Why we serve the poor – 80 years later

by | Jan 9, 2014 | Uncategorized

svdp-logo-ausSome 80 years ago the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Australia offered their answer to why they serve the poor. The more things change the more they stay the same. Read it yourself to judge how well this statement has travelled the decade.

Australian SVDP 1934 – Why we serve the poor

From the conclusion…

The paper is divided into two sections—viz.:

(1) Why we should help the poor at all, and

(2) Why we should help the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

The first question—viz., “Why should we help the poor?” is answered by giving two general groups of reasons—viz., purely natural ones and supernatural ones.

The natural ones are:—(a) The poor are our fellow human beings, and (b) We may be poor some day ourselves and need the help of others.

The supernatural ones are:—(l) God‟s command, with the consequence of His punishment for disobedience, and (2) The rewards, for Time and Eternity, which He so generously promises.

The second question—viz., „Why should we help the St. Vincent de Paul Society?”—is answered by a series of talks on different phases of that movement. We treated of:—

(a)     The Story of the origin of the society;

(b)     How the society stands after 100 years;

(c)     The works undertaken by its members;

(d)  The sources from which come their funds, with a few remarks on each of the four—viz., periodic appeals in the churches, the poor box, donations in money or in kind, and bequests by will.

All this led up to the final sub-section, which deals with the vital question—the very purpose for which this paper was penned—viz.:—

(e)     Why we should consider this society when we are debating in our minds the distribution of what money we can spare amongst the numerous charitable works sponsored by the Church. We found these reasons to be:—

(1)    It is a safe way of investing, because (a) only deserving cases will be helped; and (b) practically all we give will reach Christ, in the person of His poor. Overhead expenses are practically nil.

(2) The works are so varied and so beautiful, and some of them are not done by any other agency in the Church in our midst.

(3)    The last reason, and the most impelling one in the mind of the writer, is—that this work is done by Catholic laymen, who mingle with the people of the world, and, thus, bring prominently before their eyes the beneficent charity of the Church, so that it seems fair to assume that this influence may be to some extent more effective than that which is wielded by professional religious.

If even a little good is done by this paper, the writer has all the reward he seeks. Members of the society reading it can find, if they try, reminders of what should be the spirit actuating them in all they do. The general Catholic body reading it, may be urged to greater fidelity in co-operation, if they have already tried to be faithful, or to become co-operators, either by joining up or by helping in a financial way, if they have not already done so.

All, without exception, should ever keep in mind those emphatic words of Our Lord: “Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to Me—therefore, depart from Me, you cursed!” and those consoling words that are the counterpart of this denunciation: “Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these, My least brethren, you did it to Me—therefore, come, ye blessed of My Father!”

Nihil obstat:


Censor Theol. Deputatus.




Archiepiscopus Melbournensis. 15/11/1934