SEATTLE (OSV News) — Aldo Barletta of St. Mary Parish in Marysville is the new vice president of Vincentian spiritual growth and enrichment for the national Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, he came to the United States in 1991 to finish his electrical engineering degree at Washington State University. At St. Mary, the married father of two manages the parish website, helps with social media, belongs to the Hispanic Charismatic Renewal group and serves as spiritual adviser for the St. Vincent de Paul conference, which he joined in 2012. He also has served as regional representative to the national society’s Hispanic Latino Task Force.
He spoke with Northwest Catholic, the publication of the Seattle Archdiocese, about his vocation as a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Northwest Catholic: What was your path to joining the Society of St. Vincent de Paul?
Barletta: I have been a Catholic all my life, but with superficial knowledge. I got accustomed to doing the bare minimum. Being spiritually mediocre made me make wrong decisions in my life, but still thinking that I was a “good person,” since it is common in our society.
I don’t remember how it happened, but finally I clearly realized that something was missing. I knew my relationship with God was not how it should be: I was living in autopilot mode, absorbed in the material world.
At that time, “coincidentally,” a Bible study started (at my parish). I finally opened my heart to what God was trying to tell me all my life. I’ve been so blessed, so I needed to try to do something to say thank you to God.
I joined the society when I saw a trifold pamphlet (at St. Mary) asking for bilingual help. That was a door for me to do something — it was perfectly put right there in my hand. I knew that was a message, that I had to do something about it.
Northwest Catholic: What should people know about the society?
Barletta: Many say that the society is the biggest secret of the Catholic Church. It has 800,000 members (called Vincentians) in 153 countries; nearly 90,000 of them are in the U.S., but most people don’t know we exist or what we are about. Many people think, “Oh, they’re a thrift store or a (donation) truck.”
I had no idea that the society is a magnificent gift from God, a pathway to get to heaven.
After joining our parish group (conference), I learned that SVdP is a network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, who want to build a more just world, with the main goal of growing spiritually by serving people in need, through personal relationships. I found a second family — even though I’m the only Hispanic member, I was received with open arms. We acknowledge, understand and celebrate that our differences make us richer.
Our ministry is not an agency waiting for people to come to our locations. We go to their homes — even if “home” means a car or a tent — where we all can have meaningful encounters. When we visit a person in need, we recognize that we truly meet Jesus; it is truly an encounter with the suffering Christ.
We Vincentians have felt the call to serve; it is a vocation for us. We are not just volunteers helping when we feel like it. Actually, it is a way of life.
Northwest Catholic: Can you share something about the work of SVdP at St. Mary?
Barletta: Our conference receives approximately 30 requests per week. Last year, in addition to bringing compassion and love, we provided assistance in 710 cases, helping families and individuals with $84,911 for housing, utilities, transportation, prescriptions and many other needs. There is no form of charity foreign to the Society. We are always trying to be creative and find a way to help.
In one recent case, we were able to prevent a family from becoming homeless, and to become self-sufficient. With tears of gratitude, this neighbor did not want to stop thanking us, but we know that we are just mere instruments and that the thanks are to God alone.
In many cases, we are unable to provide all that the people need. These are the difficult cases that we face and feel heavy in our minds and hearts, but it is through those cases we learn that we must surrender it to Jesus and leave it up to providence. It reminds us that God is in control, not us.
We can only try to help to carry the heavy cross that is carried by our sisters and brothers in need, by walking and journeying together with empathy.
Northwest Catholic: How does being a Vincentian help you grow in your faith?
Barletta: The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been, without a doubt, the channel that God gave me on a silver platter for my spiritual growth, through the formation programs, mentoring, sponsorship of regional and national assemblies, encouragement and challenges.
I never imagined that joining the society was going to transform me and make me a new person by getting closer to Jesus through people in need.
I learned that more than human work, praying with faith can do more than anything we can possibly imagine we can do. That is why in the society all that we do involves praying: When we go to do a visit, during the visit and after the visit, we pray. When Vincentians have a meeting, we read the sacred Scriptures, meditate and do reflections. We share our thoughts, our victories and our weaknesses; by doing that, our friendship grows much stronger. These practices have taught me to build a more intimate relationship with God.
Northwest Catholic: What is your vision for your new position?
Barletta: Being a witness of my own conversion through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul gives me the confidence that I can offer more by accepting my new position as national vice president of Vincentian spiritual growth and enrichment.
I’m sure that with team effort we can execute a plan to strengthen our core value of Vincentian spirituality. It is my goal that, as Vincentians, we all get to a new higher standard of excellence in our spiritual life.
It is our Christian duty to give ourselves, without reservation, to our mission of charity. Our faith needs to be reflected in our actions. We must get closer to our Lord in an intimate, personal way. We must have the Vincentian zeal to become true disciples, faithful to the mission of love.
Jean Parietti is features editor for Northwest Catholic, the publication of the Archdiocese of Seattle.