When we read the Gospels, it is impossible to miss Jesus’ teachings on caring for those less fortunate than us. His message is clear — after knowing, loving, and serving God, loving our neighbors is the most important thing we are to do in this life. We are called to love our neighbors in many different ways, but serving the poor is something that He preaches about often. In the present-day Catholic Church, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) is one very important tool at the Church’s disposal for serving those in need. With a presence in 153 countries across the world, SVdP is a well-known organization dedicated to helping those in our community.
Critically, the SVdP chapter serves by helping those in acute need with rent, utilities, or even short-term housing assistance. They will also partner with other charities in the area such as Catholic Charities. Recognizing each individual’s God-given dignity, SVdP seeks to provide assistance without judgment and to work to make the person whole.
“We are seeing numbers increase due to the economic constraints throughout the nation,” says Christina Steeg, the current SVdP president. “We figure that if we can help people to put food on the table, it helps free up room in their budget to pay their other bills. Plus, that is a huge relief of stress to not have to worry about feeding your family.”
Twelve years ago, our chapter of SVdP began organizing a food pantry. This self-funded food pantry is a licensed food agency for Food Bank of the Rockies. Being a part of this organization opens many doors to serve the area well. One way that they seek to help our neighbors is by holding their food pantries on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month in Assisi Hall. Many other local food pantries are only open during regular business hours, which can make it hard for those who work to provide for themselves or their families to come and get food. By being open on the weekend, those in need have an additional opportunity to receive what they need.
In addition, while most food pantries provide shelf-stable foods, our food bank works hard to provide perishable goods such as milk, butter, eggs, meat, and fresh produce. This is only possible because of the church’s commercial refrigerator and freezer space. The food pantry on the second Saturday is supplied entirely by the SVdP chapter, while the Food Bank of the Rockies brings a mobile pantry that is set up in the parking lot on the fourth Saturday. Our pantry provides the volunteers to staff the pantry along with supplementing any food items that may be needed.
One way that the food pantry intentionally seeks to honor the dignity of each person is by creating a personal shopping experience.
“Our volunteers are wonderful Christian people,” Christina says. “We train them to walk with our clients and help them through the pantry. A volunteer walks with each client through the pantry to help carry their food. The clients choose what they do or don’t want. We are very mindful of giving them options. We visit with them to get to know them better and ask if they have anything that we can pray for.”
The food pantry does not place restrictions on where clients live or how they come to the food pantry. Clients are asked to register simply so we can understand the demographics and needs of the areas that are served.
For Christina, being a part of SVdP was a special opportunity to show her children the importance of giving of our time, talent, and treasure.
Those who serve with SVdP are the heart and soul of this ministry.
“We are so grateful for our volunteers whom without their open hearts and helping hands, we couldn’t do the work of St. Vincent de Paul and Frédéric Ozanam, our founders,” Christina says. “You see the face of Christ in both our volunteers and our clients. We are thankful for our incredibly generous parishioners who have given us donations of food and monetary support over the years.
“In addition, we are thankful for the collaboration and support of the Knights of Columbus who have financially supported our mission as well,” she adds. “Together, we help our neighbors in need.”
Donations to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul can be dropped off in the red wagons inside the church narthex or in Assisi Hall.
For those in need, applications can be found in the hallway outside of the church offices. They can also call the help line during business hours at 303-847-2606. To serve, contact Trish Kakenmaster at email@example.com.