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St. Vincent de Paul Society provides special 'extra' help

The last couple of months I've been writing about different organizations within the archdiocese that advance the social teaching of the church. I wrote about our Catholic educators who help students grow up to be Catholic voters who know what the common good is. Last month, I wrote about Madonna School and its beautiful care for the disabled.

This month, I want to tell you about the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Founded in Paris, France, in 1833 by Frédéric Ozanam, the first Omaha conference was founded on Dec. 29, 1869. Throughout the history of Omaha, the St. Vincent de Paul Society has maintained an important presence.

After the tornado of 1913, members of the society provided help to the many thousands who suffered. When Father Flanagan founded his home for boys on 25th and Dodge in 1917, the local St. Vincent de Paul Society helped him, too.

Today, the society runs a food pantry, provides the poor with affordable necessities, helps with utilities and rent and much, much more. Society members do this throughout the archdiocese. Many times, the society offers not just stuff but a conversation, a relationship and the kind of help that can introduce the poor to Jesus.

Take Mary (not her real name), for instance. Mary has become the foster parent for her sister's twin babies, who suffer from fetal drug syndrome. Mary's sister has no intention of changing her lifestyle of drugs, so Mary decided to care for these beautiful children. The state is helping, but state help does not cover everything. This is why they call it "supplemental."

The society conference at one parish has helped her with rent, baby supplies and more. Mary has even started taking instruction in the Catholic faith. It was made clear to her that she didn't have to, but she insisted. We pray that she does find a spiritual home in the Catholic Church, but even if she doesn't, we know we as church have reached out to her in the love Christ demands of us.

Or consider this story of John (not his real name). John was an elderly veteran who knew he did not have long to live. He didn't want much other than to be able to die at home instead of in an institution. But he couldn't possibly afford the hospice care at home. The hospice company was willing to donate some of their time, but that still left an insurmountable sum.

John's landlord reached out to a society conference at a parish, which pledged regular support and contacted the district council. A request was made to the wider St. Vincent de Paul Society throughout the city, and enough money was raised to cover the cost of this man's hospice until he passed away in his own home and at peace.

What I love about this story is that the landlord knew that the society at that parish had a reputation for helping the poor and so knew where to seek assistance. Stories like this could be commonplace if we all help the society and the work society members do, especially those parish conferences in the economically challenged parts of Omaha. Please consider not only donating, but also volunteering for the society.

Check to see how you can help at your own parish's conference. Also, visit to see where you can help to serve the needs of the poor, people such as John and Mary.

Omar Gutiérrez is the manager of the archdiocesan Office of Missions and Justice. Contact him at

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