Society of St. Vincent de Paul Cabrini Conference Wausau
The Cabrini Conference Wausau, is part of the worldwide Catholic lay organization, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Founded in 1833 in Paris, France by Frederic Ozanam, the Society embraces all works of charity and works collaboratively with other like minded people and organizations. We make no distinction in who we serve based on race, color, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation or ethnic background. Our goal is two-fold. According to a previous President-General of the Society, “The Society has two aims: to do a great deal of spiritual good to its members through the exercise of charity, and to do a little spiritual and temporal good to a few poor families in the name of Jesus Christ.”
The Cabrini Conference Wausau has about 20 active members, 10 to 30 is typical. We are parish based, which is also common. Some conferences are profession based (doctors), or ministry based (prisons). We meet twice a month to go over cases and once a month for Spiritual Formation. A conference, the basic unit of the Society, consists of its members and 5 officers: President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Spiritual Director. The Cabrini Conference Wausau is self funded through donations, sales, charitable events, and our thrift store.
The Cabrini Conference serves the communities of Wausau and its surrounding areas. Our members, all volunteers, primarily address issues of basic human need, many that cannot be handled by other agencies. In addition to providing financial assistance, our unique contribution is the “Home Visit.” When we receive a call for help, we schedule a home visit, where two of our members meet with the “friend in need.” In order to do this work, “Vincentians” receive training from an orientation program, ongoing Spiritual formation readings, monthly meetings, and of course from its more experienced members.
During the home visit we often identify basic needs that have not been communicated by the “friend.” For instance: no stove to cook on, no beds to sleep in, broken windows, empty pantry. We get many requests that are “our of the ordinary,” such as repairing frozen pipes, paying for a car repair, purchasing a photo ID or drivers license, helping people move or pack, paying for classes at NTC, and many more. Because of our flexibility and the ability to develop this person to person contact with our client, we are usually able to provide what is needed, or to get our client connected to the right resource, sometimes prompting life changing decisions that would not have otherwise occurred.
The monetary aid we typically provide is $25 to $250. It is always paid to the verified provider, for example, the landlord, the electric company, or the auto shop. We pay for food vouchers at Pic & Save and gas vouchers at Riiser Energy. St. Vincent de Paul Cabrini Conference is an active partner in the Marathon County Inter Agency Network of service providers, coordinated by United Way’s 211 director Julie Grip. Our outreach and financial help is typically coupled with similar donations from organizations like Catholic Charities, The Neighbor’s Place, Community Action Program, Energy Assistance, The Salvation Army, and the Marathon County Job Center. Besides direct calls to our conference and local churches, we accept referrals through United Way and Catholic Charities (our two primary partners).
We track the number of people served, visits made, dollars and hours spent, miles traveled, referrals made and in general keep notes on all cases. Detailed, and of course private record keeping, allows us to follow up, to make sure that needs are met and that money is not wasted. Our efforts are intended to “empower” rather than to “enable” those we serve. What we can not measure are the relationships developed, the fears allayed, the encouragement offered, and the hope instilled.
What is a St. Vincent de Paul Conference?
The Conference is the basic unit of the Society. It consists of a group of lay volunteers called to grow in holiness through person-to-person service. This is a lay vocation. The members of the Society are called “Vincentians.”
The mission is to join together in a bond of friendship, and to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering, in the tradition of our founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul. The Conference chooses qualified members for the various leadership positions for a specified period of time. Vincentians are committed to following Cathoic Social Teachings.
Conference members meet on a regular basis: weekly is the expectation, twice a month is acceptable. The meetings follow a prescribed agenda that is defined in The Rule. The meetings offer Vincentians an opportunity to grow in the essential objectives of the Society: holiness, community, and service.
The traditional Conference is associated with a Catholic Parish. The work of the Vincentians, providing person-to-person service, is primarily performed through home visits – Vincentians go to those in need. No work of charity is foreign to the Society, so Vincentians are available and open to help in whatever the need may be.
Fiscal responsibility is expected of all Conferences: proper record keeping, annual reporting, annual audits, annual solidarity contributions, maintenance of tax-exempt status and annual 990 filing to IRS. In addition, all Conferences are expected to comply with the Rule, bylaws, structure and spirit of the Society. Conferences are also expected to be aware of and involved in the larger Society: district, diocese, region, national, and international.
Non-traditional, non-parish-associated Conferences may be established at elementary schools, high schools, and universities, or around particular ministries: to prisoners, residents of nursing homes and shelters, to the homeless, etc. The unifying factor may even be a common professional background or cultural interest. The work of non-traditional, non-parish associated Conferences tends to be more single service or project oriented.
There are Conferences that operate special works such as thrift stores, free dining rooms, low income housing, food distribution centers, special services, and many others. Although these special works may be operated by any Conference, they generally are operated by the traditional parish-associated Conferences.
There is an approval/admission process for all Conferences joining the Society. There is a strong emphasis within the Society on the formation of its members. The expectations of Conferences are the same regardless if the Conference is parish-associated or otherwise.