Ambria Hammel of The Catholic Sun writes:
As elementary and high school students, they’re among St. Vincent de Paul’s youngest volunteers who are unable to wholly support themselves. Yet over and over again students from schools throughout the Diocese of Phoenix schools follow the example of the widow’s mite by navigating around that and other barriers to still help the Society of St. Vincent de Paul fulfill its four-fold mission: Feed. Clothe. House. Heal.
There are 30 junior high students at Annunciation Catholic School and a few neighboring schools who are very passionate about living the mission of St. Vincent de Paul. They’re known as Vibrant Vinnies, the only elementary level St. Vincent de Paul Vincentian conference in the western region of the United States.
They commit themselves to two events per month with at least a handful of Vibrant Vinnies at each one. Annunciation students study social justice in fifth grade and the SVdP conference offers an immediate and long-lasting way to bring that lesson to life.
“It’s a wonderful idea to help children understand that they have a role in society in helping the poor. It’s a way of expressing their gratitude for all of the gifts that we’ve been given,” said Ling Patty, past president of the St. Gabriel’s conference at the same campus. She helped form the student conference as a way to ensure the future of the society.
Vibrant Vinnies support the food drives; sponsor an annual Christmas party in one dining room complete with faith-inspired goodies for children’s stockings; coordinate clothing drives for SVdP thrift stores; visit older residents at Ozanam Manor (SVdP’s transitional shelter); and pair up with St. Matthew’s Vincentian Conference to make home visits to guests in need. Their youthful faces during home visits often encourages the guest to be more relaxed and open about their needs.
Tyler Schlarb, a sixth-grader, said being a Vincentian helps people develop their spirituality. “School teaches academics; being a Vincentian teaches us to be caring and how to grow stronger in our faith.”
Others talked about the fact that being a Vincentian opened their eyes to the poverty around them.
“A lot of kids don’t realize how lucky they are,” said seventh-grader Michael Motola, noting a common attitude among youth and as a result they become careless with regard to the goods that they possess.
The Annunciation Catholic School Vibrant Vinnies will host the district meeting for Vincentians Jan. 24 and are supporting Pizza Night in the Family Dining Room sometime this month.
Corporal workers of mercy
Students at St. Francis Xavier aren’t an official conference, but their “Mini Vinnies” effort has them regularly filling Family Dining Room roles each semester. An electronic signup invites students ages 9 and older to volunteer with their family and friends. Not every slot gets filled, but the school offered 40 different dates during the fall semester and the dates closer to Christmas were completely filled.
Volunteers either support the Dream Center where kids do homework and games or serve dinner restaurant style. After a long absence, fifth-grader Henry Pastor was happy to return in December with his brother, cousins and friends.
“I felt like I should come here because I hadn’t done it this year and I’ve been busy,” Pastor said. He and others view SVdP as their “getaway” place where they can also do some good.
Pastor’s aunt, Sonya La Sota, said the opportunity helped families, not just the students, live out the “Kids for Others” part of St. Francis Xavier’s mission statement.
At Sacred Heart in Prescott, the local SVdP conference knows it “can” count on students when the pantry supply is low. The school holds an annual “Super Soup Bowl” around the time of the big game. Students select which themed “end zone” to donate their canned goods.
Students at the high school level often help SVdP from both their school campus and the main SVdP campus where guests will find freshmen at Brophy College Preparatory.
“They serve as one of the primary co-educators of our students and allow our students real opportunities to put their faith into action,” said Will Rutt, director of Ignatian Service, calling SVdP’s partnership invaluable.
Seton Catholic Preparatory in Chandler has a similar setup through its “Prayer and Service at Seton” program. November marked the first time freshman Maeve Byrne was at SVdP. She wrote in a reflection that she was a little nervous to serve lunch to the guests at first — praying beforehand helped, as did staying busy.
“The most enjoyable part of my day of service was seeing the appreciation in the guests’ faces. I felt as if they knew how hard we were working to help them. Their gratitude was a great boost in morale,” she wrote. “Having helped others, I feel closer to those in need.”
Aidan Alcott, a senior at Brophy, started volunteering at SVdP to fulfill service hour requirements, but returned to helping in the Family Dining Room when he accepted a gentle challenge from a Xavier College Preparatory friend — and regular volunteer — to be a better person.
“I love to share with my friends the stories that I have heard of St. Vincent de Paul,” said Alcott, who now comes weekly. His quest each night: to go the extra mile for guests, engage them and put a smile on their faces. The experience has also made him more patient and more social.
Sarah Fox, a senior at Xavier College Preparatory, supports SVdP’s Family Dining Room weekly and recently was the key contact person. She began volunteering through the Xavier Young Vincentians Club, which began in 2004. The club volunteers twice a month, but Fox also comes on her own.
“I try not to let what I have going on outside of St. Vincent de Paul affect my schedule which demands my being present here,” Fox said while serving one night. “I’d rather be here when they need me rather than when I’m available.”
Source: SVdP Frederic’s E-Gazette 1-24-2019; Article originally published TheCatholicSun.org: Students’ Commitment to Service Manifested at St. Vincent de Paul, by Ambria Hammel of The Catholic Sun.