HISTORY OF THE ST VINCENT de PAUL SOCIETY

Contrary to what some may think, the society was not founded by St Vincent de Paul; rather it was started by Blessed Frederick Ozanam who lived about 175 years after St Vincent de Paul.

In 1833 Frederick was a 20 year old student at the Sorbonne in Paris. These were turbulent times in France. France had no social welfare system and so the poor were left to fend for themselves. One night in a discussion group a critic of the Church challenged Frederick to live out his beliefs and not just talk about them, to do something for the people of their time. Then and there he and six others decided to put their words into action.

The little group began to meet weekly. They contributed to a secret collection and would then visit the poor in their homes to distribute what they had collected. They visited the sick, gave out financial assistance, food, firewood, candles and did counselling. These students of 1833 wished to help one another to remain faithful to their baptismal commitment and to carry out, supported by their mutual friendship, one of the essential duties of the Christian life – love one another as God loves you. Since these modest ideas were quite in keeping with the tradition of St. Vincent de Paul the little Conference chose him as their patron at an early stage. They called themselves the Conference of Charity. To their astonishment, their work grew rapidly and by 1850 their movement had spread throughout France and to 14 other countries.

After Frederick’s death the Society he founded continued to grow. Today the Society numbers about 950,000 members in some 143 countries worldwide including Australia.

 

ST VINCENT de PAUL CONFERENCE, PUNCHBOWL

Records show a Conference of St Vincent de Paul has been continuously active in the Parish since at least February of 1967. The principles set out by Frederick and his group are still the same. Our work is anonymous. We don’t have a high media profile but anyone who calls on us can be assured we will come to do whatever we can to help. We do not discriminate on religious or racial grounds in our efforts to assist those in need.

We go to people’s homes and where Frederick gave out candles and firewood, we give out energy and water vouchers. Where Frederick gave out food we also give out food and food cards. We give donated furniture and clothing free to those in need and any excess is sold cheaply in our stores and the money goes to support the Special Works of the Society.

Our work in Punchbowl is supported through donations to the Poor Boxes in the Church and through donations from the Parish Primary School and Church during our annual Christmas and Winter Appeals. Since we are all volunteers, 100% of all monies received goes to the people we serve.

The core of the Society is still the home visit where we share what we have and what we are. A big part of the home visit is listening. By listening we get to know them and by knowing them we are better able to work towards a permanent solution to their problems.

We meet weekly primarily to discuss the results of the previous home visits and to receive new clients for the coming week. Between March 1977 and March 2004 there was also a Women’s Conference in the Parish. Their primary focus was on visitation of the sick in their homes and hospitals, visitation of Aged Care Homes, running the Piety Store and helping as a volunteer in the Bankstown Vinnies Store. After the amalgamation of the Women’s Conference with the Mixed Conference in 2004 the work of the Piety Store is continued by the present group. The Piety Store is run as a service to the Parish. It provides religious articles to be purchased by the parishioners.

Each year we provide Christmas hampers and toys to those in need in our area. This work involves the whole Parish and School of St Jerome’s. The food and toys are provided by the School and Parishioners. Volunteers from both the Parish and School are involved in the making of the hampers and their distribution. It is a huge effort and would not be possible without the entire Parish.

The Winter Appeal is the other big drive. The School plays a big part in collecting good quality used clothing and food to be distributed while the Parish is asked for blankets and monetary contributions to help those suffering increased hardship at this time of year. During the winter a group from the Parish also spends time knitting blankets which they contribute to help ward off those winter chills.

If you feel that you could assist by becoming a member of the SVdP Conference or by assisting at any of the focus activities please contact the parish office 9709 3223.

The logo of the Society in Australia is a summation of who we are. It consists of three hands.

 

 

 

 

The hand of Christ

blessing the cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hand of love

offering the cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hand of suffering

receiving the cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As followers of Christ,

we are all called to extend that

'Hand of Love.'