It’s hard to believe that another year has nearly come to an end. However, as servants to the most vulnerable in society, we now face into the busiest period of our work. Christmas, a time which should be a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, of love, generosity and enjoyment, and as the famous Andy Williams song says “the most wonderful time of the year”, can also be the most worrying time of the year for many, as you will see highlighted on the cover of this edition.
How often have we heard, or even muttered to ourselves, “those given help are living beyond their means and spend more than they can afford at Christmas, putting themselves under enormous financial pressure”. What is that magic cut-off point beyond which all else becomes an unacceptable waste of money? For many, spending an extra €50 puts them under pressure. Should they not attempt to bring a smile to their children’s faces or have a special family meal together like everyone else?
The Society has been helping the most vulnerable for 175 years. That’s 63,875 days where SVP volunteers have spoken out for those who have not yet found their voice, showing them that, yes, they do count and are equal, no matter what their background. I am sure if I were to ask all our members if they will continue to help next year, and the year after, and so on, the answer would be a resounding “Yes”.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said,
“The future depends on what we do in the present.”
As a cohort of seeming strangers, we came together and formed new friendships, not just within the huge family of the Society of St Vincent de Paul but with those we help; with outstretched hands we embrace our forgotten brothers and sisters into this “world family” of caring, where no one is a stranger.
"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19: 33-34).
But one of the ongoing challenges for SVP is the need for new volunteers: people who we can pass the torch to and share the wisdom and experience gained from being an SVP member. In the latest winter edition of the SVP Bulletin, you will read how the Society is working to attract new volunteers via online recruitment and training; after all, we are living in a new, digital age. We need to take advantage of every avenue available to us to attract new volunteers, receive donations and to make it easy for people looking for help to contact us. It doesn’t have to be all digital though; the right blend is essential. So, through our network of charity shops, the work being carried out by our youth-for-justice team, and the continual face-to-face contact with members and staff, we are trying to get the balance right.
We should also not forget those who are homeless or those who have fled their countries to avoid torture, persecution and, in many cases, death. We are reminded of this in the Most Reverend Denis Nulty’s, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, inspiring keynote address to those in attendance at the SVP National Council last month.
“How does Céad Míle Failte Romhat exactly translate in the Ireland of 2019?... Let’s do our bit as a Society to speak for those with no voice, no language, and no coordinates of their own in 2019”, he stated.
I am reminded in Matthew 25:35:
“I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
This is what we must do, and continue to do, so that we can come to live in a just and equal society.
Wishing you all a joyful Christmas and peaceful New Year