December 9, 2015 // Local
‘Go deeper,’ encourages St. Vincent de Paul Society president
By Irene Copenhaver
More photos available in the photo gallery
SOUTH BEND — St. Vincent De Paul Society national president Sheila Gilbert spoke at the annual meeting of the St. Joseph County St. Vincent de Paul Society and urged members to “go deeper” spiritually and personally at the event held at St. Anthony de Padua on Dec. 1.
“God is calling, in this Year of Mercy, the society to grow in holiness by deepening our relationship with the people we serve,” Gilbert said. “No work of charity is foreign to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.”
She added, “The Holy Spirit is calling the society to deepen itself spiritually.”
“I believe that God is calling us to engage more personally with the people that we serve: to walk with them as they are journeying in poverty and as they are walking out of poverty. We are called to walk that walk with them,” Gilbert said.
The St. Vincent Society offers food, clothing, furniture, and financial assistance to families in need. They also offer tutoring and summer camp for children.
Gilbert expressed the desire for the society to go from being a “Band-Aid” organization — one that provides immediate help and then moves on — to being an organization that walks with a family until that family is stable.
“We are being called to bring Christ’s love to a family, not just once, but as long as that family needs us,” she stated.
“Most of us are serving more families than we think we can handle. How are we going to stretch ourselves even further to do this?” she asked.
The society must grow to serve those in need more fully Gilbert said. She would like to see the group double in size. “You double in size, you double what you produce.”
To that end, the society will launch the national “Invitation to Serve” campaign in January in local parishes.
The goal of the campaign is to discover volunteers at the parish level to serve at one of the thrift stores, host a food drive, work at the society’s center or even contribute monetarily.
“Is God asking you to come out of your comfort zone? Can you help people transform their lives? Can you bring hope that lasts beyond the food?” Gilbert asked.
“God is calling the society to grow in holiness by deepening their relationship with the people they serve. It is in the poor that we come to understand Christ’s mercy and love,” Gilbert said.
“God is challenging us to go deeper, to, maybe, not work harder, but differently. Change in itself is a way to grow in holiness because we have to overcome our fears,” Gilbert said in her closing.
Anne Watson, executive director of St. Joseph County St. Vincent DePaul Society reported that 65,071 people were helped in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties last year. Volunteers offered close to a million and a half hours of their time.
Watson told those in attendance that “the people that we serve are in such desperate need of your smile, your hopes and your prayers.” She encouraged them to share “what we do and what opportunities there are to serve those who are struggling and in most desperate need in our community.”
“Our goal is to have a robust slate of programs to help people not need us anymore,” said Watson referring to families that take advantage of the services and grow to be self-sufficient.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass for the Vincentians preceding the meeting. In his homily, he said, “throughout the Gospels, we see … Jesus’ care for the poor and the needy through teaching and healing and caring for those in need.”
“Pope Francis is calling all of us during this Jubilee Year to rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. As Catholics are encouraged to do this, I hope and pray that many, including young adults, will join the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a society dedicated to the works of mercy,” said the bishop.
When someone asks how to practice corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the bishop said that he refers them to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Speaking to the Vincentians, the bishop said, “You’ve taken up the call to live mercy, to hear the cry of the poor, to reach out to them with material support, and most importantly, with the warmth of your presence and your loving compassion.”
The St. Vincent de Paul Society was founded in 1833 by Frederic Ozanam in Paris. Its mission is to bring Christ’s love to those in need.
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St. Vincent de Paul Society members gathered Dec. 1 for a Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and then attended at dinner where they were challenged and encouraged to “go deeper” by the society’s national president, Sheila Gilbert. The event was held at St. Anthony de Padua in South Bend. In the photo, Bishop Rhoades greets Vincentians after the Mass.
Vincentians of St. Joseph and Elkhart counties gather in prayer at St. Anthony de Padua Parish in South Bend for the annual meeting. Bishop Rhoades celebrated Mass which was followed by a dinner and guest speaker Sheila Gilber, the national president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
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