The SVP – Who are we?

A Gospel driven organisation

The SVP, according to Bishop Ralph, is one of the best kept secrets in the Catholic Church.  If someone mentions the SVP, there are invariably many blank looks.

  What is it?  What do the initials stand for?  Who is involved?  How does it work?

  These are just some of the questions people ask when they learn of the existence of a worldwide organisation that has been in existence since 1833.  This lack of awareness has prompted a series of articles about the SVP to appear over the coming months to help raise awareness of the organisation across the Diocese.

  This article sets out the framework within which the SVP works whilst adhering to its spiritual values.

  The St Vincent de Paul Society in England and Wales is a registered charity that complies with all the legal requirements which are laid down for us by the Charity Commission.

St Vincent de Paul

  The word charity is often understood very loosely as “giving a person something for nothing, just gifting them”.  For the SVP this is not sufficient.  St Vincent, its patron, and Frederic Ozanam, its founder, both realised that and in the words of Pope Francis, “Christian charities are much more than ‘compassionate non-governmental organisations’, they have their source in Jesus Christ and look to him for their work to be fruitful”.

  Charity together with faith and hope are not acquired through human effort but, beginning with baptism, are infused within us as gifts from God.  They dispose us to live in relationship with God, and such living is made evident by practical and effective love of others.  The energy and life of the SVP is God given – and our task as Vincentians is to respond as generously as we can.

Frederic Ozanam

  It is not always possible for us to solve people’s difficulties, nor is it a matter of simply giving them funds, or creating a dependence on SVP.  Our essential task is to relate to people with love and respect, to befriend them, and let them feel that they are loved and that they matter to us.  We recognise God made human in them, and in attending to them we are serving God. In the words of Jesus, “When I was hungry, thirsty, without even clothes, sick or in prison, and you cared for these least of my brothers, you did it for me” (Mt. 25:40).  In the Words of Muhammad Ali, “your service to others is the rent you pay for your room in heaven”.

  Future articles will look at the inception of the SVP, its history in this country since 1844 and the type of work it does both nationally and locally.

  Should you require further information or are interested in finding out more about the SVP please contact Lance Philpott, Membership Development Officer for Hallam Diocese, email: lancep@svp.org.uk.