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Saint Vincent De Paul
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St. Vincent De Paul Society
Tel: 085 778 8645

The Society of St Vincent de Paul was founded in Paris in 1833. The society did not have a presence in Ireland until 11 years later in 1844 and it took another 139 years before the society had its beginnings in Ashbourne.

Father Martin Burke became parish priest in Ashbourne in 1983 and it was he who started the ball rolling when he called a public meeting with a view to starting a conference in the area. The meeting was held upstairs in Kelly’s Lounge in February 1983. A representative of the Society came from Dublin to offer advice and help. Seven people joined the society that night and a new conference called St. Enda was set up. Father Burke chose the name.

Father Burke agreed to give the society the use of the staff room in St Declan’s School as a meeting place. The Bank of Ireland generously donated £250 to “kick-start” the work. The first church-gate collection was held on St. Patrick’s Day and the people of Ashbourne donated £338.38. Now the annual Christmas collection is the only time the society asks the community for funds.

St. Enda’s conference started with seven members and over the years people left and others joined. The current membership is seven although at one stage it increased to eleven.

The local credit union – St. Declan’s – took a major step forward in acquiring the then Bank of Ireland premises. They played a big part in seeing that the society got the use of their old premises, the hut next to the village hall. This was to be the society’s home for the next 12 years. It was decided to open a shop for second hand clothes in the hard times of the 1980s, and this was welcomed by a lot of people. Clothes could be bought cheaply and people avoided the stigma of the “handout”. This was also a source of income for the society.

A feature of the society’s fund-raising at the time was the annual sale in the Community Centre. The members spent Saturday collecting “all kinds of everything” from the people in Ashbourne and Sunday afternoon selling it back to them. What was junk to one person was treasure to another and many people still ask the members when the next sale will be. Although a lucrative source of income, this required an enormous effort by very few and it was felt that funds could be generated more easily by other means. Who knows- maybe someday!

The task of spreading the good news to other areas fell to the Ashbourne conference and it was rewarded with the setting up of two conferences, namely Ratoath and Kilcloon, both still going strong. Assistance is now being given to set up a conference in Dunboyne due to start by the end of March 2009.

In late 1994 the prefabs in the Church grounds became vacant and the society was successful in acquiring a new home, thanks to the local clergy. A new shop “Second Glance” was set up and is still going strong. Books, clothes and bric-a-brac are the main items on sale. Over the last 25 years the society has helped hundreds of people through difficult times. Let’s hope this will continue!

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