Fifty years of cheer is what the Fullerton St. Philip Benizi Parish Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been giving the patients at Metropolitan State Hospital, Norwalk, with an annual Christmas Holiday visit. Dec. 9 will mark a Golden Moment for the 50th consecutive annual visit.
Metropolitan State Hospital is a public hospital for the mentally ill. As of August 2016 it has been home to 780 patients. For the past 50 years, 40 to 50 volunteers have visited an average of 50 to 60 patients each during the annual Christmas event.
The program, a “Special Works” project of SVdP, originated in 1966, following the urging of then-spiritual advisor to the St. Philip’s Parish Conference, Fr. Donald Jensen, O.S.M., who became aware of the need for this ministry.
St. Philip’s Parish Conference operated under the Archdiocesan Council of Los Angeles prior to the formation of the Council of Orange. The purpose of the parish conference is to serve the marginalized within the respective parish boundaries by home visitations, providing food, clothing and other necessities. Vincentians know that where there is a physical need, there is also a spiritual need, which they strive to fulfill. Vincentians are called to self-sanctification, while serving the less fortunate. The aim of lay Vincentians is to see the Face of Christ in those they serve.
In 1833 Frederic Ozanam founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a lay organization whose members serve the poor. The cause for canonization is in progress for Blessed Frederic Ozanam.
Joe Kay, a conference member, has directed the hospital program since it originated. Currently Bishop Kevin Vann is the spiritual advisor to the SVdP Council of Orange. Bishop Vann has been a strong supporter of the work of the council’s 27 Parish Conferences.
Each year participants have gathered at St. Philip’s Church and carpooled to Metropolitan State Hospital, where they spread holiday cheer with donated gifts, a visit from Santa, holiday refreshments, and sing-a-longs accompanied by local, volunteer musicians; all to share the spirit of Christmas with those who are among the forgotten in society. The mission of the program is to share the God-given gift of love through Catholic action to the less fortunate in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul.
The longevity of the program is due to faithful volunteerism annually by lay Vincentians, parishioners, seven Servite Priests and four generations of Kay’s family.