“We’re from the church,” Bryan Kirchoff said after knocking on the apartment door. He and Holly Scheibel waited outside until Cheryl Boyd welcomed them inside.
Boyd uses a walker to get around the apartment in south St. Louis where she’s lived since Thanksgiving. Her previous building was contaminated with mold. A leak in the ceiling ruined some of Boyd’s furniture.
Scheibel is the president of the young adult conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Vincent Parish and Kirchoff recruits for the three young adult conferences in the archdiocese. They visited Boyd to provide her with a voucher for furniture from one of the society’s thrift stores. She is on a limited income because of a disability and can’t afford to buy replacements, including a kitchen table and chairs.
Before leaving, Kirchoff asked Boyd if it was OK to pray with her, and she quickly agreed. Afterward, she explained that her physical limitations make it hard to get to her Baptist church, though she’s still going to try to go every other week. She praised the Catholic parish for taking an interest in her challenges.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Young Adult Ministry involves young adults in the society’s work of visiting the needy in their homes to provide material assistance and a listening ear, as a means of Catholic Christian spiritual growth for its members. This ministry is available via the three young adult conferences (chapters) or any of the 140 traditional parish conferences. Opportunities also exist for work in its thrift stores or central office.
The ministry among young adults began in 2001. “The hunger for a faith-based peer circle was very strong among the young adult demographic,” said Kirchoff, a member of the conference at St. Vincent. The first conference was at St. Vincent, the second at St. Pius V Parish in south St. Louis and the newest is at Immaculate Conception Parish in Maplewood. Members bond with a spiritual purpose and substantial work, he said.
A passion for service
Elizabeth Matoushek is an original member of the Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati conference at St. Pius V Parish in south St. Louis which began in November 2007. She was away from St. Louis for 12 years before returning in 2005. She bought a house and attended daily Mass but felt a bit lonely. “I had a passion for service. I prayed. I thought surely there must be something more for me to do,” Matoushek said.
Her parish, St. John the Baptist in south St. Louis, had an item seeking young adults to serve in their neighborhood with other young adults. Kirchoff received enough interest to start the conference at St. Pius V.
The mission of the society is the spiritual growth of its members, Matoushek said, and that has occurred as they engage with people who are poor, living their plight with them, realizing their troubles and sorrows and receiving graces from them.
She gave an example, a caller who was from out of her area who she chatted with even though she couldn’t offer much help. “I felt badly that I couldn’t help her, but she was so appreciative,” Matoushek said. “At that moment it became apparent that you don’t have to do these grandiose gestures. You can help by just talking with someone for 10 minutes and just listening to them. That is a gift in and of itself.”
Typically the conference assists people with rent and utilities, but their help runs a wide gamut, even providing a car battery. “We help whenever, whoever with whatever in that moment they come to us. Maybe it is a 10-minute phone call or maybe a car battery,” said Matoushek, who is an environmental scientist.
David Boll has been involved in the Immaculate Conception Parish conference in Maplewood for about three years. He learned about it after returning to St. Louis to work after college. “I was trying to reconnect with people, trying to find something to do with my time to help other people,” he said.
It’s spiritually fulfilling and does important work in the community, said Boll, who works as a chemical engineer.
He attended the archdiocese’s young adult ministry events, but sought something smaller where he could connect easier with peers. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a good fit, he said.
“Usually the people who call us are about to be evicted or about to have their electric disconnected,” he said. It’s a challenge to acquire the funds to assist, but they do their best. Other parish conferences often assist with the funds.
The conference also gets support from the St. Louis Council office, help with prescription drugs, beds for neighbors and car programs.
Each year, Scheibel’s conference at St. Vincent invites nonmembers to help with a delivery of toiletries and box fans to people they’ve helped during the year. That’s how she got involved. “I was volunteering at other organizations, but I wanted something that was more of a commitment and I found it,” she said.
As a Vincentian, “you grow in your spiritual life by service to neighbors in need,” Scheibel said. “One way that it has helped me to grow spiritually is trusting in God’s provision.”
As an example, she cited a time her conference treasury was empty. Just in time, a check from a donor of $6,000 arrived. “We always have some kind of need, and it’s amazing how God fills that need,” Scheibel said.
She cited the value of listening. “A lot of times the poor don’t have a voice, and poverty can be pretty isolating.”
Scheibel, a chemist, illustrated the importance of home visits by recalling a time when she visited a family living in an apartment, seven people huddled around a space heater and sleeping on a floor in one room without beds. They appreciated receiving help and praying with their visitors, Scheibel said.
In praying with neighbors in need during a
home visit by Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteers, Bryan Kirchoff
said he usually asks the Lord “to remind us in our hearts that despite
whatever our problems are today, our ultimate goal and desire is to be
with Him in heaven forever.”
The prayer means a lot to people who
are in great need and to himself, he said, a reminder that his material
comfort isn’t the aim.
SVDP trivia night
St. Vincent de Paul Parish will host a trivia
night Saturday, March 7, with proceeds used to help the Society of St.
Vincent de Paul provide emergency rent and utility assistance to people
The event is at 7 p.m. at the parish hall, 1408 S. 10th St. in St. Louis. Cost is $25 per person with eight people per table.
Anyone interested can register by emailing [email protected] or by visiting www.bit.ly/2Szeg4c.
About the society
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s
Archdiocesan Council of St. Louis consists of more than 3,600 volunteer
members belonging to 140 parish-based chapters known as conferences.
make home visits to provide person-to-person services, including
arranging utility and prescription drug assistance and assisting with
housing and transportation needs. In fiscal year 2018, the Society
assisted more than 344,000 people and provided more than $8.4 million in
direct aid. As a Catholic lay organization, an essential part of the Society’s work is to maintain the dignity of people being served, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or age.
society offers a variety of opportunities to fit young adult schedules.
For information, contact Bryan Kirchoff at [email protected] or
Donations can be made at
www.svdpstlouis.org/donate. Checks can be sent to Society of St. Vincent
de Paul – Archdiocesan Council of St. Louis, 1310 Papin St., St. Louis,