Learning about the St. Vincent DePaul Society

In response to the call sent out by the Eucharistic Explorations Committee, our group of eight Sisters discerned opportunities to live out the Eucharist within the community. Inspired by a mailer insert that announced daily exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at the St. Vincent dePaul Gateway Shelter for Women and Families in Dayton, we decided to pray with the women for an hour of adoration and Benediction.

Arrangements were made through Deacon Mark Danis, director of spirituality. Following the prayer time, the Sisters were joined by Roxanne, a security agent, to have lunch. Roxanne gave an overview of the services offered by the shelter, including help with securing funds, furthering educational opportunities and personal counseling. Among the many reasons women become homeless are abusive relationships and inadequate housing. We were also informed the women are considered “guests” rather than “residents” since the intent is for the women to stay only a short time. The Sisters were impressed with the shelter’s efforts to respect the confidentiality of the guests.

The St. Vincent dePaul shelter for women and families operates 24/7 and welcomes any woman with her children who has need for a place to be while addressing her concerns. On any given day, there may be 200–350 guests at the shelter. The children at the shelter attend school during the day. St. Vincent dePaul also has a men’s shelter at a different location.

Learning about the shelters opened a whole bag of questions regarding the St. Vincent dePaul Society’s work. So as a follow-up, Michael Vanderburgh, executive director of SVDP in the Dayton area, was invited to address the Sisters at Salem Heights, our central house in Dayton. He also joined the local Salem Heights community for Mass and lunch.

Michael spoke to us not only about the shelters, but also about the other services that the Society offers. He particularly described the services offered by the parish conferences that are often the first contact needy people have with SVDP. He said that it is through these parish conferences that food pantries are operated, where rent monies are distributed or electric bills paid. Volunteers offer their services at these parish efforts. Michael also told of the St. Vincent Hotel, which provides housing and counseling for men who have been substance addicted or have been incarcerated. The project prepares the men to enter the workforce and society. He described this effort as very successful and one that the Society is most proud of.

One moment of serendipity: In our conversation with Michael, we learned that he remembered Sister Martha Bertke when she served at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Sandusky. When Michael and his wife had their first son baptized at Sts. Peter and Paul, they became acquainted with Sister Martha and her service at the parish. It is a small world after all!

Sisters of the Precious Blood support the St. Vincent dePaul Society. The Sisters at Salem Heights were honored to offer accommodations for nearly three weeks for several women from Christ in the City, a group of young adult missionaries who give a year of service dedicated to knowing, loving and serving the homeless at various locations. During their time in Dayton, they served the staff and homeless guests at the local St. Vincent shelters.

— Story by Sister Mary Garke

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