Dear Vincentians, supporters and friends,

By Graham West

I welcome you to this edition of The Record and to my first column since being elected to the role of National President in March.

I first joined the Society as a 17-year-old doing home visitations in the Campbelltown NSW area and have been involved in the Society in many different roles since. I even met my wife Tanya through the Society when we were both youth representatives for our dioceses!

The Society opened my eyes to the needs of many in our community and gave real expression to a desire to put my faith into action. The importance of direct person-to-person service and friendship cannot be underestimated.

Not only should we see Christ in those we assist, they too will hopefully see Christ in us.

The transformational experiences the Society provided me with have set the course of my life since and have been a source of great joy and inspiration. It is my great desire that many others should have this opportunity and experience of Christ’s love.

Of course, we have many challenges in our journey that as a Society we need to face. There have been massive transformations in wider society, the Church and the nature of poverty and exclusion that we are called upon to respond to with open hearts and active hands and minds.

As a Society founded by young people, we must always strive to ensure that this spirit of youth is given expression and that young people are welcomed into our Society and its structures. Where this does not occur it is incumbent upon all of us to find new ways to welcome them, especially into leadership positions.

Our Society is based upon a belief in shared volunteer leadership and I am pleased to build upon the legacy of the National Council established by my friend and mentor, Tony Thornton, who died suddenly in July.

The obituary in this issue gives a taste of his legacy but on a personal level Tony’s loss has a left a deep hole in our hearts.

Continuing his legacy, the National Council is currently undertaking a review of our operations as a Council and identifying ways to be of greater service to you.

As a National Council we will continue to work together and find new and better ways to support you in our service to the poor and disadvantaged in our community.

Yours in Christ,

Graham West

Graham West is the National President of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia.