Messengers of Hope

North Texas Catholic
(Nov 16, 2023) Local

(L-R) Shani Ginani, SMG Conference member; Vic Craig, president of the Fort Worth District Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul; and Alex Benavides, SMG Conference member, prepare to deliver baby essentials to a client in Arlington on October 6, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

FORT WORTH- In this past year, St. Vincent de Paul conferences in the Diocese of Fort Worth have been blessed with a wave of the faithful’s support and God’s providence.

Vincentians make home visits to neighbors who request financial assistance for rent, utilities, and emergencies; offer spiritual and emotional support; distribute free food and other goods; and provide a micro-loan program to relieve high-interest payday and title loans. Now, diocesan Vincentians are able to assist with expensive prescription medications.

In an annual letter to Bishop Michael Olson, St. Vincent de Paul Fort Worth Council President Victor (Vic) Craig explained the collective impact borne from the ministry’s hard work: “We are the second-most referred agency provided by 211 (the statewide information and referral service), and although our funds are limited, other community agencies frequently refer to us when they cannot assist individuals, as our only qualifying criteria is that the neighbor resides in a zip code covered by a conference, typically within parish boundaries, and is facing a legitimate need.”


Witness of God's providence

(L-R) Vincent Craig, president of the Fort Worth District Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul; Alex Benavides, SMG Conference member; and Shani Ginani, SMG Conference member, pray at St. Maria Goretti's Padre Pio House prior to visiting a client on October 6, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Since he was first voted into his position as the president of the Fort Worth council last fall, Craig has continuously felt God’s presence in his work to organize and serve the 12 conferences within the diocese, each made up of local volunteers who dedicate their time and service to help the poor in their communities.

“It’s a good feeling to know that God is with you and that with God, you can accomplish anything,” the Vincentian of six years said. “God wants you to make yourself available so that He can use you.”

Craig initially had been hesitant to take on the responsibility of presidency of the diocesan SVdP council, but his unease abated once the community of conference leaders rallied around him and promised their support.

“Hey, we know this is new to you,” those present at the vote told Craig. “But we’ll be right there with you.”

Their warmth greatly encouraged him, and he threw himself into the leadership role.

“It’s been amazing, from being afraid on Oct. 1 of last year [when he assumed the position] to now. I feel like I got my feet wet; I feel stronger; I feel like I’m making a difference; and I feel like I’m growing the conference,” he enthused. “But none of it is happening because of me. God is doing this.”

Craig credits God’s enduring providence in the many blessings he’s encountered since taking on the position. From being awarded a $20,000 grant, distributed among the conferences, early in his tenure; to the “out-of-the-blue donation” of a small thrift store in Wichita Falls that may potentially become a small line of revenue for the council; to the ministry’s attempt to provide pharmaceutical assistance for the poor in the diocese — “This is nothing I’m doing; it’s just totally a blessing … I tell people all the time: God is blessing us.”


Prayers for the poor

The St. Vincent de Paul conference based at Arlington’s St. Maria Goretti Parish has seen a record-breaking fiscal year in 2023. 

“Last year, we were in the $80,000 range of help given out, and this year … we’re due to hit $100,000, if we haven’t already,” Shani Ginani, president of the parish conference, said. 

“That’s really something to speak about, showing how much we’ve been able to help the neighbors in need, which is only possible by the generous donations that we’ve received from St. Maria Goretti parishioners,” said Ginani.

Magnanimous giving has made it possible for the conference to spend less time organizing fundraising and instead invest in the community.


Prescription relief

Shani Ginani, a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington, collects diapers and other baby essentials for a client on October 6, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

The Dallas Council of St. Vincent de Paul developed a pharmacy program, which it plans to make available throughout Texas. 

The program, the Fort Worth Council learned, helps neighbors without insurance receive their medications free of charge. The conference would cover the “delivery costs, the transportation of the medicine because they send it directly to the neighbor’s house,” Craig said.

The need was clear, but funding wasn’t.

Craig and the Fort Worth leadership team expressed initial reluctance but reconsidered their hesitance to participate.

“We signed an agreement with Dallas at the end of December of last year,” Craig said. “We’d not allocated money for this, but it was the right thing to do.”

To help offset the costs, the Fort Worth council attempted, without success, to imitate a Dallas fundraiser. Health issues, graduations, trips — the timing was just not right, Craig lamented. However, God provided, and a spontaneous grant covering the first quarter of pharmacy use “just showed up.”

“That’s how God is. He’s saying we are not going to leave you short,” Craig said. He believes God has assured him, “'I’ve got you covered, and we’re going to do this. I know you tried really hard.’”

According to the letter Craig sent to Bishop Olson, the councils have assisted 468 individuals with a total of 5,436 prescriptions from January through June of this year. Courier costs for the 830 deliveries totaled $6,882.44.

Generous donations recently received on North Texas Giving Day spur Craig’s hope that they may be able to cover the cost of the program, as he firmly believes it is “the right thing to do, so we’re trying to budget for it.”

(L-R) Alex Benavides, SMG Conference member; Shani Ginani, SMG Conference member; and Vic Craig, president of the Fort Worth District Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul; pose for a photo prior to visiting a client in Arlington on October 6, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

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