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By Paul Ainslie, President, SVdP Indy Council

As most Vincentians know, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in Paris in 1833. Though the Society expanded to the U.S. in St. Louis in 1845, we have remained an international organization based in Paris. French is even the official language of the Society.

The motto for the international SVdP is “Serviens in Spe” which means “Serving in Hope.” We are here to serve—to serve God faithfully, to serve each other in friendship, and to serve those in need. And what we offer those neighbors in need is more than just a bag of groceries or some housewares, as important as these are. What we offer is hope: hope in a future with less need, hope in a life with less stress, and true hope in the goodness and kindness of all.

One of the ways we offer hope is through our systemic change program Changing Lives Forever (CLF). First offered in 2012, CLF has given more than 400 graduates the tools and knowledge to become more self-sufficient in their lives. For many graduates, their lives have risen above the daily tyrannies that consumed all their energy and time. We also offer mentors to walk beside our CLF graduates as they continue their journey after graduation. And we now offer graduate classes to continue the growth. We’re able to do this thanks to the revenue from the Mission 27 stores, which funds the CLF program, along with grants and donations.

David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times and author of several books, has stated that “programs don’t solve problems; relationships solve problems.” We couldn’t agree more. That’s the aim of our home visits: to establish a relationship with those we visit. Likewise, CLF establishes many relationships among the participants, facilitators and staff. Even a friendly smile in the Food Pantry or Distribution Center can begin a relationship of hope.

Serving in hope is such a key part of what we do that SVdP has a seven-part development class available for individuals or Conference members to use. To learn more, go to the Serving in Hope page on the SVdP USA site.