One hundred seventy-five years ago the first St Vincent de Paul Conference formed in Halston Street, Dublin just at the onset of the famine. The first members who bravely followed in the footsteps of Blessed Frederic Ozanam set about helping those in dire need in their community, just as Blessed Frederic and his friends helped those in the Paris slums.
I am sure that none of them had any idea of the legacy they would leave and I’m sure they would be in awe to see today how the Society has grown here and in particular the diverse work we are involved in to combat poverty in all its forms.
Even though times have changed fundamentally since then, the core need still continues to be much the same. Members of SVP continue to go out every night throughout Ireland helping people with food, fuel, and shelter. On the one hand, it is something that we as members can be justly proud of but, as a nation ashamed that in 2019 there is still a growing need to help so many with these basics. The recent Irish Times story about a toddler stealing food to bring home is one that belongs more to Dickensian times than 2019, but sadly it’s true. The horror stories of those in poverty seem to get worse.
The tenacity of SVP members is evident in the years we have spent fighting poverty in Ireland through the famine, a war of independence, a civil war, two world wars and countless recessions, in fact, the first Conference St Michan’s formed in Halston St Dublin is still active today. We are as committed to helping people in need today in our communities as the first members who set up the Society nearly two centuries ago.
We have not only proved ourselves true to our founder’s ethos but also true to the ideals of St Vincent de Paul himself.
To mark this significant year for the Society, a day of thanksgiving, celebration, and reflection will be held on Saturday 13th April in the Convention Centre Dublin. Guest speakers will include President Michael D Higgins, Minister Regina Doherty and Kilkenny’s legendary hurling manager Brian Cody.
I am asking members to join us on this special day for the Society in Ireland.
It is important that we mark our place in history as those before us have done. Indeed many great Irish leaders were once members of the St Vincent de Paul - Eamon De Valera, Sean T O Ceallaigh, Mary McAleese and Brendan O Regan. We hold a very esteemed place amongst our peers in Ireland because as with our founders, we are people of action making a difference to so many lives every day.
Despite the constant commentary that ‘the economy is booming’ we know that the rising tide is not lifting all the boats, in fact, we see that many we visit are sunk and if it were not for our support would also be bereft of hope.
“The question dividing people of our day is no longer a question of politics but a social question, of knowing which will win between the spirit of selfishness and the spirit of sacrifice; whether society will be no more than a great exploitation to the benefit of the strong or a consecration of everyone for the benefit of all and especially for the protection of the weak”
These words written by Louis Janmot in 1836 are as relevant today as they were 183 years ago.