Cor unum et anima una

(Message from the President)


One heart and one soul – cor unum et anima una. This quote, taken from the Introduction to SSVP Manual 1845, forms the basis of my contribution for this edition of the Berita.

One heart and one soul – makes reference to Councils in SSVP.

Rule 3:6 – Councils “Councils exist to serve all the Conferences they coordinate. They help Conferences to develop their spiritual life, to intensify their services and diversify their activities so that they may always be responsive to the needs of those who suffer”.

A simple job description for Councils would read thus:-

1)     to create new Conferences;

2)     to help existing conferences expand;

3)     to promote special works;

4)     to prepare training courses and encourage Vincentians to attend them;

5)     to foster interest in cooperation with the Vincentian family;

6)     to promote cooperation with other organizations and Institutions;

7)     to develop friendship between members in the same area and;

8)     to provide communication to and from Conferences and higher Councils.

In Malaysia, we have 11 regional Councils to serve 62 conferences. Delegate representation to the Superior council, known locally as the National Council, comes from the regional Councils with the only direct representation coming from Isolated conference of Sibu.

Having stated all the above, what does “one heart and one soul” mean in the context of the 11 regional councils and the National Council? Are we marching to the beat of a single drummer in SSVP Malaysia? Are we of one heart and one soul in they way we communicate with one another and with the Church hierarchy, the public and large and with the poor whom we serve? Just how many drummers are there in SSVP Malaysia?

Are we really of one heart and soul? Are we a Society in disarray as we march to the different tempos of the regional councils? Is the term catholic term “subsidiarity” being stretched to its maximum by Conferences and Regional Councils to do what they want without taking into account the common good? So many questions come to mind when we reflect one heart and one soul in SSVP Malaysia.

“Creative tension” is a phrase I first heard when I attended the PMPC II in Majodi Centre. It was used by an enlightened Bishop, now Archbishop, to describe the “tension” which is created when we Catholics gather in numbers to talk and discuss about the local Church – the clergy, religious and laity all have their own bones to pick with the “Church” as an institution ….how to achieve unity in diversity? Creative tension seeks to bring about a change which is for the better, for the good of all – the common good.

It’s certainly not about who is right or who is wrong, who knows better or who knows more. It’s also not about one who has more resources at his disposal and the other with nothing to shout about. It’s about one heart and one soul – cor unum et anima una.

Similarly, in SSVP Malaysia, we also have a lot of tension albeit creative tension. As we progress and develop and bring in younger and new members, we seem to be having a clash of ideas about Special Works – where the Society has full voting control through active Vincentians and carry the Society’s logo and other types of collaborative endeavours known as Special Activities where Vincentians are fully involved but do not have full voting control and which do not carry the Society’s logo.

This creative tension will continue as we progress and as we start to move from traditionally engaging with the “old poor” to the “new Poor”.  What do we mean by “old poor” and “new poor”? I first heard this when attending the last PMPC in August, 2006 at Federal Hotel when the topic of Integral Human Development (IHD) was discussed. The message from this discussion was that the “Church” felt that SSVP could only take care of the “old poor” through doling out Sunday church collections; hence the need for new diocesan and parish based structures (AOHD,PIHDM,PHDC,POHD) to respond to the needs of the “new poor”. Creative tension? Why is SSVP associated with the “old poor” and not also with the “new poor”? Are we seen as a breed of aging dinosaurs from Jurassic Park?

One heart and one soul – whose drumbeat are we marching to? – creative tension-old poor -new poor. In the midst of these matters and issues swirling around us, we need to have a unifying factor, a unifying influence. Looking back to the roots of the formation of the Superior (National) Council, its was precisely the fact that there was a need for a unifying body – that’s how the coming together of 24 conferences and two particular councils of Penang and Selangor took place in June 1963 to form the unifying body – the National Council.

Is the National Council today the unifying body in SSVP Malaysia? Are the 11 regional Councils and 58 active conferences and Special Works carrying the Society’s logo of one heart and one soul? As National Council President for the past 4 years, I’ve tried to be a unifying agent in my visits to Councils and Conferences which stretch from rural based conferences like Lundu in Sarawak, Cha’ah in Johor and the conferences located in the 5 star locations in KL and PJ. How does one match such extremes in conferences where local dialects are used to communicate with one another in rural locations and the others where email is the norm in communication? Where is the common ground found? My answer to that it is the National Council which is the unifying factor and the National Council President must be “a Man for all Seasons” to keep the Society together to be in union with one another at all times. That’s a tall order and the measure of success of the National Council is not how much money we have in the Bank or the glorious corporate office we own but as the unifying body which is a welcoming home to all Vincentians where we are of all of one heart and soul – with simplicity, humility, gentleness, selflessness and zeal as the 5 Vincentian Virtues which will make us work together and fit together as ONE Vincentian family for the greater glory of God.


Br. Dunstan Dominic

National Council President

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