As the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County celebrated 50 years of service to millions of people in need, Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, lauded the volunteers for their great love of God and neighbor.
Finds a way to respond
Described by several as "a quintessential Vincentian," when Regan sees a need "he finds a way to respond with humility, efficacy and care," said Steve Krank, volunteer coordinator.
Regan summarizes his contributions simply as "Our Lord says help people. If we are successful we have to give back."
Another volunteer honored is Jim Noe of St. Joan of Arc conference, who worked to open a dining room in Pittsburg that now serves 40,000 meals a year to the hungry. Three years ago he led SVdP as it and other groups established a free clinic that already has helped 4,000 uninsured people meet medical needs.
Two volunteers from St. John Vianny conference also were recognized: Bill Clark, for 25 years of compassionate service, and Jane Keating, with 30 years of loving help for the poor.
SVdP service is carried out quietly, usually without much notice. Yet they work in the confidence that they are living the model set out by Christ. Council President Ron Costanzo describes it in the words of St. Paul (1 Corinthians) "If I do not have love, I gain nothing."
The Contra Costa SVdP works in 27 conferences, based in Catholic parishes, plus a service center in Pittsburg. It provides help in many forms — groceries, hot meals, clothing, furniture, rent and utilities assistance, medical care, winter shelter and helping out-of-work people climb back into the job market. Two thrift stores (Pleasant Hill and Pittsburg) help those with specific needs, provide some jobs and support other Vincentian outreach efforts.
Helped literally millions
In Contra Costa County, Vincentians now serve more than 200,000 people each year. Over the past five decades it has helped literally millions of people with urgent needs
Bishop Barber said, "I'm very grateful that your organization is doing such great work — and here is how I think you can make it even better!"
Involve young people in St. Vincent de Paul's service and it will strengthen their faith, he said. He urged the Vincentian volunteers to reach out to high school and younger students in their parish CCD programs to join SVdP in helping the poor.
And that will grow their faith, Bishop Barber said.
"Provide a channel for these young people. Get kids to experience in their lives these corporal and spiritual works of mercy that you perform. You already have it set up.
"Like a light that has been unplugged from the wall, you plug it in and then they feel God's love and mercy pouring down on them and on those who need it. It starts to open up their eyes," Bishop Barber said.
"It will connect them with the rest of the work of the Church. The work of our mercy is attractive; people want to be part of it (and) will help the growth of our church."
53 years of volunteering
Ed Regan began serving the poor before John F. Kennedy became president in 1961 — and hasn't paused since.
"Our Lord says help people. If we are successful, we have to give back."
People who know Regan say that when he sees a need "he finds a way to respond with humility, efficacy and care." He is described by others as "a quintessential Vincentian."
If you ask pupils at St. Mary School in Walnut Creek who Mr. Regan is, they respond "He is St. Vincent de Paul!"
Another person recalls meeting Regan 14 years ago. Opening Regan's car door, loaves of bread fell out. The car was filled to dashboard level with bread that Regan had collected for distribution to the poor. Regan and a fellow volunteer often visit stores for give-away food, then distribute it. If any is left over, they give it to the day laborers at the Monument Crisis Center.
Regan was introduced to SVdP as a child, when his father took him along on visits to the county hospital in Hayward where they distributed gifts to patients.
"Ed has spent his life in service to God, to St. Vincent de Paul and to others," says Steve Krank, volunteer coordinator.
At St. Mary, Regan has been involved in all of the conference outreach — collecting food, making home visits, serving as treasurer and other activities.
Ask other parishioners about him and they respond that Ed loves his wife and family, loves his St. Vincent de Paul — and that Ed really loves his baseball!
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