Called to Serve
Faith in God and the Life of Saint Vincent Inspire Works of Charity by Conference Volunteers
“It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbor. I belong to God and to the poor.” – St. Vincent de PaulFor the volunteers who field hundreds of calls each month from people in desperate need of emergency assistance, their work is more than a community outreach. For these volunteers in Catholic parishes throughout Louisville, Central Kentucky, and Southern Indiana, the charitable work becomes part of their daily lives as well as a part of their identity. “In helping the poor and homeless, these dedicated adults believe they are living out their vocation,” says Donna Young, director of conference affairs and volunteer services for St. Vincent de Paul Louisville. The Vincentians, as they’re known, are lay, Catholic volunteers who are trained to provide person-to-person assistance to families and individuals in crisis in their communities. The churches are organized into 43 St. Vincent de Paul Conferences. Whether it’s help putting together the last few dollars of a rent or mortgage payment to prevent eviction and homelessness for a poor family with nowhere else to turn, or providing help with past-due utility bills or emergency supplies of groceries, the role played by volunteers in SVDP’s conferences is crucial in the our organization’s mission to serve people in need. Unlike SVDP’s Shelby Park-area campus near downtown, where services such as our Open Hand Kitchen, SVDP Food Pantry, and the Family Success Center may be better known to the general public than the efforts being undertaken daily at the parish level, the conferences’ work is carried out quietly and behind the scenes. This approach is designed to maintain confidentiality. “I wish I could make the Louisville community aware of the impact that Vincentians have on our community,” Young explained. In Louisville, SVDP Conferences spent more than $2 million in assistance to the poor last fiscal year. “Rent, utilities, food, and clothing are only a small part of the assistance they provide for those in need,” Young said. “The real value comes from the home visits these volunteers make to bring hope to people in need.” The nonjudgmental concern, compassion, along with offers of prayers and support, are hallmarks of the Vincentian home visit. In addition to providing resources to meet the basic needs of those who are suffering, Vincentians strive for their own spiritual growth, drawing inspiration from Vincent de Paul, a Franciscan priest who devoted much of his life to serving the poor.
“It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbor,” St. Vincent de Paul said. “I belong to God and to the poor.” (See Vincent’s Legacy)Without the services and financial support of St. Vincent de Paul, other local agencies and government services would be overextended and hard-pressed to meet the demands of the number of people seeking financial and other assistance, Young said. “I hate to think of the increased number of homeless and hungry people that would be sleeping on the streets of Louisville without our Conferences’ support,” Young said. “The St. Vincent de Paul conferences are an important part of the Louisville community,” she added. “Vincentians do not like to boast, but their works of mercy need to be shared with the community.”