God Calls … Susan Wiland to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
May 18, 2023
“There is rarely a specific moment when we realize that being a Vincentian has become part of who we are,” says Susan Wiland, president of the Rockford Council of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
“But there are some key differences between seeing our work as a volunteer and as a vocation.”
Many people join the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, she says, “because we have been invited to do something: to make home visits, take phone calls, or serve in a food pantry. It may be only after years of service that we realize that we are no longer volunteers — we are Vincentians.”
Serving Christ and neighbor
To define a Vincentian, Susan Wiland says, is to speak more about “what a Vincentian is, rather than what a Vincentian does.”
However, Vincentians not only grow spiritually, they also do a lot — offering tangible assistance to those in need on a person-to-person basis. 

“This aid may take the form of intervention, consultation or through direct financial or in-kind service,” says the national SVdP council website, which explains that Vincentians “put our faith into action.”
“We would like to think that we are helping our pastors and parish staff by responding to calls for assistance in our communities,” says Wiland. “We collaborate with state and local organizations and community churches to provide the best solutions that meet the needs of our friends in need.”
According to the Rockford Council’s Year End Report, in 2022: $2.377 million was provided to assist the friends in need including with expenses for housing (44%), utilities (21%), car (11%) and with food, household items, gas, financial aid, medical and other expenses.
The number of home visits in 2022 was 13,848; the number of people served was 32,365; and the hours of service came to 76,670.
Active members of the Society are those who participate regularly in the prayer life, meetings and person-to-person service of the poor. They are Catholic and members of a conference. They, like Wiland, grow through their prayer and service to become Vincentians.
“This is a vocation,” Wiland says. “It is a call from God, something we are. (It) changes us and how we think about life and the world, and (it) fulfills a need to serve God.”
However, not everyone is able to meet that level of commitment. They are welcome to be associate members instead. Associates do not participate regularly in the meetings or works of the conference. They may or may not be Catholic. They help where and when they can. 
Both categories of members are of all ages, races, and incomes, and “all are gifted with awareness that the blessings of time, talent and treasure are to be shared with neighbors in need,” says the SVdP national website.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is one of several organizations, lay and religious, whose members are inspired by the spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul. Those organizations include the Congregation of the Mission (priests and brothers) founded by St. Vincent in 1625; the Ladies of Charity (lay women), founded by St. Vincent in 1617; the Daughters of Charity founded by St. Vincent and St. Louise de Marillac in 1633; and the Sisters of Charity founded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in 1809.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was begun in Paris in 1833 by Blessed Frederic Ozanam (1813-1853), a layman, husband, father and college professor who founded the society when he was 20 years old. Its mission is “a network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with, and service to, people in need,” says the national website.
The site adds that the National Council in the United States “is part of an international society of friends united by a spirit of poverty, humility and sharing, which is nourished by prayer and reflection, mutually supportive gatherings, and adherence to a basic Rule.”
Wiland is president of the Rockford Council, which encompasses all the counties of the Diocese of Rockford and has 697 active Vincentians and 45 conferences. 
“We represent a cross-section of parishioners in our diocese,” Wiland says. “We grow in spirituality by helping to serve our neighbors in need. We offer not only financial assistance, but also try to help those who may be lonely, fearful, suffering the loss of a loved one, and a host of other needs.”
Both St. Vincent and Bl. Ozanam teach abandonment of self to God’s providence. Vincentians pray before and after meetings, with and for the neighbors served, and promote a life of prayer and reflection, says the national website.
Members practice individual prayer, study and discernment and participate in formal workshops and training sessions, including a one-day orientation workshop for new members about the Society’s heritage, traditions, organization, spirituality and works. The vocation of a Vincentian is a call to servant leadership.
“Vincentians perform works of Catholic Christian charity by meeting with our ‘Friends in Need’ in their home whenever possible,” Wiland says. “We visit in pairs just as the Apostles began their journey to bring the Gospel message to the world. 
“Our main goal is to see the face of Christ in those we serve.”
For more information about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the Diocese of Rockford, first check with your parish to see if there is a conference there. Or for more information, contact:  [email protected]
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