I do not think there is a Vincentian, who on reflection does not remember their first home visit and the emotion it gave them forming a large part of the reason why they joined SVP. Our founder Frederic Ozanam stated, “The knowledge of social well-being and of reform can be learned, not from books, nor from the public platform, but in climbing the stairs to the poor persons garret, sitting by their bedside, feeling the same cold that pierces them, sharing the secrets of their lonely hearts and troubled minds.” Serious challenges are implicit in this as our ageing population increases and our health service lowers the unit amount spent per person on mainline service provision.
Every Conference will have to directly address issues of loneliness and isolation especially, in the increasing elderly and mentally troubled persons. Many require a different approach and Vincentians need to think outside the traditional box. Many old, mentally ill, addicted and lonely persons appreciate a friendly face, enjoy a chat and even a cuppa and a biscuit. Should we be looking at differing approaches? Shopping, home DIY and decorating, benefit checks and form filling in the home, trips to respite and residential centres? Pause and Reflect!
I have met Vincentians who have been members of SVP for over 30 years and also fledgling members of only a few months. The more senior Vincentians are mostly set in the protection of the ‘way it was always done’ syndrome and the new members want to hit the ground running and make a difference to the social fabric of today by tackling all the modern social injustices. I have no criticism of either philosophy but in the context of a conference meeting it is not always feasible to accommodate both and unfortunately the meetings can be frustrating when different factions have differing agendas. Pause and Reflect!
Should we allow or promote this? A variance of opinion is healthy as long as it has Vincentian motive and not just one of ‘status quo’ or ‘power move’, which would undermine our ethos. Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland Eamon Martin, echoed the words and sentiments of Pope Francis, when he said, “I thank God for the outreach of members of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society who go out of their way to raise awareness and directly support people who have nowhere to call home.” Pause and Reflect!
Remember ‘Why did I join SVP?’ One will get their true answer to this vocational call whether they have been there 30 years or three years or three months. We may need to remind ourselves of our Founders response when he was asked what actions he had performed in alleviating the extreme squalor and conditions of the poor in Paris? In part of his reply he shared the sentiment that we always need to remember to protect and respect the dignity of those we help and also of our fellow man and Vincentian family. Pause and Reflect!
Read more from the latest SVP Bulletin Spring 2017.