In the past the church building was often the centre of community life. It was a place that people turned to for help.
Many people were involved in church life, they knew each other well and supported one another.
Priests were treated with respect and had significant influence over the community they worked in.
In recent years, all this has changed. Now nearly half the UK population has no faith, the Church has much less power and priests find it harder to influence people’s lives.
One area that the Church can still work in is the provision of care for others.
The St Vincent de Paul Society began in Ireland in 1844. It is now the country’s largest charitable organisation. It has helped people through famine, war and economic recession.
The society’s aim is to tackle poverty in all its forms through the provision of practical assistance to those in need.
The concept of need is broader than financial hardship, so visiting people who are sick, lonely, in prison or suffering from addiction is also a significant proportion of our work. The essence of our work is person-to-person contact and spending time with people is our greatest gift ... We offer friendship and practical help to all we visit, without regard to faith, ethnicity, status or sexual orientation.
Such organisations can fill the gap left by the government and social service agencies. They show the relevance of the Church - in spite of how its place in society has changed.