The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is one of the most extensive organisations within the modern Church. It was formed by a group of French Christian students who were struggling to understand the demands of their faith and challenged to demonstrate their professed faith in action. They nourished the Society through their own heroic self-sacrifice in working to help the poor of nineteenth century Paris.
Through its structure of conferences and central councils it gradually spread throughout the world in a way hardly dreamed of by the founders. They would have been equally amazed at the scale and complexity of the modern Society, which originated with the sole intention of committing each member personally and single-mindedly to the task of service. Perhaps the conference system, with its meetings and records, was regarded as no more than what was necessary for keeping each one up to the mark, and providing the opportunity and encouragement that each needed in order to maintain his commitment to the poor.
Starvation and suffering caused by easily treatable disease are no longer evident evils in modern England. What, then, is the role of the Society in Tooting? Poverty might still exist, but relief is in the hands of the State. (Similar questions are asked about the role of the Church herself in the modern world.) But in arguing along these lines we are misconstruing the intentions of the founders. Their aim was to live a fully Christian life, which demands a complete commitment to the service of one’s neighbour. They would not have supposed that this commitment was sustainable without the assistance of Holy Charity, nor that lasting good would be achieved by material assistance alone – even in a well-intentioned, modernising state needs at all levels, spiritual and material, go unrecognised and unaddressed.
Our conference is twinning with St Mary’s conference in Kannoth, India, where resources are scarce, medicine expensive and the need is evident. We thank all our sisters and brothers in St Vincent de Paul for their exemplary work over many years. If you would like to know more about the Society then contact Thelma Lewis, Alec Ramsay or Ruth Greaves.
Overseas Support – Twinnage
It is the SVP policy to support conferences overseas that are in need of help. This is called Twinnage. St Anselm’s is twinned with three conferences in India supporting education, agriculture and self-help projects for widows.
The SVP members in Sudan and South Sudan are sent help towards the Sudan baby appeal through this International Twinnage scheme.
Membership is open to everyone. There are two types, full and auxiliary. Meetings take place on the second and fourth Monday on the month at 7.00pm at the priest’s house.