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.
Message from the National President
Dear Brothers and Sisters
I am deeply grateful for the incredible opportunity to serve as the National President of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP) in South Africa. This is not a position of privilege, but rather a calling to serve the people of God.
I want to acknowledge the significance of this moment in the history of SSVP in South Africa. As a resident of the Black Townships in Soweto, I am the first National President to come from this background in the 167 years of the Society’s existence.
I am stepping into this role with great enthusiasm and passion, inspired by the leadership of Brother Peter Keshwar, who has set a remarkable example for all of us. I am aware of the magnitude of the responsibility placed upon me.
The previous national executive team has done a commendable job in identifying and addressing various challenges. My main focus, along with my new team, is to continue their work, as well as set new objectives for the betterment of our organisation.
I am deeply committed to living by the Vincentian spirituality, which allows me to see Christ in the poor and the poor in Christ. I am also guided by the Holy Spirit in my endeavours.
My top priority is to engage and involve young people in the work of SSVP. Unfortunately, their participation in both SSVP and the church in South Africa has declined. I aim to reach out to Catholic young people attending catechism classes, youth organisations, YPFs, Catholic schools, and universities to encourage their involvement in our mission to serve the poor.
The safety of both our beneficiaries and our members is another crucial objective. We must implement safeguarding policies to ensure that the environments in which we operate are safe. Our role is to protect the vulnerable and ensure their safety from any harm inflicted on them.
Expanding the reach of SSVP
Expanding the reach of SSVP is also a significant goal for us. We need to reach every corner of the country, especially the poorest areas where poverty and hunger are most prevalent. To achieve this, we must engage with individuals and corporations, encouraging them to use their corporate social investment funds to partner with SSVP.
Throughout this journey, I pray for the guidance and support of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. I ask that the team I have chosen to work with me understand the importance of selflessness, humility, and respect in achieving our goals.
Values of our founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam
I call upon the support of the National Council, all SSVP members, and each and every one of you to pray for me as I lead this organisation with integrity, honour and respect. Let us emulate the values of our founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, and his six friends who started the Society in France in 1833.
Thank you for the opportunity to be elected as the National President of St Vincent de Paul in South Africa.
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.