SSVP President joins calls for improved help for poor

The Society of St Vincent de Paul in Scotland (SSVP) has added its voice to calls for an "adequate social security system" to help combat the cost of living.

Vincentian charities across the UK issued a statement following the Autumn Budget announcement from the UK Government.

Danny Collins, National President of SSVP Scotland, said: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Vincentian brothers and sisters in challenging the social injustices imposed on those we serve.

"The Vincentian statement is a true reflection on how we must always challenge those responsible for implementing policies which further impoverish those most in need.”

The statement calls for:

The St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) alone has supported over 55,000 people in the past year (England and Wales), and it reports worrying trends such as people on higher income accessing our foodbanks, and a 66% increase in the number of requests for help from 2020.

Elizabeth Palmer, CEO of the SVP in England and Wales, said: “The number of people seeking our help across the country is increasing every day.

The profile of the people seeking our help is also changing and is beginning to include those who were previously managing to cope without our help.”

Mark Choonara, CEO of Daughters of Charity Services, says: “We are in a recession. As we seek to restore our economic growth, we must ensure that equality and fairness are rooted at the heart of our efforts, revitalising our society along with our economy.”

The statement, Signed by groups including Company of Mission Priests and Congregation of the Mission, adds: "Catholic social teaching upholds the right for everyone to have dignity.

"We as Vincentian charities call on the government to provide adequate social protection that takes into consideration the basic necessities of life."

World Day for the Poor

On Sunday the Catholic Church throughout the world marks the sixth World Day of the Poor. This annual commemoration was instituted by Pope Francis and is intended to act as reminder to all Catholics of their duty to care for those less fortunate than themselves.

This is an abridged version of the Holy Father’s Message that appeared in The Flourish, the Official Journal of the Archdiocese of Glasgow.

Letter of Pope Francis for World Day of the Poor

Several months ago, the world was emerging from the tempest of the pandemic, showing signs of an economic recovery that could benefit millions of people reduced to poverty by the loss of their jobs.

A patch of blue sky was opening that, without detracting from our sorrow at the loss of our dear ones, promised to bring us back to direct interpersonal relations and to socialising with one another once more without further prohibitions or restrictions.

Now, however, a new catastrophe has appeared on the horizon, destined to impose on our world a very different scenario.

The war in Ukraine has now been added to the regional wars that for years have taken a heavy toll of death and destruction.

Conflict

Yet here the situation is even more complex due to the direct intervention of a “superpower” aimed at imposing its own will in
violation of the principle of the self determination of peoples.

In this situation of great conflict, we are celebrating the Sixth World Day of the Poor. During his visit to Jerusalem, Paul met with Peter, James and John, who had urged him not to forget the poor.The community of Jerusalem was experiencing great hardship due to a food shortage in the country.

The Apostle immediately set about organizing a great collection to aid the poverty-stricken. The Christians of Corinth were very understanding and supportive. At Paul’s request, on every first day of the week they collected what they were able to save and all proved very generous.

From that time on, every Sunday, during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, we have done the same thing, pooling our offerings so that
the community can provide for the needs of the poor.

It is something that Christians have always done with joy and a sense of responsibility, to ensure that none of our brothers or sisters will lack the necessities of life.

Faith into Practice

Where the poor are concerned, it is not talk that matters; what matters is rolling up our sleeves and putting our faith into practice
through a direct involvement, one that cannot be delegated.

At times, however, a kind of laxity can creep in and lead to inconsistent behaviour, including indifference about the poor. It also happens that
some Christians, out of excessive attachment to money, remain mired in a poor use of their goods and wealth.

These situations reveal a weak faith and feeble, short-sighted hope. We know that the issue is not money itself, for money is part of our
daily life as individuals and our relationships in society.

Rather, what we need to consider is the value that we put on money: it cannot become our absolute and chief purpose in life.

Attachment to money prevents us from seeing everyday life with realism; it clouds our gaze and blinds us to the needs of others. Nothing worse could happen to a Christian and to a community than to be dazzled by the idol of wealth, which ends up chaining us to an ephemeral and bankrupt vision of life.

Social Justice

None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice. When the only law is the bottom line of profit at the end of the day, nothing holds us back from seeing others simply as objects to be exploited; other people are merely a means to an end.

There no longer exist such things as a just salary or just working hours, and new forms of slavery emerge and entrap persons who lack alternatives and are forced to accept this toxic injustice simply to eke out a living.

We can easily discern the lack of satisfaction that many people feel because they sense that something important is missing from their lives, with the result that they wander off aimlessly in search of it.

In their desire to find something that can bring them satisfaction, they need someone to guide them towards the insignificant, the vulnerable and the poor, so that they can finally see what they themselves lack.

