Doing God’s Work Through Service to Those in Need
Since 1985, John Coffey has been a member of the Stores Board and affiliated with the Archdiocesan Council. John is a true Vincentian in action, one who "walks the talk" by doing for others, especially those most in need.
Why did you join the Society?
I was recruited to work with the Stores Board and Archdiocesan Council at my dad's funeral luncheon. My dad had been a Vincentian so I knew about SVdP. His close friend, John O'Keefe, one of God's great noblemen, a member of the Archdiocesan Council at the time (he may have been a past president) and chair of the Stores committee, asked me to join. I said I'd be honored to do so. I became the Chair of the Stores Board in 1988. Later I joined my parish conference as well. My term of office ended last October. However, I am still a member of the Stores Board.
How would you describe yourself as a person?
Oh gosh, that's a tough one. Better you ask my wife and kids and colleagues, they could probably give a more honest answer. I'll say this: from any early age the Gospel's parables that teach us, in substance, to love one another and put that into practice by doing things for others, made a strong impression on me. Not that I always complied, and many others have done and now do a lot more than I in that respect, a lot more. But the message has always resonated with me and been a motivating factor in my life.
How would you describe yourself as a member of the Society? In other words, what particular strengths or skill sets do you bring to your volunteer work?
At the Stores and ADC level, I suppose my legal skills and business experience, and a willingness to volunteer them have been the biggest things; at the parish conference level just willingness to help out, although I have not been able to devote nearly the attention to SVdP at that level as I would like. I hope to have more time to do some of the hands on work that is the essence of SVdP conference work and that others do so well.
And, now that you have been a member for many years, what keeps you invested in this mission?
What Vincentians do is respond to the essence of the Gospel's teaching, love God and love one another, and put it into action, "walk the talk", so to speak, by doing for others, especially those most in need. I still believe in that, which I understand to be the essence of the Gospel message, so sticking with the mission, continuing to try to do what Vincentians do, is a way to keep putting that belief into action.
Do you think you have changed in any way since you first began as a volunteer?
I sure hope so; we all continue to evolve, in one direction or another, I hope I'm going the right way.
What's the best thing about being a member of the Society?
I think it's the relationships with so many fine men and women, different in many ways but all trying to do God's work in the world through service to those in need.
If you could change one thing - what would it be?
It's a great organization. I'm sure it can be improved, like any organization, but I wouldn't know where to tinker with it. Besides, I'm not much for organizational structure, important as that is for any organization. I like the operational end, the doing things to help those in need part. One thing I think may sometimes get lost, I hope not and don't know quite what to suggest to be sure it doesn't, is conveying to those SVdP serves, that we aren't just a service organization or just a thrift store. I hope that people who encounter Vincentians in action----whether through home visits or our thrift stores or the many other works that SVdP carries out----realize in some way that Vincentians are motivated by a love of God and the Gospel message to love one another, and that what they're doing is expressing their acceptance of that message through their SVdP activities.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining the Society?
Do it, you won't regret it.
Can You Make A Difference?
When you join forces with more than 2,000 other people who volunteer their time and talents to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Chicago the answer is "yes." We need volunteers at our main office, thrift stores, food pantries, fund-raising events and at conferences. To volunteer, contact Frieda Bertello at 312.655.7181.