In this week’s blog, Fr. Paddy promotes the great work done by the St Vincent de Paul Society especially during this recessionary time in Ireland.

As we face the winter months, the deep effects of unemployment and debt are being felt heavily. Recently I was in a car park in a Dublin Hospital, and as I paid my parking fee I noticed a young couple who appeared to be very upset, crying and looking very anxious. I assumed that they had received bad news. I walked over and introduced myself and asked them were they okay? Their story shocked me into a reality, which is true for so many. The couple, both unemployed, could not afford the €8 to free their car. They had driven from Longford early in the morning, to visit a sick parent.

Many people, especially the elderly are becoming increasingly aware of the cost of fuel and E.S.B. as we find ourselves closer to the winter months. I cannot over emphasise the coming budget must reflect the fundamental vote for change last February. Our government faces huge decisions regarding its budgetary challenge. Cut-backs must not always punish the vulnerable first.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) is a direct service non-profit organisation whose work primarily involves person-to-person contact with people who have a variety of needs. In addition to direct assistance, the SVP tries to promote self-sufficiency, enabling people to help themselves. Any assistance offered by the Society is given in a non-judgemental spirit of compassion, based on the need of the individual or family.

A key strength of SVP is in the personalised delivery of help which makes it unique in its role as a charitable organisation. SVP accepts people as they are and try to create a caring, non-threatening environment, respecting the dignity of those who seek their help. They only offer advice when it is asked for, and do not believe in telling people what they should do. Their aim is to maintain the dignity of the individual and to promote long-term self-sufficiency. This is done by treating people with respect, while endeavouring to build a relationship of friendship, trust and confidentiality.

While SVP acts as a short-term safety net for those who fall outside the care of the Welfare State or need emergency financial support, they try to embrace those who are marginalised by helping them to rekindle their self-respect and sense of worth. The Charity’s Mission is also to rectify the causes of poverty which perpetuate the problems faced by those they encounter.

The aim of the St Vincent de Paul Society is to tackle poverty in all its forms through the provision of practical assistance to those in need. The concept of need is broader than financial hardship, so visiting the sick, the lonely, the imprisoned form a large proportion of the Society’s work. The Society operates in small groups, called “Conferences”, based on local parishes which meet regularly and their work is usually concentrated on local visiting. However over the years, the SVP has responded to social changes, provides a range of additional services depending on the prevailing need. Today, these “Special Works” include shops, resource centres, provides accommodation to vulnerable people and various holiday schemes amongst other things.

May the good work of St Vincent De Paul Society including its nine thousand volunteers in Carlow and throughout the country be a beacon of hope to Irelands vulnerable at this time.