President: Jean Perkins, Secretary: Andy Taylor, Treasurer: Clare Watkins.
In the turbulent, increasingly atheistic and cholera-ridden Paris of 1833, a 20-year old Catholic law student called Frédéric Ozanam and six of his friends determined to help the despairing people living in destitution in the city’s slums, by personal, friendly contact and making themselves hands-on useful. Calling themselves the Conference of Charity, they placed their work in the hands of the Mother of Jesus and took as their model Saint Vincent de Paul, because of his heroic and practical compassion for the poor. Today that little band has grown into the worldwide Society of St Vincent de Paul with 700,000 volunteers in 150 countries serving the needy and the lonely of their own neighbourhoods. Frédéric Ozanam was beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 1997.
SVP volunteers in Saffron Walden try to reach out to those around us needing material support in different ways or maybe just friendly contact in an increasingly lonely world. We visit them at home and in residential care homes and hospitals, befriending them and taking them to Mass or arranging for Holy Communion at home. We drive them to wherever they need to be and organise occasional outings to, for example, Walsingham, or to tea at Grantchester or Clavering Lakes.
Your generosity enables us to offer material help directly to young families in need of support and to others in cooperation with organisations like Jimmy’s Shelter. You make it possible, through your gifts to the SVP, for disadvantaged children and young people to have holidays. We supply Father David with funds to assist the itinerant poor who ring his doorbell. We contribute to central SVP funds (www.svp.org.uk) and so to services up and down the country including debt counselling, literacy tuition, residential care for the homeless and the mentally ill, soup runs, distributing donated clothes and furniture, providing care for the disabled and offenders and for their dependants, and running St John Bosco Summer Camps for boys and girls.
Saffron Walden SVP Conference is twinned with St Mary’s SVP Conference in Kerala, India, to whom we send regular funding. In 2006, you helped us build latrines for 12 families in the Kerala hill village of Elappally. In 2009, your gifts to the SVP also helped to fund baby-feeding centres in Sudan.
Thank you for your generosity, above all through the SVP’s Retiring Collection each November but also for all your many other donations - and legacies! By supporting the SVP, the parishioners of Our Lady of Compassion both help their near neighbours and improve the lives of distressed families in other parts of England and Wales and overseas.
Sadly, many SVP Conferences in England have had to close down because of a lack not of funds but of volunteers. There are only eight of us here in the Saffron Walden SVP, most of us not as young as we were, yet there is much to do. ‘The poor you will have with you always,’ said Jesus. If you could give even two or three hours a month, in the Lord’s name, to share our work, He will most certainly bless you, as will His beloved needy ones.
Our meetings are advertised in the Parish Newsletter. We meet at 20:00 in the Hall every other Monday for about an hour, to share information and organise the work. We would be very glad if you could join us.