New Vinnies Conference launched at Matthew Talbot Hostel
Across NSW there are over 4,100 members who belong to a Vinnies Conference.
Conferences can be found in more than 350 communities throughout the state and are made up of people who seek to live out their faith by offering companionship and support to people in need of assistance.
The types of assistance can vary depending on individual needs – members can deliver groceries and food vouchers, provide furniture to low-income households or take the time to talk with vulnerable people in need of companionship on home visits.
For a number of years talks have been in place about establishing a Vinnies Conference at the Matthew Talbot Hostel – an iconic service offering accommodation, food, healthcare and much more to men experiencing homelessness in the heart of Sydney.
After a COVID-enforced delay last year, the Matthew Talbot Hostel Conference is set to become a reality thanks to the efforts of Tony Cranney and Joy Bowen.
As President of the Sydney Archdiocese Central Council, Tony Cranney sees the Matthew Talbot Hostel continuing in the tradition of previous Conferences with a key distinction.
“All Conferences are meant to help our members spiritually, and serve those who call upon us,” says Tony.
“We’ll meet as a Conference on a regular basis; we’ll open with prayers, spiritual readings, spiritual discussions, and then the matters of our meeting as usual.
“Matthew Talbot is the most well-known special work of the Society – not everyone relates it straight away with St Vincent de Paul – but it’s such a well-known institution.
“Rather than doing home visitations, we’ll be meeting with people who seek our help when they’re staying at the Matthew Talbot Hostel.”
Taking on the responsibility of training Conference members in pastoral care skills so that they can better support the men residing at the Talbot, Joy Bowen views compassion as an essential attribute for people who give of their time as members.
“You have to be very heart-based in loving the men and not judging,” reflects Joy, Mission, Spirituality and Pastoral Care Partner at Vinnies NSW.
“It’s important to realise that they’re all traumatised in some way and we would be exactly the same if we’d had the lives that they’ve had.”
While the Conference will initially be based out of Woolloomooloo, Tony and Joy hope over time to continue offering support to men residing at the Talbot when they secure alternative and permanent housing out in the community.
“Our Conference may be able to act as a transitional group where we connect the people we’ve assisted with a neighbouring Conference that can take over and tend to their needs,” say Tony.
“It’s going to be great having a Conference here who are pastorally trained, that can be here for our men, and build gentle trusting relationships,” says Joy.
“A lot of the people we assist don’t have family; they don’t have the normal structure of support which no one does well without.
“It can be an edgy place to work – it’s challenging and therefore incredibly rewarding.”
The first meeting of the Matthew Talbot Hostel Conference takes place on Sunday 16 May, beginning with a 9.30am mass. The Conference meets on the third Sunday of each month at 22 Talbot Place, Woolloomooloo.