St. Vincent de Paul societies continue to serve those most in need

by Michelle DeFoe, SSVdP Fargo District Secretary

The St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store is just one of many ways the St. Vincent de Paul Society assists those in need. Read on to see what the conferences in Fargo, Devils Lake, and Rugby, have been doing in their communities. (submitted photo)

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s (SSVdP) calls its members, Vincentians, to “seek and find the forgotten, the suffering, or the deprived so that we may bring them Your Love.” Although the society is known for providing financial assistance through home visits, each of the four conferences in the diocese have found multiple ways to meet societal needs.

Fargo’s St. Anthony of Padua SSVdP Conference recently completed two special works projects. The first was inspired by the story of Jesus feeding the multitude with a mere two loaves and a few fish. St. Anthony of Padua’s parishioners, including the religious education students, were challenged to fill 12 wicker baskets of food to serve as Thanksgiving meals for those in need. In two weeks, they filled over 30 baskets of donated food. Members of the SSVdP conference assembled food for Thanksgiving meals for 18 families, feeding over 124 people.

The second project, “Remembrance Gifts,” is an annual project in response to “heed the call to seek out the suffering.” This year, 51 parishioners who had lost an immediate family member received a handmade pillow with the loved one’s name.

In addition to numerous home visits, the Holy Spirit Conference in Fargo participated in a variety of “special works” projects. One project was promoting the World Day of the Poor last November. The conference hosted an information table where Vincentians explained ways that parishioners could support the SSVdP through prayer, financial donations, donations to the non-food pantry, or joining the conference.

The Holy Spirit Conference also attended leadership training and a Vincentian retreat, volunteered at the SSVdP Fargo District’s thrift store, collaborated with other service agencies in the Fargo area, and promoted the Giving Tree during Advent.

For years, the SSVdP St. Joseph’s Hand of Mercy Conference in Devils Lake has distributed Holy Communion to Catholic residents of the Eventide Care Center every Sunday. Vincentians involved in this activity describe the joy and peace that residents display upon receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. The conference also sponsored two concerts in 2017. The first concert featured the musical talent of the Ternes family; the second featured a variety of musicians from the community and from St. Joseph’s Church in Devils Lake.

Last December, Vincentians of St. Therese the Little Flower SSVdP Conference in Rugby helped the Pierce County Food Pantry assemble Christmas food baskets for those in need. The baskets included a turkey with all the trimmings and extras such as peanuts, fruit, and baked goodies from the Pierce County 4H club. Rugby Vincentians also worked with the annual Christmas Card Distribution to inmates at the Pierce County Correctional Center, where they assembled 115 Christmas cards. The cards included a prayer card, booklet, candy cane and miniature chocolate candies.

The SSVdP Fargo District itself undertook a large project last summer when it opened the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in Fargo. Thrift store board member Joan Schaefer described the thrift store and its mission: “The Holy Spirit was working overtime last spring when we were given the opportunity to open a thrift store. One goal is to provide gently used items at low prices to those who may not be able to afford retail prices. By allowing them to select and pay for items they want, we are honoring their dignity. Another goal of the store is to be a funding mechanism for SVdP in their home-visit ministry and for the Council's formation program. The most important goal is to be the face of Christ to all who enter the door.”

Schaefer said in the six months of operations, nearly 60 volunteers have donated over 2,900 hours to run the store. The store has two paid employees and six to seven faithful volunteers who use their gifts to bring glory to God in this mission. Schaefer says the store is always looking for volunteers whether it be for one hour or more.

Every day the SSVdP assists individuals in need. Through home visits, Vincentians assess needs, establish relationships, remind those who receive visits how much God loves them, and provide financial or other types of assistance.

Vincentians in the Fargo Diocese SSVdP conferences are volunteers. Each has chosen to answer Jesus’s call through special works, home visits, or other types of assistance. Jesus calls all people, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt. 25:35).

Individuals interested in beginning an SSVdP conference in their home parish or becoming involved in an existing conference, should contact SSVdP District Council of Fargo President Jim Alfonso at (701) 230-2058.