “The orientation is a series of presentations and discussions named after Frederic Ozanam, one of the founders of the Society. It addresses the history, spirituality, organizational makeup, operations, and strategic goals of the Society.”

Those who gathered for the orientation learned how the Society came to be founded by Blessed Frederic and Blessed Sister Rosalie Rendu in Paris in 1833, and how it has grown to a have a presence in over 140 countries. They also learned about its core values and its Rule, the foundational document that helps the Society maintain common focus, standards, and methods throughout the world.

Much of an Ozanam Orientation involves dispelling myths.

“One of the most common misunderstandings is that our patron, St. Vincent de Paul, founded the Society,” Machtolf told the orientation attendees. “He actually died almost 200 years before the Society was formed.”

Another common misunderstanding involves the very purpose of the Society.

“Many people assume our primary purpose is charitable,” said Machtolf. “Actually, our mission is the development of our members’ spirituality. Of course, a mature Catholic spirituality manifests itself in loving outreach to those in need, so it is in our person-to-person service to the needy and suffering that the community typically encounters us.”

“Spreading the word of the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s mission of increasing the spiritual life of its members and meeting the needs of our disadvantaged neighbors is very rewarding to all of us,” said Victor Vera, a St. Mary Conference Vincentian and Ozanam Orientation presenter. “Showing God’s face to the poor and seeing God’s face in them teaches all of us to practice our love for our neighbors and to do this for God’s glory.”

The orientation ran from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Attendees reported finding the orientation helpful and inspiring and coming away with a better understanding of the Society. Vincentians Bob Wlaznak of Pasco’s St. Patrick Conference and Grace Vera of St. Mary Conference joined Machtolf and Victor Vera in presenting the orientation.

The orientation attendees were honored by a visit from Bishop Thomas Daly, who shared stories of how the Society has had an impact on his life. He recalled serving as president at a high school that had its own St. Vincent de Paul conference and enthusiastically reminded the group of the importance of Vincentians who grow spiritually in service to the poor in their community.

“The Ozanam Orientation was a great opportunity to learn of the fascinating beginnings of the Society, its rapid growth, its mission and how that mission is accomplished, and the vision of addressing poverty through systemic change,” said Maureen Lebel, a member of the St. Anthony Conference in Spokane.

As the participants left, they identified the desire to develop their spirituality, deepen their understanding of poverty, and carry the inspiration and insights the orientation offered back to their conferences.

“The number one goal of the Society is for its members to grow in holiness,” Lebel said after the orientation. “Individually and at meetings, through prayer, reflection on sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church, and in relationship with the poor and with other Vincentians, members open themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit and thus grow in holiness.

“The result,” said Lebel, “is an increase in the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Victor Vera summed it up. “This Ozanam Orientation was an opportunity to provide an open forum to all those who seek to live their faith, loving and committing themselves to their neighbors in need, regardless of social status, economic standing, ethnicity, creed or political orientation.”

(For more information about the work of the Vincentians, contact parish St. Vincent de Paul conferences, or email Spokane District Council president Paul Machtolf: Donations can be made directly to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Spokane District Council, P.O. Box 2906, Spokane, WA 99220, or to the individual parish Conferences. Additional information is available on their web site:

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