St. Alban’s St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVP)

(Serving those in need since 1931)

Many people see our role as social workers of the parish but the primary object of the society is the spiritual development of its members. The more people strive to develop their spiritual selves (‘your hidden self to grow strong’ as St. Paul put it) the more true to Christ will their witness be. The question is not whether the society exists for the spiritual development of its members or for the active service of the poor. It is both, because it is precisely in and through their compassion and care for the poor that members grow and develop as Christian men and women. The more Christ-like the service is, the more acceptable it will be to the needy, the more effective it will be, and the more will people’s real needs be met.

Statement from Vatican’s 11’s Decree on the Apostolate of the laity

‘The laity who have followed their vocation and have become members of one of the associations

approved by the church…… try faithfully, to adopt the special characteristics of its Spiritual life’.

Our vocation as Members of St. Alban’s Conference is to follow Christ through service to those in need and bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love by offering the hand of friendship to the elderly, the sick, the lonely, needy families, and all who need our help. Every action for the needy is itself a prayer if motivated by charity which is love inspired by grace. If people should feel the love of God through our visits, it can free them to love and awaken spiritual awareness.

Vincentian Spirituality impels us to love those in need and to seek to remove the causes of poverty. It lifts us above ourselves and away from selfishness and grows if we are open and responsive to the Holy Spirit.  Spirituality is a vision that generates energy and channels it towards bringing the vision into being. We are called to be a visible sign of Christ, and bear witness to His boundless love which reaches out to all and draws them to love one another in Him.

To express our commitment to the spiritual dimension of membership of the SVP we, St. Alban’s SVP, took part in a Members Commissioning Ceremony  at the 11.00am Mass on April 10th. Fr Peter conducted the ceremony. In Christ’s name we gathered together to commit ourselves, before our parish community, to be channels of peace, hope, love and practical help to people who are troubled or in need.                                    

Vincentians seek to emulate St. Vincent in the five virtues essential for promoting love and respect.

Simplicity         – frankness, integrity, genuineness.

Humility            –  accepting the truth about our frailties, gifts, talents and charisms, yet knowing that all that God gives us is for others and that we can achieve nothing of eternal value without His grace .

Selflessness    –  giving up something good in favour of something better; dying to our ego.

Meekness       –  a gentle strength

Zeal                   – for the soul, for the full human and spiritual flourishing of people and for their eternal happiness.

The purpose of our weekly meeting is more than the routine exchange of information and the allocation of tasks. We come together to deepen our spiritual life. Brother de Bareris, an adviser to Council-General said ‘ Let us remember that Jesus is in our midst, that he watches us and hears us while we pray, or debate, and helps us to grow together’. By praying together a  strength of love that removes all obstacles is generated. We support and love one another in such a way that others too will be attracted to Christ. There is also an urgent need to realise that it is not just the service of the poor but the spirit in which we serve is important. The prayers remind us it is Christ we are serving in those we help and we pray ‘ that united  in prayer and action we may be a visible sign of Christ and bear witness to His boundless love’ but for us to be a visible sign of Christ we must be aware of the depths of our own needs. There can be no genuine progress in Spiritual life without progress in personal prayer.

In our personal prayer lives we find ourselves growing close to God because in serving the poor we are in communion with Christ.  A humble prayer to the Holy Spirit to lead us on our spiritual journey is all that is required. The Spirit will lead us at a gentle pace, our own pace, and in time he will gradually change us.

Lord, we bless you for our calling

for nurturing in each of us a disciple’s heart

a heart that rejoices in your coming

a heart sustained by your spirit

a heart encouraged by fellow disciples.

May they grow in each of our hearts

the disciple’s commitment to serve

the disciple’s willingness to learn

and the disciple’s joy in becoming

a  medium of grace.

[D. Harrington & Kavanagh. Prayer for parish Groups. Columba (2000) 36-37]

Cath. Fraser