The Society of St Vincent de Paul

SVP Logo

Introduction

The Society of St Vincent de Paul is a worldwide organisation of lay Catholics which aims to provide relief to the poor. Our members aim to minister Christ to the poor through service.  We have no membership requirements or any restrictions as to whom we serve and we cater to everyone who is in need of assistance out of love for God.

Many people who are homeless may feel that society has given up on them.  However, the volunteers and regular members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul know that God has not given up on them.  We are reminded that the people who come to eat at the soup kitchen are the human face of the crucified Christ who offered His perfect humanity as the representative of all humanity.

The Braamfontein conference of the Society of St Vincent de Paul is attached to Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein, adjoining the University of the Witwatersrand.  Our mission is primarily to tend to the needs of people who are homeless in Braamfontein, though we have needy people coming from all around Johannesburg seeking our help.

We have 20 regular members, and are assisted by many volunteers.  Our funding comes largely from the donations of parish members, and we also receive some generous donations from other sources.  We meet after the Monday evening soup kitchen from 6:45 to 7:30 pm.

Services

Monday night soup kitchen with clinic
We serve soup and bread to about 200 people who are homeless at the church every Monday night from 6 pm.  Other soup kitchens in the area serve the homeless on other nights of the week.  The majority of the work we do is centered around this Monday evening soup kitchen.

Daily soup kitchen
This serves about 50 people, and is run by the church.  The Conference assists with food for this soup kitchen.

Clothes, shoes and e-pap
Donations of clothes and takkies, mainly for men, are distributed among people who are homeless on appointed weekdays.  We do occasionally have requests for baby and children’s clothes.

Blankets
We hand out blankets during the winter months.

Food parcels

We have a food parcel scheme for pensioners, destitute families and various other needy people.  The parishioners of Holy Trinity Church often contribute financially every month to assist us to purchase the food parcels, which are made up according to set lists of ingredients.  We sort them and distribute them to the people on our list once a month.  We are currently supporting 19 pensioners, people with long term illnesses and other needy individuals with these.

Training
We offer opportunities for training and self-empowerment, but we should like to create valuable networks with people who can offer training or opportunities.  We have helped people be trained in a variety of ways.

Other
Five people receive a small cash pension each month to stretch government pensions.  We have assisted a refugee family to put three girls through school, and the oldest daughter has now applied to university.  The assistance to this family included the provision of school uniforms, money, food parcels, a sewing machine, books and stationery over the years and it’s heart-warming to think that the children potentially have a bright future and can take care of the mother who ran from political instability and famine to give them a better chance.  We similarly supported a refugee widow.  She has two children and her husband was murdered on arrival in South Africa.  We assisted her with rent for a year and school fees for her children, a food parcel every month, and stock of clothing to sell as a hawker.

 

 Contact information & banking details

For more information, or if you would like to assist us in any way, please contact us:

Colin Prince (President of the Braamfontein Conference) at svp@trinityjhb.co.za or +27 83 898-8554
Yasmine Dominguez-Whitehead (Vice-President)
Godfrey Ajusi (Treasurer)
Rebecca Bromhead (Secretary)

Our banking details are as follows:
St Vincent de Paul, Braamfontein
Standard Bank, Braamfontein branch
Current acc: 202 648 532
Branch code: 004805

For more information about SVP around South Africa please visit www.stvincentdepaul.co.za
Please pray for us that we may grow from strength to strength and manage to bring some of Christ’s love to people.

Information on the Society

St Vincent de Paul
St Vincent de Paul (1580-1660) was born in the village of Pouy in France.  He was ordained a priest in 1600.  Captured by pirates in 1605 while engaged in mission, he spent two years as a slave in Tunisia.  After his release he was assigned to the court of King Henry of France and it was during his stay in Paris that he began to visit the “hospitals” of the day and to attend to the needs of the poor.  From 1613 to 1625, as tutor in the household of Count de Gondi, general of the galleys, he did much to relieve the suffering of the prisoners.  He founded the Lazirist Fathers in 1625 and, eight years later, he and St Louise de Marillac founded the Sisters of Charity, the first congregation of women without enclosure devoted to care of the sick and poor.

The Society
The Society of St Vincent de Paul was formed in Paris in 1833 by Frederick Ozanam, a student at the University of Paris.  Ozanam and some friends first constituted, in 1882, a “Conference of History”, a debating society intended to counter criticism of the Catholic faith in the post-French revolution milieu by proving the truth and validity of the Church’s teaching from history. The society grew rapidly, but the friends soon realised that actions speak louder than words and began to distribute firewood to the poor in winter, and later food.  Visiting the poor in their homes was an essential part of the work of the conference.  On April 23 1833 Ozanam and seven members of his society formally constituted the Conference of Charity. Ozanam was only 20-years old at the time.  Membership grew rapidly and soon several conferences had been formed, each of which was allowed to develop according to the needs of the poor they were reaching out to.  Within two years the Conference of Charity adopted St Vincent de Paul as its patron and the society was thereafter known as The Society of St Vincent de Paul.

The South African Conference
The first St Vincent de Paul conference in South Africa was established in 1856 at St Mary’s in Cape Town by Alexander Wilmot (20), who had immigrated to this country from Scotland, where he had been a member of the Glasgow conference of the society.  The society gradually spread throughout South Africa and by the first quarter of the 20th century conferences of the Society of St Vincent de Paul could be found in most major towns and cities of the country.  The Society’s Superior Council for Southern Africa was instituted on May 17 1915.

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