It was an evening of celebration but also reflection. It was an occasion to recognize the efforts of a religious order which, by its own choice, does much of its work in relative anonymity.
The Loews Hotel in Philadelphia was the venue for Hearts on Fire 170th Anniversary Gala which was hosted by The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal to commemorate the arrival of the Vincentians in America in 1849.
The October 10 event attracted more than 350 attendees who were there to salute the Vincentians for their impact in the community.
Trish Shea, the Senior Director of Marketing for the CAMM says the turnout exceeded expectations. “We had people coming to the door at the last minute to sign in,” she said. “It was unbelievable; it shows the level of respect that the Vincentians have earned.”
The attendees included Bishop Timothy Senior, Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, who was representing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and Bishop David O'Connell, CM, who represented the Diocese of Trenton.
The evening was also an occasion to recognize three award winners, who were selected by the CAMM.
Brother Al Smith CM was honored with the Heart of Vincentian Faith and Practice Award for demonstrating Vincentian values in both his personal and professional lives.
Brother Al joined the Vincentians in 1957, and has served the order and the Germantown community ever since. In 1981, he founded Inn Dwelling with the goal of helping run-down neighborhoods escape the cycle of poverty. Today, the organization also supports an educational effort
The Raskob Foundation received the United in Purpose Award in recognition of its efforts to promote the Catholic Church and its mission both domestically and internationally. Since 1945 the foundation has raised more than $200 million for Catholic charities worldwide.
The Daughters of Charity received the Witness of Hope Award in recognition of their efforts to serve the poor, the young, and the elderly in the U.S. and elsewhere. The organization was founded in France in 1633 by St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Vincentians, and St. Louise de Marillac. It has been active in the Philadelphia area since 1814, 35 years before the arrival of the Vincentians.
There is a certain irony in the citing of the award winners. For throughout their history, since 1849 in America and before that dating back to 17th century France, the Vincentians have prided themselves on their humility, preferring that the residents of the communities they serve, including Germantown, assume task of sustaining, and reaping the benefits of the Vincentians’ initial efforts.
“It’s kind of like the way St. Vincent was,” Shea said. “He was sort of the power and source of everything that was within the community; the poor and marginalized and the people they helped
“It’s almost like he planted the seed and let it grow; and that’s kind of what the Vincentians of the Eastern Province have done. They go in and they plant the seeds and they work with the community and the laity to make them grow.”