BOUNTIFUL — Vincentian Father G. Gregory Gay, superior general of the Vincentians, visited the Ladies of Charity (LOC) of the Diocese of Salt Lake City and the Daughters of Charity at Saint Olaf Convent in Bountiful Sept. 9-11.
Fr. Gay also visited Jane and Bob Hipley, affiliates of the Daughters of Charity, whom he recently met at the Rome airport while they all were travelling.
"Meeting Fr. Gay was like meeting a cardinal," said Jane Hipley. "He is in charge of all the Vincentians around the world."
Fr. Gay was re-elected in July 2010 for a six-year term as the worldwide superior general of the Congregation of the Mission, known as the Vincentian Priests and Brothers and the Daughters of Charity Sisters. He became the superior general during the Congregation of the Mission’s general assembly in Rome in 2004.
Fr. Gay oversees almost 4,000 Vincentian priests and brothers and more than 23,000 Daughters of Charity in 90 countries. He himself entered the Vincentian Eastern Province in 1973, when he was 17, and was ordained in 1980. His great uncle, a Vincentian priest, taught him the charism, he said.
As superior general, he wanted to visit Vincentian family members and branches of the Vincentians he hadn’t visited – "those places that are out-of-the way," he said. Before coming to Utah he visited the Daughters of Charity in Magadan, Russia and Anchorage, Alaska. "I have visited more than 90 countries in the last seven years," he said.
Accompanying Fr. Gay on his visit to Utah were Father Andrew Bellisario, provincial director, and Daughter of Charity Sister Marjorie Ann Baez, provincial superior from Los Altos Hills, Calif.
The three of them were given a tour of the Ladies of Charity Center of Hope in North Salt Lake and Give Me a Chance in Ogden, run by Daughter of Charity Sister Maria Nguyen.
The Center of Hope, which provides a food pantry, clothing and furniture for those in need, is "like an oasis in the middle of the desert where people can go to get a sense of hope and a sense of dignity as God’s children," Fr. Gay said. "I liked that as soon as somebody arrived, the ladies attended to them and showed them care and concern."
Fr. Gay also liked the collaboration the LOC has with the community and with the Humanitarian Service Room in Centerville run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which provides toiletry baskets for mothers and school supplies for children.
Daughter of Charity Sister Germaine Sarrazin said she was glad to share her organization’s work with Fr. Gay "because there are so many poor here, it’s nice to be able to help them as the Vincentian family does throughout the world."
"Fr. Gay gave us encouragement to continue our work," said Sr. Maria, whose program teaches low-income women to sew and start their own business.
"Sr. Maria is an immigrant herself from Vietnam and knows what it means to have to struggle to be recognized not only as a woman but as a person in society," Fr. Gay said. "Most of the women are Hispanic, but they are also offered the opportunity to learn English. The more they can inculturate, the better opportunities will be for themselves and for their children. This work these women do gives them a sense of dignity and shows them they can be creative. As Sr. Maria said, ‘it’s degrading to just give people handouts, it’s better to give them a hand up.’ That’s systemic change, the basic Vincentian philosophy."