Social and Charitable Works
Social and Charitable Works
According to St. John Paul II: “Serving the Poor is an act of evangelization and at the same time, a seal of Gospel authenticity and a catalyst for permanent conversion in the consecrated life” (Vita Consecrata n. 82). St. Vincent de Paul is the heavenly Patron of Vincentian Congregation and also of all the charitable activities in the whole Church. In the vision of St. Vincent de Paul, service to the poor is not merely a social work; but it is the work of evangelization. Social work will stop at providing food, clothing, shelter, and other material needs to a poor person. But the poor human being is a person in the image and likeness of God. He has material as well as spiritual needs. Evangelization aims at the total and integral development of the person. While nurturing the spiritual needs of the poor, St. Vincent de Paul did not neglect their material needs as well. St. John Paul II quoted St. Vincent in his Apostolic Exhortation: “Saint Vincent de Paul, for his part, loved to say that, when one is obliged to leave prayer to attend to a poor person in need, that prayer is not really interrupted, because one leaves God to serve God” (Vita Consecrata, n. 82). Social work among the poor can be done even by non-believers; but evangelization of the poor can be done only by Jesus and his close followers. St. Vincent de Paul very closely followed Jesus and learned from Him his vision of the evangelization of the poor. He understood that Jesus of the Gospels proves himself to be the best evangelizer of the poor by proclaiming the Gospel to the poor through words and deeds (cf. Lk.4:18). The Lord Jesus has called, has chosen and has set apart every member of the Vincentian Congregation in order to continue his work of evangelization of the poor, through words and deeds.
For Pope Francis, “Our faith in Christ who became poor and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members” (Evangelii Gaudium, n.186). The Statutes and Practical Norms of the Vincentian Congregation has documented in very clear terms the specific purpose and goal of life of every Vincentian to be an evangelizer of the poor, especially, the most abandoned in the society. Common Rules of St. Vincent has this formulation: “the end of the Congregation is… to preach the gospel to the poor, especially the country people”. The Vincentian Congregation has adopted the same specific purpose and goal for its members: “Called by God to the Vincentian Congregation each one of us adheres to the spirit and example of St. Vincent de Paul and commits oneself… to preach the Gospel to the poor, especially the more abandoned and to help them in their integral development” (Statutes, n. 2b). In the Apostolic Letter, Witness of Joy, on the occasion of the year of consecrated life, Pope Francis requested the Consecrated go forth to the existential peripheries. “‘Go into all the world’; these were the last words which Jesus spoke to his followers and which he continues to address to us (cf. Mk.16:15). A whole world awaits us: men and women who have lost all hope, families in difficulty, abandoned children, young people without a future, the elderly, sick and abandoned, those who are rich in the world’s goods but impoverished within, men and women looking for a purpose in life, thirsting for the divine… Don’t be closed in on yourselves, don’t be stifled by petty squabbles, don’t remain a hostage to your own problems. These will be resolved if you go forth and help others to resolve their own problems, and proclaim the Good News. You will find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love”.
The Statutes of the Vincentian Congregation in its article 92 states: “The fundamental principle of our social and charitable activities is the social message of Jesus revealed in the Sacred Scriptures and practiced by St. Vincent de Paul. As the purpose of those activities is to bring the people to the Kingdom of God they are not mere humanitarian works. The words of Jesus in the description of the last judgment, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me’ (Mt. 25:40), should inspire us in particular”. In the Gospel of St. Mathew (25:31-46) Jesus made himself identified with the least of his brethren, namely the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick, the prisoner, the naked, etc. This call to serve “the least of these” is the duty of every baptized person and it is something indispensable to a disciple of Christ. Hence the members of the Congregation are duty bound to render service to the marginalized, abandoned and the suffering. The major social and charitable activities of the Congregation are given below:
SSSMILE fellowship and SSSMILE Village at Vettikuzhy
SSSMILE means ‘Sacred Scriptures Social Message into living Experience’. Inspired by the social message of the Sacred Scriptures, the friends and well wishers of the Vincentian Generalate formed an organisation named, SSSMILE fellowship and have tried to carry out acts of mercies to the people who are suffering deprivations and marginalisation. This is a unique effort initiated by Fr. Antony Plackal, the then superior General of the Congregation as a memorial of the great Jubilee year of 2000 for the poor and the destitute people. Due to their initiative a SSSMILE home was started in Edappally which was eventually shifted to Vettikzuhy and grew into SSSMILE Village. Economically weak and destitute people are admitted as inmates in the village. At present there are about 110 inmates who stay in seven self-contained houses. The young boys who came out of the SSSMILE village are now employed in different places drawing good salary.
Care of the Poor Children through Boarding’s
The objective of this Boys’ homes and Girls’ Homes is to provide better education to the poor children of the locality and surroundings. The children accommodated in these boarding’s hail from poor family background. Most of them are semi orphans. So the Congregation provided orphanages, boarding houses, children’s home, etc for their integral development and skill training. We have such 25 care Homes both in India and in East Africa. St. Mary’s Home for the women and Children at Muringoor provides shelter to mothers and their children. Among the inmates most of them are unwed mothers who are exploited by social evils. In the centre most of the mothers are provided with job opportunities and children are sent to school for proper education.
