Friday, December 3, 2010

Making a difference with The Giving Tree

Photo by Jane Winstead
Parishioner Tara Kipp chooses ornaments from The Giving Tree with her daughters Trinity and Mina. | Click on photos to enlarge.

The tags on The Giving Tree tell the stories of hard times, of too few dollars to keep the lights on or the water flowing, or to keep a roof over the family’s heads.

They tell of little girls and little boys who wouldn’t have anything come Christmas morning if it weren’t for the generosity of strangers.

The tags tell of the need and St. Raphael parishioners respond. Traditionally, St. Raphael parishioners have supported the work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul throughout the year, but are especially generous at this time. It is the way Catholics help the poor.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a 177-year-old organization created to provide financial, material, educational and spiritual support for those in need.

Italian scholar Frédéric Ozanam founded the organization with five other students in Paris in 1833. He began studying at the Sorbonne in 1831 and soon became the Catholic “voice” in a city where poverty reigned. Ozanam contended that the role of the Catholic Church was to help the poor with clothing and food.

He and fellow students put their beliefs into action. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Notre Dame de Paris in 1997.

In Pinellas, the Society has been active since 1931. Local Vincentians visit thousands of homes as well as prisons, hopsitals and nursing homes to provide help for those in need.

And so, The Giving Tree stands tall in the narthex, festooned with ornaments.

The Giving Tree ornaments are tags telling the needs of local people who can be helped by the generosity of St. Raphael parishioners. Already gifts are appearing under the tree, beautifully wrapped with the appropriate tag attached.

Gifts are still needed.

Want to help?: Please take an ornament off and return the specified gift, wrapped, and with the ornament attached to the outside by Sunday, December 12. Please drop gift certificates or checks into the St. Vincent de Paul Box next to The Giving Tree.

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