How long have you been a Vincentian? About 20 years.
Conference: Cathedral/St. Xavier
Your role in the Society: Currently Vice President but filling in as Secretary. Past role has been President.
How did you become a Vincentian? My office was close to downtown, and I was going to morning Mass at the Cathedral. There was a notice in the bulletin about wanting to start some kind of a social action group. Even though the Cathedral is not my parish, I was able to join. There were about six of us. (I am the only one still active.) We tried various volunteer activities when the pastor said that there used to be a St. Vincent de Paul Society at the Cathedral but it was not currently active. We decided to explore it and visited St. Vivian Conference. The president from Bank Street also met with us. In addition there was still money left over from when the Conference was active. So we restarted the Conference.
Most memorable home visit: One I will never forget is meeting with a young 20-something women on her own since her teens. She was bright and articulate. She shared a dream of going back to school. I said something to encourage her like, “You can do this. You have a lot of gifts. You’re smart and express yourself very well.” All of a sudden tears start rolling down her face. She looks up and said, “You’re the first person who ever believed in me.” Imagine someone in their 20s who never had someone believe in them or support them or say anything positive to them. Sometime helping is saying the right words.
Biggest lesson you’ve learned as a Vincentian? I think meeting and talking to people in situations I have never experience. It is so easy to criticize, judge and assign blame. We must remember that for many of us—and definitely for me—the advantages we had many others did not. We can’t underestimate that. All that I have or any good that has come from me is entirely a gift. I like to ask other Vincentians if there is a difference between themselves and those we help. In the eyes of the world, there are all kinds of differences. But what about in the eyes of God? When God looks down and sees me in a visit with someone, does he see any differences between us? I don’t think so. We are all poor in the eyes of God. In one way, the “poor” show me how to approach God. Yes, they are my teachers. At a home visit, those we meet have no claim on us. They have no right to any help we give. It is entirely our decision. If we decline for any reason they have no recourse. They must simply accept it. We are all beggars before God. We have nothing and need everything, hoping simply that God is merciful and will provide what we need. That is how our neighbors are with us and us with God.
See more Vincentian stories online at SVDPcincinnati.org.