Prayer in Action

The Priests and Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul (Vincentians) total more than 3,000 worldwide, and serve in 86 countries. Like their founder, Vincentians focus on serving society’s marginalized, lonely, poor, and morally impoverished—as well as working for social justice and evangelical charity.

Vincentians commit themselves to four core vows: poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability. Exemplary of a new form of religious life, Vincentians live a powerful blend of contemplative prayer and societal action.

Ask a Vincentian priest or Vincentian brother why he entered the Congregation of the Mission, and you will hear an inviting story. Below are the names of present-day Vincentian priests and brothers who are open to sharing their vocation story with you.

Br. Bruce Krause, CM

“One of the aspects of St. Vincent’s life that truly inspires me was his capacity to adapt to changing circumstances in ministry. There were, of course, the different contexts for ministry, whether it was rural or urban ministry, hospital ministry, work among prisoners, or the flood of refugees who sought protection from the ravages of war. Because the circumstances of the poor could quickly change, he had to respond in a variety of ways to meet their needs. This was not always so easy when food, clothing, firewood, money, volunteers, etc., were in such short supply. Then, there were confreres who left the community and others who died from illness. He and the rest of the Little Company would have to adapt to these changes again and again. His capacity to work effectively among the rich and poor alike certainly required skills of adaptation. While he never went abroad on missions, Vincent recognized that the confreres who did would have to become enculturated in their host countries if they ever hoped to be effective in ministry. He did his best to prepare them for these eventual changes. I expect that you, the reader, can identify other instances in which Vincent had to adapt to the changing environs and ministries. I expect you are gathering the point that I wish to make, too. I believe there are a few parallels in Vincent’s life and my own, although the times in which I serve are obviously quite different from his. As you know, I have been assigned to campus ministry at Niagara University. Of course, there are the obvious changes from a temperate climate in the South to more arctic-like weather in Western New York. People who have seen me already wearing a heavy winter coat in what they consider moderately cold temperatures remind me that I have not seen anything yet. I brace myself for this arctic blast! There are foods such as beef on weck and Buffalo wings, too. I have eaten both, although I tend to shy away from the spicy hot wings. To my delight I find the people here quite friendly and welcoming. I wonder at times if they are transplants from the South, but then I realize this is not likely. The two seasons of winter and the Fourth of July, however, would not appeal so much to those with thinner blood. I have had occasion to attend two hockey games, but I still know very little about the sport. I had never so much as been in a hockey arena before coming to Niagara. These are the more obvious physical adaptations I have made since coming to Niagara University, yet there were other aspects of the new assignment which posed more significant challenges to me. Other than the six-year stint at St. Michael’s, in Auburn, Alabama, where I did have occasion to work with youth and college-age students, my experiences in ministry have been mostly in the parochial context with older adults. Those were fruitful years in my life. Add to the fact that I have been out of college more than 30 years, and it has been 16 years since my time as a parish priest in Auburn, I wondered how I would do in this new assignment. Indeed, the prospect of working with young adults has been both exciting and somewhat daunting for me. Could I relate well to college-age students, and would they feel comfortable around me? I knew that the students have different body clocks from my own. How would I manage celebrating the “last chance” Mass on Sundays at 10:00 p.m. when I knew this was generally not my finest hour? Could I be available to them when they are functioning at their best, and the evening hour is still young (at least in their estimation!)? More than once I asked myself these questions after I said “yes” to this assignment. I was well aware of the need for more personnel at NU and felt that, despite some hesitancy, I could not decline the appointment. These realities have pressed me to adapt. The experience thus far has been rewarding.Truly for me, the more significant adaptations have come about through the grace of St. Vincent’s charism. I feel this has certainly been true for me thus far at NU. For example, I suspect that Vincent’s ability to adapt came, in part, from his capacity to listen well to others. The students on campus need persons who are willing to listen to them and to take them seriously. They appreciate this quality of attention when they face difficult trials either inside or outside the classroom. They, too, are faced with making important decisions that will have a bearing on their lives both now and in the future. They appreciate the direction and encouragement both others and I can offer to them. To some extent I believe this is happening, and feel confident more opportunities will arise as the students get to know me better.In addition, Vincent understood well the value of presence to others. For Vincent this meant going to where the poor lived. In my case, I have tried to apply this same person-to-person approach in Clet and O’Shea dorms, in the lower level of the Gallagher Center, and at various events both on and off campus, including sporting events. I am present at Masses, especially those on Sundays, even if I am not the principle celebrant. I have accompanied students and worked alongside them in different service projects in nearby Niagara Falls. In early January I will go with a group of students on BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ) to Germantown, Philadelphia, for an urban plunge. This kind of plunge I can handle, but do not count on me joining the polar bear club! I heard that a number of students from NU did this in late November. In short, as several confreres with more years of experience in campus ministry have told me, a good visible presence is key to successful ministry among young adults.I was not altogether surprised when I received a call last February asking me to come to Niagara. I am glad that I said “yes!” It is quite likely that future appointments will require a similar willingness to adapt to the environs and needs of new ministries. I suppose this is partly what it means to be a missioner in the Congregation of the Mission and to embrace the charism of St. Vincent. May each of us possess such an openness and readiness to adapt for the sake of the mission.”

Br. Frank Mallaghan, CM

“My first placement at St. Vincent’s Seminary was in 1964, when I came to assist in the kitchen, in maintenance, and as Sacristan for the Miraculous Medal Shrine. I was here for the opening of the first infirmary, which were initially two rooms in St. Vincent’s proper. The men ate in their rooms. St. Catherine’s was built in 1980. When it opened, I was at the Mission House in Springfield, working with handicapped persons and in the Mission House kitchen. In 1984, when the Mission House closed, I returned to assist in pastoral ministry in the Germantown area and assisted in the infirmary when needed. In 1995, I went to Princeton as Sacristan for the Chapel where I remained until this year when I came again to St. Vincent’s Seminary. I was not feeling well, and after many discussions with Frank Sacks, we made the decision together that here would be the best place for me. In the past, the men who came to the infirmary felt that they were being put on a shelf because there were not many activities for the confreres who came. Now a man can get involved in many activities. These activities are optional and one chooses the ones they wish to attend. The best thing is one feels that they can still function as a priest or brother. Some of the priests are involved every Monday at the Shrine hearing confession. One lives in an environment where you can come to know and appreciate the staff, and thereby stay involved in the lives of others. One feels very safe and cared for, not only by the staff but also by other Vincentians who live here. Everyone pulls together to be support for those who need it. In the past, I thought of the infirmary as a place to go when sick, but now I have come to see it as a home. It is a home where one feels accepted and needed.”