Being a Vincentian—Dana's Story
I became a Vincentian because I learned first-hand what it was like during a difficult time in life to have people answer your request for help in a timely, compassionate way and what it was like when that request for help was met with cold indifference.
At 13 years old, I witnessed my father having a massive heart attack. Because our phone was not working, he drove a mile to my Uncle's house in the middle of the night looking for help. My Uncle answered that request for help by driving my father to the nearest hospital 20 miles away.
The perseverance and compassion of the doctors and nurses brought my father back from the dead three times that evening. How different my life would be if all those people didn't answer the call for help that night.
Six months later, open heart surgery to remove an aneurism from his heart, left my father disabled at the age of 36. Unfortunately, when requesting government assistance for his disability, he did not experience the same perseverance and compassion he had received from the life-saving doctors and nurses six months earler but instead his request for help was met with cold, indifference and much delay. He thought, "Doesn't anyone care that the sick man standing in front of them has four children to feed and no way to buy food."
Even the few programs in our area that claimed they help people, would answer my father's requests with "Sorry, we can't help you." How painful do you think it was to watch my father return home empty handed knowing there was nothing in the house to eat. How different my life would be if all those people answered the call for help.
I decided long ago, as I slept with an empty belly, that I would always try to be the person who answers that call for help like the Good Samaritan in the bible. Being a Vincentian allows me to give food to the parent in a difficult situation so their child doesn't have to go to bed hungry. Being a Vincentian allows me to alleviate the burdens of the sick, to support their mind, body, and spirit when they need it, not just when it's convenient to me.
I want to thank the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for allowing me to represent them in answering the requests for assistance. I also thank the generous benefactors who help the Society answer the requests for help, in a timely and compassionate way, by providing the funds needed—allowing us to continue helping people—one person at a time. How different life will be for someone because we answered their request for assistance.
We hear how devastating life events often change a person to be more sensitive to others. So, perhaps tragedy is not God forsaking us, but rather God calling us and giving us the opportunity to finally be the person we were truly meant to be - a sensitive soul.
Dana Pyzik is a Vincentian member from St. Linus Parish in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She is the creator of the Spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, Share Your Wisdom Facebook page. The page is an oasis for Vincentians to nurture their holy spirit; to learn more about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and a place to get to know other members of the Vincentian family.
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.