The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is reaching out to Ontario’s Catholic youth with the launch of the Year of the Young Vincentian.

The campaign begins Dec. 1 with the goal of encouraging those under age 35 to join the society and to start their own projects to help those in need.

“We’re getting older and if we don’t start attracting younger people, we’re not going to be able to continue what we do,” said Jim Paddon, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Ontario Regional Council.

The society is a global organization dedicated to helping the less fortunate. It was founded by a 20- year-old French student, Frederic Ozanam, and a group of his friends who sought to be better Catholics by emulating Jesus and aiding the poor. According to Paddon, they had the dual mission of deepening their faith while helping people living in poverty.

“Next year, 2013 is very appropriate,” he said on the timing of the campaign. “It’ll mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederic Ozanam.”

Paddon also notes that 2013 is significant for other reasons. Some of the society’s younger members will attend World Youth Day in Brazil. And Paddon hopes Ozanam will be canonized, some 15 years since his beatification.

“Those factors certainly for me makes it the right time to... make contacts with areas and organizations like Catholic school boards, high schools, elementary schools,” Paddon said.

The Ontario council’s goal of developing and implementing a program that will educate students about the society is meant to attract youth.

“How do we attract them?” Paddon asks. “We provide them the opportunity to be part of a worldwide organization whose goal is to live the faith in service to Christ as we find Him in the poor.”

This includes focusing on local communities and addressing the root cause of poverty.

“Education we feel is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty,” Paddon said, adding the Ontario council is running an Ozanam Education Fund to provide students with $2,000-$3,000 towards tuition or other needs, and to stay in contact and work with the family in the long run.

Another program assists youth through a Registered Education Savings Plan project. With the Canada Learning Bond, the federal government will match up to a certain amount of the money parents place into an RESP for their child.

“So we’re starting the project down in the Burlington-Oakville area where we’re going to families we know from assistance that we’ve given them and encouraging them to open such an account,” said Paddon, so that the society will match (up to a certain amount) what the parents provide, and in turn the government will match those combined funds.

As for youth participation, the society is planning a video contest for school-age kids to talk about the society’s work or an SSVP-related topic like Ozanam. It will also host a Giant Sleep Out on May 24 to raise awareness of and funds to alleviate poverty.

Published in Youth Speak News
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