A series of special Masses were streamed live from the magnificent St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham to mark the feast day of St Vincent de Paul, and to celebrate the launch of the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Rise to the Challenge campaign.
The four Masses, which were held on both Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th September, included a Rededication Ceremony led by Mgr Timothy Menezes, Dean of the Cathedral, during which members across the country renewed their promises to seek and find those who are forgotten and to devote themselves to the personal service of those in need.
The services provided a unique opportunity for SVP members, staff, volunteers and other Vincentians to join together across England and Wales to pray for the society and its beneficiaries at this challenging time.
The SVP’s Rise to the Challenge campaign focuses attention on the amazing and vital work of SVP members, staff and volunteers during the Covid-19 pandemic with thousands of hungry people fed and friendship and support offered to the lonely and isolated. The campaign invites people to show their support for the SVP by joining either as a full or temporary auxiliary member, raising money through fundraising challenges, or by simply making a donation to the campaign.
During the Masses SVP members spoke movingly of the vital work they undertake in their own communities, and of the life enhancing effect it has on those receiving help and on themselves as Christians.
Clare O’Brien, an SVP member in Birmingham, said: “We’re all familiar with the teaching of Jesus to love our neighbours as ourselves. We’re called to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe those who have nothing. The question is, how? The SVP has given me a way to respond to that calling. I can visit the lonely. I can take food to people who need it or be a friendly ear for someone who is having a tough time. The SVP gives me a way to respond to the love that God lavishes on me. That love isn’t for me to hold on to, it grows when I pass it on.”
Members of the SVP group at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Redditch, who deliver a twice monthly soup kitchen in Birmingham city centre, used the occasion to praise the “wonderful support from parish priests and parishioners” who enable them to continue to help those most in need in their community.
Meanwhile, 10-year-old Edward, a member of the Mini Vinnies SVP group for 6-10-year olds said: “Before the lockdown my classmates collected 52 backpacks for other kids. Inside the backpacks were pencils, toothpaste, socks and notebooks. In Mini Vinnies, we pray and ask God to help and remember others. This means helping each other too.”
A beneficiary of SVP support, who arrived in this country from the Congo with nothing, said: “Thank you to the SVP for being the shoulder when I needed help. The SVP has been a gift from God to help me and my family through hard times and difficulty. I don’t know if I could ever thank you for all that you do. I just know that one day God will give you everything back for all you do.”
Responding to the uplifting messages from members read out at the Mass at St Chad’s, SVP President Helen O’Shea said: “The Masses gave our members the opportunity to reaffirm their dedication to our mission to befriend the lonely, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and to restore dignity.”
She continued: “At a time when our support and generosity of spirit is needed most, it gladdens my heart to know that our members are rising to the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. I thank you all for your inspirational work.”
A recording of the Masses marking the feast day of St Vincent de Paul from St Chad’s can be found at www.stchadscathedral.org.uk.