The cabin door just closed on my flight home from the SVDP National Assembly in Baltimore, 2022, and I am writing this from seat 23D on Delta Flight 508. This Assembly will always remain memorable for me for a couple of reasons. After serving six years as your Board President, this has been my last SVDP national assembly representing the Los Angeles Council as your president. But Baltimore 2022 will also stand out as the year elections were held for the National President of the Society. Many of you may already know that, prompted by the encouragement and formal nomination by the Board, I threw my hat in the ring for the presidency. Apparently it was not a “one-size-fits-all” and the voters swept it out of the ring on the first ballot. Nonetheless, the two finalists, John Berry of Atlanta and Brian Burgess of Shreveport, are exceptionally well qualified, both with decades of Vincentian experience serving at the national level. Either would make an excellent National President.
As for me, the end has come to this chapter in my Vincentian journey. It has indeed been a remarkable one: a journey filled with challenges and blessings that have enriched my spirituality by deepening my love for the Christ we see in the poor. As with any journey in life, we rarely make it alone. My Vincentian journey has been accompanied by a dedicated and talented cast of supporters who deserve my sincerest gratitude. Starting at home, I am most indebted to my loving family for their support and advice over the years: my wife, Maria, whose business savvy and worldly wisdom have helped me navigate some of my most daunting challenges; my son, Rafael, for the occasional legal advice that was always there when I needed it; and the technical help I could continually rely on from Francesca and Antonio. In the Sweet family the home team always wins.
The Board of Directors and staff combined over the years to make me look good at every turn. Special thanks go out to the financial experts on the Board who kept the money matters in order: Bill Cullinane, Patrick Pascal, Viktor Rzeteljski, as well as our Merrill Lynch consultant, Ray Conboy. I am very grateful to Bertha de Alegria and Sylvia Gonzalez for their wholehearted dedication to all things Hispanic both locally and nationally. A special thanks goes to Aimee Brazeau, Jim Bibb, Sr. Chris and all Board members who stepped up to serve whenever called on. As my daughter likes to say, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”
The staff of the L.A. Council is blessed to have outstanding leadership at every level. David Garcia took over the Executive Director position at a critical time in the Council’s history and has lifted the organization in every way…a big thank you to David! My sincere gratitude is extended to Susana Santana for her many years of service to the Council in whatever task she was assigned. The financial success of the Society in L.A. rests heavily on the sales generated by our thrift stores. So hats off to Jorge Menjivar and Christina Wu for taking us to where we are today: financial stability. When legal advice was needed we could always count on Mike Maloney to keep us on the straight and narrow. Circle V Ranch Camp occupies a special place in my heart and I thank Ray Lopez from the bottom of that heart for his many years as an outstanding camp director – pulling us through near catastrophe to complete recovery. All things considered, the Council is in excellent hands. That includes those of our newly-elected Board President, Phil Wijmer, who can count on my prayers and full support in the coming years. God speed, Phil.
Thanking individuals by name, runs the risk of leaving someone out. So my thanks and apologies to all those I may have missed. But there is one person I cannot overlook. We all know that spirituality is the underpinning of the Society and all we do for the poor. I therefore want to offer special thanks to our Spiritual Director, Father Perry for the richness of his prayerful wisdom and guidance. Having a member of the Congregation of the Mission as our Spiritual Director, celebrating Mass with and for us, is truly a heavenly blessing that few Councils enjoy.
When his plane lands that cabin door will reopen and a new chapter will begin in my life. I’ve been steeped in the Vincentian charism and it will be interesting to see where God and that charism leads me. For this past chapter I am most grateful to God and to the many inspirational Vincentians I’ve met on this remarkable journey. May God bless all of you.
Sincerely yours in Christ,