Visit to AIC-Madeira
Active since 1876, AIC-Madeira, the only association that exists in Portugal, obtained its official statutes in 1929. It is composed of 25 members, which includes a very active, hardworking and dynamic group of around fifteen ladies who have recently retired from professional activity.
Meetings are held in a historic place: the Princess Doña María Amalia Hospice where the association also has its office. Father Gil, CM guides the spiritual reflections. During the meetings there are correspondence updates and planning of celebrations, outdoor activities and events in conjunction with the Vincentian Family.
The group's main activities include supporting 18 disadvantaged families (for employment, health, prevention of alcoholism and domestic violence), visiting the residents of the hospice, an annual dinner after Mass on the Feast Day of Saint Louise and trips to the mountains with the hospice residents and the staff from the Our Lady Fátima day centre (on the other side of the city). When running activities they can count on the support of the parish and the regional social services. In the premises of the latter, open every afternoon to elderly people, the group regularly organises afternoon teas, board games and birthday celebrations. They also distribute monthly food packages.
The current problem is the recruitment of new volunteers; there is no shortage of goodwill, but often more "modern" or "attractive" offers arise. The dynamic and enthusiastic group has a close relationship with the Vincentian Family and plans to continue its activities for a long time yet. The members have a strong desire to participate in an AIC Europe meeting.
News from Ukraine
Due to the war, there is a lot of internal migration. Those needing helped are attended to by various organizations. They are relatively lucky compared to those who were already living in poverty before the war and whose situation has worsened with the economic and political crisis.
No one is looking after these marginalized people because they are not refugees. The approaching winter will make them all the more vulnerable because they will need warm clothes and food. For this reason, Father Jan Martincek, National Spiritual Advisor of AIC-Ukraine, is encouraging us not to focus our efforts on the refugees and instead to look at how to attend to this group of marginalized and abandoned people.
Some AIC groups are also looking after refugees, thanks to donations from the Greek Catholic Church and from overseas. In the West, the AIC-Brody group is supporting 96 refugees. Some of them are employed, others do not want to be, others have been participating in summer work at the parish. The government have offered 8 jobs with low wages. The AIC-Burkovina group has hosted a family.
In the East, the AIC-Kharkiv group has hosted an elderly woman and her entire family. Now the group is working on education and is supervising after-school activities at the “Oasis of Hope” centre for children.
News from Syria
The volunteers from AIC-Syria explain to us how they have used the donations received from the AIC International network, while asking us to continue keeping the people of Syria very much in our prayers.
Part of the money has been given to disadvantaged families. Some of it has served to provide school support to children of martyrs or families in need. The donations also allow for the provision of free accommodation to groups of youngsters during camps and training weekends. Thanks to the donations received, over the summer the AIC volunteers were able to attend to sick people needing heart surgery or undergoing chemotherapy and accompany women during childbirth. Three mothers received a basket filled with boxes of milk for their children and diapers, which are also distributed to families with young children. Moreover the volunteers were able to offer support which allowed a young woman who had suffered shrapnel wounds to the legs to receive physiotherapy sessions and contributed to the costs of two sets of dentures. Now that children are going back to school, every student under the age of 15 will receive a uniform (an apron for the youngest and shirts and trousers for the older ones), a backpack and a pencil case with a pen, pencil, eraser, etc. Their families will also receive a sum of money. The volunteers work in close collaboration with the Daughters of Charity in Damas and they will continue supporting the home of Mother Teresa’s Sisters which accommodates the elderly free of charge.
The money being spent is carefully recorded in a detailed financial report. As a very cold winter has been announced, money will be distributed to families in November so that they can buy fuel. With the new donations that they will soon receive from AIC International, the volunteers will be able to offer substantial support to families, providing them with winter clothes, food, presents and organizing parties for the children.
