Daughters of Charity at the UN

The Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul work at the United Nations
to influence policies that affect people who suffer from poverty, injustice, or exclusion. Their services lead them to get involved in struggles such as the lack of housing, human trafficking, the eradication of poverty, indigenous concerns, climate change, migration, etc. Like the Community, the United Nations is commit to “leave no one behind”. Through this series of monthly documents, we hope to show the links between the expectations of the United Nations, the Community and the Church on essential themes, and to stimulate reflection or action on these.

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We Cannot be Silent! Oneness (Part 1)

As a human family, more and more we see diversity and multiculturalism everywhere. How do we learn to dialogue and respect the dignity of differences?

The Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth invites us to foster openness to different ways of thinking, speaking, and acting. There are no strangers in a Visitation encounter. The women, in respectful dialogue, experience the divine life, not in isolation, but as shared discovery.

The visit, initiated by the younger woman, enables them to speak their truth to one another in trust and in love. There is a sense of oneness in the speech, in the interaction and in the listening. A patriarchal reading of this encounter might suggest that one woman is more important than the other, and that it is the act of giving birth to their respective boy children that gives the women their status. It might even suggest that they will become irrelevant to

the divine plan – lost even – once their sons begin the real work!

When we interpret the meeting of the two women in this manner, it is to miss what is happening between them and it fails to grasp the essentials of their discourse. What lies ahead is uncharted, unfurling in the midst. But somehow, they knew that fear can keep us tethered, while trust and hope can lighten the way.

Notice what the women do.

They speak in turn; they build on each other’s revelation, perception, and interpretation. They seek the meaning of what has happened together and in dialogue.

In this place of trust, where it is safe to speak their partial truth and insights, the meaning builds reciprocally. Mary’s Magnificat is particularly poignant for marginalized and oppressed people when she proclaims a reversal of power relationships, as they know them.

Just as Elizabeth needs Mary, so too does Mary need Elizabeth. What God is doing in each of them can only be understood as the mystery unfolds. The text tells us that: “Mary stayed with Elizabeth three months and then went back home.”

That is all we know of the encounter. The rest is left to our imagination. What else did they share?

Did Elizabeth confess to her years of anxiety as a barren woman?

Did Mary confide the shame attached to her status as an unmarried woman?

Did she express her fear about the journey home and wonder how Joseph might accept her?

Daughters of Charity at the UN archives