By: Anita Boniface
Suffering from a mental or physical illness can have many consequences. People who are sick may experience pain, confusion, anxiety, isolation, and lives and wellbeing which have taken a turn for the worse.
The 8000 active members if the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) visit people who are ill in their homes or in hospital, providing friendship, support and care. To show how the SVP cares for people who are ill, Week 4 of the charity's awareness campaign entitled 'Who Cares?' focuses on sickness.
SVP Communications Manager Bryan Allen says: "People fall sick for all kinds of reasons and end up in hospital or at home, often on their own and with no visitors. The St Vincent de Paul Society cares about these people and last year we visited over 14,000 people in hospital as well as countless other unwell people in their own homes. SVP members might drive a sick person to a doctor's appointment, or may visit to pass the time in pleasant conversation, bringing cheer and encouragement."
The Christ-centred and Vincentian values of the SVP's members mean that they are compassionate, caring and generous which ensures that they provide a merciful and compassionate response the people suffering illness so often need.
When they go into a home or hospital to visit someone, they will often address their spiritual as well as their physical needs - praying with that person, bringing prayer cards or a Rosary. Very often they will refer such people to their appropriate minister, or ensure they receive the Eucharist, providing a source of strength and sustenance which brings so much comfort.
One young woman that SVP members assisted, and who has a great Spiritual life is Joanna. Joanna had learning difficulties and severe mobility problems that kept her in a state of depression for several years. She was about 35 when SVP members began visiting her. Her elderly mother and later her sister looked after her with great devotion. A kind member arranged for Joanna to take a trip to Lourdes in a Jumbulance, a sort of super ambulance where she would be well looked after by nursing staff. When she returned, Joanna's mood had changed from depression to happiness. The change was sustained for the next 20 years until her death. Joanna said she often saw Our Lady in her room at night, just before she went to sleep. When we visited she would tell us:
"Our Lady has not come for the last two days," or "I saw Our Lady again last night. She is very beautiful." It was so normal to her.
SVP member Brenda said: "It is so inspiring to see grace transform a life, to realise that in a sense Joanna's house was the Lourdes grotto of our parish. We were treading on holy ground."
Although miracles can heal people suffering from illness, providing love and care can also play an important role in comforting and healing the sick.
If you would like to support the work of the SVP in caring for people suffering poverty be it sickness, isolation, hunger or material hardship, please telephone 0207 703 3030, email email@example.com or visit www.svp.org.uk.