AIC International’s visit for the celebration of AIC Spain’s centenary anniversary
AIC Spain has just celebrated the centenary anniversary of its official establishment in Spain at the beginning of June. Alicia Duhne, International President, and Tayde de Callataÿ, General Manager, participated in this beautiful celebration which brought together volunteers from all regions in El Escorial. On top of numerous enriching exchanges with volunteers, they had the chance to appreciate the very interesting presentations of Sister Mª Ángeles Infante, DC, on the history of the association and of Father Celestino Fernandez, CM, on the challenges facing Vincentian lay people. Alicia Duhne’s presentation about the upcoming celebration of the 400th anniversary was the occasion for much discussion as to how to prepare for and celebrate this other important event. Alicia also took the opportunity to give a brief presentation of the recent International Assembly that took place in Guatemala in March.
Syria: AIC amid the war
The conflict continues into a fourth year. AIC Syria has made an urgent call for financial aid. Donations can be given via the Solidarity Fund and sent to Syria via a Daughter of Charity in Damas. At the European Presidents’ meeting last September, 1000€ was raised. The President of AIC Syria thanks us for this support.
I have received via Sister Monique Kharouf your email of 26th November and we thank you for your support. Today, for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and of our Association (Association of the Ladies of Charity of St Vincent de Paul). We celebrated Mass in the Church of Our Lady in Damas; the original icon is in Malta.
After receiving your email we decided to give 200 thick woolen blankets to the poor and needy families we support, given the cold caused by the shortage of fuel linked to the embargos that are afflicting Syria.
We are also going to give every child under 14 a shirt, a pair of jeans and some boots, along with a small amount of money.
We hadn’t planned to give this much but the support that you have offered us has encouraged us to do so.
We will give Sister Kharouf financial support for more than 10 people. Your support is precious to us at this time, especially in the run up to the holidays. Please thank all the members of AIC who have helped us.
I will write to you again soon to give you further details.
With our deepest thanks".
Prayer and Partnership
In Paris, for 11 years, former AIC team members have had their place in the Mouvement des Equipes Saint Vincent (AIC-France) in the form of Prayer and Partnership. This activity began in order to fulfil a need: former team members who wanted to meet up to pray and exchange both about spiritual matters and as friends.
The objective is on the one hand to meet up as part of a new group of team members who no longer have a team or who are not involved or less involved in an activity and on the other hand to continue to share the team spirit, pursue spiritual reflection, keep up to date with news from the Movement and support it via prayer. The group meets about every two months from 3-5pm; an agenda is prepared and distributed at the start of each meeting. The meeting starts and ends with a hymn.
Meetings are divided into three parts:
1. A time for prayer
To support the Movement: Prayers of request or actions of gratitude, according to the requests received from ESV (AIC-France) or AIC International and also individual prayer intentions. Sharing of information about the life of the Movement, the joy, the difficulties, the hopes…Then members work on the group spiritual reflection proposed in the bulletin, as they would have done in their former teams, which creates another link with the Movement and as in the association, this group reflection is based on Vincentian spirituality.
2. A time for sharing
A time to deepen faith. The group shares its reflections (that the members have written out beforehand) on the chosen theme for the year. It is often based on a book or an encyclical.
3. A time for friendship with food to share
After each meeting, minutes are sent to those who were present and those who were absent, so that everyone can incorporate the prayer intentions given during the meeting into their daily prayers and know what was said during the exchanges. These minutes specify which chapter should be read of the chosen book for the year before the following meeting.
The European Presidents’ Meeting
It was in Nitra, Slovakia that the last European Presidents’ meeting took place in September. AIC Europe and Middle East is composed of 16 associations and 90,000 volunteers. The objective of the meeting was to share experiences, warmth and spirituality and to strengthen AIC Europe to make it one big family.
The priorities differ according to each country, which is reflected in the themes that were covered:
- Isolation and Solitude: These issues don’t just affect elderly people. They are also a form of spiritual poverty. (Slovakia, Germany, Poland)
- Immigration and Exclusion: People are fleeing war, poverty and religious persecution but the countries that take them in do not have the economic means to accommodate them properly. (Italy, Switzerland, France, Great Britain, Ireland)
- Family Poverty and Nutrition: In the economic crisis, lots of families have been affected by unemployment. Food banks have opened up in many towns. (Spain)
- Conflicts: Accounts from Ukraine and Syria were presented. AIC projects continue in Ukraine but are being run differently.
