“My vocation as a Vincentian Missionary”
Alfredo Becerra V. C.M., Director of Nuntia and Vincentiana, interviews Fr. Gregory Gay, Superior General
We would like to present an interview with the 24th successor of St. Vincent de Paul, Fr. Gregory Gay, C.M. Superior General
He would like to use this vehicle to sshare who he is, what he thinks, and what he dreams. It is an opportunity to know a little better this successor of St. Vincent de Paul in our modern times.
Welcome to this new section: “Ask the Superior General”
On the occasion of his 25 years as a priest, we would like to ask some questions of the Superior General.
Fr. Gregory has responded very kindly to some questions that we asked him after his recent return from journeys to Madrid, Holland, and Paris.
The foundation of my vocation
Question: Father, will you share some of your vocational stories. Tell us, how did your vocation start? How did it develop? What nourished it during your lifetime as a priest?
Fr.. Gregory: Well, I believe that there are three most significant points:
First, my vocation was born when I used to go with my Mom to daily Mass during Lent. I had the opportunity to think deeply about the Word of God and the Lenten spirit made me feel the call of God to commit myself to the priesthood.
Also, I had the strong influence of my Father’s uncle who was a Vincentian Missionary who had worked in Panama, was Sub-Director of the Daughters of Charityand pastor of a poor black parish in the city of Baltimore. He also was a member of the Novena Band of the Virgin Mary. He was very kind to my Dad. He spent his vacations with us. I was in my adolescent years then and we began to talk a lot. He shared with me many stories of his life as a missionary, as Director of the Daughters of Charity and as pastor. I also had the opportunity to accompany him when I was able to drive, I took him to visit the Daughters began to grow.
The Future Superior General
There was another factor that was for me a very powerful experience. It was my summer apostolate as a seminarian in the Republic of Panama, seeing the style of work being done with the poor country people in the Basic Christian Communities (CEB). This really attracted me, I remember saying, this is the style of church that Vatican II talks about and in which I would like to promote and work together to realize the Reign of God, especially with the poor.
Young Missioner
The important persons in your vocation

Question: Who are the persons among your family and friends that have influenced your vocation as a Vincentian missionary?

Fr. Gregory: Well, the persons that have influenced my vocation are my mother and father because they have had a deep faith and our participation in the Sunday Eucharist and in Lenten season. All of this helped to strengthen my own vocation..
Celebrating Eucharist
The other person who influenced my vocation was my grand uncle , who was a member of the Congregation of the Mission. He influenced me in the affection that I have for the Daughters of Charity. He worked very closely with them.
The others who have influenced my vocation were my Vincentian confreres of the Province of Philadelphia in Panama. Their dedication and pastoral care, their formation and their evangelization of the poor were what animated me very much as a Vincentian missionary.
Great effective Unity
Question: As Superior General, What are your principal concerns for the Vincentian Family?
Fr. Gregory: Above all, we should be achieving little by little a greater unity among ourselves. This means that we should get to know each other and collaborate in various works in the service of the poor and participate in the various opportunities for formation with the intention, little by little, that where the Vincentian Family exists there ought to be National Councils of the Vincentian Family with the principle objective as has been expressed many time by Fr. Maloney to be “one body, followers of Christ, servant and evangelizer of the poor”… all working together for the poor in a more united way.
Together with this, my wish is that all the Vincentian Family in general and each one of the branches in particular continue deepening themselves more and more in prayer rooted in the experience of the poor…in other words, putting into practice that which our heritage of Saint Vincent tells us “To be contemplatives in action”, where prayer is nourished by the experience of the poor and we assume service to the poor reinforced by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I also desire that each one of the branches of the Vincentian Family in general has the experience of community just as it is expressed at the beginning, that is to say, to live united in the Vincentian family at the service of the poor. I believe that the expression that best synthesises this idea is: Community for the Mission.
And also, as Family in this service that we offer with the poor, I desire that we be protagonists with the poor to struggle for their own dignity as sons and daughters of God and that we continue to have a deeper concept of charity, seeing it from the perspective of politics, education, and service directly with the poor.
The Foundations of my vocation
Question: What has helped you maintain your Vincentian vocation? What guidance do you give to the members of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity to keep alive the “freshness” of the Vincentian Vocation?
Fr. Gregory: Well, for me there have been and continue to be three things that have been the pillars of my vocation.
One is the opportunity to reflect each day on the Word of God and apply it to the reality of my personal and community life and to the life of the poor. I dedicate some time every day to meditate on the Word of God, to contemplate God in the depth of my heart and let Him speak to me through his word. Together with this, is the celebration of the Eucharist which for me is one of the most beautiful expressions of common prayer that exists to maintain our vocation and strengthen it with the Body and Blood of Christ.
Another thing that has helped me is to have the confidence of speaking about my personal things in community through the help of a spiritual director, although it is difficult to keep this up with frequency, also, reconciliation or simply the possibility to speak with someone close in community in the context of friendship to be able to review my life and strengthen me in my vocation. Thanks be to God, I have had this support and solidarity in persons in the community.
I also believe that one thing that keeps our vocation alive is to share my experiences of service and evangelization with the poor, with the members of the community and the Vincentian Family, a sharing of that which is our experience of God in the poor. Having friendships in the community has been a great support also. But the most important thing is having the opportunity to know the poor, that is to say getting close to them and feeling their friendship and offering friendship to them. Thanks be to God, in the various places where I have worked, I have always had this opportunity. I thank God for having helped me to maintain an attitude of simplicity in the face of those I meet.
I think this is what I can give as advice to the confreres of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity. If this has worked for me, I hope that it can work for others. To make a good check of these foundations in our vocation there should be deep prayer with the Lord, common prayer, community life in general, and the ability to be able to share at all levels in the same service and contact with the poor.
Question. To bring to a close this interview, Would you like to say some more words to the members of the Vincentian Family?
Fr. Gregory: Well, maybe one more thing. I have been impressed by this saying of St. Vincent de Paul. “If God is the center of your life, words are not necessary. Your simple presence will touch hearts”. For me, this phrase says a lot. Let us make Christ the center of our lives, inspired in the very example of St. Vincent de Paul… to see Christ in all in order to be able to give testimony of his love in the world by our living testimony in our nearness to the poor. This is what we should do, to act as Jesus Christ has acted and doing good as Vincentians of our time. Thank you very much!
We thank Fr. Gregory for having dedicated some of his valuable time to answer these questions. We hope that in the future we will have the opportunity to continue with other questions that the members of the Vincentian Family have for him.
Dear reader, if you have a question that you would like to ask the Superior General you can do it directly or through this new space of communication with the actual successor of St. Vincent de Paul.
The superior general is willing to respond to your questions and concerns. Do you want to ask him something? Just ask!
(Arturo Kolinsky, C.M., translator)