Vincentians’ face-to-face encounters transform community in need

Moira Cullings

All it took was just over 500 volunteers to shape the lives of more than 20,000 individuals in need here in Colorado last year.

Those served were both families and individuals from a variety of backgrounds seeking anything from food and clothing to help with rent.

“For a lot of them, that’s their life,” said Steve Loftis, Executive Director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Denver Metro Council. “They go from one resource to another seeking help.”

Fortunately for those at risk of homelessness or going through a tough time financially in the Denver area and beyond, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is there to help.

The Society has been in Denver for over a century and is currently made up of 32 conferences, all affiliated with a parish, and spanning from Loveland to El Paso County. Volunteers known as Vincentians meet individuals face-to-face to help in any way they can.

“They do the home visits,” said Loftis. “They’ll interview a family or an individual and see what their needs are — if it’s rent, utilities, food and clothing, or wherever we might be able to help.”

Through donations, grants and partnerships with other organizations, the Society maintains various funds, which allow conferences to cater to the needs of those who approach them, often after learning about the Society through word of mouth or other organizations, such as Catholic Charities.

Although the biggest need Loftis sees is rent, the Society has several programs, including Fresh Start Loan, which helps individuals get out of the pay day loan system and improve their credit scores.

The Society also partners with arc Thrift Stores, which sells the Society gift cards at half price, and they in turn offer them to individuals in need.

For volunteer George Maes, serving the community in this way has been a pleasure.

“Meeting and helping those in need has truly been a blessing in my life,” he said. “It truly has changed my life. It has made me understand what it is to be humble and appreciate what God has given me, not to mention what it has done for my spiritual life.”

Maes has been with the Queen of Peace conference since 2006 as a volunteer and served for three years as president of the conference.

“Being a Vincentian, meeting people face-to-face [and] listening to their hardships in life most definitely allows you to see Christ in your neighbor who is in need,” he said.

During his time with the Society, Maes has seen everything “from a quiet thank you to tears and everything in between” from those he’s served. “No matter the type of response, they are all very appreciative and thankful for the help that was given to them.”

Loftis hopes the organization can continue having a profound impact on the Colorado community in years to come.

“Maybe instead of 20,000 people, next year we can help 40,000 people,” he said.

“As I look at our numbers last year for the housing fund, the money that I reimbursed our conferences with — the over $100,000 — allowed us to assist over 800 adults and over 600 children to avoid homelessness.

“That’s the type of thing we’re able to do with the funds that we receive.”

Highlights of services offered by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 2018
  • 2,647 home visits conducted, helping 6,029 individuals
  • 2,676 individuals provided with food
  • 613 other in-kind services delivered totaling $14,728
  • 5,648 other visits made, assisting 11,580 individuals
  • 797 visits made to 2,478 individuals in eldercare facilities
  • 59,398 miles driven to assist those in need
  • 12 individuals aided with dental, legal or medical assistance
  • 20,091 people were helped
  • 41,771 hours of volunteer service were completed
  • 6 new conferences were established

For more information, contact Steve Loftis at svdpden@outlook.com or visit the website at svdpden.org.

To mail a donation, send to:

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Denver Metro Council

558 Castle Pines Pkwy Unit B-4 #107

Castle Pines, CO 80108

 

COMING UP: Five Hispanic-American saints perhaps you didn’t know

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The American continent has had its share of saints in the last five centuries. People will find St. Juan Diego, St. Rose of Lima or St. Martin de Porres among the saints who enjoy greater popular devotion. Yet September, named Hispanic Heritage Month, invites a deeper reflection on the lives of lesser-known saints who have deeply impacted different Latin-American countries through their Catholic faith and work, and whose example has the power to impact people anywhere around the world. Here are just a few perhaps you didn’t know.

St. Toribio de Mogrovejo
1538-1606
Peru

Born in Valladolid, Spain, Toribio was a pious young man and an outstanding law student. As a professor, his great reputation reached the ears of King Philip II, who eventually nominated him for the vacant Archdiocese of Lima, Peru, even though Toribio was not even a priest. The Pope accepted the king’s request despite the future saint’s protests. So, before the formal announcement, he was ordained a priest, and a few months later, a bishop. He walked across his archdiocese evangelizing the natives and is said to have baptized nearly half a million people, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres. He learned the local dialects, produced a trilingual catechism, fought for the rights of the natives, and made evangelization a major theme of his episcopacy. Moreover, he worked devotedly for an archdiocesan reform after realizing that diocesan priests were involved in impurities and scandals. He predicted the date and hour of his death and is buried in the cathedral of Lima, Peru.

St. Mariana of Jesus Paredes
1618-1645
Ecuador

St. Mariana was born in Quito, modern-day Ecuador, and not only became the country’s first saint, but was also declared a national heroine by the Republic of Ecuador. As a little girl, Mariana showed a profound love for God and practiced long hours of prayer and mortification. She tried joining a religious order on two occasions, but various circumstances would not permit it. This led Mariana to realize that God was calling her to holiness in the world. She built a room next to her sister’s house and devoted herself to prayer and penance, living miraculously only off the Eucharist. She was known to possess the gifts of counsel and prophecy. In 1645, earthquakes and epidemics broke out in Quito, and she offered her life and sufferings for their end. They stopped after she made her offering. On the day of her death, a lily is said to have bloomed from the blood that was drawn out and poured in a flowerpot, earning her the title of “The Lily of Quito.”

St. Theresa of Los Andes
1900-1920
Chile

St. Theresa of Jesus of Los Andes was Chile’s first saint and the first Discalced Carmelite to be canonized outside of Europe. Born as Juana, the future saint was known to struggle with her temperament as a child. She was proud, selfish and stubborn. She became deeply attracted to God at the age six, and her extraordinary intelligence allowed her to understand the seriousness of receiving First Communion. Juana changed her life and became a completely different person by the age of 10, practicing mortification and deep prayer. At age 14, she decided to become a Discalced Carmelite and received the name of Theresa of Jesus. Deeply in love with Christ, the young and humble religious told her confessor that Jesus told her she would die soon, something she accepted with joy and faith. Shortly thereafter, Theresa contracted typhus and died at the age of 19. Although she was 6 months short of finishing her novitiate, she was able to profess vows “in danger of death.” Around 100,000 pilgrims visit her shrine in Los Andes annually.

St. Laura Montoya
1874-1949
Colombia

After Laura’s father died in war when she was only a child, she was forced to live with different family members in a state of poverty. This reality kept her from receiving formal education during her childhood. What no one expected is that one day she would become Colombia’s first saint. Her aunt enrolled her in a school at the age of 16, so she would become a teacher and make a living for herself. She learned quickly and became a great writer, educator and leader. She was a pious woman and wished to devote herself to the evangelization of the natives. As she prepared to write Pope Pius X for help, she received the pope’s new Encyclical Lacrymabili Statu, on the deplorable condition of Indians in America. Laura saw it as a confirmation from God and founded the Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart and St. Catherine of Siena, working for the evangelization of natives and fighting or their behalf to be seen as children of God.

St. Manuel Morales
1898-1926
Mexico

Manuel was a layman and one of many martyrs from Mexico’s Cristero War in the 1920s. He joined the seminary as a teen but had to abandon this dream in order to support his family financially. He became a baker, married and had three children. This change, however, did not prevent him from bearing witness to the faith publicly. He became the president of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, which was being threatened by the administration of President Plutarco Elías Calles. Morales and two other leaders from the organization were taken prisoners as they discussed how to free a friend priest from imprisonment through legal means. They were beaten, tortured and then killed for not renouncing to their faith. Before the firing squad, the priest begged the soldiers to forgive Morales because he had a family. Morales responded, “I am dying for God, and God will take care of my children.” His last words were, “Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe!”