- AIC’s 400th Anniversary: Several different countries are actively thinking about how they will celebrate this, notably in France, where St Vincent was born and where the International Assembly 2017 will take place.
A brand new AIC group in central France
On 27th February, the official inauguration of the AIC new group in Clermont Ferrand, France, was celebrated: the goal of their activities is to build social links and to give confidence and self-esteem to women living in deprived neighborhoods.
How was this team created? Geneviève, a member of the local group in Strasbourg, moved to Clermont Ferrand. In a few months, thanks to her professional approach, Geneviève recruited 15 team members, contacted the social services to find out the needs of the people in the neighborhood. The activities being undertaken include providing hair, make-up and cooking workshops and gym activities for women living in poverty. In this town, social housing is found alongside residences for students and the elderly.
The inauguration took place in front of Mgr Simon, Bishop of Clermont Ferrand and representatives from the General Council, social services, the neighboring group in Saint Flour, several local charities and the local press.
We send all our congratulations and best wishes to the Clermont Ferrand group!
The Pontifical Counsel Cor Unum invited those in charge of charity movements in Europe to participate in 5 days of spiritual exercises in Czestochova.
Laurence de la Brosse, International President, Christa Foelting, Coordinator for Europe, and Irena Mitura, the new president of AIC Poland, joined this assembly, presided by Cardinal Sarah.
Cardinals, bishops, priests and lay people let themselves be guided together by Mother Marie Theresa Brenninkmeijer, Cistercian Abbess, to renew their connection with Jesus Christ.
Then followed a visit to AIC Poland, (the second country in which Saint Vincent established charities). A national visit was organized for the 2Oth anniversary of the official recognition of AIC Poland, and despite the snow, many delegates came from different groups across the country.
The day after, a working group took place with the new National Board.
Thank you to all those who collaborate with AIC Poland and particularly to the Daughters of Charity and the Fathers of the Mission.
News from Syria
Sister Françoise Petit, Daughter of Charity, member of the International Council and Spiritual Advisor for AIC, recently had the chance to visit the Daughters of Charity in Lebanon. Here is her account of her trip:
“Our trip to Lebanon and the Holy Land went well. We were able to make contact with almost all our Sisters in Syria. They meet regularly with the AIC members. Like the rest of the population, they are affected by the events and financially nothing is simple. The Sisters tell us that in terms of food the volunteers can get hold of almost of everything for the moment, but everything has become very expensive. Fear is present in daily life and they try to find the means to continue living. The basement of a school has been furnished for meetings…there is a corner for prayer. It was moving to listen to them”.
News from Ukraine
After the annexation of the Crimea region, the people of Ukraine are living in fear and uncertainty. Anka Skoryk, President of AIC-Ukraine, is keeping us updated about the distressing situation that the country is facing.
Anka is very touched by the signs of sympathy that she has received from many AIC volunteers. Thirty kilometers from Kharkiv, where there are many AIC groups, the Ukrainian army is mobilized. The unstable situation has caused inflation and prices will not stop increasing. Despite everything, AIC continues its afterschool program, seeking to protect the “children’s world”. AIC must also deal with the reality of refugees, especially in a group in-the-making in the west of the country.
The great poverty in Europe
The associations of AIC UK, Madeira, Italy, Slovakia and Ukraine answered the 3 questions on poverty raised by the Division of the Social Chart of the Council of Europe.
1° Do you notice an increase in poverty in your country? All the countries notice an increase in poverty in their countries. This is the result of different factors such as political instability, salaries reduction, unemployment, increased taxes and worldwide crisis.
2°Which groups of the population are the most affected? The youth, the unemployed, the elderly, the single-parent families (lack of information on this part of the population).
3° What do you mean by “great poverty”
- To be hungry and having no means to change the situation, to lose one’s housing and suffer from the winter and the great cold.
