Run almost entirely by volunteers, the St Vincent de Paul Society is a worldwide organisation of lay Catholics who want to express their faith through service to the poor.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul is an international Catholic charity network. It has been operating in South Africa since 1856 and is a registered non-profit and public benefit organisation (NPO 003/193).
Every day, our 2500 members and volunteers reach out to vulnerable and marginalized people in their local community. We aim to provide a hand up, not just a hand out.
At the core of our work are over 200 parish committees known as ‘conferences’. These are groups of members from all walks of life who join together to relieve suffering and promote human dignity amongst the poor.
Autonomy of the Society of St Vincent de Paul
In response to queries received from members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul and the Clergy of the Roman Catholic Church in South Africa in respect of the relationship between the Society, the Church, Caritas and other Catholic Sodalities, SSVP South Africa issued this Statement of the Autonomy of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in May 2023.
People fed daily
Years of History
The Mission of the St Vincent de Paul Society in South Africa is to deepen the faith of its members – to go out into our nation to heighten the awareness of Jesus Christ.
We do this by sharing ourselves (who we are and what we have) with the poor on a person-to-person basis. We seek to co-operate in shaping a more just and compassionate South African community,
Our preferred option in this mission of service is to work with the poor in development, by respecting their dignity, sharing our hope, and encouraging them to take control of their destiny.
How we help
We visit people in their homes, meeting them face-to-face and getting to know them personally. Because of this, we see their circumstances and gain an understanding of their problems and how we can best help them. Our approach is neighbour to neighbour, with no attitude of superiority or judgement.
Everyone can do something to help
Apart from financial contributions, we also appreciate offers of ‘twinning’ or partnerships with conferences, businesses and individuals in more affluent parishes or countries, who reach out with material or financial assistance or technical experience in a specific field.
Christmas Message from the National President
Dear Brothers and Sisters
As the year comes to a close, I would like to thank you all for your loving and faithful service to the poor through SSVP this year. Every year has its challenges and the plight of the poor never seems to get better – in fact there seem to be more and more people needing our help. Thank you for continuing to make sacrifices, to show empathy and to share God’s love with the poorest of the poor.
I would like to share a few thoughts with you as we approach the blessed season of Christmas.
Firstly, God calls each one of us to be His hands, feet, ears, voice and heart in our world. We are the ones He uses to bring Christ to others. We are all invited to reveal God’s grace, mercy and love to those we meet in our everyday lives. Jesus is born every time we allow Him to be present in us and as we share Him with others.
God calls us to share His great work, but we do not need to do it alone. He will walk with us every step of the way. Just as Mary was called to move outside the boundaries set by society when she accepted the role as the mother of Jesus Christ, so too we are required to be courageous and to trust in God’s presence and love.
Just as God used his angel messengers to speak to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, He uses messengers to remind us of what is important, where we need to focus and what we are required to do. We have to be open to those around us whom God uses to touch our lives; our eyes and hearts need to be open to the wonder of God’s message for us.
In the midst of the commercialisation and frenzied activities that seem to characterise this season, we need to make room in our lives so that we can hear the news of the angels that Jesus Christ is coming and seeks to be born in us. And to experience the miracle of ‘God with us’.
My prayer for each one of you is that God’s presence will bring you and your loved ones peace and joy as you celebrate this wonderful time of the year.
Teboho Vincent Williams, National President, SSvP South Africa
“I am deeply committed to living by the Vincentian Spirituality, which allows me to see Christ in the poor, and the poor in Christ.”
If we don’t transform the world, who will?
“Founded by young people who aspired to make a change in their society, the spirit of youth is an original and permanent characteristic of the St Vincent de Paul Society. Youth brings to the Society dynamism, enthusiasm, acceptance of risks, creative imagination and – above all – adaptability.”
Many young people believe in, and strive for, social justice. They live out their faith by taking action to address and change social inequality and disadvantage. The society is a network of charity, friendship, humble servitude and an expression of love. Within this environment, we develop personally and spirituality in spite of the daily distractions of life. Bonds formed with other like-minded young people can last a lifetime. Young people also have the flexibility to adapt to changing needs and circumstances. And, by being open to their ideas and suggestions, we learn and grow in our own faith and skills.
Youthful spirit and energy
Just as the 7 young founders of 1883 sought the guidance and wisdom of an elder to help them to turn their desire to make a difference into reality, our younger members are included in decision making and discussions, as equals. This encourages opportunities to maintain the youthful spirit and energy that Blessed Frederic Ozanam believed in for all members of the Society.
Salt of the earth
To be a Vincentian youth is to answer the Christian call to be the “salt of the earth.” We work in our communities by venturing out and becoming the voices and change agents for the young, including children and teenagers. We want to be the protagonists of a world yet unimagined by Blessed Frederic Ozanam when he said: “The world has grown cold; it is for Catholics to rekindle the vital fire which has been extinguished.” We dream the impossible. And work together in faith to make those dreams of a better world real.
45 years of Vincentian Service
Sheila Smith (St Mary’s Conference)
Mary Joseph (St Dominic’s Conference)
Arabella Jebetle (St Paul’s Conference)
Joseph Keameditse (St Paul’s Conference)
35 years of Vincentian Service
Malcolm Wong Fatt (St Mary’s Conference)
Llewellyn Zimmerman (St Mary’s Conference)
Michael Doherty (St Mary’s Conference)
25 years of Vincentian Service
Elaine Carey (St Dominic’s Conference)
Edith Claude (St Dominic’s Conference)
Lydia Ngaba (St Dominic’s Conference)
Margaret Motate (St Paul’s Conference)
Gloria Seokama (St Paul’s Conference)
Eva Ramaisa (St Charles Conference)
Edith Khunou (St Peter’s Conference)
Kate January (St Peter’s Conference)
Joseph Matlakala (St Peter’s Conference)
Andrew Mothibit (St Peter’s Conference)
Elizabeth Marope (St Peter’s Conference)
Kimberley Central Council’s oldest member is Sister Mary Joseph, who at 99 years of age has served the society for 45 years – an inspiration to us all.
Sister Sheila Smith a serving Vincentian of 45 years, at a very young 91 years of age.