Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
October 25, 2022 // Diocese

Disciple of Jesus Keynotes Founder’s Gala for St. Vincent de Paul

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

The Oct. 19 Founder’s Gala at the Armory in South Bend was a celebration of the way members of St. Vincent de Paul conferences, spread across 18 parishes in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties, have encountered Jesus by visiting their poorer neighbors throughout the past year. It was also a fundraiser and auction to sustain this outreach in the future, with a goal of raising $70,000.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who prefers to be introduced as a disciple of Jesus rather than with a list of his many accomplishments, told the 200 people in attendance that he has a personal devotion to Blessed Antoine Frederic Ozanam, who founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Paris when he was only 20 years old. Before leading grace, Bishop Rhoades offered a prayer for the miracle necessary for the canonization of this man whom St. John Paul II beatified during World Youth Day in 1997. He also shared how he tries to follow the example of Jesus and Blessed Frederic Ozanam in the personal interactions he has with the homeless people who stop by Ave Maria House next door to his rectory in Fort Wayne.

Angelo DiCarlo
Hundreds gather to celebrate the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County and to raise funds to continue the mission at the annual Founder’s Gala in South Bend on Oct. 19.


“It’s so important to know our roots,” said Bishop Rhoades. “During his short life, Blessed Frederic Ozanam was a devoted husband and father, a brilliant student who earned advanced degrees in both law and literature, a prolific writer, and a popular professor. But he never forgot a hostile classmate’s challenge: ‘What is your Church doing today to meet the needs of society?’ He took to heart what he learned from Blessed Rosalie Rendu of the Daughters of Charity: ‘Be kind and love, for love is your first gift to the poor.’ Throughout their lives, Frederic and his friends continued to visit the needy of Paris in their homes, bringing friendship as well as material and spiritual assistance.”

Founded in 1833, the St. Vincent de Paul Society spread like wildfire, coming to the United States (St. Louis) in 1845, and to South Bend in 1904, with a conference in St. Patrick Parish. It’s still spreading, with a brand-new chapter at Christ the King represented at the gala. Bishop Rhoades pointed out that although the Society provides food and financial assistance, it “is not just a social service agency or a benevolent society. It is a Catholic apostolate, rooted in the teachings of Jesus and His life of service to others, especially to the poor and suffering.”

After the keynote speech by Bishop Rhoades, Laura Hollis, President of the Board of Directors, reported on the work of the St. Joseph County Council throughout the past year. “Although it seemed as if everything would get back to normal after the pandemic a year ago, many factors have made life more challenging for our needy neighbors,” she said. “These include rising food and housing costs as well as the end of extra subsidies and the eviction moratorium, along with a reduction in food stamps.”

She continued, “As a result, 68 percent more people are coming to the walk-in pantry, even though it’s only open two days a week. Appointments for Sweet Dreams (beds for children) and financial assistance fill up minutes after sign-ups open. Since May, 522 households have sought assistance for the very first time, including an 84-year-old who said she’d always been able to get by on her own. During the past year, parish St. Vincent de Paul conferences made 3,903 home visits, 900 more than the previous year. During the summer, 57 families a day requested assistance.”

Hollis encouraged attendees to view their generous prayer and financial support as an investment in the St. Vincent de Paul Society and all those it serves.

The emcee for the evening was Angelo DiCarlo of Redeemer Radio, one of the major sponsors of the gala. Other major sponsors included ABC 57/Weigel Broadcasting, First Source Bank, Indiana Trust and Wealth Management, Tire Rack, University of Notre Dame, Pat and Laura Flynn, John and Catherine Hiler, Timothy and Susan Liddell, and St. Matthew Parish St. Vincent de Paul Conference.

For more information about the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County or to make a donation, visit their website at svdpsb.org.

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