"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

“Be diligent in serving
the poor. Love the poor,
honor them, my children,
as you would honor
Christ Himself.”

St. Louise de Marillac


Admirable Assistance

By Katelyn Rieder, Communications co-op

Members of the Holy Family parish St. Vincent de Paul conference welcome Olivia Scheper, a staff member from the downtown SVDP office, to their meeting. Also pictured (front row, from left) S. Shirley Le Blanc, Robbie Jennings Michels, S. Pat Wittberg, (back row, from left) Dee Besl and Victor Fabro.

While living in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the 1990s and early 2000s, S. Pat Wittberg became involved with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) through her local parish. The goal of the organization is to give back and help others through local initiatives, such as food pantries and thrift stores. S. Pat’s involvement was with home visits, which aim to assist people with resources like furniture, clothing, and more.

When she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2015, S. Pat’s home parish, Holy Family, was looking to expand their branch of St. Vincent de Paul beyond its food pantry. A few years later in December 2019, Fr. Len Wenke (former pastor) and several other parishioners worked together to start up their home visits program. Holy Family parish is a smaller community located in East Price Hill. “Some of the larger suburban parishes have maybe 15 to 20 people in their St. Vincent de Paul Society,” S. Pat explained. “We have about seven or eight.” The lack of volunteers would become one of several challenges the group faced.

Not long after they officially started home visits, a major fire occurred a few blocks from the church. This displaced several Guatemalan families, which S. Pat referred to as the backbone of Holy Family. In the following months, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, resulting in a frantic time for the community as a whole.

Instead of leaving when faced with these obstacles, S. Pat stayed committed. “I’m growing a lot because of my ministry. You have to have something draw you out of yourself so that you keep on growing.”

During home visits, S. Pat is able to meet many people in need of assistance. While there are some that try to take advantage of the system, there are also others that are simply delighted that someone is there to help. Over the years she has ministered with SVDP, S. Pat has met numerous families and individuals with various needs or issues: a couple that can no longer work due to health issues; a divorced immigrant woman; a man who struggles with addiction. There are countless people who reach out to St. Vincent de Paul, and S. Pat does everything she can to help by providing resources directly, or connecting them with other organizations.

She reflected, “I keep thinking to myself that it’s got to be God, because what would have happened to any of these people if we didn’t show up?”

Many of the people who S. Pat helps are immigrants. For many years now, people from other countries have fled to America, Europe, etc., seeking asylum. “I would say to anybody that if you hear the stories about why they’re coming here, and if you were in that situation, you’d be here too,” said S. Pat. “We’re honored to have them here, but we also cannot handle the amount that’s crossing the border currently, we just can’t.”

“The whole system is a mess,” she continues. “You cross the border, you ask for asylum, and in three years they might accept you. It’s just terrible and we need to do something, preferably to help them in their own country.” By advocating for change in these war-torn countries, S. Pat believes we could see real change.

To do this daily, she suggests we “politely challenge the narrative” about immigrants. “I know people who believe that they’re all drug smugglers and they all need to be sent back tomorrow. To them, you can say, ‘That’s not my experience.’” She also suggests that people volunteer or donate to organizations like St. Vincent de Paul that work with immigrants.

“We need these people. We can’t lock them out—we need them for our economy and we need to help them,” she concludes. “We need to figure out a way to get people in and help them at a volume we can handle. Somebody needs to stand up and say that.”

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