Who We Are
Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic lay organization, leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul.
As a reflection of the whole family of God, members, who are known as Vincentians, are drawn from every ethnic and cultural background, age group, and economic level. Vincentians are united in an international society of charity by their spirit of poverty, humility and sharing, which is nourished by prayer and reflection, mutually supportive gatherings and adherence to a basic Rule.
Organized locally, Vincentians witness God's love by embracing all works of charity and justice. The Society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addressing its causes, making no distinction in those served because, in them, Vincentians see the face of Christ.
Susan Wiland - President
Cindy Jerger - Treasurer
Karyn Chmel - Secretary
Margie Ward - Vice President, Growth & Revitalization
Steve Jerger - Vice President, Governance
Deacon Jim Dombek - Spiritual Advisor
Bob Hahn - Northeast District President
Bill Hartwig - Central District President
Bernie Vering - Southwest District President
Alan Fulton/Dalila Alegria - Southeast District President
Bob Brown - Voice of the Poor
Deacon Steve Pulkrabek - Formation
Dennis Quinn - Disaster Assistance
Society of St. Vincent de Paul - Our Actions Are Inspired by Love
The Catholic Church proclaims that all human life is sacred, and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. As Catholics and Vincentians, we are guided by our Catholic social teachings which is a central and essential element of our faith. These are teachings founded on the life and words of Jesus. Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets who announced God's special love for the poor and called God's people to a covenant of love and justice. It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ, who identified himself with "the least of these," the hungry and the stranger (cf. Mt 25:45). Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor. According to the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, “Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family.”
A 20 year old college student, Frederic Ozanam and a group of five other students, founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 1833 to serve the poor in Paris, France. Frederic chose St. Vincent de Paul as the society’s patron, who served the poor some 250 years earlier. Frederic shared St. Vincent’s commitment to the poor and admired the initiatives he showed in seeking and finding the spirituality and materially poor, the way he organized other to help him accomplish his service to the poor, and his deep spiritual vision that allowed him to see the face of Jesus in the poor.
Frederic established the first local group, which we now refer to as a “Conference”, to show that their faith inspired them to love and care for others; and to learn about, deepen and be strengthened in their faith, to grow closer to God. This basic insight continues to guide over 800,000 members and 47,000 conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul worldwide, whose vision is described by Frederic, “embrace the world in a network of charity”. Our mission is clear: Vincentian ministry is a means for acquiring holiness. The ministry of a Vincentian to those and with those who stand in need is the powerful means that affects holiness of life for the individual Vincentian. Vatican II states that the principal means of holiness for bishops and priests is their ministry. This applies to the laity also, because, in attending to the needy and suffering, a Vincentian is ministering to Jesus Christ himself.
This brings to mind a sculpture, created by Timothy P. Schmalz, named “Homeless Jesus”. The artist was inspired by Matthew 25: 31 - 46, the “Judgement of the Nations”. This sculpture is a representation that suggests Christ is with the most marginalized in our society sleeping on a park bench. The Christ figure is shrouded in a blanket the only indication that it is Jesus is the visible wounds on the feet. What a powerful image! And, I recalled this image one very cold evening. I was at the gas station filling up my car. A man approached me and asked if I would help him out with five dollars so he could have enough gas to get to his family home. My first reaction was to turn him away. Then, I recalled his eyes. I said to myself, “this could be Jesus”! I asked him to pull his car up behind mine, and I filled it up.
Our traditional Vincentian role, which continues today, is to serve the poor through home visits. We are there to assist the marginalized financially and emotionally, maybe just as simple as listening to their story. Home visits is the clearest symbol of our Vincentian charism, which dictates the highest respect for the dignity of the poor. It represents our Vincentian commitment to reach out to the needy in their home, rather than require them to report to an outside service site. In the home, needy persons feel more comfortable to confide their stories of struggle. In that family setting, Vincentians are asked to listen, offer humble advice, and provide assistance. Connecting with a client is a powerful experience for a Vincentian – it is through those we are blessed to serve that we witness the Face of Christ.
In addition to addressing an individual or family immediate need in a home visit, the Society also has a vision to overcome poverty one person, one family, one community at a time. St. Vincent de Paul national programs have been developed to provide a deeper understanding of poverty. Finding the remedies to poverty’s root causes will force us to reach out into the community to challenge and advocate for change. We need to make sure that we understand what it means to live in poverty. We are being asked to make changes in our attitudes, competencies, behaviors, processes, and programs that will affect a difference. It doesn’t mean we stop what we are doing. Frederic took a position that we need to go beyond just ideas. It is about actions inspired by love. Just like Frederic, we need to be ever at the “service of God’s poor”. (Vincentian Life: Member 2016)