Internationally and Nationally
The Society of St Vincent de Paul was formed in Paris in 1833 by a group of Catholic students who, led by Frederic Ozanam, aimed to put their faith into action through direct contact and assistance to the poor. The group were inspired by the work and teachings of St Vincent de Paul, a priest who abandoned the profit of an ecclesiastical career at the Royal Court in favour of working with the marginalised and forgotten poor of France in the 1600s, and placed itself under his patronage. A few years after its foundation, the organisation had grown in numbers and soon spread to other countries. By 1844, the first Conference of Charity had been formed in England & Wales.
Today the Society of St Vincent de Paul is a confederation of national charities with nearly one million volunteer members in 147 countries worldwide. Membership is open to men and women, young and old. The SVP asks that members accept fully the Christian ethos of the SVP, and are committed to express their love of God through personal service to their neighbour. The SVP respects religious liberty and the values of all people and offers help to anyone in need. The SVP today operates in branches, based on local parishes, schools and universities.
The Society in Tyneside
In 1846 the Society was established in Tyneside when a Conference was formed at St Andrews Church in Newcastle. In words that might be considered appropriate to the ministry of the SVP today, Bishop William Riddell wrote to the clergy one month after the formation of the first Tyneside Conference, “This brotherhood may become a useful company to your ministry and a solace to the poor of your flock.” Despite the sparsity of the catholic community in Northumberland and Durham in the second half of the 19th century conferences were soon established in North Shields, Sunderland South Shields Felling, Gateshead, Newcastle, Jarrow, Barnard Castle, Durham, Hebburn and Darlington.
Community Support Projects
Our Community Centre,Blackfriars Hall, as it used to be known, is built over the foundations of Hadrian’s Wall and is adjacent to the beautiful Catholic Church of St Dominic’s on New Bridge Street; home for over 130 years to Dominican monks or ‘Blackfriars’ as they became known; on account of the black cloak they wore over their white religious habits. (The colours are rumoured to be the origins of famous black and white stripes of Newcastle United).
Adjacent to our Community Centre at Blackfriars, we have a hostel, with temporary accommodation for up to 22 homeless people at any one time. The Society has also worked in offender management since 1930 and today runs two approved premises in Newcastle, Ozanam House and St Christopher’s, managing and supporting around 54 offenders per year.
We also have 7 Community Shops in the North East, The shops are situated in areas of deprivation and serve local communities, providing low cost goods and household items to disadvantaged individuals and families, providing volunteering opportunities, offering a listening ear, and where appropriate, arranging for local SVP members to visit those most in need.
Across the country, the SVP employs over 200 staff and provides volunteering opportunities for around 700 people.
Ouseburn was, until 10 years ago, a monument to an industrial past, its derelict factories, red-brick warehouses and mills lurking in the shadow of Victorian bridges and viaducts less than a mile from Newcastle city centre. Now, this picturesque valley, either side of the river Ouse (once used to carry coal by boat from Spital Tongues down to waiting barges on the Tyne), is the creative heart of Newcastle.
Following years of post-industrial decline, its regeneration has given the area’s unique architecture and riverside setting a new lease of life – in the form of artists’ studios, live music venues, an independent cinema and galleries.