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Students at St. Robert School, San Bruno raised $241 for the Missionary Childhood Association Nov. 18 with a bake sale headed by seventh graders, some pictured here. Melissa McNichol is seventh grade teacher, Margo Wright is principal.

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‘Encounter, accompany’ the poor, San Mateo SVdP director says
December 13th, 2016
By Tom Burke

“Every person’s story is totally unique,” Lorraine Moriarty, executive director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Mateo County told me in an email about the people SVdP serves. “Many are victims of neglect from an early age, and have never had appropriate support systems to move out of poverty, while others because of different circumstances, often addictions, mental or physical health issues, lack of opportunities to secure full time employment at a livable wage.”

Lorraine describes the job as “trying daily to be a fully alive child of God - who just happens to have a title of executive director.” She has been in the saddle at SVdP for 24 years.

The greatest needs of those SVdP serves? “To be loved unconditionally, because this honors each person’s dignity as a child of God created in God’s image,” Lorraine said. The work, she told me, is “a grace filled opportunity to build up the kingdom of God here and now, but not fully realized yet.”

Beyond food and housing “a listening heart and hugs” are on the wish list of the poor, Lorraine said. “Often they are just looking for acceptance to overcome fears of being alone, despised or neglected. Sometimes it is difficult to articulate a need!”

Who are they? “My brothers and sisters in Christ who cross my path on a daily basis,” Lorraine said. “We are all part of the family of God.”

How old are the people helped? “Newborns - who need formula, diapers and clothing to survive,” Lorraine said as well as seniors, one more than 80 years old. “‘Gladyse’ who dumpster dove for food and would offer it to us to feed others when she was in such desperate need herself of major support services. Seeing Seniors in SVdP’s three homeless help center lines is not unusual nor are requests for homeless prevention services for housed seniors, or gas to keep cars running for those living in their vehicles.”

What will happen at SVDP for Christmas? “SVdP will be celebrating and making room at the inn for all to encounter the Christ Child within, about and amongst,” Lorraine said, adding that looking to Pope Francis and his idea of “a church which is poor and for the poor” will help going forward. “If we can spend some time reflecting on his encouragements and encounter, accompany and help integrate into our communities and faith homes, those who look, talk, smell, eat, believe and act differently from us we can make the kingdom of God more fully alive in our midst.”

The St. Vincent de Paul Society through its parish conferences serves the poor face-to-face: Outreach includes its Peninsula Family Resource Center where food and gifts will be distributed through home visits; three SVdP Homeless Help Centers where meals and gift cards will be given out; Restorative Justice Ministry where the incarcerated will be ministered to with Mass and Communion services; SVdP’s Catherine Center for women recently released from incarceration; and five SVdP Stores. Visit the St. Vincent de Paul website for ways to volunteer and donate.

‘AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!’ All of us at Catholic San Francisco wish you a happy, holy Christmas and New Year! It is our pleasure to serve and as we begin our 17th year of the paper please accept our thanks, and know that we look forward to continuing as a medium you can rely on. I’ve not said it in a while but “On the Street Where You Live” is an empty page without you. Please send your items this way. Next issue is Jan. 12, 2017.

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From December 15, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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