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From left, Judy Brusselback, Gerri Zeman, Linda Winkler and Anna Brueckner joined the other “Rag Ladies” in sorting and boxing donations at Queen of All Saints Parish in Oakville Nov. 4. The Rag Ladies sort through donations to the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society to ensure they are in good condition and then organize them.
From left, Judy Brusselback, Gerri Zeman, Linda Winkler and Anna Brueckner joined the other “Rag Ladies” in sorting and boxing donations at Queen of All Saints Parish in Oakville Nov. 4. The Rag Ladies sort through donations to the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society to ensure they are in good condition and then organize them.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Queen of All Saints parishioners use talents for others

St. Vincent de Paul conference members find their role fulfilling

Each of the 155 members of the Queen of All Saints Parish St. Vincent de Paul Society conference participates in one or more of the conference’s ministries. There’s the Holy Bakers, Holy Couponers, Holy Haulers, Sandwich Brigade and even the Rag Ladies.

Retirees form the backbone of this and many other parish St. Vincent de Paul Society conferences in the archdiocese.

The conference currently is preparing for its Christmas programs — the giving tree and adopt-a-family effort. A Thanksgiving food drive is under way as well.

They regularly provide food for homeless people at Peter and Paul Community Services’ shelter, and volunteers from Queen of All Saints will be there Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And with the colder weather, the conference staffs the clean-up crew at a St. Louis Winter Outreach emergency shelter.

The conference received more than 200 coats in the annual coat drive after Masses a couple weekends in September. And they regularly donate to drives for hygiene packets distributed to people who are homeless. Parishioners also turn out for the Walk for the Poor in September that raises funds for the conference.

Bruce Bange, who worked in internet technology for 30 years and is a 34-year member of Queen of All Saints, got involved in the Society when he retired about 11 years ago. “I wanted to be able to help others and use my talents,” he said. “It’s great to go and visit the people (in need) because you don’t understand what others are going through until you’ve done that. It’s really fulfilling when you’re able to help.”

Sometimes it’s just keeping someone’s utilities on by paying a bill, but other times it may mean assisting someone to get a job or furnish an apartment, he said.

Getting involved in parish life, he said, “gives you an opportunity to meet others with a similar outlook. There’s always something you can be part of.”

Ahrens
Jeanette Ahrens, a member of the parish 41 years, was especially involved when her children were in school. After her husband died and she retired, she wanted to get more involved. The Society fit the bill.

“You get such a good feeling helping people,” she said. “And I reconnected with a lot of the moms that I worked with at the school and met so many others.”

Ahrens leads the Rag Ladies, a group of Vincentians who sort through donated clothing, making sure they are clean and OK to wear. The average age is 78. “And they are hilarious,” Ahrens said. “They’re so special. They’re such religious people.”

When she helps with the meals at Peter and Paul Community Services, she said, “I’m on such a high for three or four days. They (the clients) make you feel so special. It’s a warm feeling. And you realize these people have nothing, and they’re so thankful.”

Tom Knese, president of the conference, started it with his wife, Merce, 39 years ago. “My job is keeping everybody busy,” he said, “that’s how we’ve developed into all these things. I’m overwhelmed with the help we can give people. You realize how better off you are being able to pay your bills and stay out of the cold.”

Merce Knese said, “Without that parish support, we wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

The Vincentians do projects with the parish school and PSR children, including a poverty simulation and a program that provides food on weekends to children in the Hancock School District.

Jerry Mueller, a former district president, started with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the early 1990s. A friend who was involved died, and Mueller took his place.

When he retired from his job, he used his military background to organize a home-rebuilding effort in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. They assisted the Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi. It began what’s known as the Sluggers, and the group of mostly Vincentians from the parish have made 28 mission trips, working on more than 200 homes.

Besides caring for people in its own parish, the conference assists conferences in south St. Louis and south St. Louis County. It has contacts within the Hancock School District and assists DePaul USA, which has housing programs for people who were previously homeless.

The Holy Haulers are conference volunteers who pick up and deliver furniture to clients and thrift stores. They also are involved in the annual coat drive for clients of Hosea House, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in St. Louis, Peter and Paul Community Services and the Old Cathedral Parish. The Holy Bakers provide baked goods for clients. Holy Couponers shop with coupons to obtain reduced-price or even free items for clients. And the Sandwich Brigade makes 250 sandwiches each month for St. Vincent de Paul Parish’s lunch program.


Sluggers

Staffed mainly by volunteers from Queen of All Saints Parish in Oakville, the Sluggers just finished home repairs in Taylorville, Ill., which was hit by a tornado on Dec. 1, 2018. They assisted eight families there.

The Sluggers made 13 trips to Joplin and weeklong hurricane recovery trips to the Gulf Coast twice a year for six years. They’ve done 28 projects, or missions. The oldest Slugger is 80, and the average age is about 70.

When DePaul USA purchased a building a couple years ago that became St. Lazare House for previously homeless people, the Sluggers did many updates and renovations to the property. The Holy Haulers from Queen of All Saints Parish furnished many of the rooms with donations. Parishioners from the St. Vincent de Paul Society found pots, pans, dishes, dinnerware and more, and even had a volunteer decorator who gave it a welcoming look. They continue to supply the residence with many items and make routine repairs.

They’ve also helped at St. Anthony Parish Food Pantry, Wings of Hope and at the SVDP Thirft Stores.

Currently the Sluggers are helping to renovate what will be the new offices of the Criminal Justice Ministry in south St. Louis.

To inquire about volunteering with the Sluggers, email Jerry Mueller at jmule2001@yahoo.com.


>> World Day of the Poor

The World Day of the Poor was celebrated Nov. 17. Pope Francis wrote a message for the day that too often the poor are treated as refuse, seen as a threat or simply useless because they are poor.

In another part of the message, Pope Francis states:

“The Lord does not abandon those who seek Him and call upon His name: ‘He does not forget the cry of the poor’ (Psalm 9:12), for His ears are attentive to their voice. The hope of the poor defies deadly situations, for the poor know that they are especially loved by God, and this is stronger than any suffering or exclusion. Poverty does not deprive them of their God-given dignity; they live in the certainty that it will be fully restored to them by God Himself, who is not indifferent to the lot of His lowliest sons and daughters. On the contrary, He sees their struggles and sorrows, He takes them by the hand, and He gives them strength and courage.”

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