A group of Our Lady of the Lakes (OLL) parishioners in Random Lake began meeting about six months ago to form a Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVdP) Conference, one of eight such conferences in Sheboygan County and of 119 within the 10-county Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Rose Vander Velden (seated), secretary of the newly formed Society of St. Vincent de Paul – Our Lady of the Lakes Conference, Random Lake, and the conference’s three other officers (from left) Jim Steffen, treasurer; Ed Ritger, vice president; and Karen McCabe, president. (Submitted photo)

The SSVdP is an international, non-profit, Catholic, lay, charitable organization that helps those in need and those living in poverty.

The organization’s mission statement is: “A network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and in service to people in need.”

The SSVdP OLL Conference serves those in need in the Random Lake and surrounding areas of southern Sheboygan County, providing spirituality, friendship and service. Its members, Vincentians, are united in this international society of charity by their spirit of poverty, humility and sharing, which is nourished in prayer, reflection and mutually supportive gathering.

OLL Vincentians go out in pairs, visiting those in need in their homes, praying with them and helping with financial needs such as rent and utility assistance and giving vouchers for clothes and furniture from the Sheboygan SVdP Store.

The primary call of the Vincentian life is to see Christ in those they serve. By loving those they serve in this way, they also become the face of God to friends in need.

Vincentians assist friends in need, regardless of their age, race, sexual orientation or religion. They also volunteer at area food pantries and at St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores, three of which are located within a half-hour drive of Random Lake: St. Vincent de Paul Store, 4215 State Highway 42 North, Sheboygan; St. Vincent de Paul Plymouth Community Store, 2225 Eastern Ave., Plymouth; and St. Vincent de Paul Country Thrift Shoppe and Annex, 2673 County Road C, Port Washington.

Attorney Ed Ritger addressed OLL congregation about the new conference following a Mass in February. He noted the group initiating the new conference had strong encouragement from Fr. Gideon Buya, pastor of the parish.

Ritger said, “The Vincentians always work on coaching our friends in need on how to get out of poverty and on how to improve their lives.”

To date, 15 parishoners have signed on as Vincentians for the new conference. They include, among others, the four officers: Karen McCabe, president; Ritger, vice president; Rose Vander Velden, secretary; and Jim Steffen, treasurer.

This is the first time OLL Parish has had a SSVdP Conference. However, “The need has always been there,” said McCabe. “Vincentians from another conference had been helping out here in this area.”

She was referring to Jerome Schleicher, 91, a member of the SSVdP Blessed Trinity Rural Conference who came with another member of his conference to the Random Lake area for at least 50 years to minister to friends in need. When women were granted permission to become Vincentians many years ago, Schleicher’s wife Evelyn joined him in this ministry.

Vincentians also witness to God’s love by collaborating with others of good will who strive to relieve need and address its causes. One local organization geared to that goal is the Random Lake Area Interfaith Food Pantry, which began operating in 1983 in Random Lake and for the past 10 years has been located at 310 Center Ave., Adell, in a facility that the congregation of Emanuel Lutheran Church owns.

Matthew Brockmeier, treasurer of the pantry, and his wife Loretta, have addressed Random Lake Vincentians so they might learn of ways they could assist the pantry ministry.

The Brockmeiers provided a thorough presentation of the Pantry’s history, sources of food contributions, food donation tips, the Pantry operation, federal regulations for volunteers and suggestions for assistance.

Describing the Food Pantry as “a fluid universe of need,” based upon varying economic condition, Matthew Brockmeier stressed the importance of building awareness about the Pantry and its hours, 9 to 11:30 a.m. each Tuesday morning, and 5 to 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month.

Friends in need of food outside of regular pantry hours can contact a pantry official who will set up a time for the friend to meet him or her at the pantry and pick up some food. Call 920-447-2293, or email, or access the Random Lake Area interfaith Food Pantry on its Facebook page, and send a private message.

“Although Vincentians may assist the Pantry as part of its mission, there are many other volunteers from area churches who also provide assistance,” McCabe said.

“The newly formed SSVdP conference is not to take the place of any of the services and resources already in place, but only to add another layer of help to friends in need. For example, the Human Concerns Committee of OLL Parish has been collecting and delivering food to the pantry for years and will continue doing so,” Loretta Brockmeier said.

Funding for the new organization comes via financial support from the Sheboygan St. Vincent de Paul Store as well as from other monetary donations. Funds donated to the SSVdP Conference go 100 percent to serve people in need.

People in need are asked to phone the Sheboygan St. Vincent de Paul Store at 920-457-4844. An official there will then contact someone from an area SSVdP Conference to assist.