News from the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP)

Times are becoming increasingly challenging and in a bid to help those who are struggling across the Archdiocese the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) is stepping up.

The SVP has been helping the poor, the struggling, the lonely, the sick and the dying for almost 200 years by turning concern into action.

It is made up of small groups (called Conferences) of men and women of goodwill who - quietly, humbly and without fuss - help and support people who are finding life a struggle.

Across the Archdiocese we have 77 local groups (Conferences), 105 ‘Mini-Vinnie’ groups in primary schools and 15 Youth SVP groups in secondary schools.

Our work is very much ‘under the radar’ and was even more so during the pandemic and the periods of lockdown.

But now we’re most definitely back! And not for very many years has the support offered by the SVP been more desperately needed.

For times are becoming more challenging, more grim and more frightening for the poor and the lonely. For the people who struggle to manage their money and the mentally fragile. For the sick and disabled. For the homeless and the refugees. For the women in refuges who have escaped abusive relationships.

In a bid to support those in need we are launching our ‘Re-igniting the Flame’ project. We will be reaching out to parishes across the Archdiocese to raise awareness of the SVP, and to offer more help to those in need in our communities.

Where there is currently no SVP presence in a parish we hope to create a new Conference. Where there is already an active Conference, we will support it in increasing the number of members where needed. We’ll be asking members what local needs are most pressing and what long-term vision they have for our Society. We’ll then work with them to meet the needs and achieve the vision.

Already, in our West Birmingham District Council area, we are seeing lots of new activity.

A new Conference at St Chad’s Cathedral is up and running and we are in the process of forming three more at St Michael’s, Moor Street; Birmingham Oratory, Edgbaston, and St Peter’s, and Our Lady & St Rose of Lima, Weoley Castle.

In Coventry we recently delivered an appeal to set up a new Conference at St John Fisher and the response was fantastic. We will be inviting all who expressed an interest in becoming a member to an Information meeting in the very near future.

In the late Spring/early Summer we will be meeting current Members in the other District Councils in the Archdiocese, to share the good news, to welcome more Conferences and Members and to continue re-igniting the flame of our Society.

Alicia O’Brien is the President of the St Chad’s Conference: “I joined SVP as I liked the idea that as volunteers, we were not limited to helping a specific disadvantaged group, but we could provide help and support for any individual/family in our Parish that needed a helping hand.

“The support we can provide encompasses a range of tasks such as shopping, advice, company for the isolated and lonely, providing household goods, help with form filling and a range of other activities.”

Chinedu Aghanenu is the President of St Peter, Our Lady & St Rose Conference: “To me, an SVP member is a direct arm of our Lord reaching out to God’s children in need.

“The SVP in my experience is one of the very few charitable organisations that gives out more than it receives for the poor.”

It is vital that we work closely with our parishes - priests and people - to ensure that the SVP has a strong presence and the funds to respond to people’s needs.

For more information on becoming a member of the SVP, or making a donation, please contact one of the Membership Support Officers:

Maria Lynch (West Midlands conurbation & Staffordshire) – [email protected]

Olivia Lavelle (Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire) – [email protected]

Or Andy Gudge (Central Council President) – [email protected]