Fr. Hugh McDonnell: Vincentian Personalism

The following exerpt is taken from Fr. McDonnell’s Apostolic Reflection in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, specifically where he discusses St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac’s treatment of each individual, and in turn how this should guide the Vincentian community’s treatment of each other and how they should come together in community.


Now what is the contribution of Vincent and Louise? They treated
each person as sacred and unique. Personalism is very powerful with
them. Vincent and Louise treated one another as sacred and unique.
Then they treated each and every person as sacred and unique.
DePaul University in Chicago has been able to identify the charism
of the university in a way people can work with, which is what you
have done with your mission statements. You have identified the five
qualities that characterize your institutions. DePaul found two words

to express our values: Vincentian Personalism.

Vincent de Paul 36 bringing children to Louise de Marillac 300x234
Vincent de Paul brings children to Louise de Marillac Photo: DePaul University

The person is very much at the center for Vincent and Louise. So,
you can see that the key in apostolic reflection is the sacredness of
every person inthe group, then, the sacredness of the coming together

of different people on this given evening. Another thing that is very
strong in Louise and in Vincent is the idea that every person is a
member of the Body of Christ, and, consequently, is a gift. Thereis

deep affection for each sister. It is each person as person and each
person as member in communion with the others that evokes not only
respect but affection and deep attention to each one’s silence, presence,
being and words.

earlyhist side 246x300

I think one of the great miracles in the life of Louise is that she
became such a great mother to the Daughters of Charity. Louise’s
basic wound is on her mother’s side. She had very good relationships
with the men in her life: she had an affectionate and trusting relationship
with her father who claimed her in spite of illegitimacy, with her
husband, with Francis de Sales, and with Vincent. On her father’s side,
there was great natural strength. Her wound was on the mother’s side.
She tried to overcome that in the way she raised Michel but without
notable success. She tried so hard to be a good mother to Michel that
she was chronically anxious about him. The miracle of grace, to my
way of thinking, is that she became such a tremendous mother to the
Daughters of Charity. She knew each one personally and held each
one in her heart with affection and tender love. She passed on bits of
information from one to the other in her letters, and taught them
everything from the alphabet to all that the mission required. This is
a remarkable story of transformation. It says something to us about
our own wounds and what the grace of God does. In exactly the place
where she was wounded initially, she became an absolutely wonderful
mother to her Daughters and to many others. Vincent and Louise
shared their apostolic and spiritual experiences with one another over
a period of thirty-five years.

In our reflection on apostolic reflection, there are three beacons
that guide us: (1) the sacredness and uniqueness of each person; (2) the
affection for each member of the local community and of the larger
community; and (3) the sharing of apostolic and spiritual experiences
with one another.


Full piece can be found at this link: Apostolic Reflection by Hugh O’Donnell C.M., Vincentian Heritage Journal Vol. 16-2).