12:50 April 15. The train to Ottawa leaves Montreal Central Station. Outside, a splendid day and a new departure! Pierre Hubert, President of the Ottawa Central Council will be at the destination to greet me, like other volunteers along the way. In the Vincentian skyline the generosity of spirit and time is shining strong.

A Spring Meeting has been organised in Ottawa; members of SSVP Ontario are to gather to review their objectives and talk about the future. Poverty and future do not seem to rhyme and yet somehow they do. Since the beginning of this trip, the En Route with History project which began in the Maritimes, I am starting to believe that there is a link and that not all is lost.  It has to do with the goodness and the courage of mankind; because it does exist. This alone will not eradicate poverty, but it will make it more bearable which is already enormous. It is what we find at the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul: a breath of hope!

These days I often speak with friends and acquaintances about this trip and the writing of the book on the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Canada. Most give me the looks and I can tell they are surprised. I have even been asked: « the Saint Vincent de Paul is an organisation giving second hand clothes from some church basement, no? ». I entertain a certain pleasure in telling them that they are mistaken and that there are close to 15,000 members across Canada trying to make our community a better place by restoring pride in those who have lost it and not only through the organisation of a tombola or bazaar!” This is quite a surprise to them. Sceptics will be confounded and I hope, will run to buy the book!

In the « Rule » (the book that governs members’ actions), it says that the Vincentian mission does not stop at distributing clothing and food to the poor; most important is to meet with the needy, to make a connection with the person who suffers. Only then do the different forms of aid come into action.

Home visits are pivotal for this organization founded in Québec City in 1846. Whether it’s meeting a person suffering from anxiety because of a precarious situation, or bringing an urgent hamper, talking about the different resources available, Vincentians will generously give their time to help those in need.

We live in a world-in-a-hurry where everybody seems to be running out of time; the world of the Vincentian is different, like a garden where “time” is a crop that the more you harvest the more it grows…Time has no hold on a commitment that will always triumph!

Today I am going on a quest to meet men and women, members of the Society, starting in Ottawa and all the way to Victoria. I admire their dedication in putting poverty relief into action and I am looking forward to hearing their stories.

Will we ever see the end of poverty? Probably not. But since I have been observing these incredible volunteers at work I almost believe we can. You will find them where it matters, in the field. And the train is slowly taking me there!

1: 45 pm: peanut and writing break!

Louise Larivière