Photo provided by Michael Thio

SINGAPORE – A Singaporean has been elected the President General of the International Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. This is the first time in 177 years that a non-European will head the confederation.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) was founded in 1833 in Paris, France, by Blessed Frederick Ozanam.

On May 28, 180 participants from 110 countries convened at Salamanca, Spain, for an extraordinary general assembly to cast votes for their 15th President General. Those who could not attend submitted their votes by post. Each country was entitled to one vote.

During the session, Michael Thio (photo), a Singaporean, was elected by a margin of 87 percent of the votes cast, to head the confederation; the confederation is a member of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” and serves over 25 million impoverished people in the world.

The Spain gathering brought together representatives from the 51,000 conferences in 146 countries. These conferences have 750,000 members, and are supported by 1.5 million volunteers. Its global headquarters is in Paris, and is known as the Council General International (CGI).

Mr Thio, in his 60s, was Managing Director of British Telecom South East Asia prior to retirement, and now works as part-time Management Counsultant, has been an SSVP member for 43 years.

For his six-year term as President General, Mr Thio has listed out several goals. He intends to improve spiritual formation and leadership development for members, with a focus on the youth and young adults’ involvement. He wants to extend to new countries and also expand the scope and quality of SSVP services to the poor and needy, and improve communication and knowledge of SSVP works and activities internally and externally.

He wants to foster greater collaboration with other Vincentian organisations through mutually beneficial projects and programmes for the poor, and will consider ecumenical and interfaith collaborative works of charity and justice.

“It is a challenging task and responsibility on a global basis, but I know the Holy Spirit will continue to enlighten, guide, and inspire me in the years ahead in my vocation and mission in the SSVP apostolate,” Mr Thio told CatholicNews.

“The Society is one of the most respected, well known, flourishing and inspiring Catholic apostolate of Charity worldwide. With the grace of God and together with my global Vincentians we will grow this legacy in furthering the vision and mission of our early founders,” he said.

Mr Thio is married to Rosalind, and their only son, Kenneth, passed away, aged 30, in 2003. He has served as animator and lector at Sacred Heart parish since 1988.

By Daniel Tay
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A list of appointments held by Michael Thio:
• National President of Singapore SSVP Conference for 18 years
• CGI Vice-President General, Assistant Vice-President General (International Structure), International Territorial Vice-President (Asia and Oceania), Coordinator (Asia) for last 20 years
• Chaired the SSVP’s Territorial Technical Commission in charge of extraordinary aids granted to countries with SSVP presence
• Member of the Archdiocesan Finance Commission since 1997; and an Investment Sub-Committee member since 2005
• Chaired the Catholic Kindergarten Management Committee since 1999
• Board member of Catholic Welfare Services; and Honorary Treasurer 2006-2009
• A Knight of the Order of Malta; and Treasurer since 2007
• Member of the Management Committee for St. Theresa’s Home, St. Joseph’s Home, Villa Francis Home for the Aged.

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