Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul generally belong to parish-based groups, called Conferences. These Conferences benefit from the support and assistance of the pastor and rely heavily on the generosity of parishioners. Men and women who would like to learn more about becoming a member (a “Vincentian”, after our patron saint, St. Vincent de Paul), should contact their local Conference, generally through the parish office. If your parish does not yet have a Conference, please contact the Central Office of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (416-364-5577) to locate the nearest Conference.
To learn more about what it means to be a member and what will be expected of you, see Member Position Description and Membership Policy. For those under 18, see Guidelines for New Members Under 18 Years of Age. For information about the history of the Society and our founder and patron saint, visit History and Traditions.
Although membership is challenging and not for everyone, it may be what you are looking for – a way for you to act on your faith and to turn concern into action.
Membership Position Description
Members of the Society provide service to the poor and others in need, as a result of life’s challenges. This ministry is about giving of yourself and allows you to both answer God’s call to service and to respond to needs within your immediate or wider community. Although home visitations have traditionally represented the core work of the members, Vincentians and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul continue to respond to new needs and realities. (“No work of charity is foreign to the Society” – The Rule, Schema I)
The Vincentian is a member of a Conference (generally parish-based) and, as such, commitments will include:
- Complying with the Screening Measures, listed below;
- serving the needy through activities determined by the local Conference. These activities currently may include home visitations, holding the poor box after mass, handling finances and other resources, a Christmas assistance program, and clothing and food drives;
- actively and regularly participating in the activities of the Society, according to the principles set forth in the General Rule, and faithfully attending the meetings of the Conference;
- contributing to the spirit of fraternity, simplicity and Christian joy which are the hallmark of Conference meetings, and being an active participant in the process of collectively striving to improve services to those in need;
- responding to the need for involvement on committees or in an Executive position, as your talents and interests lead you;
- meeting and continuing to abide by the membership requirements, as detailed in Policy #1 (Membership) and Policy #2 (Member Screening/Risk Management), available from the Conference president or Central Office (416-364-5577).
Qualifications and Personal Traits/Qualities
- 18 years of age or older (but the Conference president may approve 16 or 17 year old applicants, as per the procedures set out in the “Guidelines for New Members Under 18 years of Age”);
- As an expression of your faith and beliefs, a deep desire to serve the poor, and others in need, and to commit some of your time, talents and self to this ministry;
- The ability and the commitment to see Christ in those whom you will serve;
- A genuine spirit of humility and generosity;
- A deep sensitivity to, and respect for, the person and their range of needs;
- The ability to use good judgment without being judgmental;
- A sense of humour, especially about yourself
Before becoming a full member, each candidate must:
- Submit a completed Member Information Form, with references;
- Submit an appropriate Police Records Check report;
- Successfully complete the interview process;
- Sign a Service Covenant;
- Complete the Orientation Session.
Orientation and Training
- Complete the member orientation session for new members (provided through Toronto Central Council);
- Become familiar with the Rule, available from the Conference president or Central Office (416-364-5577)
- Make a commitment to participate in ongoing training, as available
People with a range of needs will welcome or seek out the assistance of the Society. Some will require financial assistance, others a compassionate ear or some advice. Assistance will usually be provided through home visitations. In other cases, those in need might receive support and assistance at another appropriate location, such as the church hall.
Support, Supervision and Evaluation
The most substantive and regular support and supervision is provided by the president and other members of your Conference. Through regular attendance at Conference meetings, with its sharing of experience related to service, the member is able to self-evaluate and the group is able to assist and guide the member.
Where it is the opinion of the Conference president that, in spite of efforts to address the concern, a member is not providing appropriate service to those in need or is behaving contrary to the principles of the Rule, the process described in the Membership and Member Screening/Risk Management Policies will apply.
Length of Appointment
A person may remain a member as long as they continue to be in good standing with a Conference and abide by the requirements for membership, including adherence to the principles of the Rule.
Benefits and Working Conditions
You are provided with the opportunity to answer Christ’s call to serve and to respond to the needs of those less fortunate. In order to do so, it will be necessary for you to be available to visit homes as the need arises, to attend regular meetings and to assist in other ways. You must be prepared to be generous with your time, talents and compassion.
– link to policy in resources section
Guidelines for New Members Under 18 Years of Age
The Membership Policy defines a member, in part, as someone who “…is 18 years of age or older (but the Conference president may approve 16 or 17 year old applicants…);” This membership requirement is in no way meant to prevent or discourage young people from service to the poor through activities of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as General Volunteers. We continue to welcome and value the involvement of young people in activities such as Bundle Weekends and Christmas assistance programs.
Where a young person under 18 years of age wishes to apply for membership, the decision to approve membership rests with the Conference president. However, the Conference president is asked to follow these guidelines, which have been designed to serve the best interests of those being served, as well as the member and the Conference.
- An applicant under age 16 will not be considered for membership.
- In most cases, a 16 or 17 year old person will only be considered for membership if a close family member is currently an active member of that Conference.
- The young applicant will meet all the requirements for membership (as listed in the Membership Policy), except for the age requirement and obtaining a Police Records Check (which is not available for people under the age of 18).
- The President and Interviewer must be convinced that the applicant has the appropriate maturity and motivation to serve those in need.
- The young member will be accompanied by the family member on all home visitations.
- Before accompanying the family member on home visitations, that member will verify that the families are not known to the young person through school or work.
- The family member will ensure that the young person fully appreciates the importance of keeping all information about clients in confidence.