True love

Encountering the poor enables us to put an end to many of our anxieties and empty fears, and to arrive at what truly matters in life, the treasure that no one can steal from us: true and gratuitous love. The poor, before being the object of our almsgiving, are people, who can help set us free from the snares of anxiety and superficiality.

On 15 May last, I canonized Brother Charles de Foucauld, a man born rich, who gave up everything to follow Jesus … We would do well to meditate on these words of his: “Let us not despise the poor, the little ones, the workers; not only are they our brothers and sisters in God, they are also those who most perfectly imitate Jesus in his outward life.

They perfectly represent Jesus, the Worker of Nazareth. They are the firstborn among the elect, the first to be called to the Saviour’s crib. They were the regular company of Jesus, from his birth until his death…”

May this 2022 World Day of the Poor enable us to make a personal and communal examination of conscience and to ask ourselves whether the poverty of Jesus Christ is our faithful companion in life.

FRANCIS

Church leaders call on governments to tackle cost of living crisis

The Catholic Church in Scotland has joined other Christian churches to call on the Scottish and UK Governments to “set aside political differences” and “seek effective solutions” to the cost of living crisis.

The Church leaders, including Hugh Gilbert, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, express serious concerns about the significant increase in energy costs and rising inflation which risk pushing more people into deep poverty and creating for some, “the grim choice between eating or heating.”

Read their statement below.

STATEMENT

“The Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church, along with Christians and people of other faiths and those of no faith, are deeply concerned about the cost of living crisis. The cost of living is rising fast. Energy bills are expected to increase significantly in April and inflation is pushing up the cost of essentials, including food. This will hurt low income families more than most and push more people into deep poverty, creating for some the grim choice between eating or heating. These are not luxuries, they are the very basics.

It is a tragedy that poverty, especially child poverty, continues to be a significant problem in the United Kingdom in 2022. We urge both the Scottish and UK Governments to set aside political differences and come together in a spirit of pragmatism and compassion to seek effective solutions to this very serious and worsening situation. We call on political leaders to listen to those who have lived experience of poverty and to follow this engagement with the creation of conditions necessary to support people out of poverty and to prevent people falling into poverty in future.

At the same time we applaud the hard work of third sector and charitable organisations who, despite having to contend with a surge in demand and financial challenges of their own, continue to support the poor and vulnerable in our communities through essential and life-sustaining services.”

Rt Hon Lord Wallace, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Rt Rev Hugh Gilbert, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.

The Most Revd Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Fife Furniture Project: helping those in need

In the lead up to World Day of the Poor on Sunday 14 November, we're highlighting the work of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP) in our Archdiocese. Volunteers David Hunter and Moira McCrae (above pic, right) from the SSVP Furniture Project in Fife explain how it works.

Generosity

"We took over responsibility for the running and management of the Furniture Project from John Barrett in 2012. The Project has grown exponentially since this time; however, it continues to be sustained by the kindness and generosity of parishioners, community volunteers, family and friends. This ethos remains central to its success."

Helping all

"The Furniture Project operates on a non-denominational basis (we help everyone, not just Catholics) and works in collaboration with other charitable and community organisations.

"Our furniture storage facilities are provided free of charge by a local business owner. The Project has also provided opportunities for young people to undertake volunteering as part of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme."

Delivering the goods

"We have two vans which are used to uplift and the deliver donated furniture and other household goods. In-demand tems include beds, settees and white goods and we have also fully furnished homes.

"We have also been involved in supplying more uncommon items such as a mobility scooter, which helped a man's independence and integration into his community."

Supporting refugees

"We also provided sewing machines which are sought after and used by the refugee community. We have recently supported RE: ACT, a charity supporting refugees with resettlement and integration in Scotland. We work closely with S.H.I.E.L.D. which supports vulnerable people and families with food and financial issues."

An all-round approach

"The remit of the Project has expanded beyond supplying furniture. For example, we established links with local food banks when food poverty is identified, clothes banks where shortage of clothing is identified and where fuel poverty is identified clients are signposted/referred toan energy/debt advic service called Cosy Kingdom. This helps alleviate some of the day-to-day stresses that many vulnerable people experience."

Pandemic

"During the pandemic we were successful in securing a government grant for £6,000 from the Cora Project. These funds were used to purchase white goods, food and fuel vouchers, which were then distributed to members of the community.

"How do we find out about the people we help? Most referrals come from Social Work services as well as Housing Support Services, Criminal Justice Services and Mental Health Projects. Due to the close working relationship established with some of these agencies, a few of the recipients of our help have gone on to volunteer for the project!"

The Fife Furniture Project can be contacted on 07939 223680 or at moirammccrae@gmail.com The annual SSVP Archdiocesan Mass takes place at 11am in St Patrick's, Cowgate, Edinburgh, on Saturday 20 November.