The celebration mass for the centenary of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) in Belvedere College SJ took place on Sunday 22 October at 3pm in St. Francis Xavier’s Church, Gardiner Street, Dublin. Past and present students were among those who gathered for the mass which was celebrated by Irish Provincial Leonard Moloney SJ. Refreshments were served after mass in the corridor adjoining the Church where a display showing the work of the SVP over the last 100 years featured.
During the opening procession, student Liam Schmidt carried forward a clock. The congregation were told: “The clock represents time. Time is our most precious commodity; once given, it can never be replenished. Those who dedicate their time to the SVP, we thank you.”
Homilist Leonard Moloney SJ who was also headmaster of Belvedere said: “The impulse to create a fairer, more just society has been so present through the school for so long”. He talked about how the 1916 Rising gave birth to the seedlings of the SVP in the school when students, parents, and staff went down into the city to bring help, assistance and food; to knock on doors of those who were elderly and alone at a time of great fear. That charitable work continues to thrive in the school today. “So our indebtedness to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is enormous,” he said, “a Society that is open to all.”
Referring to the ordinary, humble SVP members, Leonard said: “We are all called to be ordinary in the best sense, and it is that which makes us one global community”. He quoted the American poet Mary Oliver who said: “Though Eden (the garden of Eden) is lost, its loveliness remains in the heart and in the imagination. Though Eden is lost, its loveliness remains in the heart of the Saint Aloysius Conference (SVP) in Belvedere”.
Brother Eamonn Davis SJ, who came to Belvedere in 1981, has overseen the SVP where he has inspired countless boys to reach out to the lonely, the homeless, and the economically poor. He told a few stories after communion, noting that he spoke through the letterbox of one elderly man’s flat in the local area for 10 months before the man finally agreed to open his door. Once the Belvedere boys began to visit him, he totally changed his attitude and really loved to see them coming each week. He was the first one to show up for a SVP outing even after breaking his leg, and he was seen dancing with his crutches at the end of that day.
Commenting on the celebration, former Belvederian Gavin T. Murphy said: “I got a great sense of being near to God today. I was touched by the beautiful lyrics of You know my name which was sung by Belvo students and Brother spoke to the heart when he reminded us of Christ’s message: ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’. It was just a beautiful occasion”.
Speaking after mass, Brother Eamonn said: “I saw two guys (Belvederians) on O’Connell Bridge in the lashings of rain, sitting down on the ground with an old man, giving him a cup of soup, and the world was passing by, and there they were chatting with the man. That’s something the Lord must have loved looking at. So, the guys are still carrying on the tradition, looking after people after 100 years. Wonderful!”