Community Ministry Connection: St. Vincent de Paul

Each month the Human Concerns Committee will highlight the work of a community organization doing outstanding ministry in the city of Milwaukee. Our November 2021 partner is St. Vincent de Paul, Six Saints Conference and Cathedral/Old St. Mary Conference!

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul USA Mission 

“A network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.”

About

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international Catholic organization of lay persons which seeks, in a spirit of justice and charity and by person-to-person involvement of its members, to eliminate poverty and hunger. Founded in Paris in 1833 by Frederic Ozanam, a 20-year-old university student, the first Conference of Charity was formed as a response to the appalling conditions he and similarly-minded students observed in Paris slums. In the face of social inequality, injustice, and seeming inaction, they came together to share their faith and to put it into action by visiting those in most need, under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul and guidance of Daughter of Charity, Sister Rosalie Rendu.

The model of the first Conference of Charity visiting the poor in Paris was adopted swiftly and widely. Now the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is present in over 150 countries, with 800,000 members and 1,500,000 volunteers. Every day, it helps over 30 million people. The first Conference was established in Milwaukee in 1849 and there are now Conferences at 45 locations throughout Milwaukee County, most being at Catholic parishes. Over the years, outreach activities have taken the form of thrift stores, food pantries, and meal programs. In 2020, the Milwaukee County Conferences gave $1.2 million in goods and services to families in need.

Our Family of Four Parishes is blessed to have two Conferences serving our neighbors in need: Six Saints Conference and Cathedral/Old St. Mary Conference. We invite you to learn more about these Conferences during the month of November.

About Six Saints Conference

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is concerned not only with relieving need but also with addressing the situations that cause it. Therefore, the home visit is the basic, most fundamental activity of the Six Saints Conference’s ministry. Rather than have people in need come to us, we make friendly visits to them in their homes. Vincentians always visit in pairs. We listen to the person or family and honor confidentiality while seeking to understand their perspective on the situation they face. When we are able, we strive to meet the immediate need first and then try to help them develop a longer-term plan.

One of our most important gifts to leave with those we encounter is a feeling that someone cares and that there is hope. Many of our families need basic items such as food, clothing, furniture, beds, and appliances. We provide St. Vincent de Paul retail store gift certificates/vouchers so that families can seek out needed items in our society thrift stores. Our group also has a donation room of most needed household and bedding items in the lower level of St. Hedwig’s. We gather these items and take them with us as needed on the home visits. 

Ways to Support this Community Ministry Connection

Six Saints Conference invites you to observe the most basic activity of the group by accompanying Vincentians on a home visit. Also, committee meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month in the Hospitality Center at St. Hedwig Church. Please contact Laurie Jacobs, Six Saints Conference President, at ljacobs9073@gmail.com with questions or to coordinate for a home visit.

Also consider donating gently used household items to our Conference’s donation room at St. Hedwig Church. Items accepted include blankets, sheets, dishes, pots/pans, silverware, glasses, bowls, bath and kitchen towels, cooking utensils, baking sheets and pans, etc. You are welcome to drop small donations of items at the Three Holy Women parish office during current business hours, or feel free to contact Laurie Jacobs to arrange for a larger donation.

Financial donations via cash or checks made out to St. Vincent de Paul are always appreciated and help to provide beds, furniture and appliances. Please mail checks to Three Holy Women (noting “Six Saints” St. Vincent de Paul), Attn: Laura Hancock, 1716 N Humboldt Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202. Thank you for your ongoing generosity!

About Cathedral/Old St. Mary Conference

As a Conference, we meet for prayer and spiritual reflection prior to meeting with our neighbors on several Monday afternoons each month at the Open Door Café located at the Cathedral. We are able to provide food vouchers and St. Vincent de Paul retail store vouchers while assessing other needs and providing community referrals.

Prior to the pandemic, we averaged between 80 and 100 interactions per month. In response to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we have been unable to meet face-to-face. However, we continue to mail food vouchers to our neighbors who regularly seek assistance. Also prior to the pandemic, we co-sponsored an annual Christmas Party with The Open Door Cafe through a generous grant from a donor family. The Christmas Party traditionally has been held in the Atrium of St. John’s Cathedral, as well as in a portion of the Cathedral itself. Volunteering at this event was an excellent way to introduce potential new members to the current members of our Conference as well as the neighbors we serve. Unfortunately, the pandemic has prevented us from holding this event during 2020 and 2021.

Our Conference consists only of volunteers. We have no paid staff. We operate out of a small room at the offices of the Cathedral. Accordingly, approximately 97% of all monetary donations are devoted to direct assistance to our neighbors. The 3% consists of reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses, including postage.

Ways to Support this Community Ministry Connection

Cathedral/Old St. Mary Conference invites parishioners who are interested in the work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul join us in prayer prior to “shadowing” our Conference members when we meet with our neighbors. For further information or to schedule a shadowing experience, contact Lisa Simmons, Conference President, at jsimmons8@me.com.

Because our Conference is fortunate to have an organized method of meeting monthly with our neighbors, our primary wish list consists of monetary donations. In addition, we do not have space to store clothing or other personal items. Contributions can be made to “St. Vincent de Paul Conference” and mailed to 831 N. Van Buren St. Milwaukee 53202.

Prayer Requests 

Please join Six Saints Conference in praying the following prayer as they prepare for their ministry:

O God, there are those who do not know your presence,
 - may our lives be a sign of faith for them.
O God, there are those who live in fear and doubt,
  -may our lives be a sign of hope for them.
O God, there are those who do not experience your love,
  -May our lives be a sign of love for them.
O God, there are those who are poor and oppressed by others,
  -may our lives be a sign of justice for them.
Amen.

Please join the Cathedral/Old St. Mary Conference in praying “Open My Eyes” as they prepare for their ministry:

Open my eyes that I may see the deepest needs of men, women and children;
Move my hands that they may feed the hungry;
Touch my heart that it may bring warmth to the despairing;
Teach me the generosity that welcomes strangers;
Let me share my possessions with people in need; 
Give me the care that strengthens the sick;
Help me share in the quest to set persons free;
In sharing our anxieties and our love, our poverty and prosperity; 
We partake in Your Divine Presence. Amen. 

Links

Our local website is www.svdpmilw.org.

The National Society of St. Vincent de Paul website is www.svdpusa.org.