Origins of SVP Society
The SVP Society was founded in Paris in 1833 by Fredric Ozanam and some of his friends, who, challenged about what the Church was doing about the poor people in that city started taking food, fuel and clothing to them in their homes. They were guided in their mission by a Sister Rendu of The Sisters of Charity. They named their group or ‘Conference’, after St. Vincent de Paul, the Patron Saint of Charity. Today the SVP is to be found in 145 countries around the world.
Who/what does the Society consist of?
We are a lay organisation of Christian men and women, young and old, with about 700,000 members worldwide. The 10,000 or so members in England and Wales meet in Conferences (local groups) based usually on parishes but also in schools and Universities. The Vincentian spirit is one of “prayer and good works”, following the great command of Christ to love God and love our neighbour. So our meetings always start and end with prayers. We are essentially a befriending organisation in the widest sense, whereby we aim to help people in need. That ‘help’ in its simplest form is often just a matter of spending some time in conversation with someone who is housebound or living alone. Responding to local needs some Conferences may find themselves visiting prisons, helping people/families who are very poor and deprived and in some areas they find themselves trying to assist asylum seekers who are living in the direst of circumstances.
In Leeds we have 9 shops located on estates (where need is greatest) selling a wide range of everyday goods at affordable prices. In addition we have a furniture warehouse from where donated furniture and many other household items are recycled to assist those in greatest need. There is also the St. Vincent Centre where in addition to a shop and café there are debt advisers, English language classes to help those for whom this is not their first language and computer skills classes.
The St. Peter and Paul Conference
Within our local Conference we visit people in their homes, in hospitals and hospices and can sometimes provide transport for people of restricted means or mobility to get to hospital or dental appointments etc. We organise some special events in the year such as a Mass for the sick and housebound and a special Mass at Christmastime followed by a meal.
We have 18 Members and we meet in the parish rooms on Monday evenings at 7.00pm every two weeks. Our visiting is always carried out by two people working together and all members are required to have a CRB clearance, in accordance with all current best practice as guided by the Church Safeguarding authority. We are always open to welcome new members, so if you feel that you can give a little of your time each week in the work of helping and befriending others perhaps less fortunate than yourself, please speak with Susan Jameson who is the current Conference President, or any member of the Society.