Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

New leadership commissioned for Spokane’s St. Vincent de Paul Society

the Inland Register

(From the October 17, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)

Paul Machtolf, left, is commissioned as the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Spokane District Council president by Bishop Blase Cupich during Mass at St. Thomas More Parish, Spokane, Sept. 27. To Machtolf’s left is outgoing district council president Michael Cain. Deacon Thomas Heavey assists the bishop. (IR photo by Susan Cain, courtesy of the St. Vincent de Paul Society)

The Society of St.Vincent de Paul in Eastern Washington welcomed a new leader on Sept. 27 when Paul Machtolf was commissioned by Bishop Blase Cupich during Mass at St. Thomas More Parish in Spokane.

Machtolf, 60, succeeds Michael Cain as Spokane District Council president. Cain completed his second three-year term as president on Sept. 30. The Rule of the Society allows council presidents to serve only two successive terms.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 in Paris by Blessed Frederic Ozanam, beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1997.

Blessed Frederic and five fellow students at the University of Paris founded the Society in response to a challenge by secular classmates to put their faith into action. Since then, the Society has grown steadily and is now one of the largest religious and social service organizations in the world, with over 700,000 active members in 149 countries, including, recently, Mongolia and Nepal.

Then as now, the mission of the Society is to foster holiness in its members through service to the poor.

The Society, which came to the United States in 1845, has been active in Eastern Washington since the 1890s. It now includes eight conferences, as the basic unit of the Society is known. Together, the conferences – which are usually associated with parishes – form the Spokane District Council, which is headed by its president, the president’s officers, and the conference presidents. The Spokane District Council is comprised of five conferences in Spokane/Spokane Valley: Mary Queen, St. Anthony, St Francis of Assisi, St. Mary, and St. Thomas More, plus one each in Dayton (St. Joseph), Pasco (St. Patrick), and Walla Walla (St. Patrick). The inactive conference at St. Francis Xavier parish in Spokane is preparing to reactivate.

Virtually all the work of the Spokane District Council is performed by volunteers: the 122 active members of the conferences. In keeping with the Society’s informal motto – “No form of charity is foreign to us” – the Vincentians, as Society members are known, offer a wide range of services to their communities, including assistance with mortgage, rent, heat/utilities, prescriptions, and other essentials. Food, clothing, and household furnishings are also provided.

Michael Cain, outgoing president, estimates the total value of goods and services provided or conveyed by the conferences of the Spokane District Council in 2012 to be $3,695,747.

Until early 2008, the Society had a large physical presence in Spokane, with thrift stores and a family services center. Due to declining membership in the Spokane Society, a contrary market, and other factors, the stores and family services center closed, leaving no “brick and mortar” Society in Spokane. Social service centers and/or stores remain and continue to serve their communities in Dayton, Pasco, and Walla Walla.

“The past six years have been about rebuilding and focusing on our first priority: spirituality,” said Machtolf. “The Society in Spokane nearly collapsed in 2008, and I’m convinced that was because we were concentrating on our charitable work – important though that was – to the exclusion of our true priority. Since refocusing on our spirituality, good things have been happening.

“My vision for the Society in Spokane and Eastern Washington is the same as the vision for the International and National organizations,” Machtolf said. “It is twofold: first, to increase our membership and develop our members’ spirituality; second, to expand the special works the Society does to help the needy.

“I envision an organization that works together with other groups to help bring the poor out of poverty,” said Machtolf. “I pray the Holy Spirit leads us to gather others in our works of charity and justice as we develop our own relationships with the Lord.”

Machtolf, a member of Spokane’s St. Thomas More Parish, has lived in Spokane for 25 years. He was born in Alturas, Calif., and raised in Vancouver, Wash. He graduated from Jesuit High in Portland, Ore., and the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in Forestry and an MBA. He spent his career in the pulp and paper industry, concluding as the general manager at Ponderay Newsprint in Usk, Wash. He is past president of the Washington Pulp & Paper Foundation. He and his wife, Jan, are the parents of four grown daughters and grandparents of four.

Machtolf invites those interested in learning more about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to contact him at

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