A mosaic of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, was unveiled in Washington Jan. 26, in time for the 175th anniversary of the society's establishment in the United States.
"It is a great joy and blessing to gather as Vincentians" for the unveiling, said Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, the national episcopal adviser to the society.
The unveiling took place during Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The mosaic hangs in St. Vincent de Paul Chapel at the basilica.
The ranks of Vincentians at Mass were swelled by society members who also were participating in the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, also in Washington, which took place Jan. 25-28.
Bishop Hying, principal celebrant for the Mass, said near the end of Mass that it was a "beautiful convergence" that the mosaic's unveiling took place the same weekend as the annual March for Life, which itself was held Jan. 24.
"That great work, and this great work of the society, are two expressions of the same reality: our Catholic conviction of the dignity of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, redeemed by Christ," he said. "Whenever we love, whenever we serve, whenever we give of ourselves, Christ uses that energy to further extend his reign in the world."
Just prior to the unveiling, Bishop Hying said that when an image of a holy person is put on display, "we must be properly disposed and have a clearer appreciation of the meaning of this celebration."
He added, "When we look at the representation of those who have followed Christ faithfully, we will be motivated to seek the city that is to come. As that we will learn the way to complete union with Christ, that as we struggle along with our earthly cares, we will be mindful of the saints -- our friends and co-heirs of Christ, who are our brother and sisters in Christ and our benefactors.
"We will remember how they love us, are near us, intercede ceaselessly for us and are joined to us in marvelous communion."
After Bishop Hying pulled away the cloth that had concealed the mosaic bearing Blessed Ozanam's image, he prayed, "Today we pray to you for the gifts of the Spirit bestowed on Blessed Frederic Ozanam. ... May we follow in the footsteps of the Lord, keeping the example of Blessed Frederic Ozanam."
Blessed Ozanam was a 20-year-old college student in France when he established, in 1833, the Conference of Charity, now known as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which today has an estimated 800,000 members serving in 153 countries worldwide. The society was founded with the aim of sanctifying its members through direct service to the poor.
By the time he died at age 40 in 1853, he had become a lawyer, a professor at the Sorbonne, a journalist for a Paris Catholic daily newspaper, and a key figure in the Propagation of the Faith, which supported missionary endeavors. St. John Paul II beatified him in 1997.
"Being a part of the society in my own life, nearly 20 years, is informative and creative," Bishop Hying said in his homily. Serving as a Vincentian "allows us to discover the mystery of Christ in a deeper way."
He added, "When I think of Vincentian service to the poor, I ponder to think of it as very specific, very specific. God is calling us to live with specificity."
Vincentian charity, Bishop Hying said, "is practical, it puts into action the saving purpose of the lives of those people we were privileged to serve."