“Happy are those who consume their lives for the service of Our Lord, as He Himself consumed His for the salvation of humankind.”
St. Vincent de Paul (VII:146)
All Jasmine Green really knew for sure was that she and her young family needed to be in a safer, better location.
“I recently moved into the West Allis area because it’s a better environment for raising my children,” said Green, a 32 year-old single mother of two teenage daughters and a young son. “Before that, I was living in the inner city of Milwaukee.”
Unsure about who to ask for help, Green was determined to make a better life for her family all by herself if that’s what it would take. At least she had a steady factory job to help her with most of the essentials. Eventually, however, it became clear that she needed help.
“A friend of mine referred me to St. Vincent de Paul and I was kind of shy about calling because I thought I would just get what I need piece by piece,” Green explains. “But I decided later to give the ladies a call and they’ve been nothing but nice and kind to me and my family. They get back to me in a very timely manner and are very understanding and non-judgmental. They’re just God-fearing people and today they’ve really blessed us with some much needed items for my home so my children and I will be comfortable. I just thank God for them.”
Stories like Green’s are, unfortunately, all too familiar within the Milwaukee archdiocese as they are across the United States. People desperately in need of things that so many others take for granted every single day. Food. Clothing. A decent bed to sleep on at night. Furniture that makes a house a home. Meeting crucial physical and spiritual needs like these is what the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is all about.
Recently, Penny Krafczyk and Liz Burke from the St. Veronica’s St. Vincent de Paul Conference went to Green’s modest home for their first official visit. They met Jasmine and her three children, daughters Kenniya (14), Nevaehrios (12) and son Leroy Brown (9). Krafczyk and Burke were there to ask the tough questions and make an assessment on the family’s needs to determine service priorities. On home visits such as these, they also help people to understand the importance of making good decisions.
“We talk about their needs, what are their plans for the future and where do they think a decision they made might have gotten them to the place where they are,” said Burke, president-elect of St. Veronica’s St. Vincent de Paul Conference. “This way they can start to see that some of their actions might have caused some of the hurt they are in. Once we’ve satisfied what their needs are, we give them a gift certificate to assist their needs and ask if we can pray with them.”
In Green’s case, that certificate would be used on her top priorities: beds for her and her children to sleep on and dressers for their clothing. Burke and Krafczyk also presented a pair of beautiful, hand-made quilts. They bring comfort and assurance along with a clear sense that other people really do care.
“They’ve opened the door to all kinds of resources for better employment and any aid and assistance I may need,” said Green. “I’ve fallen on hard times and this is Heaven-sent. God-fearing women come into your home and assess what you need and basically make a way for you to get the essentials you need to live day to day with no costs.”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Mission Statement is quite clear. It says: “Vincentian ministry is a means for acquiring holiness. The ministry of a Vincentian to those and with those who stand in need is the powerful means that affects holiness of life for the individual Vincentian. Vatican II states that the principal means of holiness for bishops and priests is their ministry. This applies to the laity also, because, in attending to the needy and suffering, a Vincentian is ministering to Jesus Christ Himself.”
Doing these good works as a means for acquiring holiness is the essential difference between the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and other charities, associations or agencies whose principal objective is not the spiritual advancement of their members but the doing of good for someone else. Another part of this important work is spreading the word that the work of these dedicated men and women is so readily available. All one needs to do is to ask.
“I would like people to understand that St. Vincent de Paul is here, we work hard and we use the resources we have from our churches,” said Krafczyk. “Most of all, we grow in our spirituality, our friendship and our service. Spirituality is first. There are 54 conferences in the Milwaukee area and their main goal is to grow in their spirituality and in friendship we are strengthened to serve the poor. To see the joy in their heart when somebody validates who they are and is willing to listen to them is very gratifying. The furniture and resources are one thing but we want them to be better off than they were when we came.”
“They help me a whole lot more than I help them,” said Burke. “We always pray together. Before we enter a home, we pray together in the car to make sure that Jesus’ words are put into our mouths so that we don’t offend the people we are visiting or make them feel small.”
With her soft smile, Green admits she really didn’t have great expectations about the help she and her family might receive from St. Vincent de Paul.
“I was skeptical at first but I’m so glad I called,” said Green. “God tends to know what I need before I do. I didn’t know what to expect with this visit today but they came in and prayed for me and my kids. Right now, I have a strong faith and belief in the Lord and today’s justification that He is always at work and there are truly some good people in this world. These two ladies are a prime example of that and He’s working through them to aid and assist families.
“I would definitely encourage anybody who’s in need of spiritual or physical support to give St. Vincent de Paul a call because not only are they going to help, aid and assist but they are going to open up some doors and provide you with resources. You never know who God brings into your life or why. It’s all a confirmation that He is real and there are some good people in the world.”
For more information about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s services in Milwaukee, visit www.svdpmilw.org or call 414-462-7837.