The St. Boniface Martyr Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Sea Cliff is celebrating its 80th anniversary as a conference this year. The story begins in Paris, France when, on March 5, 1934, at the international headquarters of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a letter of aggregation was issued to the St. Boniface Martyr parish conference, then a part of the Diocese of Brooklyn. To be sure, that was a desperate time in our country's history and an appropriate time for St. Boniface Martyr parish to begin a St. Vincent de Paul conference. The nation was in the depths of the Great Depression with high unemployment and people were suffering.
The document of inception reveals the names and professions of the original members: Edward Meany, President, Auditor; Laurence Hoffmann, Vice-President, Auditor; James Molloy, Treasurer, Engineer; Thomas Daly, Secretary, Auditor; Ray Britt, Clerk PO; George Eggers, Plumber; Bertram Haff, Printer; Thomas Murray, Inspector; Martin Miller, Plumber; James McCartin, Power Plant Operator; and Henry Wansor, Lineman. The Rev. Patrick J. Ford of St. Boniface Martyr Church served as the Conference’s spiritual advisor.
According to the official aggregation document, the Conference "devotes itself to the following works: To the visiting of, and distributing relief to poor families at their homes." In its initial year, the Conference assisted 29 poor families in the parish area, comprising 114 people. The Conference made 350 visits that year to poor families. The balance on hand in the Conference's account was $91.05. The illustrated hard work of this Conference of yesteryear, as well as its longevity, still serves as a great inspiration to the present conference.
Today, the composition of the conference has changed—almost half of the members are women and their occupations range from lawyer to teacher to construction worker—but the Vincentian focus remains the same. In 2013, the Conference assisted 298 poor people in need in our neighborhood, providing over $30,000 and countless hours in assistance. The Conference provides this assistance to those in need in the local community, without regard to religion, race, age, gender, or national origin. Assistance ranges from providing beds, clothes, rental or utility assistance, food vouchers, diapers; driving to doctor appointments and supermarkets; or just visiting with individuals who need companionship or an ear to listen. All of the assistance provided by the Conference is generously donated by St. Boniface Martyr parishioners and conference members.
For the past 80 years, the Conference has had the pleasure and privilege of continuing its devotion to this same great work. It began right after the start of the Great Depression and remains strong today in a time during which many in our community are enduring great economic struggles. The constancy of the Conference exists in large part due to the continued support of the parish and St. Boniface Martyr Pastor, Father Bob Romeo.
About the Society of St. Vincent de Paul
The largest Catholic lay charitable organization in the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 in Paris, France by Frederic Ozanam, a college student who decided to put his faith into action through service to the poor. Following in his leadership, the Society worldwide has grown to more than 777,000 members helping the poor in more than 149 countries, on 5 continents. Known for its thrift stores, food pantries and the personal visits to the homes of the poor, the Long Island Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDPLI) has over 1,300 Vincentian volunteer members helping Long Islanders in 50 Nassau and Suffolk County communities. Every year SVDPLI provides over 200,000 people with direct financial and material aid that helps stabilize families.