Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 16, 2000
Society reaches out to the poor
Vincent de Paul society finally gains a toehold in Edmonton
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The St. Vincent de Paul Society has finally established itself in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
A city-wide St. Vincent de Paul conference, based at St. Joseph's Basilica Parish, was established last June, three months after members of the society's Western Canadian executive visited Edmonton to promote the organization.
The 10-member basilica-based conference has already helped three Edmonton families with furniture and household goods.
Jack Robertson, president of the conference, hopes to have a council with six or seven parish-based conferences by the beginning of next year.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international Catholic lay organization with parish-based conferences in 130 countries.
Founded in 1833 in Paris by Frederic Ozanam, who was beatified in 1997, the society was established in Canada in 1846.
In Western Canada, the society has conferences in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta. The largest membership is in the Calgary Diocese, where the society has 300 active members in 24 conferences.
Society executives from the Calgary-based Western regional council provided information about the charity at Edmonton's Annunciation Church March 29. More than 100 people attended the event, which was organized with the blessing of Archbishop Thomas Collins.
Collins supports the establishment of the society in the Edmonton Archdiocese because the group is parish-based and involves lay people in work mandated by the Gospel.
"It's a volunteer organization that has done great work around the world and works well together with other groups in the Church and within society," Collins said last March. "So I think it's great to have them here."
Last June, Robertson and two other members of St. Joseph's Basilica decided it was time to start a conference. Because the society is new to Edmonton, it decided to invite members of other parishes to join.
Currently the group is made up of members of four city parishes, including St. Andrew's and Good Shepherd. Eventually each parish will set up its own parish conference, said Robertson, the basilica conference's president.
"We are looking to have a conference in every parish but we have to start somewhere," explained Bill Finn, a St. Andrew's parishioner who joined the basilica's group.
A minimum of four people are needed to start a parish-based conference and become part of the society.
"I guess the reason all of us are involved is that we all have an obligation to the Lord, that we are to be responsible for the less fortunate than ourselves," explained Robertson, the owner of a maintenance company.
"Personally, I felt the need to belong to something that would be able to help people that are less fortunate than I am. That was my intent."
Finn, the St. Andrew's Parish member, had similar reasons to join. "St. Vincent de Paul works with needy people and I felt I might contribute a little bit in that regard," he said. "Certainly this seems like an excellent idea to involve myself."
Since its launching, the basilica conference has assisted three needy families and has acquired a selection of household goods to help others in need.
The group's plans include making the organization known throughout the archdiocese, recruiting more members and establishing a location where people can come and select their goods.
The group will stock all kinds of household goods, except food and money. "If somebody needs food we'll certainly buy them a selection of food items from the neighbourhood store."
The organization may also provide emergency housing, money for damage deposits, rent, utility bills, even bus fares.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society works hand in hand with other agencies to avoid duplication of services and to coordinate delivery of services.
In Calgary it works with the Red Cross, the Calgary Food Bank and the Salvation Army. The difference between the society and other agencies is that Vincentians visit the less fortunate in their homes and never reject anyone in need.