Resurrection of a Conference

Church of the Resurrection sits on the northern portion of Price Hill, deep into a neighborhood lined with single family homes that have seen better days.

It’s a small church, built toward the end of WWI and designed as a “mission” church to serve the nearby community—a place where parishioners can walk to church on Wednesday nights or warm Sunday mornings. From the St. Vincent de Paul perspective, it’s an ideal church for a Conference, a place designed for neighbors helping neighbors. It started a Conference in the 1960s.

And for a while, it was. But a lot has changed in recent years. Price Hill was formed by Irish and German immigrants who had a strong attachment to their heritage and the Catholic Church, but those diehard Catholic families died off, and the people who moved in stayed away. Numbers dwindled, both in the church and in the Conference.

Gradually, all of the Vincentians that held together the Conference faded away, and Fr. Bob Keller was the lone thread holding together the Conference.

Until this year.

An increased need for assistance in the neighborhood and the need for additional support spurred nine of the parishioners to step forward, become Vincentians and revive the Resurrection Conference.

“I, for one, felt compelled to join, because of how well Fr. Bob treated me for the past 25 years,” says new Conference President Chris Noel. “The other Vincentians must have felt the same. We all wanted to help Fr. because he does everything in the parish by himself, and he can have a little free time for himself now.”

In the six months since they have been together, they’ve averaged handling four calls for assistance a week, either through home or parish visits.

“Just today, Sharon, one of our Vincentians, and I met with mother of five children under age 11. She manages to do everything for her family by herself. She takes care of her children every day and has to work on the weekends, because that is the only time that she can ask her mother to help watch the kids.

“We were just having casual conversation interviewing her, and when we were wrapping things up, she asked if we had to leave because this was the first time she was able to just sit down and relax and have an enjoyable conversation in a long time. Sharon and I both told her ‘no rush’ and we sat there another 15 minutes just to have a meaningful moment for her. I feel that the time and energy we provide is just as much a sense of help as the monetary or material element that we provide. It lifts me spiritually, and I know it does the neighbor too.

“I think the biggest joy is knowing that we are there to be able to help. The smiles, and tears our neighbors have shared with us, make us realize that they are truly grateful that there is somebody who wants to walk down their path and understand their experience, and just give them some sense of hope.”

They could actually help more neighbors, says Noel. “The need in our community is tremendous,” he says. What the Conference lacks at the moment is resources. With such a small parish, the supply of funds doesn’t match the demand for help.

Time may help that issue, though. As part of the Upward Spiral Comprehensive Campaign, money is being set aside to enhance the Conference Assistance Fund that Conferences—particularly smaller Conferences such as Resurrection—can utilize to provide the resources they need to help their neighbors.

The amount of funds available to Conferences through the Conference Assistance Fund has grown in the past five years, with the goal of getting to significantly higher next year.

That will also help create more new—or newly revived—Conferences. Resurrection is a first step in a concerted effort to increase the number of Conferences and Vincentians. As part of this year’s 150th anniversary, a goal was set to recruit 150 new Vincentians.

The goal, says Director of Conferences and Service Learning Sunnie Lain, is to help members grow their faith life through serving our neighbors. And in the end, that means more neighbors get helped.

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