St Vincent de Paul’s exceptional work with people living in poverty

President Michael D Higgins lauded the Society of St Vincent de Paul’s ‘exceptional network of solidarity’ with poorer people at its anniversary event in the Convention Centre Dublin. Photograph: Iain White/Fennell Photography

President Michael D Higgins lauded the Society of St Vincent de Paul’s ‘exceptional network of solidarity’ with poorer people.

By Bill Heaney in Dublin

President Michael D Higgins has praised the work of the Society of St Vincent de Paul which he described as an “exceptional network of solidarity” with poorer people in Ireland.

Mr Higgins addressed more than 1,000 volunteers for the SVP in the Convention Centre Dublin to mark the 175th anniversary of the society. It is one of the largest gatherings of SVP volunteers in the history of the organisation.

The Society is one of the most enduring charities in Scotland and has been sustained during that time in every Catholic parish in Dunbartonshire.

Mr Higgins told those involved that SVP volunteers made a difference “each and every day” and did so by building relationships of “friendship, trust and confidentiality”.

The society had helped people through the Great Famine, two World Wars, the War of Independence and the Civil War along with multiple economic recessions, the President pointed out.

The SVP doesn’t just help poor families with money for food and transport to hospitals and health centres.

The President pointed out the importance of home visits at a time when so many people are reverting to laptops, tablets and phones – ““Despite all of the technological advances, human contact is something that defines us, be it through conversations, face to face interactions, simply taking the time to have a chat,” he said.

“When a person is at their lowest and may be in despair, this human contact is more important than ever.

“I know that home visitation is at the core of your work and that is a core strength of the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

“Your visiting people in their homes, your conversation with them, your listening to them, your being with them is precious and, most importantly, you give them time.”

Archbishop Martin said there was a “correct sensitivity” to using the term “the poor”.

He added: “I personally would prefer to use the term not just ‘people living in poverty’, but people who ‘long to break out from poverty’.”

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