There is a long-established Conference of the SVP in this Parish. When St Peter’s and St Thomas More’s were separate parishes, they each had separate Conferences, which merged. The Society originated in Paris in the 1830s where a group of Catholic students at the Sorbonne, under the leadership of Frederick Ozanam, when challenged to justify their faith, responded by showing that the Church had a role to play in tackling the extreme poverty they found in parts of the City and set out to do what they could to relieve the suffering of those around them. The little group of students grew – spread throughout Paris and over the years throughout the world, came to Britain in 844 and is now established in some 130 countries – and embraces Christians of any denomination. The basic work of the SVP remains – to tackle poverty in a speedy, practical person-to-person way, wherever it is found, recognising that poverty comes in many forms – loneliness, hunger, poor, housing, unemployment, drug addiction, bereavement, illness and a person’s home can be mansion, a slum, a prison, a hospital, a residential home.
The Parish Conference has 8 members, meeting monthly and undertaking regular visits and chatting to people living alone or in residential homes or hospital – bringing Holy Communion to some, food or money to others, providing transport at Derriford Hospital, attending Prison Mass with prisoners at Dartmoor, raising food supplies for refugees/asylum seekers, providing food and delivering on a late night soup run – No Act of Charity is foreign to our Society, is the claim.
As society changes, so does the work of SVP. The Society has established nationally, Housing Associations, including the De Paul Trust which helps the young homeless, Charity Shops, and Twinning arrangements with SVP conferences in poorer countries. The Parish Conference supports financially, 3 twinned Conferences in India.
Funding for the work comes mainly from parishioners through donations in the Church Poor Box. The Conference is fortunate to enjoy support from generous donors and when faced with a financial need beyond local resources, assistance from SVP funds at national and diocesan level can be sought. All local Conferences pay a small proportion of their own income into such funds.
If anyone is interested in learning more about the SVP or the local Conference, or would like to make a donation to fund the work – or might consider joining the Society – please phone the President of the Parish Conference on 01752-707127 for more information.