Orientation Shares SvDP Ministry with Local Parishes
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
June 8, 2017

ROCKFORD—Ministering to the poor while growing spiritually are just two of the many blessings connected with the outreach of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

So learned about 50 people from Rockford area parishes at an Ozanam Orientation, June 3. Named after Frederic Ozanam who began the St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) Society in France in 1833, the orientation aims to familiarize those attending with the work of the SVdP Society.

The day-long event hosted by Holy Family Parish in Rockford featured speakers — Larry Case of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Cary, Frank Karpowicz of St. Mary Parish in Huntley, Deacon Kevin Prunty of St. Patrick Parish in Amboy and Bill

Wenzloff of St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Parish in Crystal Lake — who worked through a training manual with participants.

The society’s focus is to organize parish-based groups who, “…engage in a number of works covering all the needs, trials and tribulations of human life, both corporal and spiritual.” SVdP members, or Vincentians as they are called, run thrift stores, provide eldercare, work in prison ministry, staff food pantries and assist with immigration services. Worldwide, there are more than 800,000 Vincentians; in the United States, membership is near 96,000.

Two unique aspects of the SVdP are that members go on home visits to those needing assistance and several parish SVdP groups in the same geographical area participate in “twinning.”

Bill Wenzloff explains, “If a certain family that the SVdP Society is working with has a home repair that costs $5,000, the need goes out to Vincentians from near-by parishes and these other parishes contribute what they can to this repair. In this way, one branch of our society helps another and the need is usually met relatively quickly.”

Frank Karpowicz has been a member of SVdP at St. Mary Parish in Huntley for 30 years. He said that the Vincentians at his parish are always looking for innovative ways to help the needy.

“Since last year, we have had a garden to grow fresh vegetables for the needy in our area. We also do prison visits to near-by correctional facilities, we have a food pantry and do a clothing drive four times a year,” he said.

“We partner with the Joliet Diocese for the clothing and furniture drive. They help us by providing the trucks,” he added.

“Being a part of St. Vincent de Paul has truly been my life,” Karpowicz said. “I’ve been involved for over 30 years and just to visit the people we serve, to see their faces and to know that we’re helping them, it means everything to me,” Karpowicz said. “Being there for the poor, being in their presence, I think is what means the most to Vincentians.”

Kevin Hunter of St. Rita Parish in Rockford, attended the Ozanam Orientation in hopes of bringing SVdP to his parish.

“There is a call within our parish for the Holy Spirit’s presence and we are in the process of trying to discern how we will be a part of St. Vincent de Paul,” he said. “We know that the need (to help the poor) in Rockford is large and perhaps St. Rita’s outreach could help the areas of southwest and southeast Rockford.”

Wenzloff works primarily as a formatter for the SVdP Society which means that he travels around the diocese giving presentations to parishes interested in forming SVdP groups.

“Being a Vincentian has profoundly deepened my spirituality. Being a part of this organization, has showed me that my faith is such an important part of my life, because it affects our world,” he said.

“Our Catholic faith teaches us how to make this world a better place. Giving of ourselves to others is a huge part of St. Vincent de Paul’s message.”