Faith Matters – To love and serve

Brendan Nicholl 20 November 2019

At Christmas time organisations such as St Vincent de Paul, that do so much to help the marginalised, are even more necessary. During Advent we have the chance to support their work.

As we finish off the school year there is much left to be done. A lot of energy still needs to be put into preparing for final exams or for the junior students the final pieces of work are developed and submitted.

Soon we enter into the season of Advent in which we prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas but, more importantly, we renew ourselves spiritually in preparing and making room for him in our hearts and in our daily life.

Each year during Advent the annual St Vincent de Paul Christmas Appeal occurs within our parishes. The St Vincent de Paul Conference in my parish [and as with other Conferences throughout Australia] seeks to support those in need, often with a small number dedicated volunteers.

Many of the situations they encounter are both tragic and symptomatic of the breakdown of relationships and community. In responding to the immediate need via charity and the underlying causal factors the St Vincent de Paul Society restores dignity to the person.

Insight into a different life

The Drysdale [my parish] St Vincent de Paul Conference president, Margareta Glenny, offers the following insight the type of situation the St Vincent de Paul members encounter often in our region.

‘Christmas can be a happy and magical time for our children but unfortunately for many of the families within our Conference, it doesn’t mean magic, but hunger and stress and financial hardship, due to the expectations of Christmas and the next school year.
I would like to share a journey of a client within our Vinnies Community.

We met her in another client’s home, who was giving her a couple of nights safe refuge, and after some encouragement she opened up to us. Her story was heart wrenching. She now finds herself in a position without a home and a partner, as he is in prison, and she is 28 weeks pregnant. Two other children are with her mum, as she can’t offer them a stable home let alone all the love and care a mum can give her children.

CentreLink is dragging its feet, Salvos can’t find her any housing but she has a car so they have told her that “you have somewhere to stay”. She has no money for car registration, can’t afford petrol, so doesn’t attend her midwife appointments. At the moment she is couch surfing but really concerned about the new baby’s arrival and what is going to happen to them. Will they become a family again?
What does Christmas mean to her?

To help right injustice

We are drawn into the life of a young mother who is suffering. We cannot turn away from the injustice of the position she is in. Life has dealt her a poor hand and there is few who are willing to help. In encountering her through this account we are moved by compassion and have empathy for her. We are moved when we see the person and understand them.

The St Vincent de Paul Society works on behalf of us – the Church. Its members sacrifice their time and at times their emotional wellbeing to support those who others ignore or can’t support. They encounter the poor and the marginalised. They are the people in our community who meet Jesus often and follow his commandment in a visceral way.

We are so fortunate to have St Vincent de Paul Society in the individual parishes. They enable us when we are unable to serve. In Advent we have the opportunity to support their work and thus the lived application of the Gospel by giving food or funds to support their work.

As my College community looks towards the end of the school year we intentionally speak of Advent with the students.

Where do we find Jesus?

In preparing for Jesus and making room in our lives for him we are encouraged to consider where we might find him in our day and how we can welcome him into our lives evermore.

The St Vincent de Paul Christmas Appeal may be one way in which we can do both of these things well. In giving we are able to support the work of people from our community who bring the love of Jesus into the lives of others and offer them the dignity that circumstances in their lives take away. The College motto of amare et servire (to love and serve) guides us and may prompt you to offer support to St Vincent de Paul as we “prepare the way for the Lord” this Advent.*

Brendan Nicholls is the liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius College, Geelong.

* If you are inspired to donate the following options may be of help. In person: your local church/mass centre; Online:

Be sure to note your local parish in the comment section so that your donation is used to support your community.



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