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Conference of St. Vincent de Paul

Sept. 27, 2013

As home to the first Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paulin India, when it came to Bombay in 1862, the Church of Our Lady of Health, Cavel today proudly leads celebrations on it’s landmark 150 years of existence!

In India, the first Conference was established on 4th December, 1862 by Fr. Leo Meurin, S.J. (later Bishop Meurin of Bombay) at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Hope, Bhuleshwar. This Conference was aggregated with the Council-General on 26th May, 1863, along with five other conferences established a little later. With closure of the Cathedral in 1942, the Conference was transferred to the Church of Our Lady of Health, Cavel.

The patron of all works of charity, Saint Vincent de Paul, was a priest of the Catholic Church who dedicated himself to serving the poor. A charitable lay organisation, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was established in 1833 by French university students, led by the 20 year-old Blessed Fredric Ozanam.

Work done by Vincentians, is a mission to embrace the whole world in a network of charity. Globally, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) today numbers about 750,000 members and 1.3 million volunteer workers across 149 countries, making it the largest NGO in the world! The Society received United Nations (UN) accreditation as an international UN NGO and is now the collective voice of the poor and oppressed in international UN forums and Conferences. It is the largest international charitable organization of lay people, whose members operate through "Conferences". A Conference is generally based out of a church and composed of Catholic volunteers who dedicate their time and resources to help those in need in their community. Under the new Code of Canon Law of 1983, the Society is recognised under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and is registered with the Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI) as a Catholic lay organisation.

The mission of the Society is to bear witness to Christ by deepening the faith of its members and to serve the poor in order to uplift them from their miseries. The principal objectives of the Society are alleviation of poverty, provision of medical and educational assistance, disaster relief and self-help projects. The Conferences reach out to the poor and underprivileged through various activities and help them live in joy. Besides regular monetary assistance to its adopted families to help make ends meet, each Conference also has activities that could include monthly breakfasts, supply of rations, a lunch for all adopted families at festive occasions, Christmas and Easter, and organising activities to make their season more joyful. In Mumbai the Society is present in 91 Conferences of cityparishes and runs Shanti Bhavan, a Home for the Aged at Kalyan, The Eduljee Framjee Albless Leprosy Home at Trombay and the Niramay Niketan AIDS Hospice at Trombay.

Though maintaining a low profile, the SSVP is well established in most parts of India, and has inspired thousands of Catholic volunteers who help those in need in their community. With 61,850 Vincentians, members today comprise not just elders, who open their hearts to the succour of the underprivileged and instil hope in them, but the youth too have been inspired to serve the Society. Vincentians include 10,900 youth members, with several Youth Conferences now functioning in the Archdiocese and yet looking to expand.

Seeing the SSVP Conference at Cavel, through its 150th year, are dedicated Vincentians Sis Susan Stanton (President), Sis Dorothy Fernandes (Vice President), Sis Merlyn Coutinho (Hon. Treasurer) and Sis Mary Rodrigues (Hon. Secretary). Closely following the path of charity revealed by Blessed Frederic Ozanam, activities include raising funds and offering support and care to its aided families from the neighbourhood.

Blessed Frederic Ozanam himself once said, “It is not sufficient to have charity in our hearts and in our words! It should pass into deeds, even to the giving of our life if need be, as our Lord has given His.”

Original material culled from existing SSVP manuscripts/documents, Wikepedia and online sources off the net – IAN STANTON, Benefactor – SSVP, Cavel

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