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Society of St Vincent de Paul members called to be change agents

“If we are calling ourselves Christians and we are not changing or effecting change in the lives of others then we are wasting time,” Trinidad-born Fr Ako Walker CSsR said at the Society of St Vincent de Paul virtual Mass to celebrate founder Frederic Ozanam’s birthday Friday, April 23.

Fr Walker, celebrating Mass from Immaculate Conception Church, Bronx, New York, pointed to the life of Ozanam (1813–1853), thanking God for his contribution in going out and effecting change many years ago. The resonance of that change was still being celebrated.

“Frederic regarded each human being as having tremendous worth so he collaborated with others in serving the poor. Referring to the poor man as the nation’s priests, he said that ‘the hunger and sweat of the poor called for sacrifice that could redeem the people’s humanity’.”

Ozanam demonstrated faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus Christ, who showed a preferential option for the poor. SVP members are invited through the actions of Jesus to form a communion of love and have a desire to constantly look out for each other.

“We belong to a Christian community; the call from Jesus is a personal call but it is never private. There is nothing private in the Kingdom of God,” Fr Walker told Vincentians joining the Mass.

The first reading, from the Acts 9:1–28 was the dramatic account in which Saul was transformed and became Paul. “Saul was a zealous persecutor of the Church and in his transformation, he became an equally zealous proclaimer of the gospel to the Gentiles. So, Paul moved from being an adversary to being an advocate,” Fr Walker said.

Christians, blessed by their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ are expected to become change agents because they cannot remain the same after an encounter with the Lord.

Fr Walker said, “Zeal for God, zeal for the Kingdom must change us; and as we eat of the Lord, drink of the Lord, two things are supposed to happen. One, we are supposed to transform, we are supposed to recognise our own fragility…. We are to become change agents, so we have to become what we eat, meaning that we are to become communion for others.”

SVP President Angelique Taylor thanked Fr Walker for celebrating the Mass and said his message will continue to resonate with members as they journeyed with God in their ministry to the poor. “We ask that Frederic and St Vincent to help us to be good witnesses of love through our Lord Jesus,” she said.