Young Women: ‘Why we are SVP Members’
Two young people had a desire to make a difference in their community and Church, and have been able to do so by joining the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP). Ofentse Mahasha, who is 19, and Lindokuhle Mwelase, 22, both of St Philip Neri parish in Moletsane, Soweto, said that through the SVP, their eyes have been opened to the needs of many families.
“This experience has helped us to grow as Christians. We have realised the difference reading the Bible daily and attending weekly Mass makes, as well as putting our faith into practice,” they said.
“We found and continue to find joy in the fact that the little we do through the society makes a difference in the lives of people in our community.”
St Vincent de Paul History
Founded in France in 1883 by Bl Frederick Ozanam to help impoverished people, the SVP now has a worldwide presence, including in South Africa.
The saint after whom Bl Ozanam named the society, St Vincent de Paul, once said: “Charity is the cement which binds communities to God and persons to one another.”
Ms Mahasha and Ms Mwelase joined the SVP last year, a decision spurred on by their experience as altar servers at church.
“We knew that this society would enable us to do more for the parish and extend that to our communities as well,” they said. And the SVP shouldn’t be seen as a society only for older people, they say.
“The society has an active presence in our parish. However, its activities were overlooked by the youth as its general membership was considered to be ‘elderly’. This is also one of the reasons why we elected to join the society,” to set an example, the two young women said.
The activities of their parish society include: distributing monthly food parcels (given to families who are in need); conducting sanitary towels drives; conducting school shoe drives; collecting and distributing clothes; visiting orphanages; and hosting an annual Christmas party for children in their area.
Twin Parish Holy Trinity
The SVP of Moletsane cooperates with that of its twin parish, Holy Trinity in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, to learn from and support one another. “Our twin parish’s work is exceptional,” Ms Mahasha and Ms Mwelase said.
The two women had the opportunity to attend the Mini World Youth Day in Durban in December, where they joined thousands of young people from across South Africa and beyond.
“During the event, we managed to showcase and market the SVP to the youth in attendance. Our ultimate aim was to encourage the youth to join our society, no matter where they are from. For us, this spoke to Jesus’ words, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’ [Lk 10:2],” they said.
To help fund a portion of their work, senior citizen members have jumble sales and sell popcorn, and the younger members have raffle draws and sell a variety of things on a seasonal basis — from Easter eggs during Easter, and scones in winter, to boerewors rolls and cold drinks in spring.
“The support we receive from our parish members and our parish priest is amazing. We are now on a mission to go beyond the parish level and find corporate sponsorship to enable us to help more people and have a greater impact,” they said.
“We encourage everyone, young or old, to form part of this worldwide family in blue on the mission to promote good works,” Ms Mahasha and Ms Mwelase said.