Webster and Ferguson: Two Communities, One Mission
At the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, we believe that helping neighbors starts at home. Every conference has resources to offer their communities, but some have more funding than others. In keeping with the vision of Blessed Frédéric Ozanam to create a “network of charity,” the Society’s twinning program matches conferences with unmet needs with other conferences that can offer greater financial and spiritual support. For the last 15 years, the parishes of Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG) in Ferguson and Mary Queen of Peace (MQP) in Webster Groves have worked together. The relationship is one of love, respect, and prayerful sharing –and has created some powerful success stories.
Located in Ferguson, Our Lady of Guadalupe draws parishioners from the entire metro area, but the need in the immediate neighborhood is substantial. The Vincentians at OLG focus on organizing and running the food pantry. In the last 12 months, they have served more than 2,300 families –close to 10,000 people. “But whenever people in the neighborhood need help with medical, rent, water, or utilities, we refer them to Mary Queen of Peace,” says Joe Orlando, president of the OLG Vincentians.
“Without our friends at Mary Queen of Peace,” adds Cathy Dahmer, vice president of the OLG Vincentians, “a lot of people in this neighborhood wouldn’t have their heat on this winter.”
One such case is Justin, who was in dire need of utility assistance after he lost his job. The Vincentian volunteers who arranged for utility assistance for Justin also helped him in his job search until Justin found a new job and eventually began his own business .
The conference at MQP raises nearly $90,000 per year for utility, rent, and medical assistance for neighbors of OLG and organize several yearly food drives at the school and parish. MQP Vincentians also make around 250 home visits here each year. “We’re a very active group with nearly 30 Vincentians,” says MQP Vincentian and Southwest District president Roy Maurer. “When the relationship with Our Lady of Guadalupe got started, we were looking for a parish where we could make a difference.”
Even during the unrest in Ferguson this fall, the MQP Vincentians never stopped making home visits. “Everyone hears depressing stories on the news,” says Tom Andrew, president of the MQP Vincentians. “Being a Vincentian means you’re able to do something. You get in your car, make a visit, and actually do something. It might be something small, but you learn quickly that it really matters in the lives of the neighbors we visit.”