- To be deprived of a job and consequently of food, education, housing and health care.
- Not to be able to meet one’s primary needs nor reach an acceptable standard of living because of a lack of social relationships, economic resources and physical capacities.
The International President visits AIC-Switzerland
A short but very well organised visit allowed AIC-Switzerland and AIC International to get to know each other better and to realise that "to be Vincentian" is to be part of a large global network.
AIC-Switzerland has 110 volunteers split into 8 groups, 1 in Geneva and 7 in Tessin. The AIC-Switzerland volunteers work in close collaboration with the social services who put them in contact with migrants in need of aid before they can be helped by the State.
During the visit there was an Assembly and a new National Council was elected. It was an opportunity to thank the former members and to welcome the new ones.
2012 Meeting of the AIC European Presidents
Eight AIC European national Presidents gathered together in Cologne on September 3-5, 2012: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Slovaquia, UK, Ukraine. We werre sorry that AIC-Liban and AIC-Poland were unable to attend the meeting.
The presidents greatly appreciated this moment of exchange and friendship, this laboratory of ideas and the "refreshing" spirtual times. AIC is really enchanting!
The exchanges were about: the role of the AIC national president, communication of a national association, fundraising, mentoring, recruiting, Operatinal Guidelines 2011-2013 applicationand education.
There was also a contribution about AIC representation with the Council of Europe.
The next meeting is planned in two years.
The presidents will find the minutes and the speeches in the "members area" of this Website.
Conference of the European Associations : Speech of the AIC Representative
Maritchu Rall, AIC Representative within the Council of Europe made a contribution as Rapporteur of the Round Table organized in the framework of the 20th anniversary of the Conference of the European Associations.
For more information:
Download her report (in French)"
AIC-Ukraine: 15° anniversary of Kharkiv group
AIC-Ukraine celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Kharkiv group : from September 3 to 5, L de la Brosse, C Foelting EB, M. Burt, EB, C. Crump AIC UK president, and a volunteer from AIC UK attended the celebration and visited the projects of the local group. For more information,
AIC Deutschland The CKD conference
The CKD conference – Caritas Konferenzen Deutschland (Caritas conferences Germany) - took place at the Munich and Freising archdiocese, in Southern Germany, from 5 to 7 November 2009. About 85 participants were attending – the board committee, the members, some representatives of the hospitable help, as well as some partners from the CKD federal bureau. The congresswomen were pleased to welcome the AIC International President, Laurence de la Brosse, as guest of honour.
The topic was: to become aware of the various steps of one’s life, to allow the participants to consider their own curriculum and the support of those who need our help during these periods of transition or crisis. During the assembly, the AIC International President, Laurence de la Brosse, reminded the common history of AIC and CKD, the parallel between the two associations and the interest shown for a mutual help and support.
This meeting has been enhanced by the friendly contacts between the participants and the spirituality of the prayers. The mass, celebrated by the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Dr. Reinhard Marx, was an important moment of the conference.
Benefiting from a nursery in order to follow training
France started its presidency of the European Union by declaring that the fight against the suffering of discrimination against women would be a priority. The project “Paloma” in Alicante, Spain, has the same motivation. Since 1989, nearly 200 women a year, mainly migrants, come to the “Palomar” (the Dovecote), a training centre managed by AIC volunteers and a social worker. The women who go to the centre wish to remove themselves from a difficult social situation. Very often, because of a lack of sufficient training, without a profession and facing alone the responsibility of the family, they have limited financial means. At the ‘Dovecote’, they follow courses, are supported and guided in the search for employment and especially benefit from a nursery annexed to the centre. Looking after their children is therefore no longer an obstacle to their training.
Today, the volunteers report that this project also benefits many women who suffer from ill treatment. This is an occasion to remember that November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. AIC wishes that this topic is never forgotten in the projects intended for women and young girls and that initiatives are taken for those victims who have need of security and help in their rehabilitation. One day to think and 364 days to act.