“No need is foreign to us,” said Marc Bruno hours after canvassing the streets of San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood on a sweltering summer Sunday, handing out thick sandwiches from a local Italian deli to “anyone who is homeless or appears homeless.”
The sandwiches are bagged with socks, underwear, a face mask and hand sanitizer.
Bruno, an Emmy-award-winning theater and television producer, is a longtime parishioner of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in San Francisco and a nearly 30-year member of the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference, which dates back to the 1930s.
Back then, the parish conference had a fund to pay for school lunches for children of poor families, jackets for those who needed one and, according to parish records, an antiquated-sounding “hobo fund.”
“Now, the reality is, for better or worse, that our work is associated with the homeless,” said Bruno. That includes staving off homelessness and hunger in the poor living often unseen in the tourist enclaves of North Beach and nearby Chinatown.
He considered the priesthood decades ago while living with a monastic community in rural France, but today Bruno is the unofficial leader of the parish conference which numbers about 20 members….
The structure of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in San Francisco was changed forever after the Great Earthquake of 1906. That is when Catholic parishes were dispatched by the church to help the society “take up with renewed vigor” its work in “succoring the work of the poor, the sick and the aged.”
Archbishop Patrick Riordan presented a new vision for the local St. Vincent de Paul Society 16 months after the earthquake and fire left up to 300,000 people homeless, including many of its own staff and volunteers. An unknown number of children were orphaned.
Archbishop Riordan announced that a support system would be formed by “branching out into all parishes of the church.” A central bureau would coordinate the work of each parish conference….
There are three geographically defined districts of the St. Vincent de Paul Society within the Archdiocese of San Francisco: the St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Francisco, founded in 1860; the St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Mateo County, founded in 1931; and the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin County, founded in 1946. Each is guided by the same Vincentian purpose but is independently run to serve the unique needs of their populations.
Our Lady of the Pillar Parish in Half Moon Bay is one of 32 parish-based conferences in the St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Mateo County. Over 1,000 Vincentian volunteers serve the diverse county according to its website (svdpsm.org).
Many locals are poor migrant families who work the green fields around the parish, or in the many restaurants and hotels serving tourists. Those impacted by pandemic-related job losses and business closures wait patiently in line for food supplies and other assistance.
“This is how we express our Christian love,” said parishioner Nancy Clarkin, a 20-year volunteer with the parish conference, who works alongside her husband, Tom, in the parish pantry. The refrigerated food pantry operates from the rectory garage. Two more pantries supply food and other necessities at the parish’s mission churches, St. Anthony in Pescadero and Our Lady of the Refuge in La Honda….
The above comes from a Nov. 23 story in Catholic San Francisco.
““This is how we express our Christian love,” said parishioner Nancy Clarkin, a 20-year volunteer with the parish conference, who works alongside her husband, Tom, in the parish pantry. ” I am proud to be a Catholic when I read such stories. Well done Tom and Nancy, and Sts. Peter and Paul Parish.
Thanks for this story. It’s another example of what we Catholics have done since our earliest days and continue to do. And, we practice our religious liberty and serve all with or without the permission or approval of any government. As Popes have noted, the government can provide some social services. But, we serve with the love of Christ and neighbor (and do so almost entirely as volunteers, not paid civil servants). All of us need love as well as having our practical, temporal needs met. That’s what makes Christian service for our neighbors different. Thanks be to God for our brothers and sisters who serve with St. Vincent de Paul Societies and in other ways.