Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

For Spokane Diocese Vincentians, service is year-’round

the Inland Register

(From the January 21, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

Donna Scripture of the St. Anthony Parish St. Vincent de Paul Conference prepares the tree of sharing. (IR photo courtesy of Susan Cain)

Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul brought reasons for gratitude at Thanksgiving and occasions for joy at Christmas to many disadvantaged neighbors in Eastern Washington through a number of service projects and other works.

For the 20th year, the Vincentians of St. Thomas More Conference in Spokane provided complete Thanksgiving dinners donated by their fellow parishioners. Twenty-five Vincentians, assisted by 20 other volunteers, brought the dinners to 55 families living within the parish on Nov. 21.

“This was the week of the huge windstorm,” said conference president Loretta Thompson. “We were very fortunate that all of the families we delivered to had power.” She also pointed out that many hands make light work: “All 55 boxes were delivered within an hour.”

St. Patrick Conference in Pasco is also adept at efficient delivery of assistance, and on a large scale. On the day before Thanksgiving, the Pasco Vincentians and volunteers working from the conference’s new Food Bank and Community Services facility provided 65 pounds of holiday food to each of 1,027 families. Included in the boxes were chicken, fresh and canned vegetables and fruit, milk, cranberries, cereal, sugar, and baked goods.

A number of generous individual and corporate donors contributed everything from money and gift cards to toys and their time. One company provided 15 complete Thanksgiving dinners, which were given to families most in need, while the members of Kennewick’s Holy Spirit Parish held a blanket drive that yielded over 600 blankets.

“I have learned that the people and the businesses in the Tri-Cities have the biggest hearts,” said St. Patrick Conference president Marie Schultz. “We are so blessed to live here.”

Just days after the Thanksgiving effort was wrapped up, Vincentians in the area were at it again, gathering, organizing, and delivering Christmas cheer. Pasco Vincentians simply remained in high gear, serving 793 families on Dec. 23.

Other conferences, including St. Thomas More and St. Anthony in Spokane, set up “trees of sharing,” decorated with tags listing items needed as presents for families adopted by the conferences. Parishioners took the tags, bought and wrapped the items, and returned the items to the Vincentians, who delivered them to the families. Spokane’s St. Francis of Assisi Parish also brought Christmas gifts to several families.

“Our volunteers especially enjoy helping at Christmastime just to see the excitement and smiles of the children and the gratitude in the eyes of their parents,” said Thompson, president of St. Thomas More’s conference. “For many families, these are the only gifts they receive.”

Connie Anderson, vice president of St. Anthony’s conference, agreed. “The excitement on the faces of the children as we put beautifully wrapped packages under their tree was the same as children everywhere, rich or poor.”

Many of the Vincentians and their volunteers found they received as much as they gave.

“The tree of sharing allowed me to break from the hectic schedule of Christmas preparation,” Anderson said. “It brought Advent to life. The poor are real people who have needs, desires, and hopes beyond housing and utility bills. It felt wonderful to be able to offer more than the bare minimums we usually provide.”

St. Anthony Conference’s Sue Cain was moved by the work her conference did to prepare their tree of sharing.

“The sight of my fellow Vincentians working together on the tree so quietly and lovingly was inspiring,” she said. “Their work was a joy, not a chore.”

Christmas 2015 also marked what many hope will be an ongoing collaboration between the Society and the Christmas Bureau. Moved by the thought of those who wait, often in the cold, at the Christmas Bureau, Spokane Vincentians proposed the idea of providing gloves to applicants. The idea was welcomed by the Christmas Bureau, whose leaders indicated about 2,500 adult-sized gloves would be needed. The “Gloves with Love” program was born. Several parishes agreed to help, and 2,700 pairs of gloves magically appeared, many bought with donations from Society conferences.

“I was thrilled to have St. Vincent de Paul partner with us this year and provide the gloves for adult recipients,” said Judy Lee, Catholic Charities Christmas Bureau coordinator. “Those who received them were very appreciative. I hope that we can continue this partnership with St. Vincent de Paul in future years.”

Members of St. Mary Conference in Spokane Valley delivered the ultimate Christmas present. Visiting an elderly shut-in couple in desperate need of help with their power bill, the Vincentians discovered what the couple needed most was the Eucharist. “We brought Jesus to them on Christmas Day,” said conference president Edward Sawatzki. “And we will every Sunday.”

(For more information about the work of the Vincentians, contact parish St. Vincent de Paul conferences, or email Spokane District Council president Paul Machtolf: Donations can be made directly to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Spokane District Council, P.O. Box 2906, Spokane, WA 99220, or to the individual parish Conferences. Additional information is available on their web site:

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