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Nundah Vinnies has served those in need for 100 years

Helping hands: St Vincent de Paul Society Real Presence Conference members Glen Rawding, Alan Adams, Mirna Desouza, Doug Desouza, Catherine van Dongen (secretary), Ana Santos, Bernie Maume, Peter Clark, Kathleen Clark, Paul Balbuziente, Ken Stegeman, Victor D’Souza and Lindsay Stokes at Corpus Christi Church for their centenary Mass last Wednesday.

VINCENTIANS from the Real Presence Nundah conference celebrated 100 years ministering to the poor, and their local pastor says they have always lived up to their conference name.

Banyo-Nundah parish priest Fr Bernie Gallagher likened the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist to a “real presence of Christ in the poor” and praised the local Vincentians who ministered to Him.

“We should never lose sight of that connection,” Fr Gallagher said.

“You can go to Mass as much as you like but if you don’t see Jesus in the poor, you’re missing the mark.”

Fr Gallagher celebrated a centenary Mass for more than 80 people at Corpus Christi Church on November 25.

Conference president Doug D’Souza said it was a great celebration with awards handed out for long-serving members and six new members inducted for various north-east Brisbane conferences.

The celebration capped off a tough year for Vinnies.

The conference had 200 registered families in need and the pandemic restrictions meant most of the ministry work had to be done remotely, Mr D’Souza said.

It had also been a challenge because of the increased stress from the pandemic, he said.

“I thank all of our 15 volunteers who have stuck together and hope we carry on,” he said.

Long-time conference member and vice-president Paul Balbuziente said the story of the Real Presence Nundah conference had actually begun two years before it amalgamated in 1920.

In 1918, in the wake of the Spanish Flu and the end of the First World War, Nundah Catholics sent a request to Paris, the centre of the Vincentian world, to amalgamate as a St Vincent de Paul Society conference.

It took two years to get approval, most likely hampered both by existing transportation and the challenges in post-war Europe, he said.

Little is known about the conference’s early days besides an old photograph showing six members.

Mr Balbuziente said much had changed, particularly the administration work, in the 100 years, but what had not changed was the need for ministry for the poor.

“Nothing’s changed for 2000 years,” he said.

He pointed to the passage from Matthew 26:11 when Jesus said, “You will have the poor always”.

“I don’t think that’s changed,” he said.

“That’s our challenge – to recognise Jesus Christ in the poor, which is what the message was back 2000 years ago.”

But that was not to say the conference was not trying new ideas.

One new initiative at the Nundah conference was a budgeting class that taught families in need how to create a budget with extra food vouchers rewarded for those who succeeded through it.

“That’s actually generated not only some basic budgetary measures but also created community spirit amongst the class that attended,” Mr Balbuziente said.

“That (budgeting class) is one of the things we do that’s different to other conferences.”

Mr Balbuziente said the work they did at Vinnies showed how there was always someone in need and someone worse-off than you.

“I’m very grateful for (Jesus Christ) to be looking after us the way he has,” he said.

Mr D’Souza said more volunteers were needed for the future of the conference.

“Most of our members are retired and that’s what makes it difficult to continue in the future,” he said.

Mr Balbuziente said members met great people working at Vinnies, and got to meet the parishioners and the families in need in the community.

He said it was nice when out in public to meet people who Vinnies had helped or who were fellow volunteers.

“I think St Vincent de Paul should always be a vibrant factor in any Church congregation, it should always be encouraged to grow,” he said.

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