Reflections from George Stewart, President of the St Vincent de Paul Conference

speech given at Masses on June 1st & 2nd

The Society of St Vincent DePaul was founded in France in 1833 under the direction of blessed Frederic Ozanam. Born in 1813 he became a French literary scholar, journalist, lawyer and equal rights advocate. While a university student his faith was challenged by those who asked him what the Catholic Church was doing for the poor. In response he joined with a group of friends to form the Conference of Charity. The group was soon influenced by Blessed Sister Rosalie Rendu and the Daughters of Charity. She urged them to take the St Vincent DePaul as their patron saint and follow his teachings. The Daughters of Charity had spent many years caring for the needy in the slums of Paris. The conference adopted their methods of work and founded the Society of St Vincent DePaul. From then on they would be known as Vincentians.  With over 800,000 members in 135 countries the society has helped millions of people in seeking charity and justice. 

“God always gives a great blessing to humble beginnings than those that start with the chiming of bells.” From the writings of Saint Vincent de Paul

47 years ago a group of church members came together in a common effort to grow spiritually and fellowship by offering person-to-person service to help those in need.  They joined the Chicago area St Vincent de Paul Society and with their help created the St Francis de Sales Conference. They started a pantry in the garage next to the original church. They did home visits all over Ela Township while keeping client files in the trunk of a car.  From those early days all the way to today, the group has had the support of the good people of this parish. We value your support and work to keep your trust. Some years ago the pantry was moved to the Ministry Center and office space was provided. 

St. Francis de Sales we have over 440 families in our database and serve their pantry needs 50 weeks a year.  We Vincentians gather on Thursday evenings to serve an average of over a 110 families every pantry night.  

57% of the food that we provide is donated from local community sources such as the Jewels from Lake Zurich, Barrington and Buffalo Grove, Target in Lake Zurich, Peapod, Mariano’s and individual families. Food drives are held for us at Peace Lutheran Church, local schools, Menards and at the Old Post Office. During the summer we also receive donations from the Smart Farm in Barrington and from the Jubilee Garden. The Northern Illinois Food Bank is a source for discounted food purchases that we use monetary donations for. 

Every week the society harvesters collect food donations and another group arranges and organizes the pantry for distribution. Kathleen Murray and Stan Gudas set up the pantry efforts.  We want to thank Pam Lynchand Cathy Chiarelli for allowing confirmation candidates to give service hours to the pantry. Lake Zurich High School Service Group has also provided many student hours of service. We thank them and all the many other volunteers that give their time and efforts. Last year over 9,000 hours of service was given. Sioban O’Leary handles the placement of workers each pantry evening.

We support Emmaus house here at Saint Francis de Sales Church by providing the meals and the fifth Sunday of the month.

In the last year, 30 families of Ela Township received over $20,000 (not $200,000) in financial assistance for rent, utilities and emergency housing expenses. The case workers, under the direction of Diane Brumley, meet with clients to assess their needs and work with other local agencies to find the best way to help them. Many times we coordinate our efforts with the Ela Township Social Services. At times we combine resources with other conferences to give help for special needs and disaster relief. 

We report in are accountable to Lake County District 1, the Chicago area and the National Society of St Vincent de Paul, located in St Louis, for an annual service and financial statement. We also share information with Father Ryan. Alice Hnilo and Jim Westney are responsible keeping Financial records and collecting data. No member in our conference receives a salary or financial benefit from our efforts.  we have a board of directors that needs 10 times a year to review and approve Financial reports and Conference programs.

We are always welcoming to those who want to give assistance. If you would like to gain experience and helping directly with residences or just want to give a hand a couple of days a month, stop by and speak with us after Mass. You would enjoy talking with you. I can discuss specific types of volunteer positions available. Check out our website and read today’s bulletin for specific financial service information. Think about getting involved. We can use your help!

“There is no Act of Charity that is not  accompanied by Justice or that permits us to do more than we reasonably can do.”  From the writings of St Vincent de Paul

Since you and God bless the good people St Francis de Sales.

George A Stewart, President