What’s in the Society of St Vincent de Paul’s National Council Report presented at the recent AGM
There’s been a gradual decline of local membership in the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) as conferences have been unable to attract new members. The new executive of the SVP will have to deal with this and other challenges including under-occupancy of facilities and revenue generation.
The issues identified in the National Council Report were presented at the SVP AGM, September 29 at Trinity College East. The theme was …towards Oneness.
It noted the lack of vibrancy could be seen in the fact some conferences have had the same President for the past ten years. “In many cases no member will like to be saddled with the responsibility of leadership,” the report stated.
There were conferences which did not report to parishes or hold weekly meetings, “and generally are not taking on projects that give the Society the visibility that will cause Catholics to want to be part of something real, meaningful and happening”.
The report said the generosity of parishes via the Church door collection prevented many conferences from going “into abeyance”.
Concern was raised about conferences not submitting reports to the National President. Members were reminded of “the plethora of new legislation” which may cause the conference to suffer severe legal consequences.
Conferences were urged to adhere to their responsibility since previous reports sent to SVP head office in Paris, France were incomplete. “Also, donors who read the Society’s Annual General Meeting report will come away with a negative view of the Society and how it handles money that it is entrusted with for the poor.”
The attempt to revive the youth ministry was seen as “crucial” to changing this attitude. “Conferences must show by example what it means to take on responsibility, a greater effort must be made to improve the Society’s image.”
Occupancy at the SVP’s 16 homes and institutions “leave a lot to be desired” and efforts to ameliorate this through advertisements and offering Day Care Services were not successful.
Upgrade is necessary at the St Christopher’s Home, San Fernando with cost estimated at $1.5 million. Funds are unavailable. Upgrades have begun at St Andrew’s Home, Belmont, while Archie Stephens Home, Cunupia, needs “major repairs”. Repairs were done at the Ozanam Night Shelter, San Fernando and the Nazareth Halfway House, Port of Spain.
For the Society to concentrate on its key function of looking after the poor, the report stated a Business Unit was established, staffed by persons who are not Vincentians [members of SVP] but identify with the Catholic and Vincentian ethos.
The unit will focus on raising funds to assist the SVP’s work and is not expected to incur additional cost. “Those engaged in the mentioned activities would only be compensated whenever funding realized by their efforts is received,” the report said.
The SVP has seen a reduction in donations. With new laws for donations, the processing of legacies left to the Society takes longer. One area for “potential growth” was Deeds of Covenants with the re-introduction of tax incentives by the State. “The Society has been slow to capitalise on this growth pole,” the report said.
The Financial Report mentioned the absence of contractual agreements with all relevant ministries of government. As a result, the SVP was in a vulnerable position for many months using “hard won savings to pay for salaries, food and other expenses throughout the entire system, as expected subventions are interminably delayed. This places an enormous financial burden on the Society every single month”.
It stated new ways must be found to generate additional revenues, but the Society was hopeful the new experimental Business Unit would assist “in alleviating this situation”.
By Lara Pickford-Gordon