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Society of St. Vincent de Paul conferences celebrate their 5th anniversary


Late in 2015 and early in 2016, 5 parish conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Rochester have been celebrating their 5th anniversaries of service to the poor in their community.  These conferences are in the following parishes:  Church of the Resurrection, St. John the Evangelist, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Pius X and Pax Christi.  Two other conferences were formed later, the St. Michael conference serving the parishes in Steele County (2102) and the Holy Spirit conference in Rochester (2015).


While in the past there had been some presence of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the Diocese of Winona, at the time of Bishop Quinn’s arrival in Winona, there we no longer any active conferences.  Bishop Quinn, being the Episcopal Advisor of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s National Council, encouraged the parishes in Rochester to consider forming conferences, and with the help of the Archdiocesan Council of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Society’s North Central Region leadership, organization and formation began in the fall of 2010.  By the spring and summer of 2011, the conferences began their home visits and assisting the poor.  Now after 5 years, there are 7 conferences, with over 100 active members and over 60 associate members, and in the previous fiscal year provided nearly $220,000 in direct assistance to the poor in Rochester and Steele County.


Members of the Society, usually called Vincentians, are called to grow in holiness through prayer and reflection, friendship and then through service to the poor and needy in their communities.  Once formed in the Christian spirituality of their founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam and their patron, St. VIncent de Paul, Vincentians go out, two by two to the homes of the poor and needy.  These home visits give our friends in need the dignity and privacy not found at most social service agency centers.  The Vincentians listen intently to the needs of the friends they visit, and through prayer and the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit decide on how best to assist.  Vincentians give guidance, advice and encouragement, and often help with rent payments, utilities, food, clothing, furniture, transportation, etc.  Sometimes our friends in need just need someone who will lovingly listen to their stories.


The St. Michael Conference in Steele County has also taken on a special ministry they call “Vincent’s Table” where they weekly serve a meal to the hungry in Owatonna, which was previously an unmet need in their community.


The Society is funded primarily by the very generous donations from their fellow parishioners, usually through Sunday second collections.  The Vincentians humbly thank their pastors and parishioners for their great support.  Also for the past two years, the Vincentians have held on a Saturday in September (near the feast of St. Vincent de Paul) a “Friends of the Poor” Walk that both raises funds for their ministry to the poor, but also raises awareness of the issue of poverty in their communities.


While Vincentians are well known for the ability to assist our friends in need when situational poverty events occur, the Society is also being called to end poverty through systemic change.  This can be accomplished through mentorship programs that help walk people out of generational poverty, and through a social justice advocacy program called the “Voice of the Poor.”  


The Society has been challenged to continue to grow in the Diocese of Winona, both to call members of other parishes to grow in holiness through providing assistance to the poor in their communities, but also to grow the existing conferences so that they are capable of starting and sustaining systemic change mentorship programs. The Society also offers the opportunity to form youth and young adult conferences, and will be looking for ways to do that formation.


The Vincentians again thank the parishioners and pastors in the Diocese of Winona for their prayers and support.  Anyone wishing further information on the society can visit the local web site at http://www.svdp-rochmn.org/ or the national web site at: http://www.svdpusa.org/ or by email to info@svdp-rochmn.org .