“Charity must never look to the past, but always to the future, because the number of its past works is still very small and the present and future miseries it must alleviate are infinite.” Blessed Frédéric Ozanam
The Society of St Vincent de Paul is an international Catholic voluntary organization dedicated to the sanctification of its members through serving the disadvantaged. While the SSVP respects the religious liberty and values of all people and offers help to anyone in need, nevertheless it asks that its members accept fully the society’s Christian ethos. Members of the SSVP commit themselves to express their love of God through practical, personal service to their neighbour.
In Galashiels and Melrose
The SSVP is the principle social care organisation for the Catholic community in Galashiels and Melrose. It meets monthly as a ‘conference’ for prayer and planning. Its activities involve members in:
- Home Visits
- Senior Citizen Support
- Crisis Intervention
- Jericho House
- Gala Food Bank
- Fresh Start
(modified from the Wikipedia and the SSVP Scotland website)
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 to serve impoverished people living in the slums of Paris. The primary figure behind the society's founding was Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, a French lawyer, author, and professor in the Sorbonne. He was 20 years old when the society was founded. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1997. The Society took the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Vincent de Paul as its patrons under the influence of Sister Rosalie Rendu. Sister Rosalie (who was herself beatified in November 2003 by Pope John Paul II) was a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and was well known for her work with people in the slums of Paris. She guided Frédéric and his companions in their approach towards those in need. The Society came to Edinburgh in 1845. The 1840s in Scotland were years of the Irish immigrants and "hungry forties", with a crying need for those in better circumstances to help poor, unjustly-treated and often sick people trying to eke out a living in Scotland.
Today the Society numbers about 750,000 members in some 148 countries worldwide. The SSVP operates in branches, called Conferences, based on local parishes, schools and universities. They meet regularly to review their work as well as allocating future work in a spirit of prayer and mutual support. The work of a Conference is usually concentrated on local visiting. However, other activities may include "special works", which serve people in a wider area or give more specialised help in a certain aspect of the work.
In Scotland our 2100 voluntary members make about 140,000 visits each year. The distinctive feature of the SSVP is person to person contact. This is a fundamental part of the SSVP ethos, and so we do not make donations to any work in which members are not personally involved. Where appropriate we offer material or financial assistance to help those in need overcome crises and develop longer-term solutions to their problems.’
In his homily at the beatification Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral, Blessed John Paul II mentioned that before World War II he belonged to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He noted that Frédéric Ozanam
"observed the real situation of the poor and sought to be more and more effective in helping them in their human development. He understood that charity must lead to efforts to remedy injustice. Charity and justice go together."