THE Society of St Vincent de Paul, 160 years old this year, is determined to adapt to face the needs of today, its national president told the annual general meeting last weekend in Portsmouth.
"During the year our 15,000 members have made over 1.5 million visits to those in need, in their homes, in hospital and in prison," Br Bill Lawson said.
: • This year the society has set up a social welfare advisory committee, built closer links with the societies of Scotland and Ireland, created 68 jobs through the Advent Project, supported the Depaul Trust for kOmeless young people with £90,000 (with a further £100,000 promised) and continued to distribute many hundreds of tones of EC beef and butter, he reported to conference.
In an effort to ensure that those in need are able to find help, a number of "Help Lines" and "Information Centres" are to be set up, the society decided.
Fr Barry Cummins, prison chaplain in Wakefield, challenged members to overturn the public attitude to prisoners which, he said, is contrary to true Christian doctrine. "The pound of flesh mentality is destructive and dangerous," he said. He encouraged the society to increase its efforts to help prisoners and their families.
Provincial of the English Dominicans, Fr Timothy Radcliffe, encouraged the SVP to become the voice of the voiceless without getting involved in party politics. The poor should not be allowed to become "invisible", he said.
The director of the Depaul Trust, Sr Sarah King-Turner, and its chairman, Michael Chadwick, gave an update on the project's work in London for the young homeless. A Depaul Trust hostel was recently opened by Cardinal Hume and the Princess of Wales.