Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 8, 2008
St. Vincent de Paul president looking for more volunteers
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - In the midst of a global economic crisis, the St. Vincent de Paul Society is more vital than ever.
"We live in a very competitive society that values material goods. There are always people who are not able to compete in our society, and in some cases need assistance," said Bernie McCracken, the new Edmonton-area president of the society. "We live in a very individualistic culture, and St. Vincent de Paul is one avenue, one way, of assisting."
A teacher and school administrator for many years, he always saw families in need and sought to help them. He brings the same mentality to his new leadership role with St. Vincent de Paul.
"I've always had an interest in social justice. When I moved to the city in 2006, I wanted to get involved in working in the inner city," said McCracken.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a lay Catholic organization whose mission is to live the Gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice and joy.
The society meets the needs of the local poor and has groups of helpful volunteers, known as Vincentians, operating in 15 parishes in the archdiocese.
"Basically it is our privilege to work with the poor and assist them in any way we can. We are fortunate to have 16 individual conferences tied to several parishes that accept calls and requests, and cater to those folks or assist them," McCracken said.
Assistance can come in the way of clothing, food, household goods, and other basic subsidies. Donated clothing and furniture are stored at the downtown distribution centre.
"We are very blessed. One of the benefits of the society is the opportunity to meet so many people who are committed to their faith," said McCracken.
He appreciates the support he receives from his wife Elaine enabling him to pursue the numerous activities with the agency. The couple has a grown blended family of seven children with nine grandchildren.
As the new president of a fairly new entity, one of the greatest challenges for McCracken and the volunteers to find balance between their charity work and their own pursuits. This message was stated loud and clear at the western regional conference held recently.
"For all of the good work that the volunteers are doing, I encourage them to keep a balance in their dedication to working for St. Vincent de Paul and with their own interests, their own personal life and family life," he said.
There is a spiritual life of "being" and a spiritual life of "doing". The people involved with St. Vincent de Paul are doers. More volunteers are always needed to continue the work being done throughout the city.
McCracken said a priority during his presidency would be to get the word out about the agency and encourage more people to volunteer.
Another challenge is working with the other agencies. Cooperation with other charities and greater collaboration between agencies doing similar work can multiply everybody's efforts, he said.
THE NEED IS GREAT
St. Vincent de Paul helps an average of five or six families per day, he estimated. In 2008, thousands of families received assistance by volunteers from various parishes in and around Edmonton.
"Resources are always a challenge. People are very generous, but in this economic downturn, at times people tend to be more cautious."