Missionaries in Charity

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

by: Mizael Donizetti Peggiolo, CM

[This presentation was given during the VII Encounter of the Vincentian Family In Guatemala, March 17-22, 2015.]

[2] What is the significance of the following phrases:

  • Missionaries in Charity
  • Missionaries of Charity

What is your understanding of these phrases?

[3] Missionaries of Charity: the word “of” indicates a form of representation, that is, I can say that I am a member “of” the Daughters of Charity or I am a member “of” the St. Vincent de Paul Society or I am a member “of” the AIC or I am a member “of” St. Peter’s School … in each case the word “of” indicates that one is affiliate with said group or that one represents said group.

Therefore, in theory, Missionaries of Charity means that we are representatives of charity, representatives of love.

[4] Missionaries in charity: the word “in” indicates situation or position. For example, I can say that I am “in the store”; I am in work. So also I am able to say that I am “in charity” which indicates my presence “in love” and “in charity” through effective actions that transform the lives of men and women.

[5] We are not only Missionaries of Charity, that is, we are not only men and women who speak about charity or represent charity or teach others how to be charitable …

But we are also Missionaries in charity which suggests commitment … thus we are missionaries while at the same time practicing charity … to practice charity is to be a missionary. As Saint Vincent often stated: Missionaries in charity means that we first do and then teach.

[6] Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God. That was his primary mission. As he proclaimed the Kingdom he turned long established ways of doing things upside down: love your enemies; do good to those who persecute you; if anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.

[7] Jesus reached out to those who were rejected by society, to the excluded members of society. Jesus accompanied those persons who were viewed as sinful and problematic. He said that he had come to evangelize the poor. He handed over his life and accepted death on the cross in order that all people might be saved.

[8] Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God and that proclamation is an invitation for people to engage in a life of service on behalf of one’s neighbor … and that lifestyle is a substitute for power. The root of that commitment is to confront situations of injustice and oppression and to transform them.

The power of the mission is revealed when the logic of the kingdoms of this world are inverted.

[9] Jesus proposed a new lifestyle for an unjust society and in doing so he revealed the possibility of social and individual change.

Jesus’ personality was characterized by his fidelity to his mission.

[10] That characteristic of fidelity is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the gospel.

Jesus had a goal, an ideal, a commitment and he lived out that commitment until the end of his life. He allowed nothing to interfere or interrupt his mission: neither failure nor misunderstanding, nor loneliness nor the cross … not even temptation which he had to confront throughout his public ministry, especially the temptation to use his divine power in order to fulfill his mission rather than do so through the process of kenosis, that is, the process of self-emptying.

[11] Jesus’ missionary style:

  • Jesus came to speak about God who is a God of those who are poor;
  • Jesus’ message was directed toward those who are poor.
  • He invited and inspired some persons to become builders of the kingdom.
  • He revealed the signs of the kingdom.
  • He was a missionary among the people, a missionary of compassion, of service and of mercy … a missionary opposed to the various oppressive realities.

[12] The mission of the Church is to evangelize. The great mission of the Church is her faith commitment to humankind, a commitment to their eternal salvation. In carrying out that mission the Church seeks the full development of the dignity of the person.

[13] For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: "Now I am making the whole of creation new." (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiando, #18)

[14] Nevertheless, there is no new humanity unless there are first of all new men and women. Therefore, the objective of evangelization is an interior change … if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, #18).

[15] Two important elements:

  • To evangelize and to be evangelized implies a change of heart, a change of attitude, a change in the way we view the world and view people … a change in our internal awareness.
  • To evangelize and to be evangelized also implies a change in the collective awareness of humankind … to engage in a struggle for the transformation of social structures, for the construction of a more just and united world which gives priority to the dignity of the human person in every facet of life.


  • A church that build up the Kingdom of God;
  • A church of the poor.
  • A missionary church.
  • A prophetic church.
  • A church that opts for the poor.
  • A church that lives in the midst of the poor.
  • A church that promotes integral liberation.
  • A church of solidarity.
  • A church that promotes justice.
  • A church whose essence is charity …

[17] We must continue to look for opportunities to form a Christian awareness … here we refer to Christian and human formation which provides men and women with an understanding of the Christian values which Jesus highlighted in his life among us.

[18] Providing assistance and transforming the poverty and misery in which millions of people live is not beyond our possibilities. Analyzing the situation in which many Christians live, (a situation in which they have an abundance of material goods) reveals that it is possible to give food to those who are hungry, that it is possible to give water and clothing to those who are thirsty and naked, that it is possible to extend a gesture of love and charity to those who are infirm and imprisoned.

[19] Vincent de Paul focused his mission on this twofold aspect. For Vincent the practice of charity involved effective love in order to serve the poor with the same charity of Jesus Christ, effective love which provided for people’s material needs and respected the dignity of every individual. This form of charity is as important and has the same value as communicating the eternal truths, as leading people to a deeper faith in the Son of God, as helping people to clothe themselves in the same sentiments as the Son of God.

[20] Vincent de Paul stated: How consoled you will be at the hour of death for having consumed your life for the same reason for which Jesus Christ gave his … for charity, for God, for the poor! ... What greater act of love can one make than to give oneself, wholly and entirely, in one’s state of life and in one’s duty, for the salvation and relief of the afflicted (CCD:VII:397).

[21] Vincent de Paul, the missionary of the poor … everything began when he saw the poverty and the misery in which so many people lived … Vincent was a missionary who focused his mission on Jesus Christ and on the face of those people who suffer. He gave priority to the evangelization of the poor … recognizing the urgency to address their spiritual and material needs.

Vincent said that we must preach the gospel by words and by works (CCD:XII:78). We must evangelize but we must also allow ourselves to be evangelized.

[22] Frederic Ozanam and Rosalie Rendú gave life to the charism and the spirituality that they had received as a heritage from Vincent de Paul.

[23] As Frederic lived out his mission he gave priority to two distinct dimensions:


  • Like Vincent de Paul, Frederic recommended extending immediate material assistance in order to address the emergency situations of so many men and women living in poverty. It was as though he was saying: those who are hungry cannot wait and therefore you have to help them immediately. From the beginning the Saint Vincent de Paul Society acted in this solicitous manner on behalf of the poor.


  • Frederic acted with the same or even greater intensity in promoting systemic change. Charity is the Samaritan who pours oil on the wounds of the traveler who has been attacked. It is justice’s role to prevent the attacks.

[26] Frederic Ozanam was a missionary among the young university students. He was a missionary among the working class and among the poor. He proposed that the Church make a pact with the poor and not with the rich who exploited the poor. Frederic Ozanam is a missionary of the Social Gospel … a missionary of truth and charity, a missionary who saw the face of Christ revealed in the face of the poor, a missionary who was more concerned about providing the poor with the bread that they lacked than offering them the truths contained in the catechism.

[27] Conclusions: Vincentian Family

  • Following the example of Vincent de Paul, Marguerite Naseau, Louise de Marillac, Frederic Ozanam, Rosalie Rendú, Catherine Laboure and countless other men and women, we must commit ourselves to and defend the cause of the poor.


  • For us as Vincentians, charity is not just a virtue that must be developed … charity is action!


  • Let us love God, but let it be with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows (CCD:XI:32).


  • On the one hand we have as our mission to serve and to evangelize the poor. At the same time we must also inspire others to serve and to evangelize the poor since it is in that way that we will pass on our charism and our spirituality to a new generation.


  • Following the example of Vincent de Paul we attempt to live in simplicity and humility; we attempt to practice charity and we understand that the work that we do is the work of God and therefore we are simply instruments in the hands of God.

[32] Thank you.

The references to the works of Saint Vincent de Paul are taken from: VINCENT DE PAUL, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, translators: Helen Marie Law, DC (Vol. 1), Marie Poole, DC (Vol. 1-14), James King, CM (Vol. 1-2), Francis Germovnik, CM (Vol. 1-8, 13a-13b [Latin]), Esther Cavanagh, DC (Vol. 2), Ann Mary Dougherty, DC (Vol. 12); Evelyne Franc, DC (Vol. 13a-13b), Thomas Davitt, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), Glennon E. Figge, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), John G. Nugent, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), Andrew Spellman, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]); edited: Jacqueline Kilar, DC (Vol. 1-2), Marie Poole, DC (Vol. 2-14), Julia Denton, DC [editor-in-chief] (Vol. 3-10, 13a-13b), Paule Freeburg, DC (Vol. 3), Mirian Hamway, DC (Vol. 3), Elinor Hartman, DC (Vol. 4-10, 13a-13b), Ellen Van Zandt, DC (Vol. 9-13b), Ann Mary Dougherty (Vol. 11, 12 and 14); annotated: John W. Carven, CM (Vol. 1-14); New City Press, Brooklyn and Hyde Park, 1985-2014.

[Translator’s Note: Because of the format in which I have received this presentation I believe that this was a power point presentation and therefore I have maintained the same format even though it was not given to me using the power point program].

Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM