Systemic Change

A Hand Up - Not a Hand Out


Systemic change focuses on assisting the poor to change the overall structures within which they live. It helps individuals to develop strategies by which they can emerge from poverty.

"Justice and mercy either go hand in hand, each preparing the steps of the other, or they both limp along, groping in the fog."

~ Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco

Vincentian Systemic Change programs can include:

Systemic Change - Hope in Action


Systemic Change Reflections

Systemic Change PowerPoints

Frederic Ozanam: Systemic Thinking, and Systemic Change 

The Value of Mercy According to St, Vincent de Paul

The mission of the Socity of St. Vincent de Paul is to fill in the gaps of need in a community. We are fortunate in our area that there are several initiatives already in place to creat systemic change. In our Rapid City Community various agencies are coming together to understand poverty through a Collaborative Impact project. For more information be sure to read the Rapid City Service Program Report and view the Network Map. 

A Community Collaborative project called Prosperity Initiative is directly addressing issues of poverty through the networking of community partners and mentoring. This mentoring program offers individuals the opportunity to obtain a skill, trade, or education in order to transition from poverty to prosperity by earning a living wage.

Life Inc, offers classes, including financial literacy, at multiple campuses in Rapid City and in Sturgis, SD in 9-week sessions. Several classes supporting systemic change are offered, as well as mentoring.


We praise and thank you, O God, Creator of the Universe.

You have made all things good and have given us the earth to cultivate. Grant that we may always use created things gratefully, and share them generously with those in need.

Give us creativity in helping the poor meet their basic human needs. Open our minds and hearts so that we might stand at their side and assist them to change whatever unjust structures keep them poor. Enable us to be brothers and sisters to them, friends who walk with them in their struggle for fundamental human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord.


(from the Letter of Superior General on theme of annual Vincentian Day of Prayer 2008)

Catholic Social Teaching

The diagram illustrates the idea that we all live in a house, (which is the world) and that we as Catholics must embrace certain values, and embody certain behaviors that respect others in the house, and show our care for the house.

1). Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, the Foundation from which all social teaching flows is our fundamental belief in LIfe and the Dignity of the Human Person.

2). The Walls and the Roof provide protection just as Human Rights and Responsibilites provide the policital, social, economic, and cultural structure that protects the Dignity of the Human Person that we hold as precious.

3). The Family Room reminds us that we are called to Family, Community and Participation at home, at work, in our neghborhood and community. We work out our salvation with and through others.

4). In our Dining Room there are places for the poor, who have a standing invitation to be there with us. When we in society come in contact with the poor, and recognize them, we exercise our Option for the Poor and we have a special love for them, and are willing to stand up for them.

Sr. Joan Hart, SSND, created this diagram as a way to help peole understand the seven basic themes of Catholic Social Teaching.

5). There are many Work Rooms in our home where different forms of work go on - the kitchen, where meals are prepared, the home office where paperwork is handled - Our social teaching tells us that workers have a dignity and certain rights, so there exists a Dignity of Work. This teaching came as a response to the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century​ when workers were exploited, mistreated, and discounted. Teh Church was there to say clearly that workers have the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, the right to a just wage, and the right to a safe environment.

6).  Our house is not a self-contained universe. It has Windows on the world. We are called to be in Solidarity with the rest of the world. John Paul describes solidarity as a "firm and persevering determination ro commit oneself to the Common Good" - that is to say the good of all, and of each individual. It is all about the lens through which we view the world, and we cannot pull down the shades of our windows on the world because, in fact, the whole world is our home. We are all really responsible for all, and we are each obligated to do all the good that we can do. "The common good is understood as the social conditions that allow people to reach their full human potential and to realize their human dignity." ~ Fr. Robert Maloney, CM

7). Finally, the Lawn in the front of the house reminds us of our duty to Care for Creation. We need to repair and care for the earth as stewards of creation. One can begin with something as simple as recycling or explore the Catholic Climate Covenant for more ideas, including 10 Ways You Can Make a Difference.

Catholic Social Teaching

from a Vincentian Lens

“The distinctive approach of Vincentians to issues of social justice is to

see them from the perspective of those we visit who suffer from injustice.”

~ Rule of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

The Vincentian Lens organizes Catholic encyclicals and papal writings into ten themes, rather than seven. Different authors and bodies have different ways of organizing the themes of Catholic Social Teaching, and although they are similar they have a slightly different emphasis. These ten principles are attributed to William Byron, who was an expert called in during Vatican II. These ten principles are also outlined in the SVdP Module IV of Serving in Hope. The Vincentian themes of the Ten Foundational Principles in the Social Teaching of the Church include:

  • Dignity of the Human Person

  • Respect for Life, Association

  • Participation

  • Preference for the Poor

  • Solidarity

  • Stewardship

  • Susidiarity

  • Equality

  • Common Good

Voice of the Poor - Advocacy

Voice of the Poor is the Advocacy arm of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul which includes addressing poverty related issues at local, state and federal levels.

Voice of the Poor Advocacy Guide - Advocating for Christ's Poor - Our Vincentian Voice does make a Diference.


Position Papers from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul define the view of social issues related to our Vincentian mission of helping those in need and living in poverty.  These position papers explore key elements and conflicts, our response is as Vincentians, and our view for the public policies that affect these issues.

Voice of the Poor Newsletter - Western Region  An excellent collection of archived newsletter on Voice of the Poor issues.

Starting a Voice of the Poor Committee


Voice of the Poor State Rep for South Dakota: 

To get involved locally consider joining the South Dako​ta Citizens for Liberty group.

CapWiz is an online advocacy program (developed by Capital Advantage) that allows for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to send advocacy messages and alerts to supporters and members in a variety of ways. You can find and communicate with your legislators, contact the media, and learn about current issues, key votes and legislative alerts. Online tutorials are available on a number of topics. Subscribe today to be a Voice for the Voiceless!


Lord of all people,

During your time on earth you identified with the poor and instructed us to care for one another, for our neighbor and especially for the least of our brothers and sisters.

Be with us as we advocate for the poor.

Help us to persevere in joy and love on their behalf.

Add your voice to ours as we speak out for those who are not heard in our communities.

Guide us as we work, comfortable in the knowledge that we are doing your will for this day and time and place, and that you will take care of tomorrow.

We ask this in the name of Jesus, his Blessed Mother, our patron St. Vincent and our founder Blessed Frederic.


~ Ruth Zemek, Phoenix

SSVdP Rapid City

Assistance & Advocacy

West River South Dakota

© 2016-2018 SSVDP Rapid City Diocese District Council   
Society of St. Vincent de Paul Rapid City Diocese District Council is a registered 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. 
All donations are fully tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.