Home for Aged
As the children go out for work to the distant places the parents are left alone at home. Also the recent trend shows that new generation shows more hesitation to take care of their older parents. So the Congregation has come forward to take care of them by homes for the aged people such as: Home for aged couples, old age homes, destitute homes, Pakalveed, etc. The intention of this geriatric care is to provide support to the old people to lead happy life in the process of ageing. Various services were provided to the geriatric people like medicinal support, food, shelter, cloth and even spiritual care. Divine Charitable Trust has established divine home for aged, Maria Santhi Bhavan for aged women and Divine Mercy Home for aged men. There are 23 such institutions run by the Congregation.
De Paul Care Centres
Congregation started Care Centres in order to give accommodation facilities for the patients of cancer and other non communicable diseases who are very poor and come for the treatment in Medical colleges. The rooms are given to the patients at a very nominal rate. Food is provided to the patients and bystanders. At present we have three De Paul Care Centres in Kerala at Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Thalassery.
Centres for Mental Health
Assistance to mental health is another initiative of the Congregation in the field of charitable activities. To provide better medical support about 400 mentally ill people are accommodated in various centres without any discrimination of caste, sex and creed. Those who are cured from the sickness will be sent back to their families. There are two such centres in Muringoor, Divine Care Centre for mental health (men), & Divine Care Centre for mental health (women). Vincentian Service Society in Angamaly is working among the differently abled children in association with Lillian Fonds, Netherlands. It is a project to help mentally and physically challenged children under the age of 25. They were given assistance in education, medical and social skill development. These children were helped twice a year and the staffs visit them at frequent intervals to ensure that the children are directly benefited. De Addiction Centre at Muringoor is a venture for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics. The centre will accommodate persons without the discrimination of age. Highly qualified professionals provide their support to the patients to get away from the illness.
De Paul Cancer Care Trust
De Paul Cancer Care Trust was registered on 12 February 2012 with the motto ‘to be with the broken hearted’. Its aim is to empower and support cancer patients who are very poor, through a one-time financial assistance of Rs. 5000/- and through intercessory prayers and by visiting them to give necessary guidance and counseling. Till now we have supported 826 patients and spent an amount of Rs. 41,19,000/- Under the Trust classes on awareness and prevention of cancer are provided to people of the area where many cases of cancer are reported.
Rural Development Programmes
The members of the Congregation in the missions are involved in the village development programmes through formation of self help groups, credit unions, empowering women, non formal education of the children, adult literacy, support for income generation programme, natural and organic farming, eradication of water scarcity, women employment schemes, etc. The Bhimadole development society is one of such initiatives. Fr. Thomas Mullenmadackal worked among the nomadic tribes of Ahamednagar district and succeeded in their integral development through establishing a school and a boarding house for their children at Vavarath, an interior village of this district. He received various awards for this effort of development of the rural people.
De Paul Literacy Mission
Fr. Thomas Emprayil (Sr.) initiated a number rural schools under the name ‘De Paul Literacy Mission’ in Budaun district of Agra Diocese (U.P.) with the help and involvement of the local people. It became a great help in creating interest on literacy among the children and their parents. With a very minimum of investment and facilities the schools could be run successfully in the rural area. Out of these schools 4 became formal schools and are recognised by the Government.
Housing Schemes for the Poor People
On the occasion of the jubilee year of the provinces a housing scheme has been started for the construction of 25 houses each for the homeless and poor families. A number of houses have been already constructed. In Muringoor under the leadership of Fr. George Kammattil 200 houses were constructed for the poor people. In Chengam in Tamil Nadu, we bought 3.45 acres of land for the purpose of Housing Scheme for the poor. The construction of five houses is completed as the first phase of this project and planning to complete 10 more houses this year. It is a project to settle the scattered homeless Catholics in and around Chengam.
Home for Aids Patients
It is one of the greatest initiatives of the Congregation to eradicate the stigma created by AIDS in the society. St. Vincent Home for AIDS Patients at Muringoor provides assistance to the HIV/AIDS patients to live peacefully in the society. The centre renders support to the patients through professionally qualified staffs. Nursing care is given to all with the support of the sisters of Daughters of Charity.
De Paul Educational Assistance Programme
This is an innovative programme of the Congregation to impart quality education to economically backward and academically excellent students and help them to be self-reliant through the educational assistance with the support of well-wishers and generous people. This programme is a help for the poor excellent children in their higher education.
It is a documentary programme started by Goodness TV of the Congregation in the year 2012 to provide support to the sick people in the society. This documentary programme provides information on bed ridden persons in the society who are in need of care and support. The programme will be telecasted through Goodness TV in India and Divine Vision in abroad. Those who watch the documentary will be helping the sick people. Till now, through the programme it supported 46 sick people and gathered around 1 Crore rupees for the same.
Save a Life Project
A 24 hour Ambulance service was started in 2011 to provide speedy and low rate service to the poor people and a free service in accidents. This service was available in different Vincentian Houses. We value every life and desire to give maximum support possible to save a life even to the poor who cannot afford costly services.