In most Catholic parishes about once a month, millions of parishioners will be either kneeling or sitting quietly after having received communion and will be suddenly disturbed by someone tapping them on the shoulder and giving them a black bag. They are expected to do two things: put some money in the bag and pass it on to the next person. Regretfully, most of the parishes fail to announce the purpose of the collection. It is passed from parishioner to parishioner with very little thought. Nevertheless, the outcome of that little action is awesome.
The Black Bag is the basic means of support for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Society is a lay organization and its primary purpose is to lead men and women to grow spiritually by offering person to person service to the poor in the tradition of St. Vincent de Paul.
Drawing on the resources flowing from that little black bag, in 2010, the Society provided more than $595 million in tangible and in-kind services, served more than 14 million people in need, performed more than 648,000 home visits and delivered more than 7 million hours to serve those in need or living in poverty. This was all accomplished without the blare of trumpets or fanfare. When the St. Vincent de Paul Society is organized in a parish, they form themselves into a small community working to enhance their own spiritual development and lessen the pain and suffering in the world around them. In the United States, there are more than 172,000 members and nearly five thousand parish communities. This is really wonderful but it also means that ten thousand parishes do not have an organized St. Vincent de Paul Society. What a shame – what a shame.
What about your parish?