By Tom Dwyer, Voice of the Poor, North-East Region Representative
Recently, members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul were asked, “Do you take to heart this statement from the Rule of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul?”
“Where injustice, inequality, poverty, or exclusion are due to unjust economic, political or social structures or to inadequate or unjust legislation, the Society should speak out clearly against the situation, always with charity, with the aim of contributing to and demanding improvements.” (Rule, Part 1, Article 7.6, emphasis added)
This is a question every member of the Vincentian Family ought to ask... especially if we are to take seriously the call of St. John Paul II who challenged us to look into underlying causes and long term solutions.
“If so, then you must sign up for the SVdP edition of CapWiz (http://www.capwiz.com/svdpusa/mlm/signup/), the online advocacy alert tool that the Society uses to promote Catholic Social Justice principles in our public policy deliberations at the federal level with the president and our U.S. senators and representatives. In today’s culture of instantaneous communication, it is an online megaphone and the modern way to respond to the age-old Vincentian call to be “the Voice of the Poor.”
The Society today and all of the Vincentian Family stresses justice as well as charity. Charity alone will not bring about the systemic change needed to enable the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable to work their way back into the mainstream of society as contributing, productive and self-sufficient citizens. While critically important and always a hallmark of Vincentian care and compassion, charity is more like a band-aid that stops the bleeding but does not necessarily bring about 13 a cure. Justice – or, more precisely, social justice in the tradition of Catholic Social Justice Teaching dating back more than a hundred years to Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 Encyclical “Rerum Novarum: On the Condition of Workers” – is the medicine to bring about a cure.
That is where CapWiz enters. When federal legislation is proposed that either hurts or helps the poor and the marginalized, when national policies and programs seem to stray from the principles and values of Catholic Social Justice Teaching and when federal budget priorities ignore the needy and disadvantaged, the National Council Office of the Society will email CapWiz Action Alerts to all those subscribed to the free service.
Usually, the CapWiz Action Alerts have been developed and vetted through the Society’s National Voice of the Poor Committee, in consultation with the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Society’s National Voice of the Poor Committee is comprised of volunteer Vincentians acting as Voice of the Poor Coordinators from each of eight regions across the country. Typically, the Action Alert contains a cover message from SVdP President Sheila Gilbert or another national SVdP leader, plus an electronic link to a proposed letter to be sent to the president and congressional representative and senators.
The letter itself can be easily modified to make it personal to you, or you can simply send it as is. With a few clicks of your computer mouse, the letter is in minutes electronically on its way to your specific U.S. Senators and Representative and the President. A few minutes later, you will receive an email delivery confirmation for your letter, along with the full text of what you wrote. If you want to send the letter by regular mail, you can cut and paste the text into word-processing software and send the hard copy on its way.
In short, CapWiz is a vitally important resource that enhances our collective Vincentian ability to be effective Voice of the Poor advocates. But only about 5,000 Vincentians of our estimated 150,000 members in the U.S. are signed up for this service. So, there is plenty of room to turn up the volume of the Voice of the Poor to Congress and our President.
Hopefully, members of the wider Vincentian Family will untie so that we form a lobby for those who cannot to lobby for themselves... or when they do find themselves dismissed in all manner of ways.
CapWiz is a service operated by CQ (Congressional Quarterly) Roll Call, a well-respected organization with a long history dating back to 1945. CQ Roll Call characterizes itself as an organization that provides non-partisan insights and tools for those who lead, shape or follow public policy.