I am writing to you who generously give of your time and your love in our shared mission of building a more just and compassionate society.
Some of you have been Conference members for many years, some may have only just joined us as a high school or university student, some volunteer in our shops or on our soup vans or in our many and diverse ways of helping people and gently standing with them. Some of you have come to work with us as employees and have in this way joined your hearts with our mission.
The St Vincent de Paul Society is a spiritual and social movement. We ultimately draw our inspiration, through Blessed Frederic Ozanam, from the simple and beautiful example of Jesus of Nazareth.
We are living at a time in our nation’s history when the church is being confronted with the magnitude of its crimes against children and young people in its care, through the actions of its representatives, and through its systematic abuse of power.
Some of you have been personally touched by this indefensible horror in your own lives. Some of you had your trust betrayed, through actions of sexual, physical or emotional abuse carried out by a priest, religious or other person in authority representing a church institution. Some of you have carried the indescribable pain of knowing that this has happened to your children or to someone else that you love.
Nothing can undo this pain. But, on behalf of the St Vincent de Paul Society, I wish to say that we unequivocally stand with you in solidarity and love. And I thank you for being part of who we are as a family. I also say sorry to anyone that we have let down, anyone who has either been abused or harmed by a member of the Society or who has not been supported or loved by the Society after having suffered abuse elsewhere.
There is nothing as prophetic as the truth. I pay my deep respect to all who have so courageously spoken the truth in the course of the Royal Commission. I also pay my deep respect to you who have carried your woundedness in painful silence.
Across the Society we are committed to the safety and wellbeing of children and to ensuring that we maintain a child-safe environment. May we also continue to learn from the past and be unafraid of the truth so that together may we build a future where all of us are able to live the simple and sacred humanity that we are called by the gospel to share with each other.
Graham West, National President
9th February 2017