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My Experience as a Volunteer with St Vincent de Paul

16 January 2012


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“God’s business is done little by little... and we must always be careful not to run ahead of God’s providence... it seems as a paradox to say this, but it is true that they who are in a hurry, delay the things of God”.    
St. Vincent de Paul 1581-1660

I joined the Vincent de Paul over nine years ago mainly as a volunteer in the Thrift Shop in Longford, because they were looking for volunteers and because I was looking for another way to connect locally with the people on the margins.

Since then, I have become involved in different levels of the organisation firstly setting up a housing scheme for homeless people who need support to move into independent living and secondly chairing the Elphin Area of the Region with responsibility for two homeless hostels and ten conferences.

This experience has given me a whole different way of looking at the world and how those on the margins experience it.  My experience of people on the margins throws me back time and time again to the words of our Foundress, Catherine McAuley  – “ We are like the compass that goes round its circle without stirring from its centre.  Our centre is in God, from whom all our actions should spring as from their source.”

Time spent in prayer and meditation to know the will of God is what spurs and supports the action within me. Action is the whole thrust of the Vincent de Paul, especially at this time of year.

Funny, charming, impassioned, candid - Vincent de Paul had an extraordinary capacity to connect with all types of people. He was renowned for his sense of humor and I believe that the SVP members on the whole have a great sense of humor. It would be a very rare meeting or visit that I would not have enjoyed a good joke or a good giggle. It’s the good humor of the Vincent de Paul volunteers that can reach out to people, even those in the depths of despair in their gut-wrenching reality.  It’s the humour that hands back hope, pride, oneness, love.



Visitation is an essential part of the SVP volunteers’ life. It urges you to meet the needy with reverence and empathy. The vocation is ultimately a deeply spiritual one, to follow Christ through service to the needy, to contemplate Christ in the face of the poor person.

Our own Mercy Chapter Directive on the alleviation of world poverty is a direction dear to my heart and one I actively engage in through our Mine is Yours group (MIY).  The great connection for me with our chapter direction and Vincent de Paul is the “Modus Operandi” of the Vincent de Paul Society which is always targeted on the alleviation of poverty in all its guises. It’s a delight and an inspiration and a privilege to be part of the enthusiasm and commitment of the many volunteers who give tirelessly of their time and energy to those on the margins.

St Vincent de Paul

"When God wishes to communicate Himself He does so without effort,
in a sweet, gentle and loving manner. Let us, therefore, ask God for the gift of prayer, and let us do so with great confidence.  God, on His side, asks for nothing better. Give me a person of prayer and she will be capable of everything; she can say with the Apostle:
I can do all in Christ Jesus who strengthens me."   - St. Vincent de Paul.


Michelle Gorham